6 Amazing Museums in Budapest (Hungary)

Whether you like art or history, the museums in Budapest will not disappoint. From national galleries displaying the medieval history of the country to a museum dedicated to the horrors of fascism and communism, here are my top picks for the best museums to visit in Budapest.

Hungarian National Museum

Location: Múzeum krt. 14-16 | In the Palace District
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: mnm.hu/en

The Hungarian National Museum has a history that goes back over two hundred years, when in 1802, Count Ferenc Széchényi set up the notable National Széchényi Library.

One year later, the Count Széchényi’s wife would donate a mineral collection to the place, which would remove its status as a simple library and turn it into the Hungarian National Museum, a general history and natural history museum.

The current museum is a Neoclassical building, built between 1837–47 by the renowned architect Mihály Pollack, and is one of most beautiful museum buildings in Budapest.

The Hungarian National Museum currently holds six permanent exhibitions, most notably: the History of Hungary, which is divided into two parts; Between East and West, which shows the variety of people who inhabited their land; and the Coronation Mantle, which displays the garments of Hungarian kings used during their coronation.

The whole place is full of interesting things to see and is indeed a national treasure. The image above shows the famous sepulcher of György Apafi, the governor of the Küküllő county. This was the work of Elias Nicolai, who in 1635 moved to Transylvania from Upper Hungary. It is a classic piece of Hungarian Renaissance stone-carving and one of my favorite pieces in the museum.

Location: Inside Buda Castle
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: en.mng.hu/

It quickly becomes very clear to any visitor that the Royal Palace in the Buda Castle is one of the most magnificent royal residences in Europe. It dates back to the 14th century, to the reign of kings such as Matthias Corvinus. And what better place to host the Hungarian National Gallery than this magnificent palace?

When we talk about the Hungarian National Gallery, we are talking about the largest public collection documenting and presenting the evolution of arts in Hungary. Although it was earlier run as an independent institution, it moved in 1975 to the former building of the Royal Palace of Buda.

The Hungarian National Gallery currently holds six permanent exhibitions, most notably: Art in the 19th century, displaying pieces from the Age of Reforms to the Turn of the Century; Modern Times, about Hungarian Art Between 1896 and World War II​; and Shifts, showing Hungarian Art After 1945.

This museum is quite gigantic, so I would suggest you take a whole day for visiting the Buda Castle District and slowly take-in what all the museums here have to offer. Make sure to read all the commentary on the works of art you see, but feel free to direct yourself towards the sections of the museum that please you the most aesthetically or historically.

Budapest History Museum

Location: Szent György tér 2 | Inside Buda Castle
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: varmuzeum.hu/

Unlike other museums in the city, which are dedicated to the broader history of Hungary and the Hungarian people, this museum specialized in the history of the city of Budapest. The museum itself is located inside the castle, and its exhibitions are displayed in the restored halls of the medieval palace, the former castle chapel, as well as the Gothic hall.

Here you will learn how the Roman provincial center known as Aquincum successfully developed. Then, you will discover how the seat of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom thrived, and how it all perished during the wars and sieges done by the Ottomans. And finally, you will experience how Pest, Buda, and Óbuda unified and Budapest became one of the fastest-growing metropolises in Central Europe in the 1920s.

The Budapest History Museum currently holds four permanent exhibitions: Buda, the Center of the Royal Dignity, telling the history of the medieval royal palace and its royal court; the Hungarian-Anjou Coated Silk Carpentry; Budapest, Light & Shadow, telling the thousand-year history of the capital going through its highs and lows; as well as the exhibition displaying the Gothic Sculptures from the Royal Palace in Buda.

Similarly to the Hungarian National Gallery, this place is huge and requires a bit of time. So make sure to take a whole day to visit the Buda Castle district in order to patiently and successfully take in all the info it has to offer.

Panoptikum Labyrinth

Location: Úri u. 9 | Under the Castle Hill
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 19:00
Website: labirintus.eu/

Before becoming a museum in Budapest, the Panoptikum Labyrinth started as a natural cave system, half a million years ago. In the 13th century, its isolated components began to be connected by the inhabitants of surrounding villages.

It has been used ever since the Middle Ages for a variety of purposes: as a shelter, a patio, or a prison. By coming here, you will participate in underground time travel with the destinations ranging from the palaces of Sigismund of Luxemburg and Mathias I, going through mystical monuments from the time of the Turkish occupation of Hungary.

This is by far one of my favorite things to see in the Buda Castle district. Although the place is now a tourist attraction, keep in mind that it is still an actual labyrinth. That means that although you will not get lost and starve to death, you might actually lose a couple of hours inside if you do not pay attention! But do not worry, it is really amusing, especially the places which are completely deprived of light. Make sure to bring a lot of friends for extra fun.

One of the things that led me to visit this place for the first time was the fact that it held the famous Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) as a prisoner. The story says that the Hungarian king marched against the Wallachians to free Dracula from Turkish captivity, but for some unknown reason, when he reached Transylvania, the king who had previously married one of his family members oof to Dracula, dragged him off to Buda and punished him with ten years of imprisonment. I think nowadays we know why.

Hospital in the Rock

Location: Lovas út 4/c | Inside the Castle District
Opening: Mon-Fri 12:00 – 18:00, Sat 10:00 – 19:00, Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: sziklakorhaz.eu/en/

As we already know, the Buda Castle hill hides a series of natural caves underneath it. Due to the threat of world war, Dr. Károly Szendy, the mayor of Budapest, ordered the construction of an emergency hospital and reinforced bomb shelter under Buda Castle, with the construction beginning in 1939 and finishing in 1944. Thus, the Hospital in the Rock was born.

This hospital/shelter is now a fascinating museum that tells a lot about the tragic story of Budapest over the last century. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside. But in return, you can get an original souvenir from this place: the actual gas masks stored within the hospital/shelter over time.

Your visit will be divided into two parts: first, a small film will give you historical context as to why the Hospital in the Rock exists, followed by a long guided tour across the whole complex. Keep in mind that the guided tour is mandatory as the place is huge and full of details you can very easily miss if not presented by a guide.

The guided tour is segmented by time period, addressing specific rooms and tools which were essential during the developments within these specific events. It covers the Second World War, the 1856 Revolution, the Cold War, and to finalize a presentation on the dangers of the nuclear threat.

House of Terror

Location: Andrássy út 60 | Near Hunyadi Square
Opening: Mon CLOSED, Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: terrorhaza.hu/en/

The House of Terror museum functions both as a museum and a memorial. After going through the two faces of totalitarian terror (fascism and communism), the Hungarian people decided to erect this monument to the memory of the victims of terror, as well as to present the horrible living conditions during the periods in which terror reigned supreme.

The building itself has a horrendous history: it was used both by the Arrow Cross Party (fascists) and the ÁVH (communist secret police). So be prepared, as what you will see inside here is not for the weak-hearted. The museum has a very heavy atmosphere (probably caused both by the aesthetic of the place combined with the ominous music which permeates the whole museum).

Photography inside this Budapest museum is not allowed under any circumstance. And to be honest with you, this is one of the few places in which I honestly did not feel the need to take any pictures, both out of interest and respect.

Different from many other museums, the exhibitions begin on the second floor, chronologically starting with the fascist regime of the Arrow Cross Party. Going one floor down to the first floor, you will experience the terror caused by the communist secret police known as ÁVH. On the ground floor, you will see a massive T-55 tank inside the building, with photos of the victims of terror as background. After that, you will then reach the basement, where all the torture and interrogations happened.

Best Restaurants In Budapest (Hungary)

Nothing better to experience the spirit of Hungary’s Capital than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Budapest.

Hungarian Cuisine

Similarly to Austrian cuisine, the Hungarian one is mostly Central European. Drawing comparisons between the two is quite inevitable, as they were for a long time part of the same empire, the Austro-Hungarian, and therefore shared a lot of cultural traits.

Typical Hungarian food is rich in dairy, cheese, and meats (mostly simple meats such as beef, pork, and chicken), almost always served with bread. Also important to point is that here you will find some of the highest quality salamis and sausages in the whole of Europe and for quite inexpensive prices.

Meals are often divided into those which require side dishes, and those that do not. If a side dish is not formally required for a meal, Hungarians would find it a bit weird to order any. The most common side dishes being potatoes prepared in many different styles, as well as white rice or steamed vegetables.

What to eat in Budapest

Just like Vienna, Budapest is rich in big and fancy coffee houses that attracted artists from all over the continent. Make sure to visit at least one early in the morning to experience the elaborate menus and beautiful architecture these places have to offer.

As the main meal of the day, be it lunch or dinner, make sure to try the traditional Hungarian Goulash, the national dish. Another popular pick is the Csirkepaprikás (chicken paprikash), which is a chicken stew with a lot of sweet paprika, and a specific sour cream called tejföl. A personal favorite of mine, though, is the Csülök, or pork knuckle.

For a dessert or snack, you should definitely try the local Kürtőskalács. Many people mistake it for Prague’s Trdelník, but the Hungarian version of this delicious pastry is the real deal, as well as a must-try when visiting Budapest. Another option for a sweet snack would be the Gundel Palacsinta (crêpe) filled with nuts and chocolate sauce.

Where to eat in Budapest

Coffee & Breakfast

Centrál Coffee House

Location: Károlyi utca 9 | Near Károlyi Garden
Opening: Mon-Sun 08:00 – 00:00
Reservation: centralkavehaz.hu/en/

The Centrál Coffee House opened its doors in 1887 and quickly became the meeting point for elite Hungarian writers, poets, composers, and scientists throughout the centuries.

Despite taking a large hit during World War II, just like the rest of the city, this lovely coffee house reopened as a canteen for students as well as a night-time club. But in 2000, it reopened its doors as the classical coffee house, with its current mission of reviving the golden era of Hungarian gastronomy.

The ambiance of the Centrál Coffee House is very calm and classy. Early in the morning, they already have some very soft live music playing in the background, and the service couldn’t be more polite.

The space, in general, is very open and bright, with wooden and golden furniture, as well as plants everywhere. It makes for a very peaceful beginning of the day, perfect for getting into the mood for exploring the city.

Although this place is both a coffee house and a restaurant, I mostly come here for their breakfasts. It’s one of the few places in town that serve quality imperial era breakfasts, very similar to the ones in Vienna.

If you come here, make sure to order their “Perfect Day” breakfast, which is only served between 9:30 and 11:30. It comes with eggs benedict, 6 gourmet canapés, a mini cake selection, muesli, yogurt, pastry, honey, jam, butter, freshly squeezed orange juice, a warm drink (either hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate), and a glass of prosecco.

But if you are not so hungry, you can also go for a “Centrál 1887 Granola“, which comes with Greek yogurt, honey, cottage cheese, jam, and fresh fruits. That’s the one in the picture above.

Lunch & Dinner

Fakanál Étterem

Location: Vámház krt. 1-3 | Inside the Great Market Hall
Opening: Mon 09:00 – 17:00, Tue-Fri 09:00 – 18:00,
Sat 09:00 – 15:00, Sun CLOSED
Reservation: fakanaletterem.hu/

Located inside what is known to be the most beautiful market hall in all of Europe, the Fakanál Étterem restaurant offers hearty Hungarian home food at its best. They are proud to offer home-made flavors made from fresh ingredients from the market, just as if they had come from the local grandmother’s or mother’s stove.

The place is even cozier than you can imagine, quite unexpected for a crowded city market. It is very spacious, and the decoration makes you feel like you are dining in a cute little Hungarian village. Definitely one of the coziest restaurants in Budapest.

Here you can order either through a menu, or serve yourself on their buffet. The latter being my preference, as they tend to be cheaper, and not a bit less delicious. You will be surprised by the quality you will get for so cheap.

My favorite go for the Fakanál Étterem is the Csülök pékné módra, a classic Hungarian pork knuckle baked together with potatoes. I cannot stress enough how delicious this dish is.

Apparently, the fresh seasoning and vegetables gathered from the market hall do make a difference in taste, and it is something you have to experience for yourself. Together with a local unfiltered beer, this hearty dish will surely satisfy.

VakVarjú Étterem Pest

Location: Paulay Ede u. 7. | Near St. Stephen’s Basilica
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 00:00
Reservation: pest.vakvarju.com/

VakVarjú (The Blind Crow) is a popular dining option among locals, and for those reasons, the restaurant has many branches across Budapest. My favorite one being the one right at the center of Pest.

Their gastronomy is based on the reimagining of classic Hungarian dishes with a modern touch, while still keeping in touch with tradition. And to be honest, they are quite successful at it.

Right upon arrival you will notice the homely atmosphere. The place is very well lit, by either large windows during the day or modern chandeliers during the night. Here you will also find a variety of different tables and seats to choose from, whatever makes you more comfortable.

This Budapest restaurant also has live music during the evenings, which adds to the whole atmosphere. Apart from that, it is important to note that they have a kid’s corner with a lot of toys, so if you bring children, they can have some fun on their own as well.

What better place than VakVarjú, to experience the classic Hungarian Goulash soup with a freshly baked dough on top. It makes for a great appetizer, before ordering a Beef tenderloin with mustard seeded cream cheese, fried onions, sweet potato cream, and sugar snap peas, or Soft pork tenderloin with porcini Paprikash, smoked bacon greaves, and sheep’s cheesy Kaiserschmarren.

Bárkert Bistro

Location: Ybl Miklós tér 6 | Near Buda Castle
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 00:00
Reservation: barkert.hu/en/

Bárkert Bistro is located in the Várkert Bazár, a neo-renaissance building dreamt up by architect Miklós Ybl, Hungary’s most influential architect during his career, around the end of the 19th century.

After 130 years of history, this place has managed to maintain is popularity and elegance, attracting many people from all over the world. They are known for what they call ‘fusion cuisine‘, a pairing of fine traditional Hungarian food with characteristic international flavors.

This lovely Budapest restaurant tends more towards the elegant side than the cozy one. But the comfort they promise, they deliver. They have a really spacious interior, accompanied by a panoramic terrace overlooking the Danube river.

Service here will be of utmost quality as they pride themselves on their skilled waiters and state-of-the-art technical equipment.

When visiting the Bárkert Bistro, make sure to order a Friss lecsó (Fresh Hungarian ratatouille) as a starter; followed by either a duck leg with polenta and marinated baby vegetables, or an Angus Rib-eye steak, served with smoked paprika-gorgonzola sauce, and Chérie potato. They also serve vegan food, so if that is your pick, make sure to order their wild mushroom pappardelle.

They also have the ‘menu of the day’ option, which offers simpler food, but nonetheless as delicious. That was my pick last time I visited this place, when I ordered chicken breast coated with breadcrumbs served together with potato purée.

Regős Vendéglő

Location: Szófia u. 33 | Near Terror Museum
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 22:00
Reservation: regosvendeglo.hu/en/

Regős Vendéglő is a small family-owned restaurant, run by Péter Regős. As much as 80% of their clients are locals who work in the neighboring office buildings, which means their menu reflects the taste and wishes of fellow local Hungarians, making this restaurant a true hidden gem in Budapest.

With its exposed brick walls and comfy wooden furniture, the interior gives a very strong underground vibe. Regős Vendéglő makes for a perfect pick for a casual lunch with friends outside of the crowded city center.

Not only their food is very hearty and delicious but is also much less expensive than its alternatives downtown. Also important to note, is that if you manage to get there between 12:00 and 15:00, you can get a 3-course lunch menu for only 2000 Ft.

If you go for the 3-course lunch menu, I would suggest starting with a bean soup ‘Jókai’ style; followed by chicken breast with mushroom cream sauce and rice; finished by a delicious cherry strudel as dessert. I can guarantee you will not find this amount of flavor for this price anywhere in town, making this one of my top picks for the best restaurants in Budapest.

Sweets & Desserts

Molnár’s Kürtőskalács

Location: Váci u. 31 | Near Elisabeth Bridge
Opening: Sun-Thu 10:00 – 20:00, Fri-Sat10:00 – 21:00
Reservation: kurtoskalacs.com/

Molnár’s Kürtőskalács is famous across the city as the best place to eat this delicious treat made out of chopped walnuts glued to the hot and sticky caramel layer of melted sugar, know as Kürtőskalács.

Located in the heart of the inner district of Budapest, it is the perfect place to have a nice dessert or snack while exploring the city.

This place is not very fancy, but do not get fooled, as the food here is delicious. Due to local laws, they are not allowed to prepare Kürtőskalács in its traditional way, since it would involve a large fireplace which can be hazardous indoors. But they managed to come up with a substitute that cooks it just as good.

Keep also in mind that there are not many seats to compensate for the popularity of this snack. If you come here, especially during the evening, the place will be packed. But no worries, most locals just come to pick them up to eat them somewhere else, by the river or in a park, for example.

At Molnár’s Kürtőskalács you will find a wide variety of granulated toppings for your Kürtőskalács, my favorites being chocolate and walnut. There is also the option of getting it either cut in half, or as a bowl with ice-cream inside. I recommend getting both to try them out and see how you prefer eating it.

Best Restaurants In Vienna (Austria)

Nothing better to experience the spirit of Austria’s capital than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Vienna.

Austrian Cuisine

Austrian food is very Central European, that is, lots of meat together with either cabbage, potato or dumplings. Although very fond of beef and pork, you will easily find other fancy types of meat here, such as deer, boar, hare, and duck. Austrian butchers are specialists when it comes to special cuts of meat. Those include the Tafelspitz (beef) and Fledermaus (pork).

Apart from that, Vienna has a very strong culture surrounding coffee shops and bakeries. You will taste some of the most delicious coffee and sweets you ever had in your life during your visit here.

What to eat in Vienna

Be sure to wake up early in the morning to visit one of the city’s many coffee houses, for a good classic Viennese breakfast. Timing is key, as close to lunchtime these places get super crowded, thanks to their popularity both with locals and tourists.

For either lunch or dinner, stop at one of the many restaurants in Vienna’s center for a famous Wiener Schnitzel, the classic thin and breaded pan-fried veal cutlet. It is one of the national dishes of Austria, and a favorite of the locals.

For dessert, an Apfelstrudel is mandatory if you wish to experience the best of Vienna. Don’t be fooled, it isn’t a simple pie, but a delicious pastry filled with grated cooking apples, usually of a cristp and tart type such as Winesap apples, mixed together with sugar, cinnamon, and bread crumbs.

Where to eat in Vienna

Coffee & Breakfast

Café Schwarzenberg

Location: Kärntner Ring 17 | Near Wiener Stadtpark
Opening: Mon-Fri 07:30 – 23:00, Sat-Sun 08:30 – 23:00
Reservation: cafe-schwarzenberg.at/

In 1861, the Ringstraße boulevard (considered the most beautiful in Europe) was being built. There, one of the buildings owned by Albrecht Zeppenzauer (a famous silk manufacturer) was rented to Mr. and Mrs. Hochleitner, who decided to open a café at the place.

The coffee house received its current name in 1902, and today it is one of the last Ringstraße cafés, out of the 30 total which existed here. It has carefully maintained the typical atmosphere and tradition of a Viennese Café, as if frozen in time.

Schwarzenberg took a large hit during the World Wars, especially during the Soviet occupation of Vienna. But despite all the destruction, it managed to preserve most of its original architecture while adding up certain architectural details from the multiple refurbishings it went through overtime.

Upon entering the place, you will face the classic square tables with tops made out of hammered brass, which is part of its original inventory. The ceiling, decorated with mosaic panellings with colorful glass and gold plating. It has a very fancy vibe to it, while still managing to feel cozy, especially in colder days.

At Café Schwarzenberg you can find quality coffee consisting of organic Arabica beans sourced from FAIRTRADE-certified plantations in Honduras. Apart from that, you can try a multitude of delicious teas like classic black teas, powerful green teas, or aromatic fruit teas.

But to begin the day, nothing better than the classic crispy bacon with scrambled eggs. That’s my personal favourite, but you can always go for combos that are available, such as the Viennese breakfast which consists of a handmade roll, a croissant, a portion butter or diet margarine, a jar of Staud jam or honey, and a soft boiled egg. Anything here has a superb flavour, which earns the place the title of one of the best restaurants in Vienna.

Lunch & Dinner

Augustinerkeller

Location: Augustinerstraße 1 | Near Wiener Stadtpark
Opening: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 00:00
Reservation: bitzinger.wien/en/augustinerkeller

The Augustinerkeller is one of the surviving ancient monastery cellars in the city center of Vienna, and the carefully preserved ancient vaulting of the cellar can attest to that history.

Previously part of the city’s fortifications, only in 1924 it was turned into a restaurant. From 1954 onwards, the place has been owned by the Bitzinger family, who works hard for keeping the Viennese tradition of the place alive.

Augustinerkeller has a typical cellar atmosphere to it, a very private place where locals gather to spend some time together accompanied by great food. It is impossible not to draw comparisons with the beer halls in Munich, as they have a quite similar ambiance.

The best place to sit here is right near the back, inside one of the many dining booths, which can guarantee the privacy and a quiet meal, even if the place happens to be filled with guests.

What better to eat in a traditional monastery cellar than the traditional Wiener Schnitzel, accompanied by some great local beer? But be prepared, because this original Viennese veal escalope does not come in a small portion in this Vienna restaurant. There will be plenty to feed you for half a day!

To get the full experience, make sure to order one of the excellent wines from the restaurant’s own wine cellars or a bottle from the refreshing private brand draft beer “Opernbräu”.

Gasthaus Reinthaler

Location: Gluckgasse 5 | Near Albertina
Opening: Mon-Fri 09:00 – 23:00, Sat-Sun CLOSED
Reservation: gasthaus-reinthaler.at/

Gasthaus Reinthaler is the place for those who are looking for comfy and homemade food at the heart of Vienna. Gasthäuser are typically family-owned inns or taverns and commonly have up to three generations of a family working together to serve their guests. To find a place like this in Vienna’s city center is quite a catch.

The interior is mostly wooden, as in the style of the village’s Gasthäuser. It is one of the most home-like environments I have seen in the dining scene of Vienna’s city center, breathing the spirit of Gemütlichkeit.

Right by the entrance, you can sit to have a nice beer with friends, but if you wish to eat make sure to reserve a place in their Speisezimmer. Although this is not a fancy restaurant, it is often packed due to its coziness and delicious homemade food.

Here I always order the king of all cozy Germanic meals: the famous Schweinebraten mit Knödel (roasted pork with dumpling). The one prepared here did not make me think twice about placing it in my list of the best restaurants in Vienna. It makes for a perfect evening meal and a must-try together with the Wiener Schnitzel.

Brezlgwölb

Location: Ledererhof 9 | Near Judenplatz
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 22:00
Reservation: brezl.at/

If you wish to experience a piece of Viennese history while eating some delicious food, the Brezlgwölb is the right place for you. The building was first mentioned in registries back to 1341 when it hosted the leather and dyers’ guild. But it dates far back: the first basement level was at ground level in Roman times. Taking a staircase on the left, you will be able to see a Roman wall with a window opening.

While most of the restaurants in Vienna have a completely imperial atmosphere, the Brezlgwölb goes a little bit back in time. The basement-like structure, the candlelight dining, and the waitresses dressed in traditional clothing make you feel like you are in medieval Vienna.

I cannot stress this enough, the place is absolutely gorgeous and the perfect place in Vienna for a romantic date. The cozy architecture and candlelight dining, combined with the delicious warm food, contribute extensively to this.

Here you can try any of the most traditional dishes from Austria, like Wiener Tafelspitz and Wiener Schnitzel But if you happen to come on a Thursday during lunchtime, make sure to ask for their Roasted beef liver with puree and fried onions. It is simply too good. To complement the meal, ask for their wine card and you will surely be pleasantly surprised.

Sweets & Desserts

Hofzuckerbäckerei Demel

Location: Kohlmarkt 14 | Near Hofburg Palace
Opening: Mon-Sun 08:00 – 19:00
Reservation: demel.com/en/

Demel opened its doors officially in 1786 and is one of the most traditional confectionery in the whole of Vienna. Its salons still present themselves today in the beautiful Rococo style of the famous architects Portois & Fix.

The Hofzuckerbäckerei soon became the central meetup place for sweet-lovers, especially members of the bourgeoisie. Franz Josef and Elisabeth themselves loved the food of this place and have it regularly delivered to the Hofburg Palace.

Hofzuckerbäckerei has a very strong imperial feel to it. Upon entering you will face the long halls with tall ceilings, and the classic wooden furniture waiting to accommodate you. The service is very friendly and gentle, making the overall experience of snacking in Vienna a very pleasant one.

Although they also serve hot and warm meals, as well as full breakfasts, I absolutely adore this place do to its broad selection of delicious sweets. On the image above you can have an idea of what to expect: Frou Frou, Obers-Cremeschnitte, Lemontorte, and a wide variety of ornamented cakes.

Also important to mention is that everything here, from cakes and pastries to strudel and petit fours, is made in-house, by hand, and with heart. That is something that very few places can be proud of saying, and adds up to the experience of the place.

Neuschwanstein Castle: A Visitor’s Guide

Few places in the world can be compared to the Neuschwanstein castle, and believe me this is not an overstatement. Only a few hours away from Munich, this fantasy-like castle constructed by the ‘mad’ king offers an unforgettable experience, one which can be expanded through a better understanding of the history behind the king and the castle themselves.

Here is my personal guide on how to get to the castle from Munich, as well as a little bit of background on who Ludwig II was, what he went through, and what the Neuschwanstein castle is all about.

The Story Behind the Neuschwanstein

The Legacy of King Ludwig II

His Highness, King Ludwig II, ruler of Bavaria, had already become a sort of a legend while he was still alive. The shy and introverted dreamer was early in his life brought to kingship and forced to deal with a huge loss in the war against Prussia.

Stripped of his political roles, he then sank into a fantasy world out of which he would never come out. The now vassal, far removed from reality, decided to materialize his fantasy world around him, where he would become a true king. And thus the idea of Neuschwanstein was born.

The story becomes even more tragic with what followed. Due to increasing debts and irrational mismanagement of the royal treasure, which was almost entirely spent on the creation of magical places, the Bavarian government decided to depose the king through an illegal move not provided for in the Bavarian constitution.

The king was officially declared insane and deposed by the Bavarian government in 1886, with the help of a sponsored psychiatrist, who on the next day after the king’s hospitalization, was found dead together with the king on Lake Starnberg.

The Construction of the Neuschwanstein Castle

Ludwig II spent most of his infant years at the Hohenschwangau castle, where he fell in love with the beautiful mountain scenery. After becoming king, he decided to build his own fantasy castle in this place which was so dear to him.

On the narrow mountain ridge near his father’s castle, there were the ruins of two small castles: Vorder- and Hinterhohenschwangau. It seemed like the perfect place to begin construction. The foundation stone of his fantasy castle was laid in 1869, but the castle itself would only be inaugurated eleven years later (1880), with the king moving in only in 1884, two years before being deposed.

How to Get to the Neuschwanstein Castle

Munich to Hohenschwangau

To reach the Neuschwanstein Castle, you have two main options, either going there by car or by train. By car is the easier option, as you only need to take the A96 route, and drive yourself for roughly two hours towards the parking lot of the castle. In case you don’t have a car, you should take the following routes:

Train: München Hbf → Füssen Hbf
then,
Bus:
Füssen → Steingarden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen (RVA/OVG 73) or
Füssen → Schwangau (RVA/OVG 78)
exiting at:
Hohenschwangau/Castles – Alpseestrasse (Alpsee Street)

Keep in mind that the cheapest option to go from Munich to Füssen is by purchasing a Bayern Ticket, which grants you a 2-way transfer. Also, the actual distance between Füssen and Hohenschwangau is 5km, so taking a taxi to the castle is also possible.

Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein Castle

Once you arrive in Hohenschwangau, it’s time to purchase your ticket. Ideally, you should have bought it beforehand here. But in case you haven’t, all you need to do is go to the ticket center by the foot of the mountain.

After buying the tickets, all you need to do is walk to the castle, which can be quite tiresome for some. It’s an uphill walk of almost half an hour. In case you either do not wish to suffer this fate, or someone involved in the trip has any sort of physical impediment, you have two main options: a bus trip or a carriage ride. Honestly, the carriage ride is not that expensive and adds to the experience, so I would go for that.

Outside the Neuschwanstein Castle

The View of the Castle

Throughout most of the journey, from the moment you drop in Hohenschwangau to the entrance gate, you will have some sort of a view of the castle. The tiny distant towers slowly become larger and larger until this glorious structure materializes in front of you from behind the trees.

Its exterior appearance itself is already worth the visit. From it, we can already see that Ludwig II was not joking when he told everyone he intended to build a fantasy-like castle to honor his medieval heroes.

The View from the Hill

As glorious as the view of the castle is the view of the surroundings from its ledges. From up here, you can see the Alps, the large Alpsee and the little Schwansee lakes, as well as the tiny Hohenschwangau castle where Ludwig spent most of his early years.

Up the mountain, outside of the castle, there are many metal ledges where you can see the whole natural environment surrounding the place. At some specific places, you will even find fixed binoculars to help you admire the farther sights.

Inside the Neuschwanstein Castle

While taking pictures of the outside of the castle is allowed, it is strictly forbidden to take photographs or videos inside the castle. If you wish to take photographs or film, you need formal permission from the administration, and it comes with a fee.

For those reasons, I will be using the photographs of Joseph Albert, the photographer of Ludwig II, to illustrate the most beautiful rooms in the castle.

Wohnzimmer (Drawing Room)

This large saloon was mainly utilized by Ludwig II to spend time with family and guests. The room is divided by columns, wherein one side we find an alcove furnished with chairs. The curtains of this room are made of blue silk and embroidered with swans and lilies.

The paintings on the walls refer to the Lohengrin Saga, who is a character in German Arthurian literature, as in related to the legend of King Arthur. Lohengrin was the son of Parzival (Percival), and a knight of the Holy Grail sent in a boat pulled by swans to rescue a damsel who can never ask his identity.

Ludwig II had a personal connection with the story, mostly due to the fact that the swan was his heraldic animal, as he was the Knight of Schwangau (swan village).

Arbeitszimmer (Study Room)

Upon entering this room, we can see Ludwig’s study table right at the center of the room, where his writing set still can be found. The cupboard in this room used to contain the castle plans and drafts.

The paintings on the walls refer to Tannhäuser, a knight and poet who is said to have found the Venusberg, the subterranean home of Venus, where he spent a year worshipping her. Tannhäuser, filled with remorse, travels to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV for papal forgiveness. The Pope then replies that it would be easier for his papal staff to blossom, than for him to be forgiven for his heresy. Three days after Tannhäuser left, Urban’s staff bloomed with flowers.

Schlafzimmer (Bedroom)

Ludwig’s bedroom is one of the most ornamented rooms in the whole castle. The royal bed was carved in neo-gothic style and the seat coverings sewed in blue silk, with embroidered and appliquéd lions, swans, crowns, lilies, as well as the Bavarian coat of arms.

The paintings on the walls refer to the legend of Tristan and Isolde, the famous tragedy of adulterous love. According to legend, after defeating the mighty knight Morholt, Tristan returns to his home country with the beautiful Isolde for his uncle, the reigning king, to marry. The tragedy begins when, on their way home, both ingest a love potion which causes them to fall madly in love with each other.

Speisezimmer (Dining Room)

As the name suggests, this is the room where Ludwig II had his meals. It served as an entrance to the apartments of the king, where people entered through an oak-paneled anteroom. It even has its own electric bell system, which Ludwig used to call upon his servant in charge.

The paintings on the walls refer to the legendary Bavarian knight and poet, Wolfram von Eschenbach, who was responsible for the writing of the Parzival (Percival) epic; as well as the motif of the battle of Siegfried against the Dragon, as detailed in the epic Nibelungenlied (the Song of the Nibelungs).

Sängersaal (Singers’ Hall)

The Singers’ Hall was one of Ludwig’s favorite rooms in the whole castle, second only to the Throne Hall. It’s gigantic size, occupying a great part of the fourth floor of the castle, signifies the importance of what happened here: it was the king’s personal sanctuary to the knights and legends of medieval times. Here, musical performances of the epics of Tannhäuser, Parzival and Lohengrin took place, to honor the history of Bavaria.

All over the walls of this room, you will see allegories to medieval German myths, including and actually focusing on the ones mentioned here before. The hall itself provides a sight that no words can accurately describe, especially due to the artistic weight it has.

Thronsaal (Throne Hall)

Finally, we reach the Throne Hall. Inspired by Byzantine churches, it was built so to represent the role that Ludwig believed he was born to play, that of king by God’s grace, a mediator between the divine and the mundane.

This colossal hall occupies the third and fourth floors and the entire west section of the castle. It hosts a massive four meter tall chandelier, descending from a glorious cupola. On the apse area we can see Jesus Christ together with the Twelve Apostles, acompanied by six holy kings.

This hall was never intended to be used for ceremonial or State occasions, it was solely built to represent how Ludwig saw himself as king. Walking into the hall is a unique experience which grants us access to the deepest beliefs of the Bavarian monarch.

St. Cyril & Methodius: The Fathers Of Slavic Languages

Most of us are aware that the majority of Slavic countries have their own alphabet and are followers of the Orthodox faith. But few know the history behind their connection, let alone their troubled past.

The pioneers of the work that led to these events had a troubled journey, one that would elevate them to the title of Saints right after their death. Those are the brothers St. Cyril and Methodius.

The Mission To The Slavs

The brothers Cyril and Methodius were born in the ancient city of Thessalonica, located in modern-day Greece. Cyril was born in about 827–828 and Methodius in about 815–820.

There is much debate about whether the brothers were ethnically Slavs, Byzantine Greeks, or a mix of the two. But in reality, that has little importance in relation to the work the two would dedicate their lives to.

At the request of Prince Rastislav, in the year 862, Cyril and Methodius were sent to Great Moravia. The goal of the Prince was to evangelize his kingdom. At the time, the brothers were living in Constantinople, where Cyril was a professor of philosophy and Methodius, a successful politician and public administrator.

In 863, the brothers started the translations of the Gospels and other liturgic texts from the Bible into what is today known as Old Church Slavonic, a language still used today in liturgy by several Orthodox Churches. There was a problem with this language, though: it was a bit complicated for common people to read. It simply did not match their native speech completely.

The Glagolitic and Cyrillic Alphabets

To fix the language issue, Cyril and Methodius created a new alphabet inspired by Greek and Roman ones, the Glagolitic. This irritated the Germanic priests who were currently operating in Moravia, as they saw this as a threat to their Latin-based liturgy and faith.

In order to avoid conflict, the brothers decided to travel to Rome and personally discuss the situation with the Pope. They arrived in 868, where they were warmly welcomed, partly because they brought with them the holy relics of St. Clement. Yes, they knew their politics.

Pope Adrian II gave Methodius the title of Archbishop of Sirmium (modern-day Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia), with jurisdiction over the whole Moravia and Pannonia, and proper authorization to use the Slavonic liturgy.

To help him with his task, five of his Slavic disciples were ordained as priests (Saint Gorazd, Saint Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum) and as deacons (Saint Angelar and Saint Sava). To this day, Cyril and Methodius together with the five disciples are worshiped as saints by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

After the death of the brothers, their disciples were kicked out of Moravia by the German clergy and sought refuge in the First Bulgarian Empire. After arriving in Pliska, the capital of the Empire, Tsar Boris I warmly welcomed and commissioned them to teach the Bulgarian clergy in the Slavonic languages.

In a span of seven years, Clement (the leader of the disciples) taught over 3.500 students in the Slavonic language and the Glagolitic alphabet. Some of these students would later become teachers and found the Preslav Literary School, commissioned by Tsar Simeon I, Tsar Boris’ son, who sought to follow his father’s footsteps. In this school, the Cyrillic alphabet was later created by followers of the brothers, and it’s expansion saw the Slavic world turn into a Cyrillic world.

Cyril & Methodius Today

The brothers Cyril and Methodius were already worshiped by some while they were still alive. After their passing, their names became even holier among Slavs. Many Slavic countries today have special days to remember and celebrate their work and effort:

  • Bulgaria (May 24th):
    Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Script Day.
  • North Macedonia (May 24th):
    Saints Cyril and Methodius, Slavonic Enlighteners’ Day.
  • Czech Republic & Slovakia (July 5th):
    Slavic Missionaries Cyril and Methodius Day & St. Cyril and Metod Day.
  • Russia (May 24th):
    Slavonic Literature and Culture Day.

Apart from the commemoration dates, many buildings and monuments were erected to the honor of the missionary brothers. The picture above shows the Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Prague Scams: How Not To Ruin Your Prague Trip

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Europe. It attracts millions of tourists every year. But together with the popularity, the number of scams and tourist traps also grew with time.

After visiting Prague a couple of times and talking to locals about the situation, I came up with a short list of things to avoid when visiting this marvelous city, so you can enjoy your trip nice and safe.

Astronomical Clock

The first item in this list is not a scam per se, but something to keep in mind. The Prague Oroloj is, of course, a marvel of engineering and has a loaded history attached to it; but it does not justify looking at it for hours in the middle of a crowded square.

You can see in the image above the number of people that stop there just to look at the clock or take pictures of it during the night. First of all, if you go during the day the crowd will be almost unexistent, if you go early in the morning before the sun rises, even more so. Second of all, there are many other marvelous places in Prague that deserve as much attention (or perhaps even more).

If you are exploring the Prague old town, chances are you are going to walk in front of this clock at least 5x per day, so don’t just stop and stare for hours, it is not worth it and honestly a bit cringe.

Delicious Trdelník

See the delicious Trdelník in the picture above? Doesn’t it look delicious? Doesn’t it make you drool? Yeaaaah, this is actually a Kürtőskalács (chimney cake) I ate in Budapest.

You will see these being sold everywhere in Prague, and tourists buying them in mass, thinking it’s a traditional Czech snack. In reality, they have little to do with Czech culture and have been recently imported from Hungary.

I am not so sure why tourists bought into this trap, but now it’s a mania (check it on Instagram). The worst part is that these knock-offs are not even that tasty, and a good part of them end up in the trash bins of the city.

Do yourself and the city of Prague a favor, instead of getting a Trdelník, simply enter one of the many Lokáls across the city and enjoy real traditional Czech food and beer.

Money Exchange

Now, this is an important one to keep in mind, in case you don’t wanna get robbed of almost half your money. Yes, we are talking about money exchange companies in Prague.

A lot of exchange places (and this includes machines, especially) have huuuuge commission rates for the conversion of currencies. These rates can be as high as freaking 50%, which is absurd.

And please, UNDER ABSOLUTE NO CIRCUMSTANCE exchange money with random people in the street. There is a great chance you are buying old Belarussian rubles that are not even usable in Belarus anymore, which means you are losing 100% of your money, and thus being robbed.

In case you want a place where you are 100% safe when converting your cash, you should look for one of the shops from Exchange. They are very trustworthy and can be found in many places around Prague. The one in the image above is on the Franz Kafka square, near the Old Town square.

Marijuana Shops

Buying Marijuana (or Cannabinoids in general) in the Czech Republic is a crime. And yes, you can be arrested for it. So when you see the many shops around the city center selling Marijuana leaves and green souvenirs, you are being sold just that: a green souvenir with no cannabis inside.

Prague is not a drug paradise, as it is sometimes advertised in cringe movies. There are plenty of other things to enjoy in the city and to go there to try to get a cheap ‘trip’ is disrespectful to the history and culture of the place. If you wanna have fun with your friends, you are much better off going for a beer taste test of some of the many great traditional beers from the country.

Absinthe Shops

Similar to the situation with Cannabis is the one with Absinth. You will see stores throughout the whole city selling these green Absinth bottles for very cheap.

Although Absinthe is currently legal in the Czech Republic, believe me, it is not this cheap. Most of these stores are selling cheap Vodka with green colorants inside. Yeah, what a bummer.

How to know if you are drinking real Absinth? You can easily recognize a licorice flavor coming from its Anise and Fennel contents, while a substance called Wormwood will make you a bit extra drunk when compared to other distilled drinks. Absinth absolutely does not taste like Vodka.

Budapest’s Thermal Baths: Perfect Places To Relax In Hungary’s Capital

Budapest rests on top of a fault line, and its thermal baths are naturally fed by over a hundred hot springs. Some of the thermal baths built over these springs date back to the 16th century.

If you are going to Budapest, visiting a Thermal Spring is a must if you wish to fully experience the vibe of the city. Apart from having the most relaxing time of your life, of course.

A Look Inside the Thermal Baths

The layout of most of Budapest’s baths is similar: a series of indoor thermal pools where temperatures range from warm to hot, steam rooms, saunas, ice-cold plunge pools and rooms for massage. Some have outdoor pools with fountains, sprays and whirlpools, and pools for swimming laps. However, each spa has its own atrractions, such as the Saturday night “sparties” at Széchenyi, the wine tub at Gellért, the drinking hall at Lukács and the rooftop hot tub at Rudas.

The Thermal Bath’s General Rules

A couple of things are necessary to have when visiting any of the thermal baths in Budapest, and those are:

  1. Swimwear (no one wants to see you swimming in your underwear)
  2. Towel (for obvious reasons)
  3. Flip-Flops (the floor can get really slippery inside)

Although most thermal baths rent or sell these accessories, it is best to bring your own if you can. Swimming caps must be worn by those swimming in the lap pools.

Upon entering, you get a watch-shaped electronic bracelet that serves as a key to a locker or cabin where you can leave your belongings. Staff will be around to assist you if needed. Most baths offer a full range of treatments including massages, so always specify at the entrance what services you need. Admission charges will vary accordingly.

Before plunging into the warm waters, always take a shower, and if you have long hair, you should tie it back. Be sure to keep the noise down inside the pools, as these are usually places where people go to relax and escape from the rest of the world. Signs specify the temperature of each pool, and sometimes advise on how much time to spend inside.

Yeah, these pools are not your common backyard ones! Remaining inside the pool for long periods of time can mess with the functioning of the internal organs and cause a bad case of dizziness and nausea, something that I myself experienced for being so stubborn.

Choosing a Thermal Bath

Széchenyi Baths – Széchenyi is the largest spa complex in Europe, and probably Budapest’s most popular baths. The outdoor section is stunning, but it gets quite busy. Iconic “sparties” take place here on some Saturday nights.

Gellért Baths – With stained-glass windows and colourful porcelain tiles adorning the walls, Gellért Baths is a masterpiece of art nouveau architecture. It’s certainly one of the most stunning historic spas in the Hungarian capital, making bathing feel like a royal ritual.

Rudas Baths – Rudas has been in operation since the Turkish conquest of Hungary in the 16th century. Its biggest attraction is a rooftop hot tub providing a pretty view of the Pest skyline. Rudas is the only bath that still holds same-sex days on weekdays.

Lukács Baths – Lukács is a real medical mecca proven by the marble memorial plaques installed in the bath’s park, giving thanks in various languages to the institution and its medical staff for healing. It’s also enormous, and houses a drinking hall offering the same water that supplies the baths – coming from a newer well – rich in calcium, hydrogen-carbonate, sulphate, chloride as well as sodium and fluoride ions.

Campanile Di San Marco: The Highest Point In Venice

The Campanile di San Marco is one of the most iconic buildings in Venice. Situated near the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, it stands at 98.6 meters tall (323 ft) and provides an incredible view of the whole region.

Location:
St. Mark’s Square

Opening:
Apr-Oct 08:30 – 21:00
Nov-Mar 09:30 – 17:30
1st-15th Apr 09:00 – 17:00
Entrance Price:
€8

The History Behind The Campanile

The Magyar invasions from 898 and 899 led to the short occupation of important cities in the region, such as Cittanova, Padova and Treviso. Although the Venetians ultimately defeated the Magyars, the city remained vulnerable to attacks, especially from Slavic pirates who very often attacked Venetian ships on the Adriatic sea.

To solve the problem, Doge Pietro Tribuno ordered the construction of a series of fortifications around the city. One of these structures was to be a huge watch tower on St. Mark’s Square.

The View From the Campanile

From the top of the Campanile you will be able to see many kilometers alway, and as consequence, the whole city of Venice and its adjecent islands.

From the southern side, you can see the rest of Piazza di San Marco, as well as the rooftops of the Museo Correr and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marziana. Up ahead you can see the entrance to the famous Grand Canal, with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the edge of the island.

From the northern side, you can see the Basilica di San Marco and the Torre dell’Orologio, as well as the entirety of the San Marco neighborhood. If you look further behind, you can see up until the continent, which gives you an idea of the reach the tower has.

Visiting the Campanile at Night

In my personal opinion, the best time to visit the campanile is at night. You will not only be able to see how bright the city gets, with the light reflecting on the waves, but also the starry sky. A sky that attracted many throughout the centuries, including Galileo Galilei. A demonstration of his famous telescope was done at the tower and until today, the it holds a sign that says:

Galileo Galilei con il suo cannocchiale
da qui il 21 agosto 1609
allargava gli orizzonti dell’uomo
nel quarto centenario.

A dedicatory written by the city, which translated to English means:

Galileo Galilei with his telescope
from here on August 21, 1609
widened the horizons of man
in the fourth centenary.

Best Restaurants in Sofia (Bulgaria)

Nothing better to experience the spirit of Bulgaria’s capital than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Sofia.

Bulgarian Cuisine

Bulgarian food is known for being fresh and cozy, as if made at home by your Baba (granny). Rich in grilled meat, vegetables, dairy and local spices. It definitely represents well the culture of the Balkans.

Although you will most definitely find international restaurants and fast-food joints around Sofia, most of the restaurants in town will serve exclusively traditional Bulgarian food. This makes Sofia a perfect place to isolate yourself from the external world and dive deep into the local culture.

What to eat in Sofia

As an entry, one shoul definitely try Shopska salad or Qatiq spread on bread together with some fine Rakia. Shopska is considered the national salad, as its colors resemble the Bulgarian flag; it contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese), and parsley. Qatiq, on the other hand, is boiled and fermented sheep milk, mixed with baked peppers and turned into a paste; it is mostly used as a bread/toast spread.

As a main dish, one can choose from a variety of grilled meats, usually served skewered and together with bread, steamed vegetables or a bean stew.

Where to eat in Sofia

Moma

Location: ul. “Solunska” 28 | Near Vitosha Street
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:30 – 23:30
Reservation: moma-restaurant.com/en/

Moma’s concept combines a light culinary experience with traditional recipes, bringing you to the root of Bulgarian culture. The design of each dining hall of the restaurant portrays a message related to the traditions of maidens and young women from Bulgaria, including paintings and embroidery.

The place is really bright and the symbolism behind the colors is really invigorating: white symbolizing the purity of Bulgarian women, red symbolizing the blood of the power of the fertile soil, green symbolizing the eternal rebirth, and golden symbolizing the Sun, the light, and prosperity.

When visiting Moma, try one of their Kufte (Bulgarian meatballs). They come accompanied by beans, homemade fried potatoes, and Lyutenitsa (a spread made out of peppers, aubergines, carrots, tomatoes, and garlic).

Chevermeto

Location: bul. “Pencho Slaveykov” | Near the National Palace of Culture
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 00:00
Reservation: chevermeto-bg.com/en/

If you wish to enjoy traditional Bulgarian food from many different regions of the country, while taking part in a little folkloric fest with live music and dance, Chevermeto is the place for you. It is slightly difficult to find, so make sure to go around the NDK Prono building to find the entrance.

Chevermeto is a quite big restaurant compared to others in Sofia and has a nice variety of places to sit and enjoy your meal, including a giant wine barrel. As tradition dictates, the whole place is decorated with Bulgarian embroidery, folk clothing, and tapestries, creating a really cozy atmosphere.

My go for this place is their Mother’s Dish (a cozier name simply does not exist); which contains chicken meat, melted cheese, and mushrooms, all baked in a pot. I cannot stress this enough: this is one of the best meals I had in my life. Given how warm it is served, it is perfect for winter.

Raketa Rakia

Location: bul. “Yanko Sakazov” 17 | Near the Zaimov Park
Opening: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 00:00, Sat-Sun 9:00 – 00:00
Reservation: facebook.com/RaketaRakiaBar/

This place is definitely a must-see when visiting Sofia. The whole decoration is based on the communist past of the country, and the items displayed everywhere are pieces of the childhood of many Bulgarians alive today. Although communism is a sensitive topic to many Bulgarians, the place sure makes them feel nostalgic about the simple things they experienced back in time.

The atmosphere here is really great, a well-lit place full of nature (right in front of a park) and with great service. Upon arrival, if you ask for a Rakia, the staff will gladly assist you in choosing a brand that will most please your palate, according to your taste for whiskey, vodka, etc.

After the entry of Qatiq spread on bread together with some delicious Rakia, it’s time for the main dish: Bean Stew served in crispy bread with fried porcini (for vegetarians/vegans) or local Sudjuk (in case you enjoy meat). This is a very cozy meal, perfect for colder days, which are quite common in Sofia.

Hadjidragana

Location: ul. “Hristo Belchev” 18 | Near the Vitosha Street
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 01:00
Reservation: izbite.com/en

Hadjidragana has one of the most impressive architectures among restaurants in Sofia: stone walls and barrels, woodcarvings, traditional Bulgarian garbs, and items from the 18th century. It is known for its extensive list of Bulgarian wines and live folkloric music during the evenings.

This place is underground, located in a cellar, which makes the atmosphere completely different from other places in town. It will definitely take you back two hundred years in time, and make you experience the best of Bulgarian food. The live music during the evenings gives the restaurant an extra touch of Bulgarian epicness, so make sure you go at night and enjoy the singing and dancing.

If you want a quick lunch, you can always ask for roasted chicken accompanied by steamed vegetables. But just keep in mind that every day they roast entire lambs in classic wood-burning brick ovens, just an idea. Make sure to order a delicious Bulgarian wine, which most people don’t know, but it’s one of the best in the whole fo Europe.

Made in Home

Location: ul. “Angel Kanchev” 30 | Near NDK
Opening: Mon 11:00 – 23:30, Tue-Sat 11:00 – 23:30, Sun 11:00 – 21:30
Reservation: facebook.com/madeinhomesofia

Made in Home is Sofia’s most popular entry into the locally sourced, slow-food trend. The name comes from the fact that all dishes are entirely produced in-house, leaving no space for industrialized products.

This place has a very young and cool atmosphere and you will most often find university students hanging around. If you are vegetarian or vegan, this is definitely your spot in Sofia, as they have a wide variety of animal-free options.

My favorite dish from this place is the chicken fajitas with guacamole, colorful peppers, onion, fresh coriander, and pita bread. It’s a very light option, and since everything is here fresh and locally sourced, the food makes you feel great and full of energy.

Vienna’s Coffee Houses: The History Behind The Tradition

When Coffee Became A Thing

No one trully knows how the first coffee houses appeared in Vienna, but legend has it that it took place right after the second Turkish siege on the city, in 1683.

Soldiers from the Polish-Habsburg army found a sack with weird beans that they thought to be camel food. Jan III Sobieski, the Polish king, gave these sacks as a gift to one of his officers, called Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who supposably started the first coffee house.

The Rise Of Coffee Houses

The Blue Bottle‘ is the name Kulczycki gave his coffee shop, the supposed first of Vienna. However, although this legend is much alive today, Vienna’s first coffee house was actually opened by an Armenian businessman named Johannes Diodato in 1685, one year prior to the Blue Bottle one. Many of the stories about Kulczycki were actually invented by Gottfriend Uhlich, a german playwriter, in 1783.

The Top Cafes in Vienna

With plently of stories to tell, Vienna’s Coffee Houses are a must-see when visiting the city. Here are my top picks for Coffee Houses to visit in Vienna.

Café Frauenhuber

Location: Himmelpfortgasse 6 | Near the Franciscan Church
Opening: Mon-Sat 08:00 – 22:00, Sun 10:00 – 22:00
Reservation: cafefrauenhuber.at/

Frauenhuber is one of the coziest and most welcoming cafes in the whole of Vienna. Despite not existing officially in the 18th century, the restaurant which operated in the building frequently held concerts from famous musicians, including those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

If you are looking for a place to sit and enjoy a good moment of peace, Frauenhuber is definitely the place for you. It has a very calm atmosphere and the staff simply couldn’t be more polite and helpful, apart from also being extremely well-dressed.

A definite go for the place, in case you have company, is the Frühstück für Zwei (breakfast for two), which contains either melange coffee or a pot of tee, two slices of bread, two portions of butter, two yoghurts, two boiled eggs, croissant, ham, cheese, salami, as well as a glass of prosecco or freshly pressed orange juice. That should be enough energy to help you explore the city for hours.

Café Landtmann

Location: Universitätsring 4 | Near the City Hall
Opening: Mon-Sun 07:30 – 20:00
Reservation: landtmann.at

Landtmann is a juggernaut of elegance. You will not find the usual hipsters here, but rather the economic and intellectual elite of Vienna. No wonder it was a preferred meeting place for Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung.

Here you can either reserve a booth inside of the building, where you can enjoy the decoration and a cozier atmosphere; or sit on a regular table at the external area, which is brighter and fresher. Either way is good, since the food is the important thing here. Apart from the regular dishes, here is where you can try the original Wiener Apfelstrudel, which recipe comes from the Schönbrunn imperial bakery.

As this is one of my favorite places in town for a snack, I often order the Landtmannwürstel (Landtmann sausages), which comes accompanied by Goulash gravy, pickled cucumber, regular and sweet mustard, horseradish and a bread roll. Not the heaviest of meals, but enough to keep you going and definitely delicious, especially the bread together with the gravy.

Café Central

Location: Herrengasse 14 | Near the Volksgarten
Opening: Mon-Sat 08:30 – 17:30, Sun 10:00 – 20:00
Reservation: cafecentral.wien

Right after opening its doors in 1876, Café Central quickly became an important intellectual meeting spot in Vienna, guesting various famous (or rather infamous) personalities from history, such as Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky and Josip Tito.

Due to its iconic status, the Café Central is filled with tourists almost all day long, with queues going as far as 20 people waiting for a table to be freed. To avoid this, the best idea is the visit the place right after its opening hours, then the chances of getting a free spot and enjoying some quiet time are higher.

You can stop here for a quick Klassiches Wiener Frühstück (classic Viennesse Breakfast), which contains a hot drink of your choice, homemade roll and croissant, soft boiled egg, and organic butter, jam or honey.