FRESH LEMONADE AND SUNNY DAYS: Exploring chilled Bulgaria

Bulgaria was one of the few European countries still left on our list, so we decided to check it out. We spent a few very hot days exploring beautiful Plovdiv and Sofia.

PLOVDIV

The Old Town is picturesque. The cobblestone streets and traditional architecture are the perfect setting for plenty of cafés, shops and street art. You can explore the Roman ruins and traditional houses and cool down with a glass of homemade lemonade.

  • Veggic: a vegan restaurant and café serving great variety of salads, warm dishes and desert. We even came back again the next day! Dinner for two including drinks and desert for 36 lev.
  • Central Perk: a popular Friends-themed café where you can cool down with a drink alfresco. Drinks and snacks for two including tip for 25 lev.
  • Afreddo: a popular ice cream shop with plenty of flavours and clearly labelled vegan options. Two scoops for 3 lev.

Stay: we stayed at Photo House, a traditional Bulgarian restaurant with ample rooms and great location. We paid 176 lev for two nights.

Go: there aren’t many flights to Plovdiv, so the best option is to fly to Sofia, take the metro to the Central Station then get a bus to Plovdiv. The trip takes about 2h20 and tickets cost 14 lev. Buses leave every hour or so and times are available here. From Plovdiv to Sofia, buses depart from the bus station located by the central train station throughout the afternoon. Tickets for 9.50 lev can be bought here or at the Karats kiosk by the train station.

SOFIA

We only had one afternoon in Sofia, but we covered plenty of ground. We spent a few hours exploring the city centre (which is easy to cover on foot).

We visited the Central Market, the impressive cathedral St Alexander Nevsky and the busy Boulevard Vitosha, where locals enjoyed the good weather in cool cafés. Tsar Ivan Shishman Street is full of nice shops and bars, so we spent some time wandering around.

  • Restaurant Kring: a self-service restaurant with a great selection of mostly vegan dishes. 100g for 1 lev.
  • Sun Moon: a veggie restaurant and bakery with plenty of delicious options. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for 28 lev.

Stay: we stayed at Hotel Lion Sofia, which was centrally located close to the bus station.

Transportation: Sofia is easily covered on foot, but the metro is easy to navigate and covers many of the main areas. Tickets for 1.40 lev.

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PIZZA AND PASTA IN ROME: Eating around Testaccio, Ostiense and more

I went to Rome for work, but had plenty of time to eat all the best food!

Testaccio and Ostiense:

Testaccio is my favourite neighbourhood in Rome, so I spent a good amount of time eating locally:

  • Casa Manco: A popular pizza stall in Testaccio Market, serving delicious and unusual combinations of pizza by the slice. Three generous portions for 10€.
  • La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio: A beautiful local restaurant in Testaccio serving a great selection of cheeses and delicious pasta dishes. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 45€.
  • Pasticceria Andreotti: A local cafe and bakery in Ostiense serving an immense variety of pastries – I had the sfogliatella which was perfect. Coffee and pastry for 2€.
  • Da Remo: a lively local pizzeria in Testaccio, great for people-watching. The pizza dough is perfect. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 26€.
  • Gelateria la Romana: we joined the large queue of this gelato place in Ostiense and were not disappointed! Great gelato and a good variety of flavours. A medium cup for 3.50€.

Around central Rome:

We also spend a good amount of time exploring other areas. Here’s where we ate:

  • Machiavelli Club: This hidden gem was a lucky find and a highlight of the trip. The seasonal menu includes plenty of veggie options, and the food was amazing. Dinner for two including drinks, desert and tip for 55€.
  • Osteria dei Cappellari: A Roman restaurant that was just the escape from the rain that we needed. The cacio e pepe was delicious, and the pistachio semifreddo was even better. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 50€.
  • Luciano: a modern Italian restaurant without many tourists. The menu is short but the food is delicious. A light dinner for two for 40€ including drinks and tip.
  • Il Focolare: a local restaurant in a quiet area of Trastevere where local families enjoy the weekend lunch. Lunch for two including a great pinsa (a type of Roman pizza) for 28€ including drinks and tip.

Villa Doria Pamphili:

To enjoy the sunny day, we visited this huge park with a beautiful villa and plenty of greenery. A good option to enjoy a sunny day off the beaten track!

BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE AND CHEAP FOOD: Chasing gnomes in Wroclaw

Wroclaw is a small but beautiful city in Poland. The old town centre is picturesque, and you can spend a few hours wandering around and spotting the hundreds of bronze gnome statues scattered all over the town.

There are plenty of things to do, including many cool restaurants and bars, so it’s a good option for a long weekend.

To the north of the old town there are a few islands in the river Oder where you can visit local churches and museums or walk by the scenic promenade.

  • Szczytnicki Park is a large park with some famous local attractions. It is a bit far from the city centre but the walk there is interesting.
  • Central Market: a large market with a good selection of fruit and veg and other local produce.
  • Transport: it is easy to walk everywhere on foot, but the city is covered by a good network of trams which are very convenient. You can buy tickets on board with a debit or credit card. Tickets for 3.40zl.

As ever, we also checked out many vegan places:

  • Vega: a vegan restaurant at the heart of Market Square serving a great selection of Polish dishes. The pierogi were great! Lunch for two including drinks for 47zl.
  • Mihiderka: a place with several locations across Poland serving delicious burgers and many other vegan dishes. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for 68zl.
  • Krowarzywa: a cool vegan burger place serving lots of delicious combos. Lunch for two including drinks for 70zl.
  • Ahimsa: a Middle Eastern and Asian vegan restaurant with a good varied selection. Dinner for two for 68zl.
  • 4Hops: a bike-themed craft beer bar with a large selection of beers on tap. A pint for 12-17zl.

CROSSING THE ORESUND BRIDGE: Day trip to Malmö

We were visiting Copenhagen and decided to take a little trip to Malmö as the two cities are very close to each other. To get there, you cross the Oresund Bridge from The Bridge fame.

We walked around the old town centre and visited Malmö Castle. We then stopped at the Modern Art Museum (free entry), which had some nice displays on, before heading back to Copenhagen.

Malmö is a beautiful city and a good place for a day trip.

  • Getting there: trains leave Copenhagen Central Station every 20 minutes. The trip takes about 40 minutes and tickets cost 90Kr. each way. The passport check is done on the train halfway through the journey.

DELICIOUS FOOD AND LOCAL WINE: A weekend in Moldova

We flew into Chisinau not really knowing what to expect, and we were pleasantly surprised! The city doesn’t have many highlights, but there are some great restaurants and bars around.

For dinner we went to Gastrobar, a great place serving modern Middle Eastern cuisine, with plenty of veggie options. Make sure to reserve a table in advance. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 1,000MDL.

We also visited Propaganda, a popular restaurant with quirky decor serving yummy food. A light dinner for two including drinks and top for 400MDL.

  • Wine: Moldovan wine is amazing and very cheap! Most restaurants and bars have a great wine list and you can find a good selection in supermarkets too.
  • Stay: We stayed in one of these apartments. It was spotless and ideally located.

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS AND VEGGIE FOOD: A weekend in Zurich and Liechtenstein

One of the few places remaining for us to visit in Europe was Liechtenstein, so we flew into Zurich for the weekend to check it out.

ZURICH:

We were really impressed by the food in Zurich. There are plenty of vegan and veggie options clearly labelled in most places. In supermarkets, vegan items are clearly labelled and options are plentiful.

  • Hiltl Haus: The oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe is a popular place with a buffet and a la carte options. The food is varied a really delicious. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for 79CHF.
  • Hiltl Sihlpost: Another Hiltl restaurant with a buffet full of yummy vegan and veggie options, in a cool space. Dinner for two including dessert for 40CHF
  • Stay: We stayed at Swiss Star Apartments, a good self-catering option located just 10 minutes from the Central Station.

LIECHTENSTEIN:

Vaduz is a small town surrounded by picturesque snow-capped mountains. The main attraction is the walk from the centre up to Vaduz Castle. The castle itself is not open to tourists but the walk gives you the most amazing views.

  • Kunstmuseum: This modern art museum has a small but good selection of works in a nice space. Tickets for 15CHF.
  • Go: From Zurich to Vaduz in Liechtenstein the best option is to take a train to Sargans where you can get bus n. 11 to Vaduz. You can buy tickets online here (choose option Vaduz, Post, which includes the bus transfers), about one month in advance.

A BEAUTIFUL RIVIERA AND MISTY DAYS: A chilly break in Rimini and San Marino

RIMINI

We were going to visit San Marino, so we decided to spend a couple of days in nearby Rimini.

Rimini is a riviera with sandy beaches overlooked by cool modernist hotels.

The Old Town is beautiful and includes a good collection of Roman and Medieval landmarks. It is also the birthplace of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.

For lunch we visited Bar Lento, a cool cafe serving delicious vegan snacks and drinks (lunch for two including tip for 18.50€).

Rimini is definitely a good place to visit and relax for a couple of days!

SAN MARINO

San Marino was one of the few European countries we hadn’t visited yet, so we decided to check in out in January.

It is located high up in the mountains, giving it amazing views over the region. Unfortunately when we visited the place was right in the middle of the clouds, and we couldn’t even see further than a few metres ahead.

We spent a few hours exploring the narrow roads and visiting the main towers, even without being able to see much.

For lunch, we stopped at Laminona, which serves piadinas and offered a few vegan options.

San Marino is picturesque and I’m sure we would have enjoyed it more on a sunny day!

  • Go: We flew to Bologna, where you can get semi-frequent buses from the airport to Rimini. You can reach San Marino from Rimini taking a regular bus which departs just outside the train station (return for 10€ per person). The trip takes 50 minutes each way.