Travel Tuesday: Day Trips from Prague

As I’ve stated several times over, Prague is beautiful and though I’m obviously biased, it is one my favorite European cities. But, that doesn’t mean that your visit to the Czech Republic should stop there. With just a short bus ride, you can check out some other cities CZ has to offer. I unfortunately only got to visit two of them, but I did have great time visiting both.

Cesky Krumlov 

Approximately a three hour bus ride from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is often described as a “fairy tale” town and is rumored to be the place that inspired the setting of the Disney film Pinocchio. It’s the absolute definition of the word quaint, with its horizon dotted with auburn rooftops on either side of theVltava river that winds through the town. Here’s an abbreviated itinerary of what I did during my trip:

Breakfast at MLS Creperie – It’s a small space, so be prepared to wait a bit! We sipped on some tea and coffee while we waited.

Climb to the top of the castle tower – Weird fact: The castle has bears. Like, roaming around in this trench-like area. Apparently they were initially used as protection, but “aristocrats” have continued to provide the town with bears as a present. (Who are these modern day aristocrats?!) This practice is controversial as some people feel that there is no reason these bears should be kept in captivity for the amusement of tourists and of keeping up this tradition. Anyhow, you can get a pretty good view of them if they decide to come out or just the town in general.

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Explore the Castle Gardens – The spring or summer (or fall like I did!) is the perfect time to take a stroll through the garden’s labyrinth and sit by the fountain. So peaceful.

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Like I said, this is an abbreviated itinerary, if I had the chance to go back, I’d go rafting down the river and check out the museums. All the more reason to return…

Another cool trip (and a shorter ride than Cesky Krumlov), is Karlovy Vary, which is actually a sister city to Carlsbad, CA, which I’ve never been to, but sure. Known as a “spa city” this town is known for hosting visitors who want to relax in the mineral springs and go skiing. (Read: lots of wealthy people).

Sip a cup of tea at Republica Coffee – Or, you know, have a cup of coffee

Buy a souvenir cup and drink up some of the mineral water Karlovy Vary is famous for – It, um, an acquired taste? It’s supposed to have wonderful healing properties, so try it at least once! And if it’s not for you, at least you have a cool shot glass to take home!

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Hike (or take the tram) up to the Diana Observation Tower – With a little bit of sweat and determination (only if you hike, you weirdo), you’ll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the whole city. You’re also in the middle of the forest, so it’s a nice time to take a breath and relax for a bit.

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Relax in a Mineral Bath….If You Show up on a Weekday at Spa 5 *face palm* – Like….who closes of their main attraction on the weekend. So frustrating, but we were determined to make the best of it and utilized their whirlpools and jets. It was a community pool vibe for sure, but lemons into lemonade, right?

Dinner and Drinks at Pepe Lopez – By no means an authentic Mexican dining experience, the staff was really friendly and their drinks were spot on and reasonably priced. Bonus points for iPad menus.

 

This is just the start, people. There are tons of cute Czech towns waiting for you to visit (jk lol probably not, but still go!)

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: 8 Hours in Copenhagen

A brief history of my love for Copenhagen: It all started last spring. I was having a rough time and had started to read some not quite self-help books, but kind of. It wasn’t on purpose, I’d just come across some recommendations and needed something to read. First, it was The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. Really transformative, read it if you haven’t. Then, a couple books later I ended up reading The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I don’t know if these two books are ever talked about in the same context , but they are what helped pull me out of a very bad slump.

In The Little Book of Hygge, Wiking talks about the Danish concept of hygge, which loosely translates to coziness akin to being curled up on a couch reading a good book during a thunderstorm. The tenets of hygge largely focus on the “little things in life” – being comfortable, spending time with people you like, and eating good food. How could I not be on board with that? So I’ve become low key obsessed with the idea of hygge and how I can create a hyggelig atmosphere everywhere I go. So, when it was time to book my flight back to NYC and I found a flight with an 8 hour layover in Copenhagen, I knew I had to do it. (And by found, I mean, sought out on purpose).

What does one do for 8 hours the capital city of Denmark? Let me tell you…

Have Breakfast at Next Door Cafe 

I just had a simple breakfast of bacon and eggs with some tea, but the best part of Next Door Cafe is their quirky decor. From clear glass tables adorned with mementos from diners past underneath like a makeshift gallery (think:notes, tickets, and someone even managed to stick in a pack of birth control pills).  Such a cool vibe and a great way to start the day.

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Stop by Tivoli Gardens  

A historic and fully operational amusement park, it was especially cute with all of its winter decorations. I didn’t go inside, because as much as I love amusement parks, I was on a time crunch. Took a couple of photos and kept it moving.

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Take a photo in Nyhavn 

This is where every tourist (myself included) takes their standard “Copenhagen picture.” The canal, the vibrant, colorful buildings, it’s absolutely worth stopping for the photo op.

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Take a Canal Cruise

An ultimate tourist activity, but if you’re short on time, it’s a great way to get some information about the city and historical context. The tour I joined was right there in Nyhavn and was about an hour long. It was a little chilly sitting outside, but I felt that I was in a prime photo-taking spot. We passed by the famous Little Mermaid statue (a bit disappointing because it’s so tiny) and went underneath some precariously low bridges, and just really got to see parts of the city that I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to on foot or by public transportation. The last canal cruise I took was in Amsterdam, but for some reason I don’t really remember much of it…

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Visit Freetown Christiana

If you’ve been around for a while, you know I LOVE graffiti and street art. It’s my absolute favorite and there’s loads of it in Freetown Christiana. It’s actually this semi-autonomous town that was founded in the 70s (a vibe you’ll pick up right away) that is home to art galleries, music spaces, and a few places to eat.

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Relax and have a Chai Latte at Espresso House 

Okay, so Espresso House is a chain, which is generally frowned upon on The Bronx Socialite. (*accepts stern talking to & finger wagging & judgment*) This is the very last thing I did before heading to the airport. I was tired. Sue me. I cozied up with my notebook and did a bit of writing while sipping on my latte. It was a nice way to wrap up my short trip to Copenhagen.

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Was 8 hours enough? Of course not. But it was a really great way to spend what could have been 8 hours stuck in the airport. Bleh. I can’t wait to go back.

Travel Tuesday: Budapest

Happy Travel Tuesday! This week I’ll tell you about my trip to Budapest, Hungary.

As it turns out, I’m really horrible at geography and I’m even worse at history. (I was asleep a lot…) Teenage Lisa really wasn’t interested in European history and College Lisa decided to take History of New York , so it’s fair to say there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of European history, including the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. When I decided to embark on this journey to Prague, I imagined lots of gray. Just…everywhere. Buildings, clothing, food, whatever. I’d done my research (into brunch spots and coffeeshops, obviously the important stuff) but I figured those were the exceptions. Instead, Prague turned out to be one of the most beautiful cities I visited while in Europe.

Now, Budapest.

Budapest looks the way I thought Prague would. There’s a lot of gray. Where I was traveling, of course. I can’t speak to the entire city, but certainly not as colorful as Prague is. The two cities are often compared and whether that’s fair or not, I can’t say, but Prague was my point of reference, so there it is. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful in its own way, though, quite the opposite. Enough prologue, though, let’s get to it.

Where We Stayed

After my week long solo trip to Spain and Portugal, it was nice to go on this trip with my friends and Husband. We decided to stay at an Airbnb in the Josefov neighborhood. It was a super cozy space and since we were only there for the weekend, it was exactly what we needed.

What We Did 

Parliament

This building is huge! Also, it’s pretty cool to look at, which is really all we could do. We only spent a couple of minutes here.

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Castle Hill

Home to Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Holy Trinity Column. This is the go-to spot in Budapest for tourists. Be sure to take the funicular for a cutesy (albeit short) experience.

My personal favorite was the Holy Trinity Column. We didn’t go inside, but the colors and architecture of this building were really beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Fisherman’s Bastion is a cool piece of architecture as well, but I was more interested in its maze-like passages that made it seem like I was in some sort of medieval labyrinth.

Buda Castle has the most amazing view of the city. We happened to get there as the sun was setting and the street lights were coming on and it was gorgeous.

Thermal Baths

You can’t come to Budapest and not try at least one thermal bath. We managed to squeeze in visits to two. These thermal baths are said to have healing properties. I can’t say that I necessarily felt healed, but given the fact that it was cold and snowy the entire weekend we were here, it was definitely a welcome reprieve from the weather.

The first one we went to was Gellert Spa and Bath. Simply put, it was a fantastic time. There are different rooms that house different baths of varying temperatures. There are also steam rooms, saunas, and even ice baths. (You have to try it! I’m not saying you’ll like it, but definitely worth trying once in your life.) On top of that, it’s really just beautiful. The green and blue hues and fountains make for a really luxurious time.

The second one we went to (in the snow) was the Szechenyi Bath. This is one of the famed outdoor baths, with good reason. I was really nervous to go out into the snow in my bikini to make it down the stairs to the pool, but what a unique experience. The bath, of course, is super warm, but with the steam rising from the pool, you’ll quickly forget that it’s freezing outside and just get to relax. Getting out of course, is a mission. Inside, I’ll say that I liked Gellert Spa and Bath’s offerings a bit more, but Szechenyi also had some cool features. In addition to steam rooms and saunas, there was a color room and showers that alternated cold and hot water.  Definitely a can’t miss if you’re in Budapest.

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Where I Ate (and Drank!)

STIKA 

Stika is the sort of place that wouldn’t be out of place in gentrified Brooklyn. Minimalist decor, tons of different coffee options made by the bearded and tattooed barista, etc. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my brunch here, I’m just painting a picture for you. I got my brunch go-to, eggs benedict and chai latte. The eggs benedict were great, the chai latte was just okay. There was a bit of a wait, but not too unbearable. It was a nice start to the day.

Steg Fish Bar

I read about this place on Great Trips’ Instagram and it came in handy when we were starving after visiting Gellert. We wanted to try something Hungarian, but something also a little modern and Steg was the best of both worlds. I ordered  fish soup and a wrap. Both were pretty good, but I think I liked the fish soup more. It was something new and had a nice kick. Bonus points for having games on the tables and for fantastic service.

Szimpla Kert

Budapest is famous for what are known as ruin bars. Started out in abandoned, run down buildings, they’re known for their cheap drinks and quirky decor. Szimpla Kert is credited as being one of the very first ruin bars. It’s really a sight to behold, with art, signs, objects, and lights everywhere – on the walls, ceilings, every single nook and cranny. It’s wild. There are also live performances, but we didn’t get to see any when we were there. We were there on a Saturday night, so it was pretty busy, but not packed to the point where you couldn’t move.

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Budapest was such a fun trip and really took me by surprise. I can’t wait to visit again in the warmer weather.