Trip Advice - Self Catering/Occasional Meal out in Vienna-Budapest-Krakow-Prague
I realise there are many threads on these forums already and many people such as Sturmi and Kukubura have contributed with their immense wealth of knowledge and experience. However, I'm worried some of the posts might be a little outdated (esp. rgd. prices of cheap eats) and some of the places mentioned might be out of my reach (I'll explain later) and frankly speaking it's quite overwhelming to see a huge list of restaurants and going through all the online menus. I realise this is a little selfish, just that it's quite a lot to take in at the moment. I'm new to chowhound so if this isn't according to the rules please moderate as necessary. Thanks!
Basically, I'm a solo traveller going to the cities mentioned during late September before starting university in London. So essentially I'm cash strapped, staying in hostels and getting by with budget airlines, buses and SparNight discounts. I'm spending 3 days in each city and am mostly interested in food, so my plan is to get by with self catering and messing around with local market fare, trying street food as well as the occasional meal out. While I will be staying in hostels I haven't booked anywhere yet so that's flexible. I'm planning to stay near the markets like the Wombats hostel beside Nashmarkt in Vienna, but if there are better 'hotspots' I can just shift as needed.
I'd like to get advice on street food and the local markets available. I'll be heading to Naschmarkt (Vienna), Central Market Hall (Bp), Stary Kleparz (Krakow) - are there any other places I should look out for? Also, are there things that are really specialities or simply tourist scams like the saffron supposedly is in the budapest central hall? Are there any must tries such as that bridge sausage seller in krakow or foods/ingredients that are far more expensive elsewhere like foie in Bp? I'm from South East Asia and have had extremely little exposure to European/Western fare beyond generic stuff like fish and chips and steak, and reading and seeing stuff like the crazy sausage varieties in Vienna makes me really want to try it for real! That said, I love cooking and am hoping to gather a stash of ingredients to spice up (aheh sorry) my college cooking. I've visited various blogs and websites like budapest.eu and the pictures are honestly mindblowing, which is why I was a little confused when some threads on chowhound say that there aren't really any good foodie souvenirs. Maybe it's because I'm not from the states - stuff like sambal belacan/jaggery/tripe/durian are everyday foods and ingredients while stuff like olives/jalapenos/pate taste completely funky to me. Are there anything that I should use the opportunity to stock up that would be pricer in London? Though I'm not sure if there's any customs issues...
Also, while many of the threads had incredible coverage of restaurants, most are really pricey and out of my league except for maybe the restaurants in Budapest. I do hope I can get, say, 1 or 2 nice restaurant meals per city there though. I'm used to heavier lunches and would rather a heaping pile of meat over dessert so I'm hoping that would be in my favour (I didn't really think meat and dumplings was a bad description of eastern european food). I'm really trying not to blow more than 25-30 euros per nice meal, though 30 is already stretching it in my case. Is this actually a wise decision, or is it better to just spread this 'nice meal' budget out for more budget eats? If I had to pick, I'd rather use the money to buy more ingredients to play around with during college.
Lastly, despite not being much of a fan of desserts I love chocolate and hot chocolate - my Vienna itinerary essentially consists on hitting the Nashmarkt, Meinl emporium, museum and xocolat factory (yea I can while away a whole morning simply at a generic supermarket and looking at local foodstuffs...). I've also read of Gerbeaud/Aztek in Bp, Wedel in Krakow, another museum in Prague..are these also worth visiting and are there any notable local chocolate brands/makers/shops that should not be missed?
For all who have read this post, thank you VERY MUCH! I know I tend to ramble, but I'm frightfully excited about going to these places and starting a new phase of life. As I mentioned, I'm new to these boards and I forsee asking a lot more about London eats in a few months time, or maybe after I know my accommodation details...
Ok, since I'm a student in Vienna too, also on a tight budget and with a love for food, I might give you some general advice. I'll limit myself to Vienna since I don't know the other cities any better than any occasional visitor would. I also tend to ramble a bit when I'm talking about things I like, so here we go.
First let me assure you that Wombat's at Naschmarkt is a good place to stay while you're here, imo. I've never stayed in one of their hostels in Vienna, of course, since I live here, but I have in Berlin and Munich and from my experience, Wombat's are easily among the best hostels in Europe. It's hard to get better accomodation anywhere for that price. Anyway, you're not asking about a hostel review here, so on to the main attraction...
Ok, the thing with this place is, it's big, bustling and generally fabulous, with a great variety of high quality food. I like it a lot. The problem is, however, that it knows that it's good and that's reflected in the prices and the general attitude. You'll find a greater variety of food here than pretty much anywhere else in the city but much of it is overpriced or just generally out of your (and my) price range. Also, there are lots of small restaurants there, some pretty good, some overrated, some much too popular for there own good. Still, here's what I like to do there and some general info:
First, one thing you should be aware of is that the market gets more expensive and more fancy toward the city center (Karlsplatz). At the beginning at Kettenbrückengasse, the same stuff is almost always cheaper. You won't find truffles, caviar and oysters there, however. Second, the best day to go there is on a Friday. Friday and Saturday there are always some additional stands of farmers and small, artisanal producers from around Vienna (Austria but also Slovaks, Czechs and Hungarians) who offer great and interesting stuff (and really fresh produce, of course) that you probably won't find otherwise. They are also often cheaper than the rest of the market. Saturday is just too crowded.
So, what to do on a budget? First, sample stuff. Most of the vendors will let you try what the sell. Walk through the whole stretch of the market once and try stuff whenever it's offered and you've got yourself a pretty good meal already. I don't suggest you do that too often but it's a great way to get a feeling for the place and to find out what you like and what not. Second, have a picknick. I do that quite often when the weather is nice. Buy flatbread, falafel, humus, baba ganouj, olives, some tomatoes perhaps or whatever else strikes your fancy and sit down in a park and enjoy. You can easily get away with about 10-15 euros and have a great meal for two or even three people. Or, if you don't fancy the middle eastern stuff, last Fryday I had some great dry wild boar's sausage, some cheese and fresh vegetables. With some crusty, dark bread and a bottle of wine, that made a great dinner for me and my girlfriend and cost me about 17 euros.
Places to go at Naschmarkt:
I tend to avoid most of the popular restaurants at Naschmarkt because of mediocrity and insufferably hip people. Still, I like "Papa's" a less fashionable (if there is such a thing), kinda Turkish/Austrian place in the cheaper part of the Naschmarkt. They often have a quite good lunch menu. There are a few Falafel/Kebab places that are all quite similar and generally not bad. I also like the Vietnamese places (by Chi and Saigon) but that's probably not what you're looking for. Make sure you try Gegenbauer's vinegars when sampling stuff, they are quite special (also might be something to bring home) but very expensive.
Close to Nachmarkt:
Cafe Drechsler and Amacord have quite good food for (mostly) reasonable prices. Also explore the "Freihausviertel" around Schleifmühlgasse a bit. I'll mention Cafe Anzengruber (try "Gefüllte Paprika" - stuffed peppers, "Krautrouladen" - cabbage rolls or just the Gulasch there) and "Kiosk" for sausages.
Also, while we are speaking about markets, if you are a sudent on a budget, looking to explore a part of the city that's not mentioned in every tourist guide, there's another market that you definitely should visit: Brunnenmarkt.
While Nachmarkt today is fancy,expensive and touristy, a place where people go as much to see and be seen as to enjoy the food, Brunnenmarkt is the real thing, a market, run mostly by Croats and Turks with some old-time Viennese in between, where people really go for their groceries. It used to be said that the Naschmarkt is where the Balkans began. That ain't true anymore, today that's at the Brunnemarkt. It's much less fancy with a generally smaller variety of food and a heavy tilt towards Turkish but it's almost as big as Naschmarkt, cheaper and much more exciting and fun, imo. There's also Yppenplatz at the end of it where something very similar to the hip parts of the Naschmarkt is going on but, I don't know, just nicer. You'll find a lot of good food there, too. Recently it has become a bit more expensive, however. Gentrification and all that, it seems. On Saturday there's also farmer's market on Yppenplatz.
Also, from there it's just across the "Gürtel" (the second Viennese ring road that encircles the inner districts) to the 7th district where you find some of the traditional Beisln (e.g. Phönixhof, Schilling, Wratschko) that have been recommended a thousand times on these boards already. In most of these places you will easily be able to have a great, traditional meal within your budget.
Two last pieces of advice: First, avoid the 1st district. One can have great, and even moderately priced food there but it's generally much more expensive than the rest of the city and full of tourist traps. Second, take advantage of lunch menus. A lot of Beisln, restaurants and cafes offer a 2-3 course lunch for under 10 euros from about 12 to 2 pm.
That's all I can think of right now. I hope you have a great time in Vienna!
Wow, thanks so much! I haven't heard of Brunnermarkt up to this point, and after a little googling, I became aware of Karmelitermarket as well. Seems like my days in Vienna will be packed indeed...
Sadly I won't be there on a Saturday, I will be there from Monday to Wednesday but hopefully things are still lively enough. Just wondering, though, some websites indicate that haggling is allowed more in Brunnenmarkt than Naschmarkt - but to what extent, exactly? Sorry, it must seem an odd question but I take reference from the street markets of Vietnam/Bangkok/China where the modus is to hack to 10% of the prices and adjust from there...and I'm curious about this for both food and random knick knacks in the market. Thanks!
Well, generally, haggling isn't done much in Austria and, personally, I'm not very good at it. Cultural sensibilities and all that; I'm getting self concious when I try. Still, at the markets you can and should haggle a bit. It's true that it's done less at Naschmarkt than at Brunnenmarkt. That's because Brunnenmarkt is a market where people who generally don't have much money to spare come to buy their groceries and it's run mainly by Turks and people from the Balkans where haggling is a much greater part of the culture. That's a good guidline btw, if you buy from a Turkish or middle eastern vendor it's probably ok to haggle a bit. Most Austrian types will frown upon it. Gernerally I'd say there's no harm in asking for a better price, just don't be offended when someone says no. I can't give you any good guidlines about how much you can knock off the prices. As I said, culturally it just isn't done very much so there are no firmly established customs that everybody would know. I would say that trying for about 10% seems reasonable.
It's also a great place. I thought about including it in my earlier post but then decided against it. I really like the area and all the many small restaurants and cafes there, also the Augarten park that is close by, but except on Saturday, when there's farmer's market there too, it's not much of a market. It's also a bit more expensive. Go there, by all means, it's in the old Jewish quarter of Vienna, that's getting more and more Jewish again by the year, and that's well worth a visit by itself. Just don't really expect market atmosphere but more an area with a lot of small restaurants and cafes with a hip, rather well to do crowd. One place I recommend that is close by is Schöne Perle. That's a place where you can have really good food that's well within your budget. They also have a daily lunch menu from 12-6pm.
Hi HugoRune, I agree with - almost - everything you wrote about the markets, but I definitely disagree with you if you say "culturally haggling just isn't done very much" !!
On the contrary !!
The Viennese love to haggle, especially when buying expensive goods !! Nobody pays list price when buying a Mercedes, a Rolex or a diamond ring !! The same is true for apparel. No Viennese lady will pay full price at one of their favorite boutiques ....
But let us come back to compare Naschmarkt and Brunnenmarkt. IMHO Naschmarkt is a "failed market" now. If you have no chance to visit the farmers market on Friday and Saturday, I would advise against buying anything there. Everything is quite expensive, and the fruit and vegetable kiosks even love to cheat you on price AND on quality. The only kiosks we visit often to buy something are the Pöhl delicatessen and the Käseland cheese shop, but both are on the very expensive side as well, but at least you get what you pay for.
BTW: The Billa supermarkets on both sides of the Naschmarkt are quite inexpensive and you can choose what you buy without any disturbance by pushy salespeople.
OTOH, Brunnenmarkt is so much less expensive and provides a real market experience ! The system is unique there: You pick a few plastic bags and select all the fruits and vegetables you would like, putting each kind in a different bag, and then give everything to the salesperson, who checks the weights and charges you the correct amount. Haggling would even seem embarrassing, since the sum will be very low anyway. On Brunnenmarkt you can buy fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, and cheeses of all kinds. A special store is the one by Staud, who prepares the best fruit jams and marmalades. Open every day but Sunday.
Wow that...really sucks. Damn, I was trying to decide where I should spend that previous saturday because that generally seems like the best date to go to any market. Feeling rather annoyed now because contrary to what some websites say, apparently easyjet does get cheaper as time goes by...perhaps I was just inexperienced with how they time summer sales...so if I had waited I might have gotten a better date with a cheaper flight price to boot.
Back to topic, in that case is it generally safe to say that during weekdays the supermarkets are an adequate substitution for the Naschmarkt stalls? Is it still worth visiting for any particular local specialities or Austrian foods? Because if so I'll probably change my hostel location...thanks for the input!
If your hostel is located close to the naschmarkt, keep it !! This is an excellent location for a first time visitor to the city, all the interesting sights are within walking distance !!
And yes, the Billa supermarkets are a good source of basic food items, and you can find out yourself what else you want to buy on the market, since everything is located in the same area.
Wow that is rather upsetting...I was considering where to spend that precious Saturday (because that seems to be the best day to visit any market) and ultimately Budapest got it. Rather cheesed off now because contrary to what people say easyjet prices do get cheaper as time goes by...maybe I'm just inexperienced with how summer sales work. If I had known I would have changed my itinerary with a cheaper flight price to boot.
Going back to topic, would you then say that the supermarkets are an adequete substitution for the Naschmarkt during weekdays? Is it still worth going for any Austrian specialities or stuff that's unique there? Because if not I'm most likely going to change my hostel...at least that can still be changed.
Thank you very much for the input!
I think I have to defend the Naschmarkt here a bit. Yes, it has it's problems but I think it's not nearly as bad as Sturmi makes it out to be. I still go there quite often and, while the Brunnenmarkt is definitely much cheaper, it's not as if you neccessarily get ripped off. It's just to be expected that with it's central location and lots of tourists it's more expensive. Also, about the cheating, I hear people saying that from time to time but I've never noticed it much. Sure, the vendors will try to sell you more than you have asked for and maybe some will even try to slip in some of their lesser quality stuff if you don't pay attention but that same thing you will see at the Brunnenmarkt, or indeed at any market I've ever been to all around the world. Just be careful, pay attention, use your common sense and don't be afraid to say no and you'll be fine. There's really very little, if any, outright cheating going on. With fruits and vegetables you can do the same thing as on Brunnenmarkt. Ask the vendor for a bag and and select what you want yourself. I've never had anybody refuse me that when I asked. Vendors can be pushy though, that's true.
Also, the farmer's market on weekends doesn't seem noticably more expensive to me than any of the other farmer's markets in Vienna, with the exception of Yppenplatz, perhaps (but even this is changing).
So, I wouldn't call Naschmarkt a failed market. It's still the place with the greatest variety and probably even best quality, overall. It's just not the place to do your daily groceries anymore but even that you can do if you are prepared to brave the crowds and scour the place for the best offers (prices do vary, sometimes even a lot from stall to stall). It's true, however, that you can get some of the stuff, mainly in the way of fruits and vegetables, in the same quality, at often cheaper prices at the Billa across the street so it always pays to have a look there, too.