Trips out of Prague

Our Prague to Vienna Trip

Many of our guests come from overseas and in addition to Prague, they also want to see other Central European capitals, especially Vienna and Budapest. Some of them have the comfort of a rented car, which gives you a bit more freedom and the opportunity to see something else than just cities. And if you are traveling from Prague to Vienna (or vice versa), the trip gives you a great opportunity to taste some great Moravian wines (at least for those not doing the driving) and to meet some great Moravian people, too.

And because we want you to travel like locals, we give you our model route when we travel from Prague to Vienna. You do not have to visit everything but in any case we recommend that you make a day out of your Prague-Vienna travel. You don’t have to rush (and when you take the D1 Pague-Brno highway, you won’t anyway - you’ll see when you get there) but instead enjoy some countryside in addition to the cities you will visit.

EMA Espresso Bar, Prague

Our Moravian trip always starts with good coffee. EMA opens at 8am, which is reasonable, and we always get coffee to go (cortado for Zuzi, flat white for Jan) and a sweet bun, just like “Honza”, the proverbial hero of many Czech fairytales when he left his humble home to slay the dragon.

Villa Tugendhat, Brno

If you want to see this marvel of late 1920s architecture, you should stop reading this, go to their site and book now. Because it may already be too late: they tend to be fully booked for months ahead. However, our experience has shown that their booking system is not the last resort. If they are fully booked, try to call them and ask directly. (And if they are still fully booked, try to call again in a week.) They may actually have some spots available. In any case, this is the villa to see if you love modern architecture: Villa Tugendhat offers some great views, spaces and history behind them. Even if you decide to see the villa without a reservation, you can visit the garden and see the villa from the outside.

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Lunch in Brno

Despite the slight rivalry between the two towns, we actually love Brno - the capital of Moravia - and its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. Brno is also home to a few foodie places we would love to have in Prague. For a lunch on a budget, we recommend Castellana Bistro, Ruzova slepicka, Bistro Franz and Ebisu. While the former three are popular local bistros with daily specials, the latter very simple serves Japanese fare.
For an upscale lunch, head over to Koishi, Pavillon or Forhaus. Il Mercato is a sister restaurant of Aromi and La Finestra in Prague and serves Italian cuisine. Koishi serves lunch specials and focuses on fish and Asian fusion. Pavilon offers a fantastic, airy and light space in the central park and also offers quite nice lunch specials. Finally, the cooking at Forhaus pays tribute to the Austro-Hungarian tradition (think schnitzels, goulash etc.) and their outdoor seating is really nice.

The smartest Prague food tours. Cool rental apartment. Awesome pocket wifi device. We’ll turn your Prague trip up to eleven.

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Industra Coffee

We absolutely love this place. Housed in an old industrial park, Industra Coffee (part of the Industra gallery) is very hard to find but when you do, you’ll reap the rewards: excellent coffee, English-speaking staff (both co-owners used to be baristas in London) and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. You will not want to leave. At least we don’t.

Sonberk

No other winery offers a stunning view of the Palava hill like Sonberk. It is a larger winery but the wines are still pretty good, especially the Rieslings and the Palavas (the latter is a Czech crossing of aromatic grapes). If the weather is great, we can spend a lazy afternoon on the wooden terrace overlooking the vineyards, the ponds and the Palava hill. 

Krasna Hora

A beautiful small winery in the Stary Poddvorov village. The winery building is beautifully integrated in the vineyard and we already plan to retire there (shhhh, the owners do not know yet). You can skip the lunch in Brno and instead call ahead and ask the lady of the house to prepare a cold spread for you. It’s all delicious, and Mr Vybiral, the husband and winemaker, will help you with the wines and share his views on just about anything.

Velke Bilovice

It is a telling sign of the size of the winemaking in Moravia when the biggest winemaking village, Velke Bilovice, sports 2,000 acres of vineyards... and 700 winemakers. We recommend that you drive to "Velke Bilovice - sklepy" where the wine cellars, some of them centuries old, are nested one next to each other under leafy trees. Drive beyond the cellars to see the real vineyards and the "Na hradistku" chapel. The view is nothing short of stunning. 

Mikulov

We never miss a chance to visit Mikulov, dubbed “A bit of Tuscany in Central Europe”, on our way to Vienna. As a former seat of both the Cardinal and Moravia’s Regional Rabbi, the history of this picturesque small town just breathes at you. During Communism, the locals would go to the top of the hill to “have a look at the West”, while the recently expelled Sudeten Germans were looking from behind the nearby Austrian border to have a look at their former place of residence. Unlike many other small countryside towns, Mikulov does not suffer from brain drain and is full of lively cafes and small galleries.  

Cafe Fara

This little gem of a cafe and restaurant in the Klentnice village is hardly a secret: the former parish is one of the most popular stops for many cyclists cruising the wine country, and for good reason: the kitchen grows its own vegetables and herbs and puts emphasis on using local ingredients, and you will not get better coffee within a 30-mile radius. Add the great view and the lovely courtyard and you have a winner. 

People on Caffeine

After the long drive, the food (and for some, the wine), we need a serious coffee fix. And there is no better place for us to have coffee in Vienna than People on Caffeine, the wonderful small cafe run by our friend Robert. This is not amateur hour: Robert has represented Austria in the World Barista Championships and will prepare anything from a tasty flat white to drip coffee. On top of that, he's a really nice guy and it shows in the café and in the kind of regulars he gets. One of our must-visits in Vienna.


Our Budapest Trip

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Ahh Budapest! We visit Budapest quite often because Jan's mom's family is from Eastern Slovakia and the easiest way to get there is via the Hungarian highways on the south (and breaking the 9-hour drive into two bearable halves with some good food in Budapest doesn't hurt, either). Many of our guests visit Budapest as part of the Central European Prague-Vienna-Budapest pilgrimage, too.

An because we are love to travel throughout Europe and Zuzi likes to do her research properly, we will, once in a while, post about our experience in various European cities. It is nice to have a head start with your research, right? We will try to post nice pictures, too, but not this time: our Budapest photos died with the hard drive they were on, but the few surviving photos aren't bad, either. So, without further ado, these are the places we visited and our impressions:

Where to stay:

Brody House 

The Brody House is much more than a hotel - it is a collection of individual apartments appointed by local artists and designers who find support in the facility. The Brody House often holds exhibitions and public readings with local artists. It is conveniently located near the Astoria on the Pest side, near Fekete for good coffee. We also liked the nearby parking facility that charges about 10 EUR a day. [website]

Where to eat:

Borkonyha Wine Kitchen

So far, this has been our favorite place in Budapest both in terms of the food and value. They have a huge selection of wines with many by glass and that's only the start. They use local ingredients, including the Mangalica pork and foie gras, which we both recommend.

We loved the simple but nicely decorated interiors. This is clearly a favorite for business lunches and the atmosphere was bustling yet relaxed, especially for a Michelin-star restaurant. We wore jeans and did not feel out of place. [website]

Bock Bisztro

A wonderful selection of wines. Put yourselves in the hands of your waiter; he'll give you good advice. As for the food, they focus on Hungarian cuisine (sometimes deconstructed) and they do it well. As a welcome gift you get fresh bread with a tub of bacon-studded lard, and it only gets better from there. They also have a sister restaurant in Buda which we've not visited, but heard that it was of a great quality too with more relaxed atmosphere. Well, there is always next time, right? [website]

Csalogany 26

Located in the Buda district, this place serves very affordable lunches and tasting menus in the evenings (you can opt for a la carte dishes). Not all dishes are perfect, but we really enjoyed our evening. We really enjoyed the local vibe and cooking, which reminded Jan of his childhood spent in Eastern Slovakia. The only complaints we had were the simple interiors and the unfriendly service but we believe they just had a bad night. [website]

Onyx

Onyx really shows that the Hungarians are proud of their food, using lots of locally sourced ingredients and turning them into dishes worthy of the Michelin star. That said, it did feel a bit stuffy, with their protocol and etiquette policy and all. [website]

We did not visit Costes, the third Michelin star restaurant in Budapest.

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Where to go for coffee

Espresso Embassy

Opened by a former barista at Printa Coffee, this place is very serious about coffee. You can get virtually anything: drip coffee, flat white, cortado, you name it. On our second visit, we were served cappuccino by an intern/salesman from Drop Coffee, a café/roastery in Stockholm that we visited in October 2012. The café has a nice atmosphere and lots of locals work there with their laptops. [website]

Tamp and Pull

This is a small café where things are clearly done with love. We had a great cappuccino there, and in addition to coffee-making supplies, the shelves included a "6th place" trophy from the 2009 World Barista Championships. They also offered small things to eat like croissants, breakfast sets etc. [website]

Fekete

Fekete is a tiny espresso bar near the Astoria subway stop. The really nice outdoor seating invites you to get a cup, have a seat, read a book and catch a few rays. It is clear that this place is run by coffee nerds... ehm... we mean aficionados. You can get both espresso and filter. If the only complaint Zuzi had was that the cortado glass was too thick, you know they're not that bad. [website]

Madal Coffee

As soon as we saw their La Marzocco machine dominating the room, we knew we were going to be happy here. They offer many single origin coffees either as espresso or brews. [website]

My Little Melbourne

This is a very diminutive, two-story café with a very lively vibe. The coffee is good and the barista is very skillful. They also serve some small food there, too. [website]

Where to go for something sweet

Rozsavolgyi Csokolade

A chocolate lover's dream and a great place to buy presents for someone at home who loves great chocolate. This small chocolate shop sells its own chocolates and pralines of very high quality. We tasted some pralines and although we are not usually fans, we loved these ones. [website]

Levendula Kézműves Fagylaltozó

If you like ice cream, you will probably love this place. In addition to classics, they offer some unique and interesting flavors, incl. the Tokai wine or lavender/lemon, Japanese green tea, caramelised fig and so on. You just have to disregard the violet paint job that... ehm... stands out. [website]

Cakeshop

Small and relatively new cake shop run by a very passionate owner. In a fairly rare move, they also offer lactose and gluten-free cakes, all made in house, which is reflected in the pleasant smell that hits your nose when you walk in. [website

A Table

A small French bakery/pastry shop. This is a great place for breakfasts - we had a great croissant with two marmelades and a pain au pistache that packed about a million calories, but who counts them when you're on vacation. However, we will not be rushing back: the service was not particularly friendly and we're putting it mildly. They have two branches. We visited the one at Arany János Utca opposite Espresso Embassy. The other branch should be better, we've heard. [website]

Daubner Cukraszda

This pastry shop is recommended by virtually every Budapest guide. From the Pest side, it's a rather long bus ride (line 206) from the Nyugati train station, and then a 10 minute walk up a hill to get there. It's a really local experience - when we asked the bus driver where to get off, we received an answer in the universal language: Hungarian spoken v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. We suggest you ask someone younger for directions to get a response in English. The pastry shop is more shop than café: most of the orders are take-away and there are really no seats there. But the cakes were good, and the ice cream was even better. In all honesty, we thought it was not really worth the long ride. But if you love cakes, this one might be for you. [website]

Where to drink

DiVino

There are so many nice wine bars with a great selection of Hungarian wines in Budapest. However, we liked this one a lot. The place is buzzing with a nice mix of locals and tourists. Great Hungarian wine selection and friendly, helpful service if you don't know the wines. [website]

Kandalló

Nevertheless, if you are into beer, this artisanal pub is great! Interesting home-brewed beers and traditional Hungarian side dishes in a lovely place. [website]

Boutiq'Bar

We had great cocktails in this popular bar. 'Nuff said. [website]

Lehütö

In addition to testing your keyboard skills when you try to type the name, Lehütö offers a great selection of local and international craft beers. All the attention is paid here to beers, which means they serve no accompanying food. Opt for the outside seating if the weather permits. [website]

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Where to shop

Printa Coffee

This café/gallery/printshop is a great place for small souvenirs or a rest, and we recommend it as your start to exploring Pest. We bought their map and guide of Pest and used it throughout our trip. They use Has Been coffee; however, you can see that their best barista left a while ago: our cappuccino was far from perfect. Still, we loved the place and we got a lot of tips from the staff. [website]

Food Market

A big indoors market with a bustling mix of locals and foreigners. You can see Csabai sausages and dried paprika everywhere. They have special national weeks: on one visit, we actually went in and realised the Czech week was on (all the lagers you could buy - lucky us ;).

Nanushka

For fashion lovers among you, Nanushka offers interesting models made of great materials in inspiring interiors. Btw if you can not make it to Budapest, they also sell their beautiful clothing online. [website]

Culinaris

A few steps from the Parliament, this is a place for the foodie inside of you - a small shop that carries lots of ingredients from all around the world - cheeses, hams, chocolates, teas, fruits and vegetables, more exotic spices etc. The place also serves food - we had soups and were satisfied. [website]

Hybridart Design Shop and Café

A great, centrally located shop with designer jewelry, homeware and accessories made by local designers. Stay away from the coffee. [website]

Culinary Budapest

Cooking classes and food tours run by a couple, Agnes and Istvan. You can see that Agnes and Istvan love what they do and we are sure that if you have a special request, they will do everything to accommodate it. We absolutely endorse them. [website]


Karlovy Vary Film Festival

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is not Cannes. And that's probably a good thing… Here's a last-minute tip for anyone who's in the Czech Republic in the next few days, loves movies and wants to see something really local and something really cool - the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. A festival now headed by the powerful and charismatic duo of Eva Zaoralova (who picks the movies for the festival) and Jiri Bartoska (a famous actor who does the fundraising, I guess), the Karlovy Vary Festival ("KVIFF") is one of the few Category-A film festivals (just like this in Cannes, Berlin or Venice) and the largest in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the festival quite differs from others of its kind.