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Peaceful Shkoder and the Hotel Vataksi

Nestled between rugged mountains and the Boyana (Buna) River, you will find one of the Vataksi Groups two hotels in Shkoder, Albania. Located at one of the entrances into Shkoder city the newly developed Hotel Vataksi offers limited accommodation with five rooms available at an inexpensive price.

Where to stay in Shkoder
The view from our room at the Hotel Vataksi

Once an important trading port during the ruling times of the Ottomans and Venetians. Shkoder is a peaceful city in Northern Albania and a gateway to the Adriatic Sea. It is here that many travellers start the popular three-day hike from Valbona to Theth.  An intersection of three converging rivers Shkoder’s abundance of beautiful landscapes is excellent for the travelling photographer or fishing enthusiast.

Where to stay in Shkoder
An Albanian sunset from Rozafa Castle

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The Hotel Vataksi is a small hotel which offers its customers affordable accommodation with a set breakfast. The hotel originally started as a restaurant but as tourism increased in Shkoder the owners created five comfortable timber panelled rooms. Our room for our short stay has a scenic river view, a queen bed, television, air-conditioner, small desk and wi-fi.

Where to stay cheap in Shkoder
The double room with a river view.

Each room has a small accompanying bathroom, with a toilet, basin and over the floor shower (no separate shower cubicle). The bathroom is clean with sufficient hot water and pressure.

Where to stay in Shkoder
The small bathroom is clean with a decent amount of hot water.

Still under construction the hotel is undergoing various improvements, these works did not affect the outcome of our stay or pose any issues. Travel Vataksi is associated with the hotel with an office in the car park of the hotel. Have a look and see what tours they have on offer. Maybe a riverboat ride along the rivers or a trip to the Adriatic Sea is something you might want to do.

Where to stay in Shkoder
Vataksi Travel office is located in the car park

Every morning, the hotel provides a set breakfast plate for its guests. Make sure you advise of any allergies prior so they can cater accordingly.  The staff is friendly, with some members having limited English, but communicating wasn’t an issue as they would often summon the English-speaking staff to assist.

Where to stay in Shkoder
Breakfast in the outdoor dining area is a great way to start the day

In the evening, the hotel comes alive with many locals dining at their popular restaurant. Servings are large and of good quality. The restaurant boasts an Italian trained chef who produces some wonderful food. With modern music playing throughout the dining area, a playground for the children, and an intoxicating view of the river. It is a superb place to watch the  evening sun set.

Where to eat in Shkoder?
Salmon with vegetables
Where to eat in Shkoder?
Spaghetti with mushroom and tomatoes

Alternatively, if you’d rather not be too close to the river and prefer a mountain view the Vataksi groups second hotel called Shpija Gjyshit or “Grandfather Hotel” is located approximately 1km uphill from Hotel Vataksi. Also still under construction the rooms are larger than those found at Hotel Vataksi and the views are increasingly spectacular.

Where to stay in Shkoder
The spectacular view from the rooms at Shpija Gjyshit

In my opinion, Shpija Gjyshit is a slightly more refined product, with swimming pool, larger rooms and better bathrooms. The restaurant looks out across the valley and the whole hotel reminds me of an Austrian chalet on the side of the mountain.

Where to stay in Shkoder
The suite at Shpija Gjyshit is a more refined product, with larger more stylish rooms.
Where to stay in Shkoder
The more luxurious bathrooms at Shpija Gjyshit

Although, located on the outskirts of Shkoder the Vataksi Group have two comfortable hotels available. It is a good 30 – 45 minute walk into the city centre, but as we like walking it was a good way to start an active day. Alternatively, the hotel can organise a taxi, which are quite cheap into the city. Personally, I would recommend a taxi, or hiring a car to access Shpija Gjyshit as it would be a pretty tiring and steep walk to its position on the side of the mountain.

Where to stay in Shkoder
The Vataksi groups second hotel Shpija Gjyshit

Overall, both hotels are comfortable and affordable. Honestly, there are better rated hotels in the city centre but of course they are more expensive. Travellers on a budget that are looking for a little more style will appreciate the rooms especially at Shpija Gjyshit. The restaurants and staff are pleasant and it was kind of nice to look out the window at Hotel Vataksi and watch the wildlife along the river. So, book your stay at the Hotel Vataksi or Shpija Gjyshit today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Where to stay in Shkoder
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Additional Information for the Hotel Vataksi

Address: SH41, Buna Bridge, Shkodër 4000, Albania
Ph: +355 69 333 4356
Website: www.vataksi.com

Book your stay at Hotel Vataksi now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Hotel Vataksi

AUD$53 per night

Check in: from 07:00 a.m Check Out: Between 09:00 a.m & 12:00 p.m

Vellezerit Vataksi:

Main Dishes prices range from 450ALL (AUD$5.00) to 3000ALL (AUD$33.50)

Opening hours: Daily 7:00 a.m – 11:00 p. m

Additional Information for Shjipa Gjyshit

Address:  Zues Shkoder Zues Shkoder, Shkodër 4001, Albania
Ph: +355 69 748 6655

Book your stay at Shjipa Gjyshit now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Shjipa Gjyshit

Ranging  Between AUD$45 – AUD$105 per night

Check in: from 07:00 a.m Check Out: Between 09:00 a.m & 12:00 p.m

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Hotel 7 and another side of Skopje

If you’ve had the chance to visit Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia, you would know it’s the city of statues. But if you haven’t had the chance to go, then what’s stopping you! Skopje, has statues everywhere! In the squares, in the parks, on the bridges, in the buildings and on top of the buildings. That’s right, Skopje has run out of places to put statues on the ground so they put them on top of their buildings. It is an amazing phenomenon, and one you shouldn’t miss.

Why you should go to Skopje
Skopje has so many statues, they are staring to put them on top of the buildings

For our second part of our stay in Skopje we are staying in the family run Hotel 7. Hotel 7 is a two star hotel with seven rooms available. The rooms are clean with private bathrooms and come with breakfast included. Being a small hotel, they have a coffee station in the hall, so everyone can help themselves. Comfortable and excellent value for money the hotel is only a 15 minute walk from the city or a quick bus trip. The closest bus stop is across the road next to the hospital.

Hotel 7 in Skopje
The two starred Hotel 7 is excellent value in Skopje. Private room with bathroom and breakfast for under 50 euro per night.

Breakfast is available from a little bakery next door to the hotel. They have a range of delicious Byreks and other baked goods on offer. I enjoyed the meat Byrek, which tastes a lot like an Aussie pasty.

Hotel 7 breakfast option
Hotel 7’s breakfast is available from the bakery next door

The staff is happy to advise about what there is to do in Skopje and where to go. In total, we spent 7 nights in Skopje and was able to fill in our time well. So, here’s a few things we did.

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Join a walking tour

Skopje Walks offers a free walking tour in the city centre of Skopje daily from 10 a.m. This is a terrific way to get your bearings in this quirky city and learn about the trials and triumphs the Macedonian people have faced. The meeting point is the Memorial House of Mother Teresa.

Why should I visit Skopje?
The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is the meeting point for the free walking tour.

Head up to the Millennium Cross

Skopje is home to the largest cross in the world, standing at 66 metres and looking out across the city, it’s either a day hike or a ride on the local bus. Once there, capture some stunning photos of the city and landscape. To get there, catch the number 25 bus from the bus station to the cable cars. Alternatively, you can grab a map and hike up to the top.

What is there to do in Skopje?
The 66m Millennium Cross is the largest cross in the world.

Visit Matka Canyon and Cave

Not too far out of the city is picturesque Matka Canyon. Catch the number 60 bus to the last stop and walk to the Matka Canyon Hotel. Here you can either hike the walking path, catch a boat or kayak down the river. Visit the limestone cave and take in the tranquility.

What's to do in Skopje?
Jump on the public transport bus to Matka Canyon. Then take a boat or kayak down river.

Hop on the Skopje City Tour Bus

If you’d rather ride the Skopje City Tour Bus, and see Skopje in comfort. The bus runs from 11 a.m – 5 p.m daily. Visit there Facebook page for more information.

What's to do in Skopje?
Hop onto the Skopje City Tour Bus and visit Skopje’s sights.

Explore the Old Bazaar

Whilst in the city centre, it is a must to explore Skopje’s old bazaar. Walk through the cobbled stoned streets and browse the selection of goods on sale. The bazaar contains museums, bars and restaurants serving traditional Macedonian food.

What's to do in Skopje?
Visit the old bazaar, try some local food and browse the goods on sale.

Watch a game at Philip II Arena

If you are an avid fan of sport, then check out if the main stadium is hosting any games. The home of teams FK Vardar and FK Rabotnički, visit their websites to see if a game is being played. Otherwise visit the popular park alongside the oval and have a drink or ice cream.

What's to do in Skopje?
Watch a game at Philip II stadium.

Play Spot the Statue

With so many statues scattered around the city, play a game of I-spy with friends spotting the quirky and intriguing statues. Can you find the begging statue, or the girl playing the harp?

What's to do in Skopje?
Can you find the girl with the harp statue?

Skopje is one of those fun cities that puts either a confused look or a smile on your face. With not many major hotels present in the city, you might find it easier to obtain accommodation at the family run hotels like Hotel 7. Although rated as a two star this little hotel is excellent value for money. With a private bathroom, coffee facilities and breakfast included, you can’t go wrong. Close to public transport, with friendly helpful staff. Book your stay today, and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you.

Looking for value for money accommodation in Skopje/ Why should you go to Skopje/ Copy&Paste Syndrome
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Additional Information for Hotel 7

Address: blvd. Vodnjanska 28, Skopje 1000, Macedonia (FYROM)
Ph: +389 2 317 6905
Website: www.hotel7.com.mk

Book your stay at Hotel 7 now with Booking.com

Urban Adventures offers fun tours in Skopje. Book Here!

Prices of accommodation per night at Hotel 7

Ranging from €25(AUD$37) – €75 (AUD$110) 

Check in: 1400hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Relaxing in Luxury at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

Albania is making inroads into becoming the Balkan Peninsula’s next big tourist destination. A country which was isolated from the rest of the world by its brutal dictator, is now modernising and accepting foreign investment to improve its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Our first stop in this developing country is where most travellers will start their journey in Albania. The thriving capital city of Tirana. Whilst here for five relaxing days, we stayed at the luxurious Sheraton Tirana Hotel.

Staying at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The Sheraton Tirana Hotel taken from the Sky Tower.

To be honest with you when we initially talked about Tirana, we had no idea about the history or culture of Albania. Of course, we knew it was in Europe. Somewhere! But pictured a more rural and rustic type of lifestyle. You know, horse and carts, with farmers and their families working the land and living in little mud-brick cottages. What we didn’t expect was for the city to be a modern metropolis, with many other new buildings under construction. I know that sounds a little sheltered, but we didn’t know that much about Albania.

What does Tirana look like?
Tirana’s city centre, with classic Italian architecture, an ancient mosque and new construction.

To set the record straight. Tirana is a modern city, with a vibrant cafe, bar and restaurant culture. Experience this by heading into the old communist quarter. You will find the youth of the city, sipping coffee and chatting about life in modern coffee shops and bars.

Why should I visit Tirana?
Tirana has a vibrant cafe, bar and restaurant culture.

Our accommodation, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel is the only major branded hotel in Albania. Its facilities and staff are exactly what you’d expect from a Marriott/SPG grouped hotel. Quality. The hotel has hosted many famous dignitaries like Hilary Clinton and the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Therefore, you never know who you might bump into during your stay.

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The hotel is located an easy ten minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Yet, somehow the hotel feels secluded from the rest of the city. This might be because it backs onto Tirana’s popular Grand Park, with Mother Teresa square and the University of Arts and Polytechnic buildings next door.

The Grand Park of Tirana next to the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
Families playing at one of the many equipment stations in Tirana’s Grand Park

On arrival to the hotel we are welcomed by the hotel’s concierge and directed to the reception desk. From first impressions, you immediately feel relief as a wave of comfort washes over you. The lobby area is large and well decorated which leads to the hotel’s superb Infinity Bar and business corner.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The business corner at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

The Infinity Bar is a great place to relax and have a beer, a cocktail, coffee or glass of wine. For those food and wine connoisseurs, I suggest trying their small tasting plates with matching wines.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel's Infinity Bar.
The comfortable Infinity Bar. Try their small tasting plates and matching wine combination.

We are quickly checked in, and make our way to our Deluxe King-sized room on the fifth floor. The room is large with an extremely comfortable King-sized bed. In fact, it was so comfortable, one day we wanted to stay in bed all day. Alas, that didn’t happen, because we had so much to do, but we wanted too!

What are the rooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
The spacious and extremely comfortable Deluxe King Sized Room

The luxurious room also has a single lounge seat, glass table, a decent sized desk and chair, telephone, a fully stocked mini bar and television offering various channels. In-room security is also available with each room having a small safe. WiFi is also available in all rooms with excellent connectivity.

What are the rooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
Other features found in the Deluxe King Room of the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

The separate bathroom contains a shower, toilet, basin and a decent sized bath. Rooms are serviced daily and although there are clean, the multi shaded tile colour inside the shower makes the shower area look less than flattering. Sheraton Hotel supplies its own brand of toiletries to use which are restocked daily or on request. An environmental conscious hotel, the Sheraton gives guests the option of foregoing servicing of their rooms in return for 450ALL (Albanian Lek), 500 SPG points, or a donation to a charity per day.

What are the bathrooms like at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
The bathroom of the Sheraton Tirana Hotel.

The Sheraton Tirana Hotel has approximately 150 available rooms, from standard rooms to luxury suites. All are homogeneously decorated and look as comfortable as our deluxe room. The two roomed suites are perfect for families as extra beds or cots can be added to keep everyone together.

Places to stay in Tirana/Tirana accommodation/Tirana hotels/Sheraton Tirana Hotel
A standard twin room at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel. How comfortable do those beds look!

With summer temperatures in Tirana reaching between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius, you will come to love the Sheraton Tirana Hotels pools. We spent two afternoons cooling off and relaxing by the outdoor pool. It would be easy to waste a day or two relaxing by the pools ordering food and drink from the O2 pool bar. The crystal clear pools were so refreshing with sunbeds strategically placed for the best rays.

Does the Sheraton Tirana Hotel have a swimming pool?
One of the crystal clear pools at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel.
Pool bar at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel
The O2 pool bar has food and drinks available.

If fitness is more up your alley, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel has a manned fitness area available. Let the instructor help you with a program or work out by yourself. They have a variety of exercise equipment at your disposal. Alternatively, if you’re feeling some muscle tightness the hotel has a Thai masseuse contracted to help their guests recover.

Sheraton Tirana Hotel's fitness centre
The fitness area has a variety of equipment available on the first floor.
Sheraton Tirana Hotel
More equipment from the gym.

The hotel isn’t short of food options for its guests. Breakfast is served daily in the Metropolitan restaurant. Other food options are available to be purchased from the Infinity Bar, O2 pool bar or Il Pomodoro restaurant in the hotels mall area.

Breakfast at the Metropolitan restaurant in the Sheraton Tirana hotel
Breakfast is served daily in the Metropolitan Restaurant

In the evenings, let Head Chef, Davide Concas inspire your palates with his standard or special seasonal menu. Once again, match your choices with some of the quality wines available. I couldn’t go past his roasted leg of lamb with wine braised spring onion and mint yoghurt, matched with a beautiful Cadet D’OC Cabernet Sauvignon.

What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
A roasted leg of lamb with wine braised spring onion and mint yoghurt sauce
Sheraton Tirana Hotel/ Metropolitan Restaurant/ Beef Fillet/ Tirana / Albania
Beef fillet with baby potatoes, glazed vegetables and red wine.

We also ordered a succulent beef fillet with baby potatoes, glazed vegetables and a red wine sauce, grilled octopus and herbed falafel. For dessert, we tried Davide’s homemade vanilla ice cream and his Winter Pudding. The meal was delightful and sated our appetites.

What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Grilled Octopus
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Herbed Falafel
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Homemade vanilla Ice cream. Yum!
What's the food like at the Metropolitan Restaurant.
Winter Pudding with panna cotta, sour cherry sauce and mixed nuts.

For SPG Platinum members the Club Lounge looks like a wonderful place to spend a few hours. With access to premium internet services, snacks and drinks throughout the day and dinner served at night. This peaceful area is a good place to catch up on some work or  with each other.

What benefits do platinum members receive at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel?
SPG Platinum members will enjoy the hotels Club Lounge

Overall, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel is a terrific place to stay whilst in Albania. The quality of the SPG/Marriott product and service levels are excellent. The concierge is always helpful with tips on places to visit and the best way to get there. They have an AVIS car rental office on site which offers day tours to other Albanian cities. Or stop at the souvenir shop to buy some presents for relatives back home. The hotel is connected to a small mall area with a few stores, a bank, coffee shop and cinema complex. Alternatively, relax by the pool, or take a walk through the Grand Park. There is always something to make you feel like you’re on holiday.

With plenty of things to do and visit in Tirana, the Sheraton Tirana Hotel will look after you and make your stay worthwhile. Although, a little more expensive than other hotels in Tirana, you can’t go past the quality and luxury of the hotel. So, make Albania one of your stops in Europe. Book your stay at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Where to stay in Tirana, Albania
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Additional Information for the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

Address: Sheshi Italia, Tirana 1000, Albania
Ph: +355 4 227 4707
Website: www.sheratontiranahotel.com

Become a SPG member and reap the rewards.

Book your stay at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel now with Sheraton Hotels or Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Sheraton Tirana Hotel

Ranging from €103(AUD$150)  for a standard  deluxe room– €2255.00 (AUD$3350) for the Presidential suite per night.

Check in: 1200hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

Breakfast daily in the Metropolitan restaurant

  • from 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m daily

Metropolitan:

Main Dishes prices range from 850ALL (AUD$9.50) to 2200ALL (AUD$24.50)

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 6:30 AM – 11:00 PM (last order 10:30 PM)

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Two Nights at the Novotel Sofia

I must admit Sofia has surprised us. A city with diversity and culture, which has been conquered and ruled by various Empires over its amazing history. A city whose people have lived in harmony alongside each other for generations. A country with different religions, different ethnicity’s, and different political mindsets, Bulgaria has had to whether it all. From the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Nazi’s trying to deport the Jewish community during WWII and Communism, the Bulgarian people have shown their tenacity and pride and Sofia reflects that to its visitors.

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During our stay in Sofia we’ve stayed in a variety of accommodations available for tourists. For our last days, we were lucky enough to stay in the Novotel Sofia.

Novotel Sofia
The Novotel Sofia

The Novotel Sofia has 178 rooms available and is located approximately 7 kilometres from the city and 5 kilometres from Sofia International Airport. With us already being in Sofia, we decided to see if it was possible to travel to the Novotel Sofia via the Metro. This proved to be a bit of a task. The Metro in Sofia has only two interconnecting lines. Therefore, the closest Metro station to the Novotel Sofia was Druzhba Station which proved to be a difficult 2 kilometres walk to the hotel.

I would recommend not pursuing this option to get to the hotel, unless the city creates a closer Metro line. Alternatively, the hotel runs a shuttle bus to and from the International Airport. So, the best option would be to take the Metro to the airport and organise the hotel to pick you up from there. This option would be ideal, especially if you arrive into Sofia via the central bus or train station. Alternatively, a taxi would also be an option.

What's the best way to get to the Novotel Sofia from the Airport?
The best way to and from the hotel is by catching the courtesy bus from the Airport terminals .

After seeing the profile hotel during our walk we immediately knew we would appreciate our stay at the Novotel. On entering the hotel, you have the reception and Europcar desks to the right and the Novo 2 bar and restaurant to the left with the hotels elevators facing the entry turnstile. On first impressions, the hotel looks modern with comfortable seating in the lobby and a nice lounge bar area to relax in.

Novo 2 at the Novotel Sofia
The Novo 2 bar and lounge areas are the perfect place to relax and have a drink or two.

The friendly staff quickly checked us in and we make our way to the 15th floor, and our room for the next two nights. I must say the view from the 15th floor isn’t too bad!

What's the view like from the Novotel Sofia
Not a bad view from the 15th Floor of the Novotel Sofia
Novotel Sofia
Watching a rain cloud rolling in over Sofia in the afternoon.

The Novotel Sofia boasts three types of room available to its guests, the Executive room, the Superior room and a Suite. For our stay, we have been allocated a Superior room, which is a decent size. It contains a Queen sized bed, television, coffee facilities, fridge, a long desk and comfy day-bed. The room continues the modern theme of the hotel, with the guest information and in-house dining menu via the smart television and “My Menu” app.

What does the Novotel Sofia Superior room look like?
The nicely decorated and modern superior room of the Novotel Sofia

Our bathroom is clean and uncluttered, with a large shower and semi enclosed toilet. The wash basin area has some hotel toiletries and enough space for your personal items. A surprise novelty, is that the bathroom and sleeping area are separated by frosted glass, which can be defrosted by a push of a button in the shower. So, be careful, or not, each to their own :-).

What do the bathrooms at the Novotel Sofia look like?
The bathroom is large and clean with a frosted glass separator. Be careful of the defrost button.
What toiletries do they use at Novotel Sofia
Novotel Sofia’s Fair Trade bathroom toiletries

A family friendly hotel the Novotel Sofia caters well for those travelling with children. There is an excellent range of children’s television channels in the room and located on the first floor is a kid’s zone with an electronic dart board and a X-box station with a variety of cool games.

What can kids do at the Novotel Sofia?
Children will have hours of fun, playing X-Box at the Novotel Sofia

For the parents, the Novo 2 bar on the ground floor is a comfortable place to have a drink and watch some sport on the television. For wine, try the Minkov Brothers or Four Friends, and the Zagorka for beer. All are good Bulgarian wine and beer brands.

Relaxing in the lounge bar of the Novotel Sofia
It’s time for a refreshing Zagorka and a Four Friends Rosé

If you’d rather book a relaxing massage, have a sauna or a workout, go to the In-Balance Fitness room. Turn on some music and exercise to your heart’s content. They have a limited selection of equipment but I didn’t have any trouble accessing the machines and weights.

What the gym like at the Novotel Sofia
Looking for a workout. Try the In-Balance Fitness centre at the Novotel Sofia

For those on business or looking for a place to meet, the hotel has some meeting rooms and a small business corner on the first floor, to do some work.

Breakfast at the Novotel Sofia
Breakfast is served daily from 7 a.m

Meals can be taken at Novo 2, with an excellent range for breakfast items commencing at 7 a.m. Whilst lunch and dinner can be served at the bar or formal dining area. Head Chef, Penko Neshev has created a wholesome menu with classic hotel food and traditional Bulgarian dishes. We had a decent meal selecting a range of foods to try.

Novotel Sofia food
A traditional Balkan Platter
Novotel Sofia food
A standard Novo2 beef burger with a side of wedges
Risotto at the Novotel Sofia
Novotel’s Risotto with mushrooms, parmesan cheese and a melted cheese biscuit

If you opt to go out for something to eat, the Shopping Centre called “The Mall” is about 50 metres from the hotel and has a few restaurants and food outlets inside. Additionally, if you decide you want to indulge in shopping, then there are plenty of stores here that will happily accommodate.

The Mall near the Novotel Sofia
The Mall shopping centre is close by with all your shopping needs.

Overall, the Novotel Sofia is a little outside of the city centre, but still a lovely place to stay. With access to the shuttle bus and the Mall nearby, you should have no trouble in getting around the city or access to shopping. Alternatively, if you decide you’d like to explore the city and surrounding areas by yourself the Europcar desk on site can organise a car for you. A family friendly hotel, the children will love the X-Box, the dart board and the broad range of television channels if stuck indoors.

So why not book your stay in Sofia today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Novotel Sofia
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Additional Information for the Novotel Sofia

115 N Tsarigradsko Shosse Blvd, 1784 Sofia, Bulgaria
Ph: +359 2 904 3000
Website: www.accorhotels.com

Book your stay at the Novotel Sofia now with Accor Hotels or Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Novotel Sofia

Ranging from €85.00(AUD$125) – €145.00 (AUD$215) per night

Check in: 1200hrs Check Out: 1200hrs

Breakfast daily in the Novo 2 restaurant

  • from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m daily

Novo 2:

Main Dishes prices range from 9.00BGN (AUD$7.00) and 45.00BGN (AUD$34.00)

Opening hours Lunch 12:00 – 14:30pm & Dinner 19:00 – 23:00pm

*Post Contains Affiliate links

Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel

Have you ever stayed at a Best Western Hotel? When we associate Best Western Hotels in Australia, we remember those country roadside motels with nothing around but a petrol station and salt bush. Well that memory has just been shattered! We headed into Sofia and stayed a couple of nights at the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The Best Western Premier Hotel Range

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After spending five days in the seaside city of Varna in Bulgaria we awake early to the news of a 37-degree Celsius day and the knowledge of a 7 hour train ride to the capital of Sofia (such a pretty name). The train ride is no problem! We’ve done longer ones. Unfortunately, the issue is Bulgarian regional trains don’t have air-conditioning. Hence, when we finally get to Sofia, we are exhausted, and not looking forward to the public bus trip to our next hotel stop, the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel.

How did we get to the Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel?
The non-air conditioned wagons of the Bulgarian railways.

So, I break with tradition and we take a taxi to the hotel. I know we overpaid but I just didn’t care at that point. We paid 20BGN to get to the hotel. The normal price should be between 10BGN and 15BGN, so paying an extra 5BGN was no issue and the driver was so happy to make the extra money.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel

From some quick research, the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel has 155 luxurious rooms available, a bar and restaurant, a fitness area and six conference rooms. It is about 12 kilometres from the city centre and within 1 kilometre of both terminals at the Sofia International Airport.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The courtesy bus shuttles guests between the airport terminals, Metro station and the hotel.

Being a brand new hotel it is located on a new road with not much around it. Therefore, it is not the easiest hotel to get to public transport wise. Fortunately, the hotel is aware of the transport limitations and has a courtesy bus available. The hourly run bus transports its guests to and from the airport’s terminals. With a Metro station located at Terminal 2, it is easy to catch the courtesy bus to and from the airport. But make sure you book in your times. Alternatively, if you’d rather stay in for the day at the hotel, you can entertain yourself using the available facilities.

Plane spotting from Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
If you like planes and are lucky enough to have a room on the right side,. You can watch them land at Sofia.

On arrival at the hotel you enter its large lobby area, with the reception desk to the left and a lounge area to the right. Alongside the reception desk they have a business area, where you can sit and do some work in peace, if required. Additionally, further along the lobby hall are the elevators and the Barillon 1909 restaurant and bar.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The friendly staff is busy working behind the reception desk.
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The business centre office is located right next to the reception desk.
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Relax in the lobby lounge area.

The friendly reception staff promptly check us in and direct us to our Premier King Room. The Premier Room is spacious and clean, with a comfortable king-sized bed, a day lounge, a television, coffee facilities and a good-sized desk/workstation. As you can see below, the room is neatly decorated with large windows letting in the afternoon sun. Our room was on the eighth floor which had a pleasant view of Sofia airport, where it was nice to sit and watch the planes landing and taking off.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The King-sized bed in the Premier King Room. It was very comfortable 🙂
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The reverse photo of the Premier King Room

The rooms separate bathroom is a descent size and in pristine condition. There is plenty of room in the shower and the water pressure and temperature are easy to control. A large bench area allows room for your additional toiletries and make up. The rooms are cleaned daily with the hotel honouring its environmental promise, by only changing the towels when required by the guests. Best Western Hotels also supply a good range of bathroom toiletries if you happen to forget or run out of something.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The bathroom is clean and has a large bench area to store your toiletries
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
The bathroom toiletries available at the Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel

For those of you that are fitness conscious, the hotel has a 24 hour, unsupervised gym located on the 1st floor.  The gym boasts a variety of exercise equipment that will provide you with a descent workout. They also provide change room facilities and lockers if you would rather change or shower there instead of tracking back through the hotel or are there for business.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
There is a 24 hr gym on site with a variety of exercise machines.

Talking about business, the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel, is an ideal place for local and international businesses to hold functions or meetings. The hotel offers 6 conference halls with the ability to cater for 450 guests. These facilities would be ideal for events, conventions or weddings in Sofia.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Looking for your conference room? Just follow the signs.

Breakfast is served daily at the Barillon 1909 restaurant and bar from 7 a.m. They also provide continental breakfast options from 4 a.m for those guests with early morning flights.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Breakfast is served daily from 7 a.m in Barillon 1909

Whilst there, spend your evenings at Barillon 1909 with a cocktail at the bar. It’s a welcome place to meet some fellow travellers. Otherwise, let Ivan Dmitrov and his team entertain your taste buds by having a delicious meal in the restaurant.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Have a cocktail and mingle with other travellers at the Barillon bar
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Let Ivan Dmitrov look after you with his delicious food in the Barillon Restaurant.

Head Chef, Ivan Dmitrov has created a quality menu for customers to the Barillon 1909 restaurant and bar. His menu has a good range of Mediterranean and classic European dishes and a superb balance of local and international wines. During our time at the hotel, we tried some of the dishes available, from their standard and seasonal menus. The restaurant is comfortable and the staff are pleasant and attentive to your dietary needs. In my opinion, the quality of the food was above average and would rate Ivan’s food better than most other hotel restaurants.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Parmesan chicken with vegetable risotto
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Traditional Bulgarian Lamb Shanks
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Chicken Risotto with mushrooms, spinach and blue cheese
Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
Penne with “Calabro” spicy salami and meatballs

Overall, our stay at the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel has shattered our misconceptions of the Best Western Hotel brand. This hotel is worth the stay and the use of the shuttle bus to transport you to and from the Terminal 2 Metro station means that you aren’t too far from the centre of Sofia. The rooms, facilities and restaurant are impressive and the staff are friendly and helpful. The hotel gets a big tick from me. It would be especially good if you happen to have a layover in Sofia. The quality of service in addition to the comfort level is just what you desire when you want to have a good rest between flights.

This experience has opened our eyes to the Best Western Brand so forget those roadside motel impressions and stay at a Best Western hotel today. Therefore, when you’re next in Sofia, and looking for a place to stay, why not try the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel
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Additional Information for the Best Western Premier: Sofia Airport Hotel

11 Brussels, Boulevard, Sofia, 1592, Bulgaria
Ph: +359 2 905 1313
Website: www.hotelpremiersofia.com

Book your stay at the Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel:

Ranging from €71.00(AUD$106) – €93.00 (AUD$140) per night

Barilion 1909 caters for breakfast daily

  • from 7:00 a.m. daily

Barilion 1909 Restaurant and Bar opening times:

Main Dishes prices range from 18.00BGN (AUD$14.00) and 81.90BGN (AUD$62.00)

Opening hours 07:00 – 23:00
Reservations by phone at: +359 2 905 1313

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Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour

If you were to tell me before we started this trip that I’d be going to visit a salt mine, I may have laughed. That would be because in Australia when I think about salt mines, I picture a stark salt pan. Therefore, when we were looking for another tour to do in Krakow we wanted something less emotionally draining than the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour we did the day before. The Krakville tour operator suggested for us to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. So, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided why not?

Urban Adventure Tours

The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and consists of 300kms of tunnels. The mine has been in operation since the 13th Century (that’s an old mine) and is open for visitors daily from 07:30 a.m to 07:30 p.m. The mine can be visited without a tour group, but you may have a long wait depending on the number of visitors and tour groups.

The tour starts mid-morning and our meeting point for the start of the tour is the Krakville office building in the Old Town Krakow. Once again, we are given identification stickers to ensure we aren’t separated from our group. This straight away tells us that the mine is busy. We all climb into mini vans and are driven approximately half an hour to the town of Wieliczka.

Auschwitz and Birkenau
The small office of the Krakville Tour Company in the Old Town

It’s not long before we are at the mine and climb the steps to the mines entrance. On arrival it is raining, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds from showing up. There is a large number of tour group already here and a fair contingent of lone travellers negotiating the throng of people. The mine has some additional souvenir shops and a cafe outside if you must wait for a while.

The waiting crowds have some shops to buy food before entering the Wieliczka Salt Mine
An outdoor shop at the Wieliczka Salt Mine

After a short wait, we are guided past the crowds and into the mine. We are given radio receivers so that we can hear the guide as she explains the enormity of the mine. First, we descend down 350 steps to the entry-level of the mine. Like a column staircase you’d find in a hundred-floor building we descend down and down. It is quite a work out and if you make the mistake and go to fast down, you can get quite dizzy.

Staircase in Wieliczka Salt Mine
Some of the flights of stairs going down, but these aren’t the first 350 steps.

At the bottom of the stairs the guide checks to make sure we are all alive after the workout and explains the ground rules of the tour. Like don’t wander off, as there are so many tunnels, therefore getting lost is quite easy.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the many places of worship in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

As we walk through the tunnels we encounter open chambers within the mine providing a visual aid about the construction and operation of the mine. In total there are 20 chambers available to be visited. The guide explains that the workers would construct churches, halls, theatres and specific carvings as they were down in the mine for large amounts of time.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
The story of the Hungarian Princess and the lost ring.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The main hall is hired out for special occasions.

We walk through various places of worship and are shown some of the incredible wall fresco’s etched by the workers. Photos are allowed to be taken at a small additional cost and there are photo permit places along the route. The mine also has an underground souvenir store and a large restaurant and cafeteria area.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
A formal dining area in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Food is available at the cafeteria in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Overall, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a worthwhile attraction with the website stating that tourists should allow three hours to visit the site. The temperature of the mine averages 14 degrees Celsius so warm jackets are handy. You will be amazed at the chambers and carvings done by the workers. Photos are a must so my advice is pay for the permit. So, book your tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Wieliczka Salt Mine
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Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine

ul. Mikolajska 8, Krakow
Ph: +48 607 750 901
Website: www.krakville.com

Cost 109PLN (AUD$38)

Trading Hours
  • Daily from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M.
  • Price includes:
  • transport by bus to and from Salt Mine
  • tour attendant
  • guide in Salt Mine
  • admission fees
  • duration 4 h

Available accommodation in Krakow

Other tours available through Urban Adventures

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Bran Castle the home of Dracula

What are the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Transylvania? If you are like me you think of Dracula, vampires, dark nights and scary castles. Through the popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Transylvania has always had an intrigue for travellers. With many fans doing the trek to visit Bran Castle, commonly known as “the home of Dracula”.

Urban Adventure Tours

During our travels, we always had Romania pencilled in as a possible country to visit and after some investigations we decided to base ourselves in Sighișoara and do a day trip to Bran Castle. Although Bran Castle is the home of Stoker’s Dracula, Sighișoara is the actual birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration behind the character.

Vlad Dracul
A portrait of Vlad the Impaler in Bran Castle.

Arguably, one of the prettiest villages in Romania, this picturesque village is home to one of the oldest medieval citadels in Romania. With its many Church’s, restaurant’s and residences located on top of a hill the colourful town oozes character.

Sighisoara, Romania
Beautiful Sighișoara, with one of the many church’s in the medieval citadel.

For our day tour to Bran Castle we opted to go with someone who knew Transylvania well. After a quick internet search about tours from Sighișoara, we came across, Emanuel Enache. Emanuel is the owner and primary tour guide for tour business, YourGuidein Transylvania. Emanuel offers his customers personalised tours throughout Transylvania, so we booked him to take us to Bran Castle. Booking was easy through his website, and he responded back quickly to organise morning pick up’s and inclusive tour information.

The Doubletree by Hilton Sighisoara
The Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara, our base for our stay in Transylvania

The tour commences at 10:00 a.m with Emanuel picking us up from our hotel during our stay the Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara. After introductions Emanuel places emphasis on us becoming friends from the start. His point of us meeting possibly only once in a lifetime is a good excuse for us to be friends from the outset. It’s not hard to like him, with his bubbly character and charm.

Transylvania and Bran Castle
The Transylvanian countryside.

The drive from Sighișoara to Bran Castle takes two hours, which fly by as Emanuel provides us with the history of the Transylvanian region, economy and life. This insight gives us an appreciation of the Romanian people and its culture. Emanuel has no set schedule to his tours, he allows his guests to dictate when they would like to stop for lunch or rest breaks along the way.

Once in Bran, Emanuel allows us to walk around the souvenir tents and food stalls whilst he organises skip the line entry into the castle. The various stalls show off their Dracula inspired souvenirs, from magnets, coffee cups and T-shirts. There is something for everyone!

Some of the souvenirs available at Bran Castle
If you are looking for a Dracula souvenir, then the Bran Castle stall’s will have something for you!

Bran Castle is one of the seven castles of Wallachia, and although Vlad the Impaler ruled the region during his reign from 1448. It is unknown if he used Bran Castle. This doesn’t take away from the breathtaking visual of this castle on the hill. Today it is mainly a museum to Queen Marie of Romania, who lived in the castle during her lifetime.

A bedroom in Bran Castle
One of the bedrooms inside Bran Castle, the furniture was all donated back to the Castle.

The three level castle is impressive, like many castles throughout Europe, so if you like castles then have a visit, the picture of Bran castle on the hill is a good photo to show your friends. Emanuel is excellent explaining the rooms, and the history of Queen Marie and the royal family, there is some rooms dedicated to the vampire myth, but they aren’t that interesting.

Inside Bran Castle
The interior of the three-levelled Bran Castle

Overall, Bran Castle by itself is something I wouldn’t do by myself. It is a nice drive but the castle is just another castle, if you don’t have the story about it. What made this tour especially worthwhile was Emanuel’s information and conversation about Transylvania, the castle, Dracula and the vampire myth. Emanuel’s engaging personality makes is tour worthwhile. Emanuel offers plenty other tours throughout Transylvania and will pick you up from your accommodation.

Inside Bran Castle
The view from the third floor of Bran Castle

Transylvania itself is a beautiful part of Romania and a definite place to go with its history and pretty towns like Sighisoara and Sibiu. So, contact Emanuel and YourGuideinTransylvania and book your Transylvanian tour today. And tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Do a day trip from Sighisoara with Emanuel, YourguideinTransylvania to visit Bran Castle the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula
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Additional Information for YourGuideinTransylvania’s Bran Castle Day Tour

Strada Ilarie Chendi 35, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
Ph: +40 745 501 861
Website: www.yourguideintransylvania.com

Tour Information
  • Duration/Distance:

    7 – 8 hours / 282 km

    Price: 79 euro/person*

    * minimum 2 pax

    Included:

    – Pick up / drop off at your hotel

    – Transportation

    – English licensed guide

    – Permanent assistance

Available accommodation in Transylvania, Romania

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Remarkable value at the Red Trees Apartment Budapest

Budapest is a city that I feel at home in right away. I don’t  know why, but everything seems easy. After an overnight train from Krakow and a solid night’s sleep, I awake refreshed looking forward to this remarkable city. There’s something about train rides that puts me at ease. They seem to rock me to sleep like a baby. Of course, without the screaming and hollering in the middle of the night.

Red Trees Apartment, Budapest
The overnight train from Krakow to Budapest.

Urban Adventure Tours

For our four days, we are booked into the Red Trees Apartment. The apartment complex is a little hard to locate at first but it runs off the main tourist strip of Váci utca (street). Transport to the apartment building is easy from the Budapest train station. Public transport tickets are easily purchased from ticket machines at the train stations and bus stops.  Ferenciek Tere is the closest metro train to the Red Trees Apartment with the exit concourse within metres of Kígyó utca. Due to an early arrival into Budapest the agent Attila, is happy to meet us so we can store our luggage in the apartment whilst it is being cleaned.

Historically, Budapest is two cities Buda and Pest separated by the mighty Danube and today there is still a friendly rivalry between the two sides. The main reasoning behind booking the Red Trees Apartment was its incredible location. Right on the tourist strip and so close to transport and attractions the Red Tree Apartments was perfect.

Red Trees Apartment
The view of Pest from the Buda side.

The apartment itself is big. It consists of two large sleeping areas, a bathroom, toilet and kitchen. Coffee and sugar were supplied on our stay and the small shop next door is handy for everyday items. If you’d like a larger shop for groceries an Aldi, Spar and Tesco are close by.

Red Trees Apartment, Budapest
The large main bedroom has three large windows overlooking Kígyó Utca.

The main bedroom has three large windows each with a roller shutter to stop the morning sun waking you up too early. The large double bed is comfortable with a sofa and desk. The second living area, separated from the main room by double doors, has a double bed, and dining table.

Red Trees Apartment Budapest
The second bedroom is also the dining area.

Compared to the two main living areas the bathroom is small. It has a small bath tub with a shower head. With no ability to hang the shower head on the wall bathing is better sitting down, unless you appreciate water everywhere. The bathroom also has a good working washing machine but you will have to supply your own laundry powder. With four of us staying in the apartment, hot water was no problem.

Red Trees Apartment Budapest
The small bathroom with bath, basin and washing machine.

The apartments kitchen would not be considered as modern, but it is functional. With a gas stove, fridge, microwave, toaster and kettle we could make it a little like home. The kitchen has sufficient utensils, cutlery and plates. The only issue we discovered was that there was no igniter to light the gas stove. Thankfully the shop next door stocked lighters.

Red Trees Apartment, Budapest
The kitchen in the Red Trees Apartment, with stove, fridge and microwave.

As mentioned above the bathroom was small, but possibly the surprise of the large apartment is the toilet is tiny. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a large person. I’m about 176cm tall and weigh about 85kgs. However, I struggled to fit in the toilet. If you happen to be a bigger person, good luck shutting the toilet door.

Overall, the Red Trees apartment was comfortable. The location is perfect, you have access to restaurants, shopping, attractions, bars and clubs. The area is safe, and the people are friendly. The apartment is located on the second floor but there is a lift so you don’t have to lug baggage up any stairs. We did notice their apartment has no television, but the Wi-Fi had good connectivity. The beds were comfortable and with the roller shutters closed, you could silence any outside noise. So, book your stay at the Red Trees Apartment today, and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Red Trees Apartment Budapest
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Additional Information for the Red Trees Apartment

Kígyó utca 4-6, Budapest, Hungary
Website: www.red-trees-apartment.go-budapest-hotels.com

Check-in:from 16:00 hours
Check-out:until 12:00 hours

Book your stay at the Red Trees Apartment now.

Prices of accommodation:

Approximate Cost per night   €70 (AUD$107)

Available tours in Budapest by Urban Adventures

Red Trees Apartment Rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)

Location = 10
Comfort= 8
Cleanliness = 8
Price = 8
Facilities = 7

Overall = 8

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Dining at La Grande Mamma, Krakow

Urban Adventure Tours

The old town in Krakow is always alive with tourists buzzing around taking in the history and sights. Krakow offers visitors many ways to discover this city, from Segway tours to horse and cart rides. Street stalls and boutique stores are happily selling their merchandise to happy shoppers. With the many restaurants offering a wide range of local and international cuisines.

Food vendors are everywhere throughout the city. You can try some traditional Polish cuisine, or visit a food stall in the main square barbecuing massive amounts of meat. There’s fast food franchises, if that takes your fancy, or the many fine dining choices supplying foods from around the world. With so many choices we select the Italian inspired La Grande Mamma.

With so many food options in Krakow. Try La Grande Mamma in the old town's main square
La Grande Mamma’s Al fresco seating, taken from the main square

Located on one of the corners of the main square, La Grande Mamma is an Italian inspired fine dining restaurant that offers decent quality food.  Upon entry into this old building you immediately enter the heart of the restaurant where all the action occurs. Here, there is a central preparation bench with one of the kitchen staff preparing assorted menu items.

La Grande Mamma
The preparation table in the font room of La Grande Mamma

Once greeted by the waiting staff, we are directed into one of the quieter side rooms and seated at a lovely table overlooking the square.

La Grande Mamma
One of the nicely decorated quieter rooms.

The restaurant has a decent range of wines available by the glass or bottle and their food menu is full of modern and traditional Italian cuisine. On this occasion, we selected a basic Margherita pizza, a Calzone farcito and their Filetto di maiale for our main meals. And followed that up with Creme brulee and a Meringa con mascarpone for dessert.

La Grande Mamma
The current menu at La Grande Mamma

The Margherita pizza was just a plain tomato puree on a thin base with cheese. It was approximately 30 cm in circumference, so quite large for one person, but I feel it was missing that fresh basil that garnishes most Margherita pizzas.

La Grande Mamma
La Grande Mamma’s basic Margherita Pizza. Unfortunately it was missing fresh basil.

Our Calzone farcito contained tomato puree, mozzarella cheese, ham, salami and champignon mushrooms, encased in a folded and sealed pizza base. When cracked open the heat and fragrances were wonderful. A well cooked dish, but rather plain-looking with a sprinkling of dry herbs.

La Grande Mamma
La Grande Mamma’s Calzone farcito. Well cooked, but it’s presentation needs some work!

The next plate was the Filetto di maiale, which is pistachio covered pork loin. It is served on a bed of potato puree, zucchini and red wine sauce. Beautifully cooked, the Filetto di maiale would be my pick of the dishes. Superbly balanced flavours but once again the presentation of the dish could be improved.

La Grande Mamma
A Filetto di maiale from La Grande Mamma

After the main meals were completed the efficient and friendly waiting staff cleared our plates and prepared the table for our upcoming desserts. The first dish to arrive was the Creme Brulee. Now, Creme Brulee’s would possibly be MacKenzie’s and my most favourite dessert, as we do tend to compare them against each other. When La Grande Mamma’s Creme Brulee arrived, we were quite excited to see how it stacked up against the ones we’ve had elsewhere.

La Grande Mamma
Does anyone want some Creme Brulee?

Although small in size the presentation of the Creme Brulee was better to that of the main meals. That was due to the contrasting colours used in the dish. The hard caramel cover was well done, but the actual custard base was a little grainy in texture, not that smooth consistence that is required. The flavour was okay, but not a show stopper.

La Grande Mamma
Meringa con mascarpone, we have a winner!

Our next dessert was the Meringa con mascarpone and from when the waitress placed the plate on our table, we knew we had a winner. The meringue, covered with mascarpone cream and fresh fruit was an instantaneous success. Nicely presented and delicious, it was hard not going back for more!

There are many places to eat in Krakow’s old town and the catchy named La Grande Mamma is situated in a part of the square that isn’t overrun by other tourists and street sellers. The interior is decorated well and the Italian cuisine has good flavour, but lacks the presentation. I do believe that we get the best out of a meal when they satisfy all our senses. La Grande Mamma, ticks most of those boxes, but the main meal presentation could use a little flair.

Overall, La Grande Mamma was a comfortable restaurant to attend, with a good honest food. The price is a little inflated, but all the restaurants are the same in the main tourist area of Old Town Krakow. Make sure you tip the waiting staff. Service charges are not included in the prices and it is expected if they’ve provided good service. Ten percent of the final cheque is the going rate, so if you are on a budget make sure you account for this extra expense. If you are in Krakow, visit La Grande Mamma tonight and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Looking for a place to eat in old town Krakow? Then try La Grande Mamma in the main square for decent Italian food.
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Additional Information for La Grande Mamma

Rynek Główny 26, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Ph: +48 12 430 64 58
Website: www.lagrandemamma.pl

Breakfast Prices Range 19.00 PLN – 68.00 PLN (AUD$6.60 – $23)

Trading Hours
  • Daily: 12 pm – 11 pm

Book accommodation in Krakow with Booking.com

Book a tour in Krakow through Urban Adventures

La Grande Mamma rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)

Decor =8
Atmosphere =8
Service =9
Price = 7
Food =8

Overall = 8

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Animals and Aquariums – The Berlin Zoo and Aquarium

If you have had the pleasure of travelling with children, you would know that sometimes it’s hard to keep them happy. In their minds, Museums and Art Galleries can be boring. That’s because most young children don’t appreciate looking at the ancient pottery from Pompeii or the subject and detail of Rembrandt’s The Nights Watch. Basically, unless there are dinosaurs or places with amazing interactive fun, children become disinterested quickly. They want to go to places like Disneyland,  Sea World or the other major amusement parks. But, at times we all become those little kids and desire that entertainment. Feeling in a fun and happy mood we head off for a day at the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.

Urban Adventure Tours

After a lovely breakfast at Cafe Clave, we decide to walk the 1.1 km from our Scandic hotel to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The entrance to the Berlin Zoo

Now, if this is your first trip to Berlin, you may want to think about purchasing the Berlin Welcome Card. This transport tourist card lasts up to 6 days and covers all your public transport options. It also comes with a booklet containing discounts to many of the major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. Additionally, it comes with that all important city map, so you can see the various tourist sites and construct your touring itinerary accordingly.

The Berlin Welcome Card covers transport and discounts to many major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
The Berlin Welcome Card Booklet

If you are short on time, you can do the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium separately. We opted to combine the two at a discounted price (See below).  Since the zoo is the larger of the two complexes we do the zoo first.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
Some gardens inside the Berlin Zoo

As mentioned the zoo is large, exhibiting a wide range of animals from around the world. Our recommendation is to examine the zoo’s map provided and work out a plan of attack. That way you won’t be backtracking and possibly missing some of the animals. Of course, the information is in German so have your translating app available if you can’t read German.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
One of the zoo keepers feeding the wolves

The zoo has set times for feeding and information on the animals (again in German), but it was still interesting seeing them being fed. From wolves, elephants, gorillas, rhinos, lions, zebras and giraffes it was amazing to see the children’s young faces light up in awe of these magnificent creatures.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The majestic elephant walking around his enclosure
Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
A Rhinoceros in his muddy enclosure

Finding food is not an issue at the zoo as they have a large cafe, a restaurant and many food carts scattered around the park.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
A cafe in the zoo, they also have a restaurant and food carts.

Exciting times are ahead for the Berlin Zoo as they are finishing their new Panda enclosure as they are expecting them to arrive in June 2017.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The street entrance to Aquarium Berlin. There’s another entrance from inside the zoo.

Once you’ve finished in the Berlin Zoo make your way to the Aquarium. Here you will find an arrangement of diverse types of fish, amphibians, reptiles and creepy crawly insects.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
An iguana at Aquarium Berlin

This three-story building holds a vast quantity of fish species of assorted sizes and incredible colours.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
No need to search any further, I found Dory!

There is a warm, humid, central forest area that has some crocodiles, which was inviting on a cooler Berlin day. Like the zoo the aquarium has a cafe, in case you want a snack or coffee.

Overall, both the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium are wonderful places to visit in Berlin. By using the Berlin Welcome Card, we had a 25% discount on the combined price, so great value for money. There is enough fun and intrigue for children to enjoy the day. The zoo also has a large playground area, so your children can burn off some extra energy if required. Visit the zoo and aquarium today and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Want a place to take the family in Berlin! Head to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium for a day of fun.
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Additional Information for the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
Berlin Zoo

Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin
Ph. +49 30 254010
Website: www.zoo-berlin.de

Opening Times
ZOO CASH POINT
1. January – 26. February 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
27. February – 26. March 9:00 am – 6:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
27. March – 24. September 9:00 am – 6:30 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
25. September – 29. October 9:00 am – 6:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
30. October – 31. December 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 9:00 am – 3:30 pm

*Note:

The Zoo closes at 2 p.m. on 24 December.

Please note that the ticket offices close approx. one hour before the zoo closes. The animal houses close 30 minutes before the zoo itself closes.

Aquarium Berlin

Budapester Straße 32, 10787 Berlin
Ph. +49 30 254010
Website: www.aquarium-berlin.de

Opening Times
AQUARIUM
1 January–31 December 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

TICKETS – Berlin Zoo and Aquarium

Aquarium & Zoo – Separate ZOO & AQUARIUM Combination
Adults 14,50 € 20,00 €
Children
4 up to 15 years
7,50 € 10,00 €
Small Families
(1 adult and his or her children up to 15 years)
25,00 € 33,00 €
Large Families
(2 adults and his or their children up to 15 years)
39,00 € 50,00 €
Concession*
students, apprentices, ALG I+II recipients, the severely disabled and their accompaniment, accompaniment if explicitly required on the disabled visitor’s ID
10,00 € 15,00 €

 

Welcome to Berlin Card

For more information on the Welcome to Berlin Card , click here

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