Eastern Europe is a destination in renaissance mode, an underrated portion of the continent that is drawing a new generation of traveller, thanks to its affordability, new direct flight routes (this year saw airlines debut new direct flights from Canada to a handful of cities in this region), and myriad cultural hot spots. Here, our recommendations for dining, drinking and sleeping in four of its standout cities.
Eat In the city’s historic Jewish Quarter, today one of the buzziest neighbourhoods in town, sits Mazel Tov, which serves up a Israeli-inspired menu that pays homage to the area’s roots. Secure a seat on the patio in the lively garden area and dig into a hearty shakshuka or communal plates of skewers and spreads like hummus or labneh.
Akácfa u. 47, +36 70 626 4280, mazeltov.hu
Drink Head to the top of the Paris Department Store to 360 Bar, and grab a seat along the periphery of the space for some stellar views of the city. Pair the views with house-specialty cocktails like Falling Angel (Havana 3-year rum, vanilla syrup, lime juice, red currant) or Top Colada (Matusalem classic, coconut and nutmeg syrups, pineapple juice and orange juice).
Andrássy ú. 39, +36 70 259 5153, 360bar.hu
Stay A modern 11-suite boutique hotel retrofitted in a neo-classical heritage building in the city’s Palace Quarter encapsulates what Budapest is all about — respecting history while innovating from within. Each suite is decorated differently; vintage and upcycled furniture is complemented by contemporary art. And the shabby chic mash-up carries through the hotel’s common spaces.
Vörösmarty u, .8, +36 1 266 1211, brodyhouse.com
Prague, Czech Republic
Eat In a town with an appetite for all things new, Eska — a restaurant, bakery and coffee shop in one — is famed for its non-conventional approach to culinary standards. The open-concept, Scandi-inspired design influences the look of the restaurant, but not its menu, which is a modern take on traditional dishes: Try the pork cheeks and žemlovka, a Czech bread pudding. Or, if you want something old: juniper ice cream topped with berries and rosemary.
Pernerova 49, Praha 8-Karlin, +420 731 140 884, eska.ambi.cz/en
Drink Dress sharp and head to Bonvivant’s CTC. Beverages are served on old paperback novels rather than coasters, and bartenders, who have been known to wear lab coats instead of, say, aprons, fine-tune drink suggestions based on customer preference. Regardless of the time of day, if you’re in a brunch mood, try the Breakfast martini (gin, triple sec, marmalade, lemon). Or there’s always the circa 1920s Gran Canyon (tequila, Grand Marnier, lingonberry and pineapple).
Bartolomějská 3, Praha 1, +420 775 331 862, facebook.com/bonvivantsctc
Stay The sleekly designed, with attention to geometry, Hotel Josef is a pocket of modernity in Prague’s old town. Just over 100 guest rooms are spread across two buildings with a Zen-like courtyard in between that guests can access when they’re not taking advantage of the design shops, galleries, restaurants and bars that line the neighbouring cobblestone streets.
Rybná 20, Praha 1-Staré Město, +420 221 700 901, hoteljosef.com
Eat Popular during the days of communism, traditional Polish milk bars have once again come into their own. At Prasowy, the space is bright and spacious, but it’s the food that’s worth noting. Try the perogies, and pair with dumplings, meatballs or goulash.
Marszalkowska 10/16, 00-590, +48 666 353 776, prasowy.pl
Drink Get a taste of the city’s nightlife at W Oparach Absurdu, a favourite after-hours hub for young professionals and artists. Try the grzane piwo, or as the locals call it, hot beer, and customize it with flavourings like cloves, honey, ginger, cinnamon, or your favourite fruit juice.
Zabkowska 6, 03-735, +48 660 780 319, oparyabsurdu.pl
Stay Boutique and quirky residences abound, but the city’s hotels here are cheap and cheerful. Book a room at Intercontinental Warsaw, settle into a spacious suite with a comfortable bed, and take advantage of the hotel’s stellar 43rd floor pool with an incredible aerial view.
Emilii Plater 49, 00-125, +48 22 328 88 88, warsaw.intercontinental.com
Eat More posh than the name suggests, aesthetically, Mundoaka Street Food is small and hip, and its menu full of thoughtful comfort dishes. A must for lunch or dinner, the pizza is fantastic, and if there’s room, so is a slice of dulce leche cheesecake.
Petrinjska 2, +385 1 7888 777, facebook.com/mundoaka.streetfood
Drink An artfully designed wine bar with radios, sewing machines and TVs hanging from the walls, La Bodega Wine & Tapas Bar is an hotspot for locals and tourists alike. The menu is incredibly comprehensive, featuring over 250 local vintages. It’s hard to find Croatian wine outside of the country, so take advantage and let staff guide you on a tour of the country, glass by glass.
Bogoviceva ul. 5, +385 95 852 1653, labodega.hr
Stay Close to the city centre but away from traffic congestion and noise, Lobagola B&B isn’t your average bed and breakfast. As well as free parking (with availability), friendly staff and kitschy décor, Lobogola has a roof-top terrace for breakfasts and wine before dinner — on Saturdays, the B&B hosts barbecues in the space for guests — and has converted the building’s garage into a bicycle and motorcycle fix-it and storage space so that guests can see the city with their transport of choice in top shape.
Bosanska ul. 3, +385 1 5801 990, lobagola.com