Budapest: A chilled weekend guide for exploring culture and history in the Hungarian Capital

Budapest has been on my list of weekend destinations for some time. It is undoubtedly beautiful, steeped in history, culture and if you ignore the stag parties (Which it’s pretty easy to do!) I think it is a somewhat underestimated European city.

Towering fairy tale spires, romantic gothic churches and the pockmarked buildings bearing their war wounds; Budapest’s architecture, culture and history are enough to rival Paris or Prague. With easy navigation through the cities two halves, Buda & Pest and very reasonable prices all make Budapest a fabulous option for a weekend visit.

Our weekend in Budapest was a much-needed break from our hectic jobs, and I was looking to redress the work-life balance for 48 hours. With this in mind, I wanted a luxurious weekend with a slightly more chilled itinerary and Budapest more than delivered.

Getting to Budapest

As we are bound by our working schedules, we took a late flight, 8.45 pm out of London Heathrow and we were on the ground, transferred to the hotel and checked-in by 1 am. Although it was a late arrival, it meant that we got all day Saturday rather than losing our Saturday morning to travel. Flights to Budapest operate regularly from London Heathrow with carriers such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and Swiss International airlines. We took a taxi from the right outside the terminal which proved no issue as there were plenty to be had. The service was efficient, clean and reasonably priced around 6500HUF (£17-£20). For flights arriving after 10 pm, I would recommend a taxi as there are limited public transport options at this time.

Where to stay

Hilton

We booked our trip as part of the British Airways Hotel and flight deal, which is great IMG_9287.JPGservice allowing you to specify star rating, dates and price for your accommodation. We opted for the five-star Hilton Budapest located in the Buda Castle District. This was absolutely the best choice. Our room was a King guest room was a gorgeous view of Matthias Churchyard. The room was spotlessly clean and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful during our stay. Late check-in, storage for bags and sorting out room keys niggles; there was no problem they weren’t willing and happy to help with.

One of the biggest perks of the Hilton was breakfast. When I have the time, I’m a big breakfast fan. The Hilton offers the usual smorgasbord of continental and hot breakfasts including some phenomenal omelette offerings from the resident egg chef. However, food aside, it’s the view from your breakfast table that can ignite your appetite for adventure. I would advise arriving fairly early between 7.30 – 8.30am to breakfast to secure one of the window tables.

What to do

Bus Tour

This was a new one for my husband and I. Normally we would opt for solely exploring the city on foot. However, after a few hours of exploration in the blistering heat, the kind of heat where you can smell the asphalt, we came across the Big Bus tour. A Deluxe Ticket came with hop on and off for three days, River Cruise, Buda Castle Shuttle return, Night Tour and Guided Walking Tour. With so many options we felt it would be beneficial in helping us see more of the city in a short space of time. The ticket cost €36 and was worth every penny.

The bus stops are easily located across the city and the historical commentary you can plug into was particularly interesting. Driving past seemingly unremarkable buildings to discover they have a detailed and fascinating history. Such things we would never have known by simply wandering past on foot.

River Cruise

Take to the water. As part of our Big Bus ticket, a river cruise was included. We opted for the sunset cruise on Saturday evening. Watching the sunset above the city from the water brought a whole new perspective on our trip. The commentary was detailed and informative and helped to make sense of the history on both sides of the river. Snacks and drinks were also available throughout the cruise.

Snapseed - Copy (10).jpg

Buda Castle – Budapest History Museum

I absolutely recommend a walk around the castle district and Buda Castle itself. Despite various reconstructions healing the wounds of war the whole area and particularly the medieval part is still completely charming. Although Budapest is littered with museums and galleries, we opted for the Budapest History Museum. We wanted to experience a broader history of the city, and the Budapest History Museum was perfect. The exhibitions depict the 2000 years of Budapest’s turbulent history. From the Austro Hungarian empire to the horrors of World War Two.

The Budapest History Museum is open from Tuesday – Sunday between 10 am – 6 pm with an adult ticket costing 2400HUF.

Margaret Island

Imperiously sitting in the middle of the Danube is Margaret Island. Margaret Island is 500m wide and 2.5km long but, despite its small size, this gloriously green public park is packed with things to do. The island is located between Árpád Bridge and Margit Bridge and is easily accessed on foot.

For such a meagre strip of land, Margret Island boasts a varied past. From Royal hunting Snapseed - Copy (13).jpggrounds, the victim of a great flood in 1838 to the site of a Dominican Nunnery where King Bela famously sent his daughter Margaret after the Mongols departure from Hungary. Since that time the island has been known as Margaret Island.

We spent a very pleasant hour or so meandering around the park, taking in the musical fountain and availing ourselves of the various ice-cream sellers.

Buda Tower

Snapseed - Copy (7).jpgOnce part of the 13th Century Church of St Mary Magdalene, this stunning tower is all that remains after the church was heavily bombed during World War Two. A trip to the top is absolutely worth the panoramic views of the city. Be warned it is high, but the areas are enclosed and the steps although steep do have handrails.

A ticket costs 1500HUF but there are significant discounts for students or those who hold a Castle Shuttle Bus ticket. The Buda Tower is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Please be aware that opening times are different if you are visiting during January or February.

 

Fisherman’s Bastion

The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the best-known landmarks in Budapest. It is located inIMG_9290.JPG the Buda Castle district; you simply can’t miss it. Stepping out of the Hilton Hotel, you are confronted with a fairy tale fortress with turrets, spires and mock Bastion features. My initial thoughts were it looked significantly different from the other historical buildings I had seen so far, beautiful, yes, but somehow artificial. The Fisherman’s Bastion was built in the 19th Century to serve as a lookout over the city. The purpose of the Bastion has never been used as an actual fortification for Buda.

As a lookout over the city, the Fisherman’s Bastian more than delivers. Panoramic views sweeping across the skyline in both directions. You’ll be spoilt for choice of which vista to snap.

Parliament

Budapest’s parliament building is hard to miss. It stands as a striking, landmark on the banks of the Danube. Any guesses as to which other famous European parliament influenced its’ design…

I had heard you could tour the parliament so as we circled the imposing spires to find the entrance, we were disappointed to find parliament was unexpectedly closed to the public due to an event. Disappointment aside a tour of the parliament is yet another reason for a return visit.

If you want to avoid our planning blunder then do book your tour tickets ahead of your trip via the Hungarian Parliament website: http://hungarianparliament.com/tours/

Snapseed - Copy (11).jpg

Thermal Baths

So, this one is on every Budapest list of things to do I read. Public baths in Budapest have been around for centuries. Sitting on a matrix of 125 thermal springs, marinating in warm water has been part of everyday life since Roman times. Sadly, an afternoon ‘taking the waters’ wasn’t an option. With time being short and the weather being unbelievably hot we didn’t make it to one of the thermal baths. However, I had read up on which one to visit. My top three choices for thermal baths would have been

F649872A-9ECF-40BC-AE64-3D6A473A7847.JPG

  1. Gellert Baths: These smaller baths were top of my list. I didn’t want to go somewhere that would be completely swamped with tourists. I had also read the Gellert Baths have some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau décor seen anywhere in the city.
  2. Danubius Health Spa Margitsziget on Margaret Island: This was my second possible option. Although this modern spa lacks the old-world charm of some of its more famous counterparts, it does offer an extensive range of spa treatments. Feeling in need this weekend for a bit of pampering I put the Danubius Health Spa Margitsziget up there on my list.
  3. Szechanyi Baths: Finally, although I would have preferred a smaller bathing environment to escape the tourist crowds the Szechenyi Baths boast fifteen different pools and is undoubtedly one of the largest public baths Budapest has to offer. If a large scale, wedding cake experience is what you’re after then the Szechenyi Baths should be on your list.

Hospital in the rock

Everyone I had spoken to before going to Budapest had recommended the Hospital in the Rock. This was one attraction, firmly etched on my list of places to go. The Hospital in the Rock is part of a six-mile system of caves and tunnels used during World War Two. During World War Two it was a working hospital caring for the bombing victims and soldiers alike. The hospital was called back into service in 1956 during the revolution. The hospital was expanded to meet the potential growing threat of chemical and nuclear attacks during the Cold War.

Locating the museum initially felt like a bit of a mystery, and I sure do love a mystery. There were well-labelled maps in the castle complex, shiny billboards informatively suggesting we were but a short walk from the museum, but it did not appear. We must have walked around the uppermost part of the castle complex a number of times to no avail. I blame the 34-degree heat! Anyway, as if by magic on our second day and umpteenth loop we came across a lift shaft and staircase with a small sign indicating we were finally on the right track. At the bottom of the stairs turn right and nestled into the rock as you would assume was the museum, unimposing and humbly fronted it might easily have gone unnoticed if you weren’t on the hunt.

The museum was fascinating, horrifying and completely immersive. Photography is not permitted inside but I was honestly far too engrossed in my surroundings to think about taking pictures. Some images that stay with you without the need to scroll through your camera roll.

Nuclear war preparation films, operating rooms and wards the information and displays were informative and engaging. If you are visiting Budapest then the Hospital in the Rock should be at the top of your itinerary. My only caveat is that the tunnels are cold so take a jumper!

Where to eat & drink

New York Café

Whilst trying to ignore the sweat that was definitely turning my white t-shirt a fetching shade of translucent and listening carefully to the audio commentary on the bus my attention was piqued by the mention of The New York Café. The New York Café was a favourite haunt of writers, creatives, artists and newspaper editors. So, with literary history just around the corner, we decided we would make a beeline to the New York Cafe for dinner.

Snapseed - Copy (9).jpg

I’m unsure what I was expecting but it wasn’t the elaborately decorated, multiple chandeliers imposing themselves on the room and intricate frescos lined walls that greeted us. Visually, it was stunning.

Attachment-1

The New York Café serves a variety of traditional Hungarian cuisine, more modern classics and of course a plethora of simply splendid cakes.

Snapseed - Copy (8)

Mazel Tov

Book. Book. Book. I’ll say it again…book. If you want to enjoy the gastronomical delights Snapseed - Copy (12).jpgof this Jewish Quarter garden party then you’ll need a reservation. We first tried for dinner on Saturday night to no avail but were lucky enough to grab a spot on Sunday lunchtime. Mazel Tov is a Middle Eastern restaurant set in the Jewish Quarter of the city. It has the ruin bar ambience combined with a conservatory. Cascading plants tumbling from the gallery perfectly set against the industrial interior design.

The cocktails and a Shawarma grill plate made for a perfect Sunday lunch.

Ruin Bars

Budapest now boasts a plentiful supply of these quirky secluded bars. Ruin bars litter the Old Jewish Quarter which was left to deteriorate after World War Two. The bars have popped up in the abandoned shells of buildings, shops and factories. Décor in the bars range from car boot sale chic to your nans living room circa 1970, whatever you choose you’re in for a visual and unusual treat.

Sadly, our Saturday night plans were cut short as I succumbed to the slightly less pleasant symptoms of heat exhaustion but a ruin bar beverage is up on my list for a return trip to the Hungarian capital.

Final Thoughts

Our weekend in Budapest was rammed full, blisteringly hot and proved to be a wonderful weekend escape. As with all our weekend adventures I left feeling keen to return and unearth more cultural gems of this glorious city. I would love to return in the winter months. I reckon a marinade in the world-famous baths with snow falling around you would be fairly close winter weekend perfection.

Dubrovnik to Mostar: A 1 day itinerary from the Croatian coast

Stari Most, the Old Town Bridge of Mostar has become a bit of a siren song for travellers in recent years. Admittedly, I had seen pictures of the exquisitely sweeping, half-moon structure with the crystal-clear blue river dancing beneath, but I genuinely had no idea where in the world this beautiful scene was.

Whilst planning my recent trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia I discovered that a day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina was entirely possible. After a little more research on the rich history, culture and what to do in the city of Mostar I was sold.

Mostar is located around fifty miles from Dubrovnik and is a two-and-a-half-hour direct drive. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not currently in the European Union, as such your passport is essential on this trip.

Who to travel with and how to get there

Walking around Dubrovnik you have your pick of tour agencies and companies offering day trips. I opted for Laus Travel. Laus Travel has a comprehensive website, a 2018 certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor and everything can be booked online. The backing of Trip Advisor did give me a little comfort in the knowledge that I had booked a quality and reputable trip. The tour cost £43 which included travel, professional guide and all local fees and taxes.

I received confirmation from Laus Travel within an hour of booking. All the relevant details of our collection point and key information for also provided, notably “don’t forget your passport!”.

Our collection point at the Pile Gate at 7.20 am was a five-minute walk from our hotel in the Old Town. From there we were taken to the main meeting point where we transferred to a larger more comfortable minibus for the day. Our party was a small group of twenty-eight, so it never felt too crowded or chaotic. The early start was, unfortunately, necessary as you never know how long the border crossings are going to take. Thankfully there is a coffee stop around 9 am, then a brief onward journey to our first stop. Despite spending a considerable chunk of our day on the bus, Sylvia was a brilliant storyteller and historian. The time just slipped away as we were all engrossed in our history lesson.

Kravice Waterfalls

First stop of the day was Kravice Waterfalls in the Herzegovinian region of Bosnia. The waterfalls are nature at it’s very best. With twenty falls tumbling over the edge of limestone cliffs, it’s clear why this natural beauty spot has been protected by the state government.

Snapseed - Copy (4).jpgSnapseed - Copy (6).jpg

Entry to the falls cost an additional €5/40Kuna to your tour price although prices do vary depending on the time of year you visit. We visited late October which is off-peak close to the tail end of the season. The primary benefits of visiting in late October were the lack of tourists and the weather was still gloriously warm and sunny. Other than our group of twenty-eight, there didn’t appear to any other travellers visiting. Exploring a place without the buzz of hundreds of tourists is definitely a bonus and made our visit feel a little more intimate.

Snapseed - Copy (5)

Our tour stopped at the falls for around an hour which was plenty of time to experience the area and the falls close up. Boat trips into the lake are available for €5/40Kuna and last around twenty minutes.

Stari Most

Stari Most or ‘Old Bridge’ is probably the most iconic landmark in Mostar. The bridge has connected the two halves of the city since it’s initial construction between 1557 – 1566. IMG_0136.JPGThe gloriously curved half-moon archway, originally commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent stood the test of time until it was brutally destroyed in November 1993 by Croatian artillery. The new bridge, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was finished in 2004. The reconstruction is a delicate, sensitive and accurate restoration using original sixteenth-century building techniques. The final result is an awe-inspiring piece of engineering and every bit as magnificent as it’s sixteenth-century counterpart.

For the best views of the bridge, I would head to any one of the cafes which line the banks just off the main bazaar. Alternatively, amble down to the shores on either side and lookup.

A small word of caution when crossing the bridge – it is incredibly slippery! The beautiful stone which perfectly reflects the golden sunlight will play havoc with footwear with poor grip. My crossing in flip flops had me diving for the side rails just to retain my balance.

Snapseed.jpg

Food & Drink

Before leaving the bus, our guide Sylvia gave us a list of local foods we should try for lunch. Sylvia also recommended trying a traditional Bosnian coffee.

We opted for the first and largest café on the right-hand side of the Eastern side of the bridge. There was a large outdoor courtyard with unobstructed views of the bridge. We were still confident at that point that we might catch a glimpse of some bridge diving. Sylvia was not wrong when she said your money goes a long way when it comes to food in Mostar. We ordered two soft drinks and two plates of Ćevapi and the final bill was under £10.

Ćevapi is a traditional dish, consisting of small rolls of grilled lamb or beef served in pita bread with onions, chips and salad. I’m fairly sure the chips and salad have been added to appease the hungry tourists rather than being a staple part of traditional cuisine. But it did the job and, the whole thing was delicious.

IMG_0121.JPG

Before heading back to the bus, we decided to try the coffee, both my husband and I are avid coffee drinkers so this was a caffeine encounter we were willing to try. Sylvia’s tip had been to put the whole sugar cube in the cup then stir, of course, the traditional Turkish option of putting the sugar in your mouth first then drinking is also an option. Liking to keep my sugar consumption to a respectable minimum I thought I’d try the coffee without any sweetener to start…bitter, grainy and oh my life that’s just not pleasant. I opted for the whole cube in the cup, and the result was a much tastier caffeine fix. To sweeten the deal further our coffee was served in an exquisitely worked copper pot with a fabulous Aladdin’s cave vibe and topped off with traditional Turkish delight flavoured with nuts.

IMG_0138.JPG

Neretva River

IMG_0116.JPGThe beautiful blue Neretva River runs through the centre of Mostar splitting the town in two. It is possible to swim in the river, but I would recommend visiting in the summer months when the water temperature is a little warmer!

One of the main spectacles on the river is the locals who fearlessly jump the seventy-eight feet into the depths of the river below. Sadly, we didn’t see anyone jumping on our trip but there were several local men in swimming shorts who looked ready and were waiting for the opportune moment. The Stari Most bridge and the Neretva River have drawn worldwide attention with Red Bull using the location for the 2015 World Cliff Diving Championships. Whilst it is an incredible spectacle, jumping from the bridge is best left to the trained professionals that is of course unless you are a hard-core adrenaline junkie and have some seriously good travel insurance.

Old Bazar Kujundziluk

On either side of the bridge are tightly packed, slightly tipsy sixteenth-century buildings jostling for prime position on the cobbled streets. Each building houses different handmade crafts and artisans’ workshops. From intricate works of copper to traditional woven carpets and jewellery, the Old Bazar has a lot to offer. Yes, there are some standard tourist tat offerings but in amongst that are some real gems. During the Ottoman period, there were over five hundred workshops occupying these small streets, making the Old Bazar a real hive of historical commerce. So, if like me you love a good nose around take a trip into some of the shops and workshops to really soak up the history or snap up a bargain.

Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque

A short walk down the Eastern side of the bridge you come to the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. The Mosque dates back to 1618 and is accessed from a small courtyard. Sadly, the Mosque was significantly damaged during the war but has been carefully restored whilst still leaving some signs of the devastation which befell it during the 1990s. Entry to the Mosque is 12Kuna and is available to anyone of any faith. The only time when access to the Mosque may be restricted is during prayer times. Additional layers of clothing for legs, shoulders and heads are provided for both men and women at no extra charge.

Snapseed - Copy (3)

We opted for the Mosque, Parapet and Minaret ticket at a cost of 12Kuna. Inside the Mosque the main prayer room is simple yet beautiful. Botanical motifs decorate the domed ceiling and bright coloured glass windows interrupt and juxtapose the plain whitewashed walls.

Snapseed - Copy (2).jpgSnapseed - Copy.jpg

I am not someone who is anxious about heights. However, on all our trips we end up climbing some sort of tower. I guess I’m a sucker for a panoramic view. So, climbing the Minaret seemed like an excellent idea. The inner staircase is tight, twisty and peppered with the faint scent of claustrophobia and danger as there is no handrail. This part I could handle. Upon emerging from the staircase, you are greeted with the most spectacular view of the city. East and West sides connected by Stari Most, Church spires and Minarets punctuating the horizon, a stark reminder of the multicultural origins of the city, it truly is breath-taking. My issue lay in that the parapet we had emerged onto only came to around thigh height. With no barrier or handrail I was suddenly struck by how high up I was. In the interests of safety, I would advise hugging the interior column to take in the vista. The parapet is only wide enough for one person so it’s worth checking that you are the only ones taking the trip up. After composing myself for a moment crouched on the floor of the parapet, I was fully able to embrace the view and the experience. A trip to the top is at the top of my recommendations for your trip to Mostar.

IMG_0120.JPG

Finally, we ended in the private courtyard behind the Mosque. This small area was a gorgeously secluded place away from the buzz of the main bazar to take in the views.

War Photo Exhibition

As we ambled back to the West side, my attention was piqued by a small sign announcing a war photo exhibition. Carefully picking my way across the slippery stone, I made my way up a wooden staircase tucked into the side of the Westside entrance. Entry to the exhibition was 6Kuna. The exhibition was laid out over two floors of the West Tower. Although there aren’t hundreds of images on display, my husband and I didn’t speak for the thirty minutes it took to go around. We were so engrossed in the stories and moments captured during the Bosnian war.

It was so easy to see geographically how Mostar became a target. Surrounded on all sides and sitting at the bottom of a valley. It must have been horrific. The photographs on display show various facets of life during the conflict; from people washing, salvaging car parts to an aid worker thrown into a gutter by the force of a snipers shot, thankfully she was wearing a bulletproof vest and walked away unharmed.

The whole exhibition although modest was incredibly powerful and thought-provoking.

Old Bridge Museum

Although our time in Mostar was limited, we didn’t get an opportunity to visit the Old Bridge Museum. The museum is dedicated to the story of the bridge including the pre-Ottoman archaeology all the way through to the devastation of November 1993 to the reconstruction after the war. This was on our guide Sylvia’s list of recommendations, so it will be firmly at the top of my list when I return.

Our day trip to Mostar was fabulous. I learnt so much about a place and time in history that I knew relatively little about. Sylvia our guide was knowledgeable, friendly and made the time spent on the bus thoroughly enjoyable. After learning about the history and troubles of the not so distant past, I am keen to explore more of the Balkan region, so will definitely be booking some visits in the future. I would absolutely recommend a day trip to Mostar if you are travelling to Dubrovnik and have time to explore.

Happy travels

Jess x

 

Snapseed - Copy (3).jpg

Eating Like A Local in Prague

Normally when I book a trip I like to do a little research on the best restaurants and local places to eat. I have always been a firm believer that if you want to get a real feeling of the place then eating local food, in restaurants frequented by the resident population is a good place to start.

After some careful reading and research on the various food tours offered in Prague I chose the Eating Europe, Prague Food Tour. I selected the four-hour tour which promised “Old world charm & local history told through cuisine”, on all fronts I was not disappointed. Four hours spent in the company of Neil our guide was both delicious, insightful and left me feeling like another trip to the Czech capital was needed!

The trip to Prague was a surprise for my birthday this summer so I booked rather late on to the tour however, we managed to snap up 2 places on a Monday morning commencing at 11.30am. I would definitely recommend booking as far in advance as you can, particularly during the summer months. Although this is a mid-morning start time I would hold off on the big breakfast as four hours of food, even with bite sized portions left me feeling very full and in need of a nap!

  • Dreams are made of…gingerbread:

 

gingerbreadWe arrived at what can only be described as a real-life gingerbread house, it looked super cute with beautifully baked and iced treats adoring the doorway and the aroma was incredible. As soon as we walked in we were met by our guide Neil; although originally from Scotland his knowledge of local history and food was detailed and brought to life with stories from his Czech wife and in laws of their experiences living and growing up in the Czech Republic. We were lucky enough to have Neil to ourselves for the whole tour!

The shop is called Pernickuv Sen, located at Hastalska 21 which is approximately a ten-minute walk from the Powder Tower. Pernickuv Sen is owed by two sisters in law who create and ice some of the most beautiful gingerbread creations.

Our first tasting comprised three different traditional cookies, my favourite was definitely the poppy seed kolache however my husband preferred a crumblier vanilla flavoured cookie. As we devoured the cookies we heard how they were made and some of the stories behind their creation.

  • 2 slices of bread are overrated:

 

FullSizeRender - Copy (7)Having visited Norway, Sweden and Denmark open faced sandwiches are a common place food however there are few which rival the taste and careful craftmanship of those presented at the Sisters Bistro. The Sisters Bistro takes classic Czech flavours and brings them into the 21st century with stunning presentation and bold flavour combinations.

Our guide liked to see how many flavours we could identify in each of the mini sandwiches, needless to say my taste buds were far superior compared to my husband! We tried three different offerings, my personal favourite a beetroot and goats cheese sandwich. There was also a ham and boiled egg and a shredded cabbage with fresh tomato. When presented with the ham and boiled egg morsel Neil informed us that this was the height of Czech party food, good to know!

  1. Meat, meat, meat:

Without even moving from our little table Neil whipped away the empty sandwich plates and returned with a platter of meaty goodness from the butcher Nase Maso. Naso Maso state that they are a “Small butchers with a big heart” and it is clear from the bustling huddle keen to get in and snag a lunchtime hotdog that this small local butcher is attracting a lot of love from local Praguers. Not only does Naso Maso serve pre-cooked meat products but you can also select your meat have it cooked in front of you and you’re good to go. The owners have also sweetened the idea of waiting for your meat to cook by installing a beer tap so; with a cold one in hand you are free to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.

The smell from coming from the plate in front of us was intoxicating, sweet, juicy and lightly caramelised. Neil carefully directed us first to the ham then onto the sausage. Whilst the ham was delicious, soft and melt in your mouth it was the sausage which truly reminded me why I am not a veggie! The first sausage we tried was affectionately called the ‘little fat boy’; reason being that it is a small, short, fat filled sausage. This little delicacy burst with flavour and the mustard accompaniment provided the perfect balance to the rich flavours. After devouring the ham, sausage, bread and gherkins I needed a walk!

meat.jpg

As we left Nase Maso we were able to walk past the long window showing the butchers in action, this visual spectacle seemed to be getting as much attention as those eagerly waiting for their food.

  • Soup in the bell tower:

 

After a short but much-needed walk (despite the 30 degree heat!) we arrived at a rather imposing yet unassuming venue for a restaurant. Our walk to Restaurant Zvonice was filled with insightful glimpses into times gone by helping to give a really good background to the city.

Restaurant Zvonice occupies two floors of the Gothic bell tower. The bell tower comes complete with 15th century bell and enormous yet characterful oak beams. As we sat down Neil informed us that we would again be guessing the ingredients of our soup. We were presented with a generous portion of steaming hot soup; not quite the dish of choice for a swelteringly hot August day but this reimagined Sauerkraut soup was a true and unexpected treat. The sauerkraut was mixed with potato, ham and cream, the result was a lightly pickled warming and hearty soup.

Even if sauerkraut soup isn’t your thing then the view from the bell tower is pretty impressive and worth the trip!

  • Czech Tapas:

 

Next on the menu was a tapas restaurant with a twist. We arrived at Špejle at lunchtime and already the tables were filling up. Špejle are small wooden skewers mostly used for shish kebabs. Špejle use these little wooden skewers in all of their delicacies. Their concept is brilliant; you choose whatever delights you like hot or cold, you are then charged for the number of skewers you accumulate over the course of your mczech tapaseal.

Our tapas treat was a beautifully cooked duck breast partnering a dumpling loaded with cranberry and red cabbage on the inside. The dish was topped off with crunchy fried onions and washed down with crisp, sharp Czech cider. Although it was bite size this was more than enough to satisfy any lunchtime munchies.

I would recommend prior booking at Špejle as their growing popularity for flavoursome food presented in a new and quirky way is gaining momentum.

  • Svickova; a Czech tradition:

 

As we made our way to our final destination we stopped for a while in Wenceslas Square where Neil gave us a brilliant insight into what had occurred there during the Soviet occupation and why it was such an important place. It was fascinating to stand in the square which we had read so much about at the Museum of Communism and join together some of the dots.

Our penultimate dish was in Neil’s opinion worth waiting for and was set to be the highlight of our tour. We arrived at Café Louvre; a beautifully grand building with a significant history. After learning that Einstein and Kafka used to frequent these rooms I was eager to get inside!

Our first dish was Svickova, a traditional Czech dish made with a spiced root vegetable sauce, beef steak, cranberry sauce, slice of lemon, 2 fluffy dumplings and of course a generous dollop of whipped cream. When the curious dish was presented in front of me I wasn’t quite sure where to start it seemed to be a strange combination between main course and dessert. However, Neil stepped in and advised that everything should be mixed together into the vegetable sauce (which I was reliably told when cooked properly should have more of an orange/yellow colour rather than the much darker alternatives often served in some of the more touristy spots). Well my first taste blew all my scepticism away, it was delicious! The only down side being that after so much food and drink that afternoon I struggled to finish it off.

food tour

  • Finale:

 

cafe louvreOur tour concluded with a final course at Café Louvre; traditional apple strudel with whipped cream and vanilla custard. Now, I am not a fan of cream or custard however the pure unadulterated strudel was warm, lightly spiced with melt in your mouth pastry. The Czech’s really know how to make a strudel, you can find this staple dessert on most menus across the city.

The Eating Prague tour was an excellent way to spend our last day in the city and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Food tours can be booked on the eating Europe website https://www.eatingeurope.com/

Happy travels

Jess