COOL BARS AND STREET ART: Yet another break in Budapest

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This was my fourth time in Budapest and the city never disappoints!

After dropping our bags in our flat, we headed out for a late lunch. The area around Lizst Ferenc Ter has lots of cools places, but we stopped at Menza, an old favourite (lunch for three including drinks and tip for 12000 HUF).

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We then explored the area around Andrassy Utca and Kiraly Utca, stopping at the Opera House and checking out the many cool bars around before heading back to our flat for the evening.

In the morning we visited the Central Market Hall. There you can buy local produce, souvenirs and paprika in all its forms. It’s a great place to visit and to stock up if you’re self-catering.

We then took the bus to the other side of the river to explore the area around Buda Castle and the citadel for a bit, although it was cold and a bit rainy.

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We had lunch at the beautiful Mazel Tov (lunch for four including drinks and tip for 12000 HUF). They serve lots of yummy Middle Eastern food with plenty of veggie options.

In the evening we stopped at Szimpla, the most famous of Budapest’s ruin bars for a drink (drinks for four for 3500 HUF) before going home to cook the food we’d bought at the market earlier in the day.

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Thermal baths are very popular in Budapest, and as usual we headed to Szechenyi. This is a massive complex of indoor and outdoor thermal pools, and a nice way of spending a few relaxing hours (weekend day ticket for 5000 HUF).

For lunch we visited Porto di Pest, a nice but a bit expensive place in Liszt Ferenc Ter (lunch for four including drinks and tip for 20000 HUF).

After stopping at our flat for a bit, we met my local friend for drinks and ended the night at Kuplung, which served nice but dodgy cocktails (two drinks for 1200 HUF).

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Our last full day in Budapest was nice and sunny, so we walked to the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial to victims of World War II. We then walked all the way back to Jonas, a craft brewery with nice views over the river (four beers for 3000 HUF).

To finish the trip in style, we had an early dinner at Pomo D’Oro, an upscale Italian restaurant serving delicious pasta and yummy desserts (meal for three including drinks and tip for 24000 HUF).

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: We took the train from Vienna (takes about 2h30), but there are plenty of flights from London. Budapest is also a great option for the end of an Eastern Europe trip as it has good connections with the whole region.
  • Stay: We stayed at this fancy place in Kiraly Utca, which was both a great place and the perfect location. Budapest has lots of good accommodation options, so it’s easy to find a good alternative.
  • Money: Budapest is very cheap and even upscale places are affordable in comparison to London prices. Exchange places are easily available and generally the rates are very good as there’s lots of competition.

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BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE AND FANCY RESTAURANTS: 2 days in Vienna

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This was my second time in Vienna and the city was just as impressive as I remembered.

We arrived early afternoon, so we dropped our bags at our flat and headed to the centre for lunch. We ate at Wrenkh, a restaurant serving delicious food with lots of veggie options hidden away just behind Stephansplatz (lunch for three including drinks and tip for 50€).

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Despite the rain, we set off exploring the city centre, stopping at St Stephan’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School and the Manner shop to stock up on loads on chocolate. Then we headed back to the flat for an early night in.

It was sunny when we woke up so we took the metro to Schonbrunn Palace, the famous residence of Empress Sissi. We walked the gardens for a bit then had coffee in their cafe (coffee and croissant for about 8€).

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Next we went back to the city centre to visit the Albertina Museum (tickets for 13€). This is a great museum for seeing Austrian and European art. When we visited they had an impressive Brueghel retrospective on.

We had a late lunch at Cafe Hawelka, a popular place in the centre which still captures the post-war atmosphere (lunch for three including drinks and tip for 45€). This is a great place to escape the frilly splendour of most Viennese cafes.

After exploring a bit more of the centre we headed back to pack for the next leg of our trip.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: Vienna can be easily reached by train (we came from Brno) and flying, and it’s a good destination for a short break.
  • Stay: Accommodation isn’t particularly cheap, but there are lots of options. We stayed at this Airbnb which was a great choice and about 20min from all the main sights.
  • Transportation: It’s easy to get around by train and U-bahn. We bought a 48h ticket for 13.30€ and those were a great option as they cover all transportation. In the city centre everything is within walking distance.

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COOL RESTAURANTS AND STREET ART: A quick stop in Brno

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We took the train from Prague to Brno. It is the second city in the Czech Republic and has become quite popular recently. As we only had the afternoon to explore, we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed off.

Our first stop was Soul Bistro, a cool cafe and restaurant serving delicious food with plenty of veggie options (lunch for three including drinks and tip for 600 CZK).

We then headed to the Old Town centre and checked out the sights. We climbed the tower at the Old Town Hall (tickets for 70 CZK per person) to get great views over the city centre.

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From there we checked out the Cabbage Market (the main town square) and Peter and Paul Cathedral. After wandering around in the rain a bit more, we stopped for a quick drink at the cute Jedna Basen (drinks for three for 127 CZK including tip). Then it was time to head back to the hotel and pack up again.

Brno is not as beautiful as Prague, but it is an interesting city. There’s a good amount of street art and lots of cool bars and restaurants. It is also definitely cheaper than Prague and much less touristy, so the appeal are the local places which feel more authentic and just nice places to go rather than traditional Czech places.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: Brno is best visited as part of a trip around the region (I wouldn’t stay more than one day). From both Prague and Vienna you can take regular trains which take less than three hours and cost less than 15€.
  • Stay: We stayed at Efi Hotel (we paid 76€ for three people), which was located just off the city centre but was nice, spacious and cheap. They offered a free glass of wine on arrival and free taxi rides to the centre and back. Breakfast was also included.

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AMAZING VIEWS AND GOOD RESTAURANTS: 3 days in Prague

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This was my second time in Prague and the city was just as impressive!

We took the train from Munich to Prague, and even with roadworks we still got there at around 4pm.

Our brand new flat was centrally located close to the Old Town. We bought some supplies at the supermarket to have an early dinner at our flat.

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Then we headed off exploring the Old Town centre, stopping at cute stalls selling chips, drinks and handicraft. We took in the atmosphere of the Old Town square and Wenceslas square, before heading back to the flat for the evening.

We decided to take a free walking tour around Prague the next day. The tour started at the Old Town square and covered many of Prague’s highlights – the Old Town, New Town, Jewish Quarter and several stops along the way (we tipped 100CZK per person).

After the tour we explored the centre a bit more, stopping at shops along the way.

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In the evening we had dinner at Alriso, a gluten-free restaurant specialising in yummy risotto (the panna cotta we had for dessert was also great). Dinner for three including drinks and tip for 1650 CZK).

On our third day in Prague we crossed the beautiful and famous Charles Bridge to reach the Castle District. After some time exploring, we got into the Castle (tickets 10€), where you can visit the impressive St Vitus Cathedral and get great views over the town.

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Nearby is the Kafka Museum (tickets for 200 CZK), which gives an overview of Kafka’s life and work in Prague and has a dark and uneasy setup that reflects his work.

After a quick bite to eat and a beer close to the museum, we headed back to the Old Town for an early night in.

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On our last day in Prague we took the tram to Petrin Park. You can take a funicular up the hill where you can climb up an Eiffel Tower-like structure (tickets 200 CZK) and get amazing views of Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Old Town.

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We then decided to get a boat tour on the Vltava (tickets 250 CZK), to see the city differently. There’s lots of options around so we just found one that was convenient and cheap – it’s definitely a good thing to do on a nice day and better value than in most other cities.

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We then went back to the city centre where we had lunch at Vabene (lunch for 3 including drinks and tip for 11 CZK), a touristy but nice Italian place in a cute courtyard in the city centre.

In the evening we watched a concert at St Martin’s church (tickets for 500 CZK per person). Prague has tons of concerts on offer so you can choose one any day of the week.

Then it was time to head back to the hotel and pack for our next trip.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: We took the train from Munich, which usually takes 6h but we were delayed because of roadworks. It’s easy to book online and tickets cost only 15€ in advance, but it’s best to book through the Czech website as it’s weirdly much cheaper than the German one for the same trip.
  • Stay: We stayed at this Airbnb which was just perfect – brand new and centrally located. Prague has lots of cheap accommodation to offer and it’s easy to find a good place.
  • Transportation: You can cover a lot on foot, and it’s a great way to see the sights as well as taking in the impressive architecture. Trams are also easily available and are good for going to further places such as Petrin Park and the Castle District. Tickets must be bought in advance and need to be validated on board.
  • Money: Prague is cheap by European standards – in most bars 0,5l of beer costs only £2. But being very touristy, prices can be steep in the city centre. You also need to pay attention when exchanging currency – ask around for reputable places and check the rate before buying (we didn’t and were short-changed when we first arrived). The best place we found was Exchange at Kaprova 14/13, right behind the Old Town Square.

GREAT BEERS AND PLENTIFUL FOOD: Three days in Munich

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We arrived in Munich late it the afternoon so we only had time for dinner at a random place on our first day.

In the morning we joined a free walking tour with Sandemans. These typically last for 2-3 hours and you pay for a tip at the end.

Despite the bad weather, we got to see many of Munich’s highlights – we started at the impressive Marienplatz and its beautiful town hall, visited Frauenkirche, St Peter’s Church and covered a lot of ground in the town centre.

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For lunch we headed to the iconic Hofbrauhaus, a famous beer hall where you get delicious beer, fresh pretzels and live music in the most traditional setting possible. The place is huge but it’s always very busy (visiting during the day is a safer bet as we struggled to get a table in the evening) – but it’s good fun and definitely worth a visit (lunch for 5 including drinks and tip for 60€).

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We then headed to Victuals Market, full of fun stalls selling fresh vegetables, local delicacies and handicraft. It’s a good place to shop for snacks and souvenirs.

After a stop at our flat, we headed to Augustiner for dinner. This is considered one of the best beers in Munich, and it really was delicious (dinner and drinks for 5 including tip for 55€).

On our last day in Munich we took the U-bahn to the famous English Gardens, which is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. We had coffee under the Chinese Tower, usually a busy beer garden but empty when we visited as it was cold and rainy.

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Heading back to Marienplatz, we stopped for another typically German lunch at Paulaner (lunch for 5 including drinks and tip for 65€).

After struggling to find our way in the rain, we visited the Residenz Palace (tickets for 7€), a huge palace full of baroque glory.

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Our last stop of the day was Maelu, a pastry shop with the most incredible desserts (dessert and drinks for 5 for 45€). Then it was time to head back to the flat as we had an early train to catch in the morning.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We struggled to find accommodation as we got to Munich just before Oktoberfest (a bad idea) and our Airbnb got cancelled last minute. Usually there are lots of options.
  • Transportation: Munich has a good network of U-bahn and S-bahn, and it’s easy to get around. A daily ticket for 2-5 people costs 12.60€ and was a good option for us.
  • Go: Munich can be easily reached by plane, train or car, and it’s a good base to start or end a trip through Bavaria.
  • Food: German food is meat-heavy, but it’s possible to find veggie and vegan food anywhere. Restaurants always have veggie options and can accommodate for vegans on request.

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FAIRYTALE CASTLES AND BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINS: 2 days in Fussen and Zugspitze

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My friend was getting married in Germany, so this was the starting point of my Central and Eastern Europe trip.

After enjoying the wedding, we headed to Fussen, which is mostly famous for the Neuschwanstein castle (one of the castles supposed to have inspired Disney).

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We took it easy on our first day, walking around the cute city centre. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at Beim Olivenbauer (dinner for two including drinks and tip for 32€), a place filled with weird Roman-style knick-knacks serving their own beer and yummy food – and plenty of veggie and vegan options.

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The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel before heading out to get the shuttle to the castle.

Set in an amazing location up in the hills, it’s an impressive sight. We joined the tour of the lavishly decorated rooms, covered floor to ceiling with impressive detail.

Outside you can walk to a nearby bridge where you can get breathtaking views of the castle and mountains nearby.

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After a while exploring, it was time to head back to Fussen for lunch. We stopped at Zum Hechten which had good food but terrible service (lunch for two including drinks and tip for 26€).

For delicious and rich desserts we headed to Kurcafe (cakes and drinks for four for 25€).

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The next morning we left Fussen in the morning towards Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The scenery on the road was amazing, and the views from the top should be great.

You get a train up the hill (from this December a cable car will also be available). When we got to the top we were surprised by snowfall and freezing temperatures, so the views were nowhere to be seen. We still got to ride toboggans and enjoy the early winter.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We stayed at Fantasia, which was great, centrally located and had great service (we paid 178€ for two nights plus 8€ for breakfast).
  • Visiting Neuschwanstein: To get to the castle and also Hohenschwangau (the other castle nearby) you need to take an hourly shuttle from Fussen’s station. Tickets cost 1.60€. That will take you to the ticket office – entry to Neuschwanstein costs 13€ per person and is part of a guided tour (it’s a good idea to book online in advance and skip the queues). From the ticket office to the castle it’s a 30min walk through a beautiful forest or you can take a bus.
  • Go: Fussen is in Bavaria and not too far from other cities in the region. We travelled by car which is an easy way to explore the countryside.
  • Visiting Zugspitze: The tickets to visit are expensive at 53€ from Eibsee – this includes the train up and back the hill. The trip takes about 40min each way and the service is regular. There are restaurants and cafes at the top, so you can have a meal with a view or warm up with a shot of schnapps.

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