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Trip Report A little bit of Budapest and Austria and lots of Greece

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We just returned home from five weeks in Europe so thought I’d write up some of the details hoping it might help others in their planning process. It won't be as detailed as some of the great reports that I've read here but hopefully can provide information about some of the logistics, hotels and general impressions of the places we went. So here goes.

On May 4th we flew from West Palm Beach to London (thru Atlanta) using award miles. We have friends who live in England so I won’t include that portion. These were the other places we visited:


Budapest – 3 nights
Durnstein, Austria – 2 nights
Vienna, Austria – 2 nights
Hydra, Greece – 3 nights
Nafplion, Greece – 3 nights
Athens, Greece – 1 night
Volos, Greece – 1 night
Tsagarada (the Pelion Region), Greece – 3 nights
Volos, Greece – 1 night
Skiathos, Skopoleos and Alonnisos, Greece– 7 nights
Vienna Airport – 1 night

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    On Thursday, May 12 we left England and flew to Budapest where we met another couple, friends from home, they travelled with us for the next two in a half weeks.

    5/12 – 5/15
    Budapest, Hungary
    Radisson Blu
    https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-budapest
    We only stayed here because we had award points which made our total bill zero….can’t beat that! Maybe it isn’t the most charming hotel in Budapest but we liked it (maybe it was that price thing!) the location was good, they had a very nice breakfast buffet, the staff was always nice and helpful and our room and bed were comfortable.

    What a great city Budapest is! We ended up doing the hop on/hop off bus which worked pretty well for us. My husband has some back issues so walking long distances is tough for him. Mostly the weather was pretty good although we did have an afternoon and evening of rain but for the most part it was pretty mild. We had some lovely meals --Rosenstein’s was our favorite. We also liked “Vendeglo a Kisbirohoz” on the Buda side.

    We never made it to any of the spas which I know is a shame, we did go to the Gellert Hotel and have a look inside and then on a beautiful afternoon sat outside and had some lovely wine. Went to a ruin bar, took a river cruise, went to the Central Market and hit a couple of cafes. I’m sure we could have gone many more places than we did but this is my second visit and our friends had a couple of days before we arrived so we kind of took it easy.

    5/15 – 5/17
    Durnstein, Austria
    Hotel Sanger Blondel
    http://www.saengerblondel.at
    129 Euros per night

    This was a really nice hotel, comfortable rooms, very charming and the owners were really helpful, breakfast was good too. The only bummer was that they are supposed to have a really good restaurant but it was closed on the days we were there (Sunday and Monday nights). We didn’t really have good luck with restaurants in Durnstein.


    Took the train from Budapest to Krems, got cheap tickets for Budapest to Vienna (13 euros) and then paid the regular price for train from Vienna to Krems. However, I didn’t realize that the tickets were for two different stations. I had bought tickets from Franz Josefs Bahnhof to Krems and we were at Vienna HBF. We ended up taking a taxi across town and made our train no problem. From Krems we took another taxi to Durnstein and our hotel.

    Durnstein is a really cute little village and – very beautiful with lots of shops and lots of charm. The reason for going was to rent bikes and cycle at least part of the Wachau Valley bike trail. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good and forecasted to get even worse but there really isn’t all that much to do there and it was the reason we went so decided to tough it out and rain or shine ride our bikes! Luckily it worked out OK – it only rained hard for a very short time and we were able to pop into a bar for a glass of local wine and wait for it to clear up. We even managed to get some moments of sun – it truly is a beautiful spot. The bike trails are great, no traffic to deal with, it’s a beautiful ride, everything is really well marked and its relatively flat. Very fun!

    5/17 – 5/19
    Vienna, Austria
    Hotel Mailberger Hof
    http://www.mailbergerhof.at/historischer-r-a-ckblick/historischer-r-a-ckblick.htm
    143 euros per night

    This hotel was OK, the location was great, the rooms were good and breakfast was good too. Not sure why I wasn’t head over heals about it. For the most part the staff was really nice but there was one woman who got a little bent out of shape when we asked for directions to a drop off laundry place where you pay by the kilo, she couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t have our laundry done with them (I think to clean a pair of pants was something like 12 euros and each piece of underwear was something like 5). Anyway, we had a ton of laundry and no way are we about to pay more to clean our stuff then some of it is actually worth!

    We really only had one full day in Vienna so walked around the old town and then went out to Schönbrunn Palace which we all really enjoyed. Quite an incredible place. We had schnitzel at Figlmuller and boiled beef at Plachutta. Must say we liked the schnitzel (we split them because they’re huge!) but wasn’t bowled over by our dinner at Plachutta and it was a bit expensive. We went to Central Café for coffee and the yummiest desserts ever. Next day off to Greece!

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    5/19 – 5/22
    Hydra Island, Greece
    Mistral Hotel
    http://www.mistralhydra.gr
    98 euros per night

    Loved this hotel, we were on the top floor with awesome views (but lots of stairs), helpful hosts, very comfortable room and the most awesome breakfast you could ever imagine.

    We flew from Vienna to Athens and took a taxi to Pireaus for our ferry to Hydra. We had a few hours to kill in Pireaus which is not the best introduction to Greece but managed to fill our time, got some lunch and hung out. Lots of homeless around -- cats, dogs and people – kind of sad.

    I have to start off saying that we love Greece. Love the people, love the culture, the food and so many beautiful places to see. I don’t love the stray cats and dogs but I guess its something you get used to. My husband’s grandfather is from Greece so I think he feels like he’s kind of among his people. And we’ve both been a couple times before so have already gone to Santorini, Crete, Paros, Naxos, etc so wanted to try something new and easy to get to without another flight so that’s how we came to choose Hydra and some of the other places that we picked. I think we were both very pleased with our itinerary.

    Anyway, Hydra was very charming and it was nice not to have to dodge cars and motor bikes. Our favorite restaurant was The Veranda (beautiful views!) and drinks at Hydronetta for once again amazing views!

    We had quite an adventure one of the days we were there – we decided to island hop and take the ferry over to Spetses for a few hours, getting there was fine but when we went to take our scheduled ferry back we were informed that due to weather out of Pireaus all ferries had been cancelled. Yikes! So the guy at Hellenic arranged for a water taxi to take us to the mainland (Porto Heli) where a taxi was waiting who took us about 40 minutes away to catch another water taxi back to Hydra. It was an expensive little adventure but we did finally make it back!

    We left the next day for Nafplion, we took a quick water taxi from Hydra over to the mainland to Ermioni where we arranged to pick up a rental car from Heli Cars (who were just awesome, here is their web site in case anyone wants to do something similar http://helicars.gr). We dropped the car off at the Athens airport. Easy peasy…I think the price was something like 60 euros per day. We had it for 3 days plus a few extra hours and the final bill on my cc statement was $230 US dollars.

    5/22 – 5/25
    Nafplion, Greece
    Aetoma Hotel
    http://www.aetoma.gr/pension_nafplio_en.html
    80 euros per night

    Another awesome hotel in a beautiful town. We loved both. Can’t say enough wonderful things about Aetoma Hotel, great location – close to all the shops and restaurants but no steps to climb. Very charming and the mother/son team can’t do enough for you. Beautiful old renovated family home.

    We arrived on a Sunday and it was packed to the gills with people, I think it’s a very popular weekend getaway, we woke up on Monday to find a completely different atmosphere. Nice and quiet! Nafplion itself is a beautiful town and there is quite a bit to see in the area. Our first day we went off to Mycenae, the Lion’s Gate is pretty awesome and the crowds weren’t too bad. From there it was a short thirty minute drive to Nemea where we basically had the place to ourselves. Definitely worth seeing and as an added bonus its part of the Nemea wine road! Just a couple minutes drive from the entrance of the site is Palivou Vineyards (among others) where we stopped and did some wine tasting. Very nice wines and really friendly people. The next day we went to the ancient theatre of Epidaurus – very impressive and then back to Nafplion to tour the Palamidid Fortress.

    We had some pretty good meals in Nafplion unfortunately I didn’t write down the names. There are also lots of places to have drinks on the water. Nafplion is a beautiful town and we had a great time there.

    5/25 – 5/26
    Athens, Greece
    Central Hotel
    http://www.centralhotel.gr
    137 euros per night

    Off to Athens, we drove to the airport and dropped the car off and then took a cab into town. We only had one night in Athens (we’ve been couple times) and stayed at the Central Hotel which was fine, nothing special. Our friends, who were staying for two nights before heading back to the U.S., splurged and stayed at the Electra Palace (which they loved).


    5/26 – 5/27
    Volos, Greece
    Aegli Hotel
    http://www.aegli.gr/index_en.html
    91 euros per night

    The Aegli Hotel was really nice, I think it’s actually the nicest hotel in town. Its got a great location and the rooms are good, its been newly renovated. No complaints.

    We used Volos as a jumping off point for the Pelion region and then later for Skiathos. The Aegli Hotel is located directly across the street from the ferry terminal. Very convenient.

    I knew we needed to get to Volos so debated whether to take a bus or the train in the end I opted for the train and I think it was probably the right decision. The train ride from Athens to Larissa is about four hours and was super comfortable, then we caught a train (which was waiting for us) from Larissa to Volos. The one hour ride from Larissa to Volos was on a very packed train – full of students I think but it was doable. I think I’d still do it this way rather than the bus.

    5/27 – 5/30
    Tsagarada, Greece (Pelion region)
    Lost Unicorn
    http://www.lostunicorn.com
    80 euros per night

    OK this was our favorite hotel of the entire trip and that’s saying a lot! Wonderful stay at the Lost Unicorn, cannot say enough good things about this hotel. It’s in an absolutely beautiful spot - overlooking a 1000 year old huge plane tree in village square, surrounded by trees and flowers. Our wonderful hosts, Clare and Christos could not be more helpful, friendly, welcoming, etc.. Super comfortable rooms, lots of charming common areas and nooks and crannies to hang out in -- the bar, the library, the beautiful terrace overlooking lush greenery and the tree house (which was my favorite spot to have a drink or read my book). Great breakfasts and dinners! Just a lovely, charming spot in a breathtakingly beautiful area.

    I was super nervous about going to the Pelion region and had heard horror stories about how tough the driving was there and they are all kind of true but oh so worth it! Its very beautiful and not very touristy with lovely beaches and charming villages.

    We picked up a car from Avis, conveniently located a couple blocks from our hotel, and then started our little adventure. The main roads in the Pelion are fine, paved and well-marked but definitely lots of twists and turns, its when you get on the secondary roads like down to the beaches that things get really hairy-- steep and twisty. My husband did an awesome job – I know I could never have done it. I definitely recommend getting a car with some power, and being really comfortable with a manual shift car (or for sure get an automatic). I was talking to a lady at our hotel who said a couple years ago they were there and went down to Damouchari (the Mama Mia beach) in a small car with four people, they made it down just fine but the car couldn’t make it up the hill and they all had to get out and push! Just not enough power to get up those steep hills!

    We had two full days there and did a little exploring – we made it to a few beaches – Mylopotamos, Agios Ioanis, Papa Nero and Damouchari. I think Mylopotamos was the most beautiful. They have lots of hiking trails around but with my husband’s back issues we only did a short one from our hotel, still it was really beautiful. As is the whole area.

    We had great dinners right at our hotel (they serve on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights) and had lunch out a couple of times. Our favorite, which we went to twice, was Paradisos Taverna, Grandma’s been cooking there for 40 years, it’s a family run business and they couldn’t have been nicer and the food was super good. My husband had the lamb chops both times. And the fried zucchini (fresh from their garden) was delicious. They brought us homemade orange cake (no charge) at the end of the meal. AND it’s a beautiful view from the terrace!

    Just to sum it up….we loved the Pelion region and so glad we included it in our plans. We only saw a small part of it but just a good excuse to go back and explore more.

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    5/30 – 5/31
    Volos, Greece
    Aegli Hotel
    http://www.aegli.gr/index_en.html
    91 euros per night

    Back to Volos, returned the car and another night at the Aegli Hotel. We really would have had plenty of time to return the car and take the ferry to Skiathos but I was never sure what we were going to be doing and this just ended up being the easiest thing to plan.


    5/31 – 6/6
    Skiathos, Greece
    Anthena Studios
    http://www.skiathos-studios.gr/index.jsp;jsessionid=233E22733BCB4B5448283399E46AB37F?extLang=
    55 euros per night

    Loved Anthena Studios, great find, affordable, the best hosts ever, comfortable room and tons of bars and restaurants practically on your doorstep. Can’t say enough good things about it.

    Took the morning ferry to Skiathos, once again easy three minute walk from the hotel to the port (its directly across the street). This was our last stop, or that was the plan anyway, and I figured we’d be tired of packing, unpacking and we’d just stay put for a week so I reserved and paid for a studio apartment at Anthena Studios in Skiathos town. Unfortunately my husband got restless after a couple of days so we got the bright idea to go island hopping – we could have done it as a day trip but when my husband saw the throngs of people getting off the Mama Mia boats he refused so we left the majority of our stuff locked up in our little studio apartment and off we went with just a backpack with enough clothes for a couple days.


    6/2 – 6/3
    Spokoleos
    Thea Home Hotel
    http://www.theahomehotel.com/en/home/
    56 euros per night

    First stop was Skopoleos and Thea Home Hotel, lovely little hotel with an unbelievable view over town. Friendly people, the room was a little basic but the bed was comfortable, wifi worked fine and a million dollar view off the balcony!

    I wish we could have stayed another day, Skopoleos looked beautiful, we mostly just hung out in the town which is very pretty, had drinks, ate dinner, but it was nice to see something different.


    6/3 – 6/4
    Alonnisos
    Ikion Eco Boutique Hotel
    http://www.ikionhotelalonissos.com
    75 Euros per night

    Next stop was Alonnisos where we stayed at the Ikion Eco Hotel, lovely place, kind of luxurious actually – with a modern comfortable room, really lovely helpful hostess, great breakfast, this is definitely a spot where I wish we could have stayed longer. I really loved this island, the harbor town, Patitiri, is lovely. However, the most beautiful spot is the old town above it, a few miles away. It had been the capital but in 1965 a big earthquake destroyed many homes so the entire population was forced to desert it. Today its been taken over by shops, restaurants, bars, etc. and is super charming with beautiful views. Great place to wander around shop, have a drink, dinner, etc. We had a lovely dinner at Taverna Astrofegia, beautiful views, great food and really friendly owner.

    The next day we had a late ferry so arranged for a taxi to take us out for a little drive and to one of the beaches where we hung out for an hour or two. The glimpses of different beaches and views we got from the taxi ride were just beautiful. This is definitely one place I wish we would have rented a car and explored.

    So back to Skiathos for our last couple nights. We really did like it there it was just too long for us in one spot. Beautiful beaches, great transportation, awesome restauants and bars! We had some great meals, most memorable were Marmita’s, Lo and La, La Cucina di Maria, Amfiliki and Swell Bar and more that I don’t have written down. Also loved having drinks at the old port watching all the goings on, Bourtiz Bar is beautiful too. I’m sure there are many places that we missed…we’ll just have to go back some day!

    6/6 – 6/7
    Vienna airport
    NH Hotel
    162 Euros

    We had a long journey home. We flew from Skiathos to Vienna with an overnight layover so decided to get the NH located right at the airport. Only two things to say about that hotel -- convenient and over priced! Had a 6:55 am flight to Zurich, from Zurich to Philadelphia and finally home to PBI around 10:00 pm that night. Whew….we were tired but happy to be home!

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    Thanks so much for this very interesting report giving us new and different options for a return trip to Greece. Greek friends have recommended many of these places and this report has convinced me to go there. Wonderful!

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    Hi HappyTrvlr - Glad my report could help. When I was in the planning stages I couldn't find a whole lot of info about some of the places we went, especially the Pelion Region. Feel free to ask me any questions.

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    "We had schnitzel at Figlmuller and boiled beef at Plachutta. Must say we liked the schnitzel (we split them because they’re huge!) but wasn’t bowled over by our dinner at Plachutta and it was a bit expensive."

    Tafelspitz (boiled beef) is an acquired Viennese tradition that we haven't haven't acquired in our four years in Vienna, I have to write. Never does anyone in the family say, "I'm in the mood for Tafelspitz!" so it's generally when we're at the mercy of visitors or at the invitation of others that we head to Plachutta. The dish is elegant in its simplicity, but of course most cuts of beef that have been simmered for hours with the right seasonings will taste good. To us there is just no, "Wow!" with the dish, either. (And, to be honest, we much prefer our marrow bones roasted with garlic and parsley rather than simply boiled.) :)

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