Kimberley shares her top 5 holiday gifts for travellers on CityLine.ca.
MORNING Spend your first day in Pest and enjoy the flat terrain as you wander it most impressive sites. Start with a hearty breakfast of apple strudel and strong coffee at Első Pesti Rétesház just steps from the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace and St. Stephen’s Basilica— two destinations at the top of your itinerary today.
MID-MORNING Wander towards the Gothic Revival style Hungarian Parliament Building near the edge of the Danuble. The red star of communism was removed from the central steeple in 1990 and today the building is a symbol of Hungary’s solidarity. It’s worth a short side trip to cross over to the edge of the Danube from the Parliament Building and locate the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.
NOON A tour of the Dohány Street Great Synagogue is a moving and sobering experience. Professional guides provide historic context and point out the area’s most moving monuments.
AFTERNOON Next, hop a street car and exit at the Great Market Hall. Surely, you’re hungry by now? Order a cold beer and sausage with sauerkraut before taking in the souvenirs on display.
EVENING Stroll along picturesque Andrássy útca en route to dinner and an opera. Café Callas neighbours the Hungarian State Opera House so you’ll have time to eat and make the 7:00 pm curtain.
MORNING Have an early breakfast at your hotel before heading to the Ecseri Flea Market. Hunt for vintage Herend porcelain and fine art oil paintings among rustic outdoor stands.
Dabble Savvy: Bring cash and expect to bargain.
LUNCH Ask the cab to drop you at Buda Castle and you’re steps from Alabárdos Étterem and a truly memorable meal. Authentic home cooking tastes even better served on fine Herend china.
AFTERNOON Buda Castle’s majestic Hungarian National Gallery is the premier place to appreciate Hungary’s artistic achievements. The paintings rival Europe’s finest and a knowledgeable guide brings the experience to life.
MID-AFTERNOON For culture of a different varietal, the cellars of Királyi Borok are steps from Buda Castle.
EVENING Dinner at Café Kör is simply a must.
MORNING Spend the morning shopping in the folksy village of Szentendre, a mere 30 minutes from the city centre. Stay for lunch and then grab a cab back into town.
AFTERNOON What trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to the Gellért Baths? Don’t forget your bathing suit and bring a towel from your hotel.
EVENING It’s hard to resist the romantic pull of a Danube River cruise. There are dozens of boats leaving at various times, so ask your concierge for a recommendation. For those who prefer dry land, a meal at Gundel is memorable.
Featuring prominently in Old Town Square is the bronze Art Nouveau fountain, a memorial to protestant reformer, Jan Hus. In the background, the shell-pink Kinsky Palace where Czech native Franz Kafka attended prep school.
While people watching often takes precedence over sightseeing in Prague’s busy main square, Staromestské Námestí is home to a number of worthy sites. The imposing Gothic construction of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Tyn Church) with its not-quite-identical towers dominates Prague’s Old Town Square.
Hit the shops in nearby Ungelt Square which has a branch of contemporary glassware store Material as well as Botanicus, a Czech institution for lotions and potions. Nearby Dlouh Street is one of my favourite shopping destinations.
Toasty warm, this traditional Slovakian treat (trdelnik) is dusted with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Look for open stalls or bakeries selling this perfect late afternoon pick-me-up.
Passersby are tempted by the cinnamon sweetness of trdelnik, a traditional pastry made daily in bakeries across the city.
Four Seasons (Veleslav.nova 2A). If perfection is desired, look no further than this renowned chain where the setting, service and amenities are unsurpassed. Book an evening meal at Allegro to enjoy riverside views and the award-winning cuisine.
Kimberley takes time out from filming to pose before heading out with CityTV’s CityLine cameraman Patrick Reynolds on the unusual seven-seater bike.
Between Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square lies Prague’s most exclusive shopping street, Parížská. Big names like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Burberry dominate the tree-lined street.
Be prepared to sit in the basement if you ask for the no smoking section at Kolkovna (V Kolkovne 8). Instead, opt for a street-side table with a view of the Spanish Synagogue.
ABOVE Prague’s most exclusive shopping street, Parížská.
A sweeping avenue developed in the 14th century, Wenceslas Square is rarely deserted, but an easy stroll nets a vast selection of shops and restaurants to enjoy. At its apex is the National Museum, seen just behind the statue of Duke Wenceslas on horseback. (It seems the Christmas carol gave him a boost in title.)
At tea time head to the splendidly restored Grand Café Orient (Ovocný trh 19) to get a feel for 1912 Prague. Or, visit Municipal House Café for a light lunch in an exquisite Art Nouveau setting.
Sit in the wine bar and soak up the urban contemporary vibe while nibbling contentedly at KOGO’s Slovanský Dum location (Na Pr.kope 22). Or, descend into the cellared depths of Klub Architektu (Betlemske Namesti 5a) for hearty Czech fare at great prices.
Decorative arts enthusiasts go ga-ga over the tableware, books, furniture and writing papers on display (and in the gift shop) at the Kubistz Museum, located inside the House of the Black Madonna.
The city’s only Moser store, creating the finest Czech crystal since 1857 is their flagship (Na Prikope 12). A must visit.
If you’ve been to Paris you are familiar with shopping passages that house stores and restaurants. Lucerna Pasáž is a popular Czech passage but most of the shops still have a communist-era feel to them. In contrast, Pasáž Slovanský Dum (Na Pr.kope 22), has a branch of the Belgian design shop Flamant Store, clothing stores such as Mexx and Tommy Hilfiger, and a movie theatre with English subtitles.
Prague’s Performing Arts
Attending a concert in Prague is a memorable experience. There are dozens of locations where you can enjoy orchestras, ensembles, theatre and comedy. Performances change frequently so read the literature available at each location.
“Once you’ve exhausted your comfortable walking shoes, take the reins of a horse drawn carriage and explore Old Town and New Town with a private guide.”
MORNING While you’re fresh, head to the top of the city and begin your day at Prague Castle. There are a dozen noteworthy buildings and sites.
NOON Nearing lunch time? Head to the Strahov Monastic Brewery. Afterwards, take time to enjoy the Theological Library and gift shop.
AFTERNOON When it’s time to head back down the hill, take a stroll along popular Neruda Street. You may want to take a short detour to see John Lennon’s Peace Wall if you are not going to spend additional time in Lesser Town during your stay.
EVENING Make a reservation at Hergetova Cihelná (Ciheln. 2b) where the riverside seating and passing boats provide a moving dinner show.
MORNING Start early in the Jewish Quarter as it’s easy to spend a full day touring exhibits.
NOON Stop for a quick lunch at King Solomon Restaurant (Širok. 7/37) which touts itself as ‘Madonna’s very own kosher bakery’ and then continue strolling down Parížská where, with cash in hand, you may be able to do more than window shop.
AFTERNOON Rent a bike from Praha Bike Tours and Rental for an afternoon tour around the city’s sites. Afterwards, stop at a local pub, like U Vejvodu, for a hard-earned pilsner.
EVENING You simply must take in a concert to fully appreciate Prague’s immersion in the classical arts. Kimberley’s picks? The more intimate venues of Lichtenstein Palace, home of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts, or the Neo-Classical Estates Theatre.
MORNING After so much sightseeing you may be ready for a leisurely day of shopping. The term bohemian is synonymous with individual style and that’s what you’ll find on Dlouhá Street. Start with a visit to Coffee Fellows (20 Dlouh.). Great coffee and decadent pastries should fortify you for the day ahead.
Still have energy to shop? While Palladium (n.mest. Republiky 1) is a huge indoor mall with more than 200 stores, the real fun is shopping Prague’s lively streets—Na Prikope, U Prasné brány and Mostecká.
EVENING After a day on your feet, book passage on the Jazz Boat which docks near Cechuv Bridge on the Old Town side. Enjoy a peaceful cruise up the Vltava River with live music to serenade you.
With few exceptions, the dining scene in Puerto Rico is unpretentious, so come as you are. Expect excellent food in a casual setting and a welcoming wait staff to wish you, ‘buen provecho’.
Everyone eats at Kasalta—politicians, school kids, housewives and secretaries. The glass countered bakery serves tempting pastries and a divine Cubanito (mini ham and Swiss).
Panadería España Repostería
Another reliable local hangout with a similar atmsophere to Kasalta. Consider the cheese and wine selection if you’re planning a picnic.
Dabble Savvy: Save on restaurant meals by ordering water like the locals do: “I’ll have the Carraiso Springs.” A joke that references the city’s main source of tap water.
It’s not fancy, but the burrittos and tacos are delicioso at La B de Burro in Ocean Park. In addition, ginger and tamarind are the finest companions to tequila imaginable, so ask about 2 for 1 margarita specials.
Bebo dishes up well-priced local fare to its dedicated clientele. Try arroz mamposteado (rice and beans) or empanada de pollo (chicken empanada) and ripe plantains.
Under the Trees
Sit on the outdoor patio, order a mimosa and a fabulous brunch experience is assured.
Once you find the well-hidden restaurant, José Enrique is a fine dining experience that is unparalleled. Start with the cheese plate and order the red snapper as a main. You won’t have room for dessert, but the three chocolate dish is to die for.
I celebrated a recent (delicious) birthday at Uvva Restaurant in Hosteria del Mar. Almond crusted lamb chops in mint chimichuri sauce are every bit as tasty as they look (see photo page 124). As we sat on the beach the next day, the owner noticed our group and sent over a round of drinks—matching our order from the night before. Now, that’s service.
Chef Robert Trevino (of Iron Chef fame) masterminds the Budatai fusion menu, serving elegant sushi and divine seared ahi.
Chef Wilo Bennet’s Varita in Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza revitalizes local delicacies such as roasted pig. Start with the lettuce wraps and save room for mini coconut tembleque (coconut flan).
When pastry chef Raquel Holcman launched Sweet Sentations, her fanciful concoctions became instant classics.