A glimpse on my 3 favorite East European cities
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Usually the eastern part of Europe is not on top of my private travel list. So why to go then and what are the best East European cities to visit?
Rushing through 3 countries in 5 days is part of my job in the travel industry. A combination of business duties and private travel pleasures. This time I had to do a promotional trip in Romania, Poland and Czech Republic. After this turbo trip around, I have to admit that I didn´t do justice to all these countries as they are indeed worth to consider for a private discovery trip.
1. Bucharest, Romania
First stop was Bucharest and already the drive from the Bucharest airport into the city center was inspiring with blooming trees and flowers all over. It was a Sunday and everybody seemed to be out on a walk or enjoying the sunshine in the lovely outdoor cafes and restaurants. For me the Bucharest weather was just perfect.
Bucharest's accommodation portfolio is getting a big up-date. Fancy new places are popping out everywhere. They can be found in the regular online portals or have a look on Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) for a more homey stay. If you are up for a nostalgic trip you can still find hotels in Bucharest with the old communist charm of the East.
I was staying at the Hilton Athenee Palace (www.hilton.com), which is a mix of both. History (the building is dating back to the 1914's) combined with luxury for a quite affordable price compared to similar hotels in other cities. The location is excellent as you have many bars and restaurants around and it is in walking distance to the Old Town. Rooms are a bit old fashioned. The ones on the front side will face the landmarks of Revolution Square and the Romanian Athenaeum. I haven´t used the hotel gym and pool, therefore no comments on that - but what I have to comment on is the excellent breakfast with a great variety of food. Also healthy ingredients as Gojii beeries and alikes are available.
Food & Drinks
I have been in Bucharest earlier. This time however I noticed the increase of new stylish bars and urban restaurants. If you are staying at the Hilton Athenee you already have a couple of them directly around.
The healthy eatery of Chocolat (www.chocolat.com.ro) for example that serves a nice selection of salads, soups and sandwiches and does great smoothies too - plus as the name promises a wide choice of cakes, chocolates and other sweet temptations, not so healthy anymore 😃
If the weather is nice have a seat at some of the open-air restaurants and pizzerias close by. Bucharest has in some parts Southern European vibes. Even the locals remind me often of Greeks or Italians in their appearance and attitudes. Try out for example the Trattoria Buongiorno (www.trattoriabuongiorno.ro) or the Tratttoria Il Calcio Ateneu (www.trattoriailcalcio.com).
In the same area you will also find a number of nice cafes and ice-shops. My best discovery was a shop only for delicious Eclairs, soooo yummi!!!! (www.frenchrevolutioneclairs.com)
At night this neighbourhood does not disappoint in terms of bars as well - one with a great barkeeper and superb mixed drinks is the Salon Golescu (www.salongolescu.ro).
A bit of sightseeing
So let's explore now the city. Bucharest has interesting things to do and see. If you step out from the hotel and walk towards the Old Town you will come across a lot of interesting buildings from the past and present.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches......
Old historic buildings and places......
Creative new designs.......
Plus some communist reminders....
The Old Town
Has been transformed into a restaurant and bar zone and is the best place to spend a night in Bucharest. On weekends it is getting crowded and hordes of youngsters are making their way into the bars. Among the mainstream pubs some nice and creative concepts have emerged. You will find a location here for any taste from Irish Pubs, to Outdoor Foodmarkets, House Clubs, Burger Joints, Karaoke Bars and some other strange discoveries - like for example the Underground Rock Club, Club A (www.cluba.ro). I thought they might kidnap us soon - but no, we had fun in there.....nothing more to say, what happens in Bucharest stays in Bucharest 🙈
Try out Distrikt 42 (www.distrikt42.ro)- for some nice mixology drinks.
Or Buger & Scoici (www.burgerscoici.ro) for your caloric fix and the base for your pub crawl. And sure you wanna know now what Scoici means, that is the Romanian word for shellfood.
For more rustic food try the Manuc's Inn, the oldest operating hotel building in the city until its refurbishment. It houses now a traditional restaurant, where you can experience an outstanding food journey (www.hanumanucrestaurant.ro). During summer guests can sit in a lovely garden area.
And some more impressions of the Old City......
For me the best option to explore a city is always a tour guided by locals. So if you like to see the sites and hidden places of Bucharest and its surroundings with super nice and experienced guides, I can recommend to check out www.travelmakertours.com
2. Warsaw, Poland
Flying over to Warsaw now with the convenient Polish LOT Airline (www.lot.com). Warsaw's first impression was a positive one with a sunny day welcoming me. I took a taxi from the Warsaw airport to the hotel which was around 12 Euros only.
In Warsaw I chose a more pricey option with the Bristol Hotel (www.marriott.com), a lovely property in a superb location. Beside the Presidential Palace and in walking distance to the historic Old Town. The hotel might be a bit old fashioned, but due to the light colors and nicely designed rooms you have that perfect feeling of comfort and luxury. Take your relaxation further at the Spa with various treatments and an Asian styled indoor pool area. Breakfast was good, maybe some more options would have been nice for a hotel in that category. I didn´t try out the hotel dining options, but I am sure they won´t disappoint either.
You shouldn´t miss a stroll through the nearby Old Town with its narrow cobble stone streets and colorful houses. They appear like coming out from a toy box. On this walk you will also come across some majestic churches and the Royal Castle.
In the Old Town especially around the Market Square you will find many restaurants, however most of them are very touristic. Nevertheless they are a good option for a scenic outdoor meal during summer. Otherwise just have a drink in some of the pubs around like the Same Krafty serving draft beer to go (www.samekrafty.pl).
Try the Podwale 25 Restaurant (www.podwale25.pl), located in the New Town close to the Barbican Gate. Heavy and rustic Polish cuisine is on the menu here. Also a bit touristic, but hey why not sometimes be one :-)
Warsaw has also a vivid nightlife with numerous bars and clubs. My friends have introduced me to some flavored Vodka shots - a drink out of hell, so don't expect me to remember much......only that we ended up in a nice dance cub called Enklawa - one for the late night owls (www.enklawa.com).
3. Prague, Czech Republique
Enklawa and the hell's drink caused me a nice morning headache and as a side effect let me forget about my fear of flying with small aircrafts - and yes that time it was a scary small one with super loud propellers from Eurolot - but hey I just slept it over 😁
Last but not least we arrived to Prague. I know that I will not do justice to this beautiful city with my few lines. But from all the 3 cities I had the shortest stay here. Plus the weather was terrible. However I know Prague from earlier visits and it is really a very beautiful place with lots of things to discover.
I stayed at the Prague Marriott Hotel (www.marriott.com), which has a perfect location at the edge of the historic Old Town. You can easily walk to all the main sights in the center. The famous Charles Bridge, the Upper Town and Prague Castle are also ony a short distance away. The modern hotel has an elegant style and very nice and helpful staff. As all the main branded hotels it is standard and nothing really special to experience here, but it is a good value for money for a city stay.
Don´t miss a visit to the Old Market Square with the beautiful Old Town Hall.
When you are crossing the historic center you will reach to the shores of the Vltava river and the picturesque Charles Bridge - that connects to the Upper Town and its main sights as the St. Nicholas Church and the Prague Castle. As the strong wind and rain has almost blown me down the bridge I just took my pictures and headed back for shelter in the narrow streets of the Old Town.
The bad weather however was a good excuse to stop by in one of the many coffee shops for a sweet treat - not my fault, I could blame the weather for this caloric intake. In Prague you can still find some of the classy old coffee houses with its elegant waiters. Try for example the Kavarna Obecni Dum, located in the historic Municipality House (www.kavarnaod.cz) which serves divine cakes and delicious Palacinka (kind of Crepe).
Talking about sweets whenever in Prague you should try Trdelnik - which you can usually get at small street stalls. It is a kind of spit cake, which is made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick. Grilled and topped with sugar and a nut mix.
For some solid food I found a nice Asian eatery called Zebra - with freshly made noodles and wok dishes. Very popular during lunch time (www.zebranoodlebar.cz).
Unfortunately there was no time on this trip to explore much of Prague´s nightlife. I only had some drinks at Buddha Bar - of course you can't go wrong with that one. The barkeepers were super friendly and as it was a more quiet night they even let us taste their new cocktail creations for free (www.buddha-bar.cz).
New!!!! the 2020/2021 up-date:
My top recommendation for you in Prague would be to go on a spooky night walk with a Plague Doctor through the Old Town. History will come alive on this special tour. During Covid-19 times, you can take part in the online experience and join an unqiue virtual walk through the empty streets of Prague. Very entertaining. Don´t miss it! Click the link below!!! ↙↙↙
All in all it was an interesting trip and I observed a lot of new developments in the East. I am curious to explore more, as all these cities are future trendsetter places.