Travel: Thermal Baths, Coffee Houses & Ruin Bars
BUDAPEST, A DYNAMIC CITY OF THERMAL BATHS, COFFEE HOUSES AND RUIN BARS.
Immerse yourself in one of Budapest’s amazing thermal spas, sourced from the natural warm spring waters below the city. Many of the baths are over a century old and are architectural masterpieces. Mud baths, spa treatments and hydrotherapy are popular among locals and visitors alike. Each bath has its own character and feel, so dip your toe into more than one – but be sure to book, as you can imagine, they are very popular! The Gellert Baths are the most famous, but why not give the Rudas or Lukacs Baths a try? Look out for Spa Parties too- a club night in a spa- perfect!
The city is bursting with cool bars and coffee houses but make sure to add some ruin bars to the top of your ‘mustsee’ list. Old abandoned buildings are now home to unique and quirky ruin bars. Many have outdoor gardens and a series of connecting courtyards, each playing a different genre of music, so are great for exploring with a glass of fruit brandy in hand. A good place to start is Szimpla, said to be the original and best ruin bar.
BUCHAREST,THE CITY OF SURPRISES.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Bucharest is anything like the city we’ve just mentioned due to the fact it shares a very similar name, because you couldn’t be more wrong! While Romania’s capital might not immediately jump to the top of your bucket list places to visit, you might want to give this up and coming city a chance. It might make you work a little bit harder to find the charm, but it’s changing fast and really starting to put itself on the map.
The Old Town has been enveloped in regeneration for years and has blossomed into the heart of the city’s nightlife, filled with bars and restaurants. There are so many novel and quirky bars to visit but a couple of our favourites are: Bicicleta,
a bar decorated with disused bicycle parts; and Laboratorul de Cocktailuri, designed in the style of a mixologist’s laboratory with cocktails served in conical flasks. For a daytime jaunt, be sure to pop into Cremeria Emilia which offers the best homemade cakes and ice cream in town!
If you’re a bit of an art lover, The Royal Palace, housing the National Art Museum and some of Rembrandt’s impressive work, is a great place to spend an afternoon. Continue your peaceful adventure in Cişmigiu Park where you can enjoy boating on the lake and a refreshing drink in one of the summer terrace cafes.
SOFIA, THE REVITALISED AND REJUVENATED CITY.
The city is perfectly designed for the avid explorer, with most of the city’s sights in easy walking distance of the centre. Unless you want to ski or hike that is, then you’ll have to take a short bus ride from the city into Mount Vitosha. The mountain is part of the National Park and is worth a visit if simply to take in the great panoramic view of the city. You might even catch a sighting of one of the bears that reside there! If hiking isn’t really your thing, Zest restaurant is a must-visit, offering panoramic views and healthy Mediterranean food from the top floor of the Suite Hotel.
There are a host of other restaurants offering delicious Balkan-infused cuisine in the city, with the majority opting to source home-grown ingredients. Vodenitzata is the place to go for traditional Bulgarian dishes and has lots of vegetarian options on the menu whilst Romance is a haven for anyone with a sweet tooth, offering a selection of sugary treats. Sofia is full of Soviet architecture but make sure you get out and explore because there are some rather green and leafy parts to the city, speckled with handsome mosques, monuments and churches. The Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral has been named one of the most aweinspiring pieces of architecture in the Balkans, dusted in gold leaf and built in memory of the Russian soldiers who died fighting for their country’s independence. Borisova Gradina is a great place for a stroll and to soak up the great outdoors.
MADRID, THE SPANISH CAPITAL WITH A VIBRANT CHARM
Whilst everyone immediately thinks of Barcelona as the go-to Spanish city, there is a new hot spot drawing the cosmopolitan crowds: Madrid. Unfairly overlooked in the past, the sunny metropolis of Madrid is the new place to visit. The city not only boasts the title of one of Europe’s culinary capitals, but it is also home to more bars than any other city on earth. The tapas here is like no other and is so popular with visitors and locals alike that going out for tapas has become a tradition. Head to La Latina neighbourhood and do tapas the local way – hitting up multiple spots along Calle Cava Baja, sampling the best dishes each place has to offer. For the ultimate tasting experience, head down to Mercado de San Miguel, a stunning market with wrought-iron and glass walls selling fresh produce and incredible gourmet tapas dishes.
‘The Golden Triangle’ is at the heart of the buzzing art scene that Madrid boasts. The Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía National Museum proudly display famous works from Spanish masters including the likes of Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica.
That said, don’t feel like you need to pay an entrance fee to experience contemporary art in this city. Adopt a slower pace, keep your eyes wide open and truly absorb the wonders that the streets of Madrid have to offer. Whether that is in tiny plazas dotted along little streets, or derelict car parks, the city is brimming with creativity. For something a little different, discover Matadero Madrid, the city’s former slaughterhouse that has since been transformed into a centre for visual and performing arts.
Pick from a choice of fourteen flights a week from Birmingham Airport to Madrid with one of four top European airlines – Iberia Express, Norwegian, Monarch or Ryanair. Flights will be operating every day of the week apart from Saturday.
Fly to Sofia and Budapest with Wizz Air, the largest low cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, from Birmingham Airport. Flights to Sofia start on 27th March and will operate twice weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays. The route to Budapest is currently in operation but the summer schedule will commence from 27th March with flights switching from Tuesdays and Saturdays to Wednesdays and Sundays.
There will be two airlines operating to Bucharest this summer from Birmingham Airport. Both Wizz Air and Blue Air will be running the route. Flights with Blue Air will start on 29th March whilst Wizz Air will be flying from 22nd May. The flight time is just over 3 hours from Birmingham Airport.
Book now to any of these amazing city break destinations at www.birminghamairport.co.uk/let-me-book’