Packages holidays are a thing of the past, it’s all about going it alone. We’ve been thinking of some of our top places to visit in 2014, some off the traditional tourist track, punctuated with some staple backpacker gems.
Budapest, capital of Hungary has got it going on. Forget Ibiza, Malia is off the list, even Kavos can go in the trash, it’s all about this Eastern European delight. 50 years of Soviet oppression has sent the Hungarians wild. By day the city is the eastern block’s centre of culture, by night it’s an insomniac’s paradise.
The days of battle in Hungary may long be over, but the city has kept some its dented charm, in the form of the ruins bars. Imagine a courtyard open to the elements, a tough door policy, cheap beers and ear shattering bass, until 7am, every night of the week. Instant, Szimpla and Fogas Ház, to name but a few, host some of the best nights this side of the Rhine, where dilapidation of the buildings may be cool, but the crowd are very much more refined.
The city boasts over 100 museums and galleries, over 40 theatres and the oldest subway line on the continent. Take a trip down the Danube, it boasts architecture that’d fans of South Bank would be proud of, whilst Andrássy út is a boulevard of high-end boutiques and international fashion houses. Summer sees the appearance of Sziget, a week-long festival come party come ravers dream, attracting acts from around the globe, headliners in 2013 included Netsky, Franz Ferdinandand Chase and Status. It is safe to say Budapest holds a special place in our hearts.
Tear down those barriers and head to Berlin, Western Europe’s nightlife capital. Saturday night was the crown jewels then Berlin would be the Tower of London.
Albeit a bit more pricey than further east, Berliners don’t wait until the weekend to get their gladrags on, it’s not unusual to be heading out for breakfast and rubbing shoulders with revelers still going from the night, or even the weekend, before.
However, it isn’t all house music and cheap beer, Berlin has a more serious side. The city serves as a living museum to the times of the Nazi-party, when Hilter ran the roost. Evidence of the wall is fading, you won’t find any monuments to the dictator, but the city is still very much aware of its past.
Our favourites for reflection include the Jewish memorial, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the death place of over 100,000 people in WW2, and the site of the burning books in May 1933 at Babelplatz. If you’re thinking of doing Berlin on the cheap check out the St. Christopher’s Hostel in Mitte, the area is a bit soviet, complete with an echoing horn opposite the entrance, but the chilled out atmosphere and young crowd make this refueling stop the ideal weekend resting place.
Prague is a bit like York, just with better breweries and an incomprehensible language. Atraditional stop-gap for stag parties the Czech capital has a rep for being a great place for a night out. It lives upto expectations, with Eastern Europe’s biggest nightclub in the city boasting whole 5 floors of lager induced cheesy pop – yeah, it’s a bit crap really.
If the hangover allows it’s well worth taking a trip up to the majestic castle first established in the ninth century. The elevated structure gives magnificent views across the city, and is a fairy-tale setting for a picnic. The castle complex is huge, one of the largest in Europe, so be prepared for the long-haul on this one.
Our favourite parts of Prague are Bakeshop on Kozí (best brownies in the Czech Republic, don’t just take our world for it!) Náměstí Míru is also well-worth a visit, if only to while away the hours listening to the locals dab a hand at the outdoor piano. For ultimate cheese check out the gingerbread museum in the old town, it is surprising how long you can spend looking at load of biscuits. For what Prague lacks in style it makes up for in architecture, and a bloody good pint…
Last, but by no means least, Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, and the best place to feel like you’re being watched by the mafia (you probably are). Brat’s a strange place; it’s the capital city that didn’t really exist until, they re-built a former castle out of concrete on the top of a hill in 1956. The structure is made out of breeze blocks, and is a massive anti-climax after the mammoth walk up from the city, the views make up for it though, proof is in our photo above.
Bratislava is grimy, a bit risky, but hands down fun. We like to be up front here at Reissue, and to be honest, Bratislava doesn’t have an awful lot going for it, think Middlesbrough with a castle. But we love it for its San Andrea’s- esque graffiti, scary looking locals and slightly apathetic (read; crap) tourist attractions. It has been said that the best thing about Bratislava is the good transport connections to Budapest, Prague and Berlin.