Sometimes, a girl needs a vacation, but she’s not into going it alone, and wants the company of like-minded souls looking for a good time.
Enter Contiki. You’ve got a group of about 50 new friends (and a handsome bloke or two) between the ages of 18-35 from all over the world. Enter Eastern Europe, specifically Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic. Your entry point to not only some of the coolest bars in Europe, but also to a very recent turbulent historical past. Since the fall of communism, Eastern Europe is now at its pinnacle of tourism. History is paired with extravagant and elegant architecture, museums and cultural monuments that make for an unforgettable vacation.
Our tour group was in their mid twenties and early thirties, and had the makings of a messy reality show (mainly because the majority of those in our group were video bloggers).
We started in Budapest, our hotel situated on the banks of the Danube. After a traditional Hungarian dinner accompanied by the music of a flirtatious violinist who had a penchant for crossing his eyes, it was off to party. Across the Petofi hid (or bridge) is a party on a boat at A38 (obligatory for those “I’m on a Boat” pictures), where you can hang upstairs or on the main deck overlooking the Danube. In the bottom hull of the ship is a concert space to dance the night away. Even though I was alone that night, I was completely safe walking Danube-side, the waters glistening in the stillness of the night.
Over the next two nights, after our Australian, New Zealand and South African friends emerged from lost hours of sleep, the party got more intense. After a full day of touring amazing sights like the UNESCO World Heritage site, Fisherman’s Bastion and the opulent bathhouses Gellert and Szechenyi for an afternoon soak and massage, we readied ourselves for a crazy night of ruin pubs.
With beer for less than the equivalent of $2 Canadian and pizza inside of popular Szimpla Kert, we were a happy bunch. Frocchs is also a popular drink, a mix of wine and club soda for not much more. I bonded with my new Aussie friend Alys over our romantic histories and witnessing a couple in the throes of way more than kissing in a broken bathtub.
The group really started to bump and grind later on at nightclub Corvin Teto. Up flights and flights of stairs, we set upon a rooftop with plenty of booths, spires and domes surrounding us, the glimpses of sunrise peeking out. Our tour leader, Hugh, called out the special few who got quite friendly on the dance floor the night before. The next night was a little more low key. We ended our time in Budapest with a dinner cruise along the Danube at night. It was one of the highlights of the tour and made extra special with one of our tour members DJing the event.
We decompressed in Vienna. Having a huge king bed in our rooms at the Ramada was a nice surprise, and we managed to enjoy a classical Mozart concert after our dinner at the opulent Schönbrunn Palace. The opera singers and ballet dancers who accompany the classic music were a nice break from the pulsating beats of Budapest. We did end up having our fun at the Prater amusement park, however. We learned that amusement park staff in Vienna don’t exactly take their safety regulations very seriously. One of our girls, Laura, said to the staff, “You didn’t tell me there was a seatbelt on this swing.” The staff replied, “Good.” This would have been a good time to bring out the schnapps and absinthe we brought at the quirky Schnaps museum earlier. At the very least, we were able to get this obnoxious song out of our head.
At that point, we were ready to get to Prague for the last two nights of our tour. We quickly learned that Prague definitely knows how to party; as the designer hotels, shops and multicultural restaurants illustrate, communism is now in the distant past. After our dinner at the historic Municipal Palace near our hotel in the heart of Old Town Square, we parked ourselves in Bed. Yes, Bed, the club complete with all the trimmings of your own home. Mojitos were the drink of the night as we watched the Euro Cup on TV and bonded on the white cushions surrounding the bar. This “nap” quickly readied us for the night to come.
Of course, it was natural to start at the Harley Bar, the tourist bar named after the company that sells motorcycles. Rock ‘n’ roll was on the menu, old pop and rock songs were blaring through the radio and our group was drinking mysterious cinnamon spiced shots delivered to us by our leader. Harley’s boasts an interesting crowd, mainly one that was dancing on bars and compiled of horny American men. And did I mention the Asian prostitute whipping her hair back and forth with her new Czech suitor?
It would be suitable after a traditional Czech meal right in the heart of Old Town at Restaurant Michal that we would all head to a bar called “Double Trouble.” With no itinerary set and the majority of our group leaving on very long, arduous flights the next day, this is where our group got the most rowdy. With a few pre-parties of absinthe and mojitos, we danced and sang along to the music all night. I guess it helped that there was a scantily clad model in lingerie alongside the DJ to set the devilish atmosphere. The boys would have decided to do back flips or handstands, regardless.
Even alone, I felt quite safe in all of these cities, and if a place wasn’t nearby, our tour guide was with us. I partied at places I normally wouldn’t have gone, but having the group there and getting to know them better was the best part. This is one of the reasons doing a tour group with like-minded people is a great idea. It’s your choice!
Berlin to Budapest Tour
1014 Budapest Szentháromság tér 5
Prater Amusement Park, Vienna
Petofi Bridge, Buda Side, Budapest
VII. ker. Budapest,
1073 Kazinczy u. 14.
Corvin Áruház, 4th floor, VIII. Blaha Lujza square 1-2.
Entrance from Somogyi Béla street.
Dlouhá 2, 110 00, Prague
Double Trouble Bar & Club
Old Town, Prague 1
Gellert Spa and Bathhouse
H-1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4.
(on the Buda side of the Liberty Bridge)
Szechenyi Bath and Spa
H-1146 Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 11.
Café Sacher Wien
Philharmonikerstrasse 4, A-1010 (in Hotel Sacher), Vienna
Plzenska Restaurant (Municipal House)
Náměstí republiky 5, 110 00, Praha 1
Náprstkova 8, CZ-11000 Prague 1 (Old Town)
Parndorf Outlet, Vienna
Palladium Mall, Prague
~ Natalie Taylor is a freelance travel writer and blogger living in Toronto. She writes from near and afar at nearafar.com