Eastern Europe is one of the world’s most treasured travel destinations, filled with intriguing history and culture, sightseeing and shopping – all (usually) located in fascinating cosmopolitan cities. But how do you manage seeing so many amazing attractions found in multiple countries in the region? Travelers should seek the aid of an experienced travel expert to make sure their vacation itinerary includes Eastern Europe’s best experiences.
That’s why we reached out to Nathalie Nagy, an expert travel consultant and co-owner of Boutique Journeys, an independent contractor for Protravel International in New York.
Nathalie’s Eastern European expertise began early. Born in the U.S. to Hungarian immigrant parents, Nathalie moved with her family to Budapest when she was 9 years old, and graduated from high school there in 1994. After returning to New York to attend college, she took a job at a small travel agency before joining Protravel in 1999.
In 2012, Nathalie returned to Budapest with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, where they’ve lived ever since. Nathalie has traveled across Europe throughout her life, and from 2004 through 2017, Travel + Leisure magazine recognized her as an “A-list” European travel expert. And for 14 years, Nathalie has been a certified Austria Expert, a unique certification granted to her by the Austrian Tourist Office of New York.
So, we decided to speak with Nathalie to discuss the hottest Eastern European destinations and attractions, and learn what sort of travelers are best suited for a journey to this remarkable region.
What do you enjoy most about living in and traveling through Eastern Europe?
The hospitality of the locals, the fantastic cuisine, the rich history and [the] overlapping history of the neighboring countries. I also appreciate the ease of travel between the destinations and the sheer beauty and variety of the region.
What kind of Eastern European experiences are popular right now?
I only arrange customized travel and not packaged tours. Most of our programs include private sightseeing, culinary tours, cultural experiences and quite a few of our clients are enjoying biking tours as well.
What are the most worthwhile travel experiences travelers should add to their customized trip itinerary when visiting Eastern Europe?
In Central Europe, I always recommend culture and history as among the most worthwhile and important things to experience. The region has a very long and rich history and also offers many cultural experiences, including world-class performances and museums.
Is cuisine an integral part of an Eastern European vacation?
Absolutely, it is a must! I arrange culinary tours in Budapest, Vienna and Prague, and they are some of the most popular from all of our tours. We also have a wide variety of great restaurants in these cities including casual options, local food markets, Michelin-star restaurants and excellent fine-dining venues.
What are the must-see attractions travelers should add to their list right now?
My recommendations include important highlights, but also some more off-the-beaten-path or private experiences. The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest is open after a 3-year renovation. I also recommend Budapest travelers visit the Terror House Museum and the Royal Gardens Bazaar beneath the Castle Hill neighborhood. Visitors should also explore the Jewish Quarter for Jewish heritage, but also to explore the ruin pub culture and nightlife. Vacationers can also opt for a private Danube boat ride in Budapest.
In Vienna the can’t-miss attractions include the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Spanish Riding School, where you can see a morning rehearsal or performance, followed by a private backstage tour. I also recommend exploring the wineries in the suburbs of Vienna.
In Prague, travelers should see the Strahov Monastery Library, where we can arrange private VIP access for our clients. The Astronomical Clock in Prague just reopened after a 6-month renovation, and you should definitely spend time exploring Prague’s charming Mala Strana neighborhood.
Can you describe the types of accommodations available for travelers visiting Eastern Europeans? Are there large resorts, boutique luxury hotels, or other options?
All of the above. We have moderate-budget hotels, charming inns and guest houses, boutique 4- and 5-star hotels, business-focused hotels, luxury hotels as well as large resorts. Some of my favorite properties include the Aria Hotel Budapest and Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest. And in Vienna, the Hotel Sacher Vienna and the Hotel Sans Souci Vienna are a couple of my favorites, too.
In the countryside of Hungary and Czech Republic, I recommend Catherine’s Vineyard Cottages, located a one-hour drive outside of Budapest; the Hertelendy Castle Hotel, about two and a half hours south of Budapest by car; and Chateau Mcely, located an hour outside of Prague.
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