By Debbie Vaes
I’ve been in Brno a few months now and have had my fair share of weekend trips to nearby cities. So I’m sharing a few tips for each of the cities I’ve visited. I’ve included some interesting spots to visit, delicious places to eat at and some places where you can unwind with a coffee after walking around all day.
Café Vollpension (Schleifmühlgasse 16). This has to be the most adorable spot in Vienna. The concept is great – it’s a social project disguised as a café. You can spot cute grannies baking cakes on site, preparing food and serving it. The idea is to keep them involved in society. The interior is an attraction in itself – it looks just like your grandmother’s living room and is full of little trinkets and vintage furniture. Their pies and cakes are absolutely amazing, and they also serve traditional meals for your hungry stomach. Truly worth a visit!
Another great thing to do in Vienna to make your stomach happy is to go to Naschmarkt. It’s a huge open-air market place that ranges from flea market to food market. Take a stroll and discover local delicacies, quirky second-hand objects and last but not least… try the falafel by Mr. Falafel. The best in Vienna, a secret shared with me by the locals.
Something I definitely recommend if you like macabre things is a visit to the underground labyrinth, on the Buda side under Castle Hill. It’s a trail of underground passages that feels like a labyrinth. Over the years it has been used as a wine cellar, bomb shelter, treasury, prison and torture chamber. Uncover its secrets by winding your way through the maze. There’s a pitch-black passageway where you’ll have to feel your way out. Don’t cheat by using the flashlight on your phone! You’ll also learn about a peculiar prisoner called Vlad Tepes. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he also goes by the nickname Count Dracula. Yes, you heard that right. Surely not an everyday attraction, but it was one of the things I did there that I enjoyed most.
On Sundays, head to the thermal baths to unwind. Because that’s what Sundays are for. Nothing beats relaxing in the thermal pools and saunas. Budapest has many of them, so take your pick.
The city itself is enough for a day, really. It’s charming and cozy and ideal to stroll around in. Do try the ice-cream from Eis-Greissler in the center (Sporgasse 10). There is a reason why the queue is often so big; it’s simply divine on a warm day.
I really recommend using Graz as a base to get to Grüner See, also known as Green Lake. It’s about an hour’s drive. Just Google it and you’ll see why you have to go there – it’s simply stunning! Put on your hiking shoes, pack a lunch and go for a hike around it. It’s a very scenic place.
Even though I fell for Prague big-time, the swarm of tourists was sometimes a bit overwhelming. So I’m glad I found a ‘secret’ spot that the crowds don’t seem to know about. It’s Vyšehrad, a charming castle on top of a hill overlooking the city. It’s nice and calm. Walk there from the center alongside the river. The views from up there are actually better than from Prague Castle, to which everyone seems to flock, and at least you’ll have peace and quiet to enjoy it more.