Looking for non-restaurant but food related recs for Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.
I'll be spending 10 days in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in early March.
I've already searched the board for restaurant recommendations and now I'm looking for other chow related things to see/do/eat.
For example, great markets worth visting (I'd read the Great Market Hall in Budapest might be worth a visit)? Cookware shops? Bakeries? Street food? Anything that might be interesting...
PS. If you want to chime in with restaurant recommendations too, of course that would be appreciated.
I have to second (or 3rd or 4th) that you go to Naschmarkt - it is my favorite thing to do in Vienna. You can the kebap sandwich - Turkish spicy lamb sandwich with yoghurt. It's delicious. If the outdoor markets are still doing Gluhwein, the spiced wine, try that too! I'm not sure if that is only a holiday thing... Also, you should not have a trip to Vienna without trying a Kasekrainer from one of the sausage stands! I am still craving those things! My boyfriend's mom cooked for us most of the time, so I am afraid I can't really recommend specific restaurants. The food at home was too good!
Have a great time exploring Budapest - I was only there 1 day and can't recommend anything, the place we ate at was not remarkable in any way. I have only had the Austrian style, which is delicious, but I wish I had tried an authentic Hungarian goulash when I was there. I must say it would probably have been more fun to explore Budapest instead of see all the tourist sites. The national gallery was really quite bad, so I wouldn't budget much time for that. Prague I have never been so I have no idea. Viel Spaß!
Is it worth it during the winter? Hhhhhmmm good question. Depends on how long you are in the Budapest area I guess.
It is a cute little town, that was once a Serbian trading outpost on the Danube. Hence, the Serbian orthodox church overlooking the town. That noted, there isn't much to see there asides the marzipan museum.
You could probably keep yourself busy seeing the site in Budapest rather than 'waste' a day in Szentendre.
Just my quick $.02 (or 2 forint): One of the things that I most loved in Szentendre - and something that seemed both perfect for tourists and with some minor Chowhound interest as well (OK - there was one good bakery selling Izsák style baked goods on the museum grounds) - was the Hungarian Open Air Museum. It is a large walking park divided into geographies of Hungary with building styles, crafts and food from each region. It is sort of like Colonial Williamsburg in the US, but smaller and more focused on regional variations.
The problem: if I remember it correctly, the museum is not open until Spring.
We took my MIL there when she visited us in 1999 and she still raves about that museum. So, were it me, I'd probably think Szentendre should be saved for another trip - enjoy Budapest.
Here is a Web page I found for the museum:
Memories of my Fall 1997 3-night visit to Budapest are a bit dim at this point. However, my friend drove me out to Szentendre to have what he considered the best langos in the country and see waht a Serbian town looked like. We also had a wonderful ice cream at a little shop there on its last day before closing for the season. For these two most chowish of tastes, I felt it was worth an afternoon.
I should also add that Hungarians love ice-cream (even in relatively chilly weather). If you get over to Daubner or Szamos, try some of my fav. flavors:
mák = poppyseed
gesztenye = chestnut
There are very Hungarian flavors and are probably not available wholesale, so most places will not have them.
Budapest, some random thoughts:
While the Vásárcsarnok/Market Hall is sort of a tourist trap, do go up the stairs to the right and grab a lángos. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A1ngos) Get the original cheese and sour cream variety (sajtos-tejfölös lángos) with a glass of beer.
Ignore the fact that the same cashier-person who handles money all the time will be the same person who hands you your lángos. Hopefully the grease and garlic will kill any bacteria. :)
Elsewhere in the Vásárcsarnok, you can get high quality dried Chanterelles, Morels, truffles, and sausage made from horsemeat.
BTW foie gras is relatively cheap in Hungary, Café Kör does it well.
If you make it to Szentendre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szentendre) , a small scenic town north of Budapest, there is an excellent lángos place in a random alley underneath the hill the main Serbian church sits on.
As far as confectionaries go, hit up any of the Szamos Cafes and/or Daubner. BTW Daubner is out of the way a bit, and will be packed with locals.
Pastries are amazingly high quality. Make sure you try the pogácsa (there is no proper translation for this, but it is sort of a savory biscuit). (pics here: http://receptteka.extra.hu/s_pogi.html) as well as any of the tortes/cakes.
Check out www.chew.hu --- longtime Budapest ex-pat Erik D'amato has ratings up of local places (of most of which I agree) in his Top 33.
Wow! I'm very impressed with all the detailed replies I've received!
JaeTae-Thanks for the local insight and advice on Prague and how to say "English Menu". I've been listening to Czech language instruction in my car and I find it next to impossible to grasp.
Grocery-As much as I love outdoor markets, I also always check out local supermarkets. You never know what kind of interesting souvineers you can find. I'm especially interested in Tesco since I live about two blocks from what is reputed to be the site of the soon-to-be very first US Tesco.
OK...if you are looking for grocery stores in Budapest, I have an idea.
For upscale (and therefore maybe better for cool gifts), there is Rothschild, on Szent Istvan Krt. (Szent Istvan 17, maybe? It has been a while). It is not too far from the Nyugati train station/metro stop.
Stayed in Prague (1998? 1999?) for a little more than a week.
It's been a while, so everything comes to me blurred at this point. So let's hope that whatever I remember now serves as a charmingly muted distillation of the whole experience. My memory borders on atrocious - good thing I visit only one country at a time. Hmmm... it's not exactly food I am remembering at the moment...
Game, I remember having plenty. Venison, boar, goose. And smoked meat. (And loads of knedliky. And beer - they serve you beer in the morning, too). It's quite possible that game is not all that common, but that I was determined to have it often. Was tempted to have pizza or go to an Indian restaurant reputed to be excellent, but kept the urge entirely in Czech.
I found a "restaurants to avoid" index card. These may not be around, but can't hurt to know.
BAD: Cerberus, Hanavsky's Pavilon, Staromestska Restaurace
One more thing: I am sure no one needs to be told this, but in any country I visit, I make sure to visit the common supermarket. It tells me so much about their daily lives, and it truly is fascinating. In Prague, it would be Tesco. There's one with an open-air produce market near the store.
Good Czech food can actually be found in Prague. Which is not to say it's light, but it's as flavorful as it is heavy, while the bad stuff is even heavier plus tasteless.
I live by the Andel metro stop on the B line in Smichov, which is bustling but not touristy, so I know the restaurants nearby best. If you don't mind a ~10 min metro ride, here are three places with excellent Czech food:
Potrefina Husa - I think this is actually a chain with a few locations, but I know the one by Andel. Excellent goulash, served in a bread bowl. Other food equally good from what I've had, which is only a few dishes. On the same street as the Andel metro exit, English menu ("ongleetzkeh menny," FYI) available.
Na Verandach - this is the Staropramen brewery restaurant, across the street from the Andel metro exit. Again, excellent goulash (served more traditionally, on plate with dumplings) and other Czech food. Never an available seat on Friday nights, though, so be forewarned. English menu available.
Na Vaclavce - excellent and at times adventurous Czech cooking, a few excellent veggie dishes, huge, delicious salads. Traditional Czech holiday foods around the holidays. A restaurant for locals, so high quality and low prices. Monthly Thursday theme nights, with Balkan food, Mexican food, etc. The occasional Doors cover band(?!). Cons: not near metro, no English menu, Doors cover band when you just want dinner. If you might want to seek it out, here's a link to the website, which features a map: http://www.navaclavce.cz/index.php.
Also, as has been said, Prague for some reason has excellent pastas and pizza. My favorite pizza place is Kmotra.
So if you are a food professional this is one more reason not to stick to the Naschmarkt. Rather get up early in the morning and make a trip to the wholesale market in Inzersdorf ! This is a real market for food of all kind including live fish as well as flowers and plants and the location where the Viennese chefs would go !
Thanks for all the great tips.
Mrs. Keenlyside-I'm a former chef and I've traveled all over the world so I always search out local markets where ever I go. I will certainly check out Naschmarkt.
As for Budapest, I don't think that 4 days will end up being to much since we arrive mid-day on the first day. In reality, it will only be 3 full days.
I was aware of the currency differences, but thanks for the reminder!
Before you write off the Naschmarkt in Vienna, I’d say it is worth visiting, especially if you can go on a weekday when it is not overcrowded with people gawking at the food. Depending on where you are from and how much you have travelled, it could be a unique and fun experience.
If you have been to any big city gourmet food emporium, then you have no particular reason to go to Meinl am Graben: it is the Saks Fifth Avenue of supermarkets, and the vast majority of the stuff there is inanely overpriced. That being said, there is a lovely wine bar in the basement.
Meinl is, for me, like going to Dean & De Luca in NYC (or the old Balducci’s, but without the character that place had). No matter what you think of the quality and variety at Naschmarkt, you have to admit that it’s a rather unique experience. It deserves a walk through. You will also find that the prices drop the father you go from the City end (the end closest to the Ringstrasse, by the Secession building) and cross the street in the middle and continue away from the City toward the Kettenbrückengasse U-Bahn station.
I agree with someone’s comment above that you have booked too much time in Budapest. There just isn’t that much to see, the city is largely dirty, very dark after sunset, and still carries a lot of its old Soviet baggage. It’s also not that friendly and you may have trouble getting around if you only speak English.
Prague is the opposite: it is gorgeous beyond belief, the people are lovely and very open to foreigners, and they are very proud of their city: they have worked very hard to make it accessible and clean and safe.
Unfortunately, good, authentic Czech cuisine is hard to find. The majority of places in the city that serve it are geared to tourists and you will find yourself shoveling down overcooked meats swimming in salty gravies, with mushy, greasy dumplings or potato pancakes. You’d do better to try some of the places which serve international cuisine. Kampa Park is really worth it, and the location is magical. I personally like Zahrada v Opere, behind the old State Opera House (not to be confused with the National Opera on the river).
Have a terrific trip!
Oh – Just one little practical reminder: although the Czech Republic and Hungary are now members of the European Union, they have NOT yet adopted the euro as their currency. So you will be dealing with the euro in Austria, the koruny in the Czech Republic, and the forint in Hungary.
The best non-restaurant, food-related things in Vienna are the cafes. I particularly
liked Cafe Sperl, which is pleasantly located far enough away from the tourist zone.
And Cafe Museum, a block or so south from the Opera.
On the restaurant front, does Zu den Zwei Lieseln still exist? I searched for weeks for the
biggest schnitzel in Vienna and I think this was it. Good too.
Taht market in budapest is best for sausages: sausages of all kinds!
also, we found some amazing mushrooms in the basement area that iqi mentioned.
real budapestians actually do shop there, and some of the communication with locals about their produce can be pretty raw, which is fun.
this is my advice for pretty much every city: buy any food for sale on the street. there are plenty of great corner carts for sausages in vienna, and not all of them are in the supercentral area
If by the Great Market Hall in Budapest you mean the Vásárcsarnok (sometimes translated as Central Market), then I say go for it. When I lived for a short time in Budapest, this was a constant stop. There are a bunch of touristy food stalls - and that is not actually bad. Paprika and some other easy to transport specialties. The top floor has hearty, basic food and beer bars - we would often stick to fried heavy things like lángos, deep fried dough topped with various toppings, such as garlic and sour cream. Yummy, but heavy.
The Vásárcsarnok is a great place to wander and see life, but it is still somewhat a real market for locals. That means things you probably won't want to buy unless you are in a place you can cook for yourself - but all fun to see. The building itself is stunningly beautiful.
There used to be a pastry place in the basement that was no more than a hole in the wall - this place turned out goodies that were so good, we could never get them home. There are also pickle places and a fancy international foods place in the basement.
If you just want to see where the locals from the panelház (big Soviet-era concrete slab apartment developments) shop, head to one of the local farmer's markets. There used to be a market at Marczibányi tér at least once a week, but this was several years ago so you should check on what day if you are interested. We used to live off of radish sandwiches because the radishes from the farmer's markets were so tasty.
I loved the food in Prague. Look for dishes that have mushrooms, because these are typically freshly foraged, and local cheeses ripened in beer brine. Both of these are commonly available fried. For great local beers and food, check out the monastery/brewery Klasterni Pivovar, very close to Prague Castle. Also make sure to check out the local bakeries, which will have one interesting thing after another you've likely never seen. I remember these little nut squares for like 25 cents that were amazing. For some reason, pasta is generally good there. Also look around for Moravian wine. It's not great, but it's decent and unusual.
I have to say that I am not a picky eater, and have tried just about everything in lots of places around the world, but I found Prague a bit of a challenge because the food was heavy beyond belief. It seemed like the only healthy thing you could do with the food was bench press your dinner. It needs to be said that we were there at peak season, and it was over-run beyond all imagining which made it difficult to explore, and it seemed that everything, food included, was aimed at the worst kind of tourism. I suspect it will be a lot nicer now. It's certainly an incredibly beautiful city.
I was in Prague last Feburary. For low-end food you have to try the fried cheese with mayo sandwiches. Absolutely wrong on lots of level but oh so good after a night of drinking (or in my case before drinking too). They are at every cart in Wenschelas (sp) Square. I am incredibly jealous of you. Prague is goregous and my all time favorite city. Try and get out of touristy areas if you can (yellow line is a nice one) and go to some of the bars. That's where you'll find some delish, heavy, traditional food. Yum.
Yes, it's rushed; we will spend 4 days in Budapest, 2 in Vienna and 4 in Prague. I think it will give us a nice taste of things.
You said "In Vienna, people will recommend the Naschmarkt. Do not go there, rather try the Brunnenmarkt in Ottakring (also called "Klein-Istanbul", and the food really is almost as good) or the Karmelitermarkt or the Rochusmarkt. " Can you elaborate why we should go to the Brunnenmarkt if the food is "almost as good"? :-)
Thanks for the ideas!
almost as good as in Istanbul !!
The Naschmarkt is now only a giant tourist trap, there are numerous panasian cookeries and kebab kiosks, and it is hard to find something special. There ARE a few interesting places, but the overall impression is one of a overrun tourist attraction. If you have only 2 days for Vienna, eating will be one of the minor pastimes, you will have to spend more time in the museums, in Schönbrunn and walking through the old city. Forget the markets...
And you might find that 4 days are too long for Budapest, rather make it three for Vienna and Budapest each !
10 days for Prague, Vienna AND Budapest ?? Tough. You will get dizzy from all the choices, and will miss a lot for sure.
In Vienna, people will recommend the Naschmarkt. Do not go there, rather try the Brunnenmarkt in Ottakring (also called "Klein-Istanbul", and the food really is almost as good) or the Karmelitermarkt or the Rochusmarkt.
For high-scale food sampling go to the Meinl am Graben
http://www.meinlamgraben.at/meinl.aspx (click on "English"),
and for street food try the sausage kiosks (Würstelstand), e.g. the one in front of the Albertina. http://www.bitzinger.at/cms/index.php?id=24&L=1
But when in Vienna, you also have to go to a Heurigen. Avoid Grinzing, try Sievering oder Mauer or Stammersdorf...
Bakeries: Auer, Schrammel or Gradwohl are definitely worth a visit.
Maybe Felber and Ströck also, but avoid Anker or Mann (junk bread).