New York, New York. So good they named it twice. Honestly I barely even know where to begin with a travel guide for NYC, and I’m by no means an expert – you could live there for a decade and have hardly touched the sides – but I have been a few times so hopefully I can pass on a few tips I’ve gathered along the way on how to enjoy this iconic, crazy, brash city to the best of your ability – and eat magnificently well whilst you’re stateside.
Too short a time in lovely Toulouse, but enough to get a good taster of this pretty pink city. I’d need to go back for a proper mini break for a decent length travel guide, but there are absolutely some gems worth passing on here, so here’s a bite sized version for you.
History and ancient architecture are quite obviously the biggest pulls to Rome. There’s an exceptional amount of Old Stuff here, and so much to see. Naturally extremely touristy and a relatively big city compared to other Italian counterparts given it’s the capital, Rome can feel a little overwhelming at times, but it is undoubtedly special and I personally cannot think of anywhere else that is like it. There’s a lot to pack in, so I would recommend a good three days in order to explore without rushing around from place to place, or leave some things for another visit. Queues are long and you’ll want to ensure you’re taking time to wind down with an Aperol or two without rushing off to the next tourist attraction. Whilst it’s unlikely you’ll eat badly in Rome, it is really worth hunting down places off the beaten track for specific recommendations, as that’s where you’ll find the really fantastic food. It’s easier to fall down a tourist trap in Rome compared to say Florence or Bologna, but hopefully this travel guide will be a start to point you in the right direction. Always try to look out for spots popular with the locals and you won’t go far wrong – do as the Romans do, after all! (more…)
Without question the worry people seem most concerned about when they are about to embark on their first solo trip is eating out by themselves. I get it, it’s unusual to go to a restaurant alone. Dining out is a social experience and if you’ve never done it by yourself before it can be pretty …
I’m going to level with you, a long held love of The Sound of Music is the sole reason I found myself in Salzburg this summer, having had many a drunken chat with my dad about how “we should totally go and do the tour!” and pretend to be one of the Von Trapp family singers. Whilst Salzburg is a big tourist destination for fans of the movie these days, with its snow capped mountains and pretty streets serving as the backdrop for the legendary film, all things Von Trapp is not all it’s got to offer. The birthplace of Mozart, the best schnitzel you’ll ever eat and stunning mountains that beg you to take a train out to explore, Salzburg is a fantastic city break destination in summer or winter.
Golden, tender schnitzel served with waxy yellow potatoes and ruby red cranberry sauce; crisp apple strudel swimming in hot vanilla custard; warming goulash with giant dumplings the size of your fist. Austrian food is heavy but delicious, and we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there.
Pfeifergasse 14, 5020 Salzburg
Zum Zirklewirt was the location of our first meal in Salzburg and we enjoyed it so much we went back again before our holiday was out. It’s also the location of the best schnitzel I’ve ever had – absolutely perfectly fried veal served with the obligatory cranberry sauce and potato rosti, as they had run out of the regular waxy potatoes that tradition dictates – shows how much schnitzel they must get through! The spaetzle was explemplary, the tuna salad absolutely huge and the perfect light lunch, whilst my Dad claimed the roast pork he had was among the best of his life. They also have a lovely outdoor terrace area so it’s perfect in the summer yet cozy inside during the cold winter months.
Restaurant S’Nockerl im Elefant
Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse 4, 5020 Salzburg
The restaurant of Hotel Elefant in the old town is a lovely place to stop for a long lunch or dinner, with some space outside to sit in the laneway during the summer. The schnitzel here was on par with the incredible one I’d previously had at Zum Zirklewirt, and I later found out they are sister restaurants, so that figures. If you’re after the famous Salzburg Nockerl, a peaked soufflé dessert served with raspberries and always made for two people, try it here where it was invented.
Linzer Gasse, 47-49, 5020 Salzburg
We had some – you guessed it! – great schnitzel here and tried Austrian wine for the first time too; it was so good we drank exclusively Austrian wines for the remainder of our trip! A deceptively big restaurant with a courtyard at the back, the service was a little slow but in fairness the place was packed out, and rightly so.
Hotel Stadtkrug Restaurant
Linzer Gasse, 20, 5020 Salzburg
After the owner of our hotel telling us that he also owns a farm where they rear the beef used in the hotel restaurant, we decided to book a table out on the terrace one evening to try it for ourselves. It didn’t disappoint, my steak was delicious and my dad’s goulash excellent. The menu here isn’t solely all the usual Austrian suspects either which was a good change. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to live on schnitzel for the rest of my days, but variety is the spice of life, I guess.
Linzer Gasse, 35, 5020 Salzburg
The owners of Eis Greissler run an organic dairy farm in the hills of Austria, where they used to sell yoghurt and milk locally before turning their hand to ice cream and subsequently opening up a store in Vienna back in 2011. Now their sustainable ice cream shops can be found all over the country and they stock creative flavours such as Sachertorte alongside more traditional ones. Not only is their ice cream excellent, it’s also extremely reasonably priced.
Alter Markt 9, 5020 Salzburg
At approximately 300 years old, Cafe Tomaselli is one of Austria’s most famous coffee houses, and has been run by the same family for half the time it’s existed. The perfect spot for a coffee and cake pit stop whilst walking around and exploring Salzburg’s old town.
Griesgasse 13, 5020 Salzburg
For strudel served with ice cream, vanilla sauce and cream.
Hotel Sacher, Schwarzstraße 5-7, 5020 Salzburg
Home of the original sachertorte, served in a grand room or outdoors on the terrace looking out onto the river. Hotel Sacher also served as the home of Julie Andrews whilst she lived in Salzburg to film The Sound Of Music.
Hotel Stein, Giselakai, 5020 Salzburg
The Seven Senses restaurant and rooftop bar at the top of the Hotel Stein on the Salzach river is the perfect spot to while away a few hours with some of their great Austrian wine. We didn’t eat here but can imagine it would be a lovely spot for lunch, or dinner as the sun sets over Salzburg.
IMLAUER Rooftop bar
IMLAUER Hotel, Rainerstraße 6, 5020 Salzburg
Another rooftop bar with sprawling views of the old town and the mountains beyond, the IMLAUER Skybar is a bit further out from the centre but is open until 1.30am, making it a good spot for a late night drink looking over the city.
Bergstraße 10, 5020 Salzburg
Over 150 different beers are served at Alchimiste Belge so if that sounds like it’s up your strasse you should probably allocate a wedge of time to get through some of them.
Bergstraße 9, 5020 Salzburg
Unfortunately we didn’t do our research well enough for this one and it was only open the first day of our trip, so we missed out on this cosy wine bar serving charcuterie and tapas. It’s on the list for next time.
We stayed at Hotel Stadtkrug on Linzer Gasse in a building that dated back over 700 years. Linzer Gasse is a pedestrianised street which was excellent to wonder around, with bars and restaurants spilling out onto the street, just a few minutes walk from the river and bridge to cross over into the old town. A great location to stay and a lovely hotel which did a cracking breakfast, with staff who couldn’t do enough for you.
THINGS TO DO
The Sound of Music Tour
Obviously the best thing to do in Salzburg in my esteemed opinion is of course The Sound of Music bus tour. There are two tours a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and there are multiple buses that go out every day – this is pretty much the bulk of Salzburg’s tourist industry. It’s a fantastic tour; the guides are knowledgable about all the lesser known trivia, they play the soundtrack on the bus and encourage everyone to sing along and you are taken around to view multiple locations made famous in iconic scenes such as Sixteen Going On Seventeen and I Have Confidence. You also get to go out to Mondsee outside of Salzburg and explore the town there; the cathedral here served as the location for Maria and Captain Von Trapp’s wedding in the film. Whilst you’re there get yourself to Cafe-Konditorei Braun for some expemplary apple strudel.
Take a wander around the perfectly manicured gardens of the Mirabell Palace, listed as a part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may recognise the steps, fountain and archway from The Sound of Music’s most famous song sequence: Do Re Mi. Hell, go with other fans and re-enact it. You’ll swing by here at the end of The Sound of Music Tour should you be in town to do that, but the grounds are beautiful and well worth a vsiit if you’re a fan of the movie or not.
An interesting museum chronicling Mozart’s life in the building he was born in. The museum takes you through the very rooms of the apartment Mozart’s family lived in when he was born, detailing the lives of him and his family through the decades. You can purchase combined entry to Mozart’s Birthplace and the smaller, less visited Mozart Residence on the other side of the river, where Mozart later lived. You can enter both under the same ticket within 48 hours of purchase if you buy the combined.
Towering high above Salzburg old town and looking down over the river Salzach and mountains beyond sits the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the bones of which dates back to medieval times. Take the short ride on the funicular up to the top to take in the stunning views and wander around the Fortress, or walk up if you’re feeling brave.
If you go to a European city and don’t visit the local cathedral, did you even city break? I don’t know what it is about visiting churches in Europe but some are well worth the visit (I’m looking at you, Notre Dame). Salzburg’s is very beautiful too, restored to its former glory after the dome of the cathedral was bombed out during the war.
Built in the early 1600s, Schloss Hellbrun is a beautiful baroque palace with stunning gardens, just outside of Salzburg city. Oddly, it was only ever intended for day use in the summer and therefore has no bedrooms! Not open in the winter months, but the gardens are very popular in the summer.
Walk with view
There is a archway on Linzer Gasse that leads up to Kapuzinerberg, a hill that overlooks the whole of Salzburg. It’s a steep but short walk and the views are rewarding – if you time your walk at dusk the hill gives you wonderful views of the sun setting over the city.
That’s right, Salzburg has a marionette theatre, just like the Von Trapp children have in the film. The programme includes operas and, you guessed it, The Sound of Music.
Salzburg Music Festival
The famous Salzburg Music Festival of music and drama takes place for a few weeks in the summer every year, so bear this in mind if you’re looking to book around that time – great if that’s your purpose for going, but if it’s not your thing it’s best to avoid those weeks as the city will be very busy and accommodation is likely to be more expensive.
Another Salzburg sight made famous by the Do Re Mi sequence in the Sound of Music, this is an art deco pedestrian bridge over the River Salzach.
Market by the River Salzach
On summer weekends market stalls selling local arts and crafts line the River Salzach, making for a nice wander for an hour or so.
Leave Salzburg – take a train to Zell am See
Salzburg is a small city so can easily be done in a weekend, but I can’t recommend catching a train and visiting the mountains surrounding Salzburg enough. I’m a big Band of Brothers fan so have dreamt of seeing Zell am See which features in the last couple of episodes of the show for a very long time, so on planning our trip I insisted we stay an extra day and head out to the lake. Popular in the winter for skiers, the summer months are much quieter but a no less beautiful time to explore lake Zell and the Schmittenhöhe mountain that overlooks it. We took the cable car up 2000m, wondered over to a restaurant at the top of the mountain, shared a plate of fries and drank wine in deckchairs overlooking the lake and mountains below and it is one of my favourite things I have ever done in my life.
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There are enough ‘must eat’ restaurants in New York City to keep you going for months on end, so it’s hard to know how to whittle it down to the truly great ones, especially when you have limited time stateside. One place that comes up repeatedly as an unmissable is Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side – also known as the place where Meg Ryan faked that orgasm in legendary rom com ‘When Harry Met Sally’.
Frequently cited on the New York tourist ‘top places to eat’ lists, I’m now ashamed to admit it took me five trips to the Big Apple to make it to Katz’s for one of their absolutely massive pastrami sandwiches. That was a mistake and I hold my hands up; this should be on everyone’s first time NYC hit list. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about pastrami until I went to Katz’s, and now I’m thinking about where I can get my next fix back in London; I have seen the light. Each sandwich is made to order in front of you at the counter, and they’ll give you a few slices of the beautiful red meat to try whilst they work to compile what has to be the biggest sandwich you’ve ever seen in front of your eyes – fitting that much meat between two relatively thin slices of rye is a feat in itself. I find that some of the ‘must eat’ dishes in New York can be faddy, but the pastrami on rye at Katz’ is anything but. From the first taste of that melt in your mouth meat I was a goner. It is hands down one of the best things I’ve eaten in NYC and certainly one of the best sandwiches of all time.
Considering the fact this place is by all means a (very large) deli and you’re being served up your food on a plastic tray, it’s not cheap. A pastrami on rye with mustard and pickles on the side will set you back around $25, but this is New York and honestly you and the big city will get on a lot better if you immediately anaesthetise yourself to the cost of everything from the moment the wheels of your Boeing 747 touch down at JFK. At least you get your monies worth; the obvious advantage of Katz’s sandwiches being so big means you can take the other half away to eat later – or go and split one with someone else. Either way, I’m reckoning Sally ordered the pastrami on rye, and you definitely want what she’s having.
205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
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As usual when on holiday, I want to eat outside. I want to sit under a parasol basking in the heat of the sun, sipping on a cold glass of something that will swiftly make me heady as I lazily watch the world go by around me. So if I hadn’t been recommended Ristorante Angiol d’or specifically, I would never have chosen to eat there – I may not have even noticed the place, the restaurant not having any tables spilling out onto the piazza where it lives. There is a covered indoor terrace area which I imagine would be lovely in the evening, but during the quiet of August on a Sunday lunchtime the main indoor area was the only option for a table. In hindsight, with temperatures nearing 40 degrees outside and the inside very much indulging in air con, this was nothing but a good thing. Besides, with a large open window looking straight onto Piazza del Duomo and the Baptistery of Parma beyond, you may as well have been outside.
Now I’d actually been sent off to Ristorante Angiol d’or with some specific dishes to order, and a couple of them blew me away so much I’m going to instruct you to do the same. To start off what will undoubtedly be an incredible meal, order the plate of Parma ham aged for 30 months because guys – you’re actually IN Parma, no excuses. Let’s face it, Parma ham is always good – in Parma it’s phenomenal. So soft – almost buttery – it practically melts in your mouth. Team this with another must order, the traditional fried bread (€4), and I guarantee you your eyes will roll back in your head whilst you eat. These fried breads are all puffed up and hollow inside, and whilst certainly fried, not greasy how you may imagine. Served hot, pulling them apart to stuff with parma ham and then washing it all down with a perfectly chilled locally produced glass of white is an experience I’d happily repeat each week. And as you may know by now I did dine alone on this trip, and yes, I ate it all – I couldn’t leave any of that Parma ham, though they do an assorted plate including salami, copper and cicciolata for the same price (€11), should you want to mix it up. Or hey, get both! When in Parma and all that.
As ever in Italy, I find it hard to manage the four courses that is standard for Italians – try as I might – and usually opt for either the ‘first course’ in the form of a pasta dish, or the skip straight to the meat course. I’d been recommended a pistachio encrusted beef burger which spiked my interest even though I would never usually order such a dish in Italy, but it wasn’t on the menu during my visit, so I opted for the more traditional gnocchi with duck ragout, julienne vegetables, spinach and thick shavings of parmesan (€12). A bit of a rogue choice for me as I would usually opt for ricotta tortellini (€10) and was admittedly tempted by the spaghetti carbonara done in the ‘Angiol d’Or’ style (€11), whatever that may be, but I learnt something about gnocchi that day. Gnocchi is supposed to be light. I genuinely had no idea that gnocchi can or should be anything other than the fairly stodgy situation we tend to get in the UK. It goes without saying the Italians would of course do it better, but just how well they do was somewhat of a revelation; it was a beautiful dish.
A fellow diner confided that the tiramisu was exemplary should you be so inclined, but with no room for desert I settled on an espresso to perk me up for wandering through Parma during the afternoon heat. Because Italy is very much that grandmother who will insist on feeding you up as much as possible and then force leftovers into your hand as you leave, my espresso was served with morsels of cake and biscuits. The floury chocolate cake was particularly good.
When in Parma Ristorante Angiol d’or is a must, and it’s no surprise that it sits firmly in the Michelin Guide. Go hungry, and go with people so you can try as much as possible. Do not under any circumstances forget to order the fried bread. Thank me later.
Via Scutellari, 1, 43121 Parma PR, Italy
Closed Mondays and Tuesday lunchtimes
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot go wrong with a food recommendation from a local, and after some of the top restaurants on my Bologna hit list turned out to be closed without warning for summer holidays (sob), I was lucky to have some extra tips to explore from my lovely Air BnB host, Marco.
Ideally, one of these recommendations happened to be right opposite my apartment in Mercato delle Erbe, the grocery market favoured with locals that dates back to 1910. The market has an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fresh handmade pasta, and also has several food stalls and cafes where locals flock to for lunch and dinner, tucked away to the side of the market stalls in the wings of the old building. If you saw Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Bologna, Mercato delle Erbe may ring a bell: the market featured on the tv show and was home to the location where Rick tried stuffed squid at Banco 32 – another restaurant also recommended by Marco, though I opted for his other tip in the market: Altro?
Altro? was the spot for my first meal in Italy on this trip, and what better way to start a weekend of eating your way around an Italian city than with a steaming bowl of tagliatelle al ragu (€10) and a couple of glasses of Sangiovese? Seeing as I came to Bologna specifically to eat, there was a lot riding on this first meal to live up to the high expectations I’d built up around the food of Bologna, and I wasn’t disappointed. Altro? served up one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had: the pasta fresh and perfectly cooked al dente (and you should hope so in the land of pasta), the ragu rich and plentiful. Parmesan served in a shaker on the table allows you to keep piling on the good stuff as you make your way through your meal as you go, something I appreciate over posher establishments where the waiter is in charge of your cheese distribution.
I was actually so impressed with Altro’s version of the most traditional of Bolognese dishes that I returned a few days later for another go at it. This time around I started with the burrata (€10), which hands down overtook what I thought was the best burrata I’ve had. Sitting in the cream sauce of two varieties of tomato, Altro’s was ‘eyes rolling to the back of your head’ good, particularly mopped up with the bowl of fresh sourdough brought over to me at the start of the meal. If you’re even the slightest fan of burrata, this dish is unmissable. Pleasingly, the tagliatelle al ragu that followed kept up the high calibre of a few days previous.
Whilst dishes here can be slightly higher in price than those in many of Bologna’s trattorias, the quality is clearly worth it. The food excelled, and I would happily return to try many of the other dishes on the menu. In hindsight I was particularly disappointed in myself to have not found room to try the desserts they had on offer. I would love to return in the evening in order to take longer over my meal and enjoy the atmosphere around Via Belvedere afterwards. In the evening, the restaurants of Mercato delle Erbe and the surrounding bars spill out onto the pedestrian street, animated with scores of young professionals drinking aperitivo into the night. The night time atmosphere is wonderful on this stretch, even in the quiet of August, and Altro is the perfect place to eat before settling into a night of Aperol in the balmy air. Returning to a restaurant in the relatively short space of a long weekend is something I never usually do, keen as I am to try many different places to eat as possible. In a city of unfailingly good food such as Bologna, it is the highest of accolades.
Mercato delle Erbe, Via Ugo Bassi, 23 – 25, 40121 Bologna, Italy
+39 351 014 4191
Open every day 8am – 12am except Sundays