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Mihaela Lica Butler

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Mihaela Lica-Butler is travel writer and travel public relations consultant by profession, lover of cultures and cuisine. She has built a fun career while chiming in on many topics, from relating the trials and tribulations of the people of Kosovo, to experiencing, first hand, the heroics of the Romanian soldiers serving for the UN. But she thrives in conveying her love for travel and places in written word, and she is happy to be a constant contributor for some of the world's best travel sites.

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Moscow Christmas

Late autumn is the time for Christmas markets all over Europe to open their gates, transforming central public squares into charming winter wonderlands reminiscent of Santa’s workshop. Wooden stalls decorated with garlands and lights will display toys and souvenirs, candy and Christmas candles, clothing and accessories, plus all kinds of seasonal treats, including gingerbread and mulled wine.

Every European city where you find a Mamaison hotel will have a Christmas market: Budapest, Warsaw, Moscow, Bratislava, and Prague celebrate the season with fairy tale-like displays, music, community, and good fun.

Christmas Markets in Budapest

Vorosmarty

The most popular Advent fair in Budapest takes place at Vörösmarty ter from November 13, and lasts until January 6, 2017. This gives city visitors enough time to find handcrafted made-in-Hungary treasures and souvenirs. The light effects show on the facade of the historic Cafe Gerbeaud is mesmerizing and will fascinate attendees of all ages. Besides Vörösmarty ter you can also visit the less touristy Christmas markets like the one held in front of St Stephen’s Basilica, or the market at Bakáts Square, which is mainly popular with the locals. The Budapest Christmas Tram decorated with Christmas lights rides on two lines: 2A along the Danube promenade and 19 from Batthyány tér to Kelenföldi Pályaudvar. Several indoor markets are offered too, including the famous WAMP Christmas Market contemporary design fair.

Christmas Markets in Prague

Christmas in Prague

In Prague, the most popular stop for shopping before Christmas is the Old Town Square, where the Christmas Market opens four Saturdays before December 24, and lasts till the first week of January. A less touristy alternative is the market at Wenceslas Square, which opens about the same time. There are smaller markets at Republic Square, Havel’s Market, on Kampa Island in the Lesser Town, and by St. George’s Basilica at Prague Castle.

Christmas Markets in Moscow

Kremlin Winter

From the “Dunyasha” Gift Market to the Journey Into Christmas market held at the Red Square, Moscow has a fair share of shopping experiences in the season. Note that JJourney Into Christma extends beyond the Red Square to all Moscow’s districts, with many venues offering concerts, arts and crafts sales, workshops, cooking demonstrations, street performances, and more. See the huge Christmas ball at Manezh Square (pictured above) with its 9.5 km of LED lights. DI Telegraph, located in the very center of Moscow, is the site of another interesting market featuring design objects by local artists. Dates for this year have not been announced.

Christmas Markets in Bratislava

bratislava christmas

When you visit the main Christmas market in Bratislava at Hlavne Namestie (Main Square) climb up to the tower of the Old Town Hall to take a beautiful picture. The market itself is busy and crowded, offering the usual gifts, souvenirs, mulled wine and punch, and seasonal local foods. A second market takes place at Hviezdoslav’s Square and it is the less touristy destination for Christmas shopping. Here you find an ice rink popular with kids and young adults. Don’t miss the fire show on Fridays.

Christmas Markets in Warsaw

angel

The main Christmas Fair in Warsaw takes place in the Old Town in the Market Square from the end of November till December 23, 2016. There’s also a market in WOLA, with traditional wooden stall, a beautiful Christmas tree, stage for concerts, and a Nativity scene. There will also be festive and traditional attractions for children including a Christmas mini-train and a carousel.

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Kuratorium

Warsaw is different things to different people, and the art lover has a wealth of things to discover beyond the Museum of Modern Art, which is run by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Warsaw City Council. Granted, the museum’s rich collection of visual arts, industrial and graphic design, and architecture is inspiring, and a stop at their EMESEN cafe after seeing the exhibition can be as rewarding as taking in the art, but it is not enough for the art traveler. So the walk continues.

Galeria Sztuki Katarzyny at Świętokrzyska 32, owned by the former director of the Gallery of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers, Katarzyna Napiórkowska, is not far from the Museum of Modern Art. This is a contemporary art gallery, which shows painting, graphics, drawing, and sculpture.

If you walk in the opposite direction from the Museum of Modern Art you find Galeria Stereo at Miedziana 11. This gallery is highly recommended for its carefully curated exhibitions of Polish art, but they also have a well-developed international program.

Galeria Stereo

Galeria Stereo: Kilian Rüthemann “Tools” exhibition in 2014

Another gallery not far from the Museum of Modern Art is Kuratorium at Sienna 43A. It promotes young Polish art, organizing exhibitions of paintings and continually expanding its permanent collection of the works.You will see works by Paweł Słota, Juliusz Kosin, Ewelina Sośniak, Tomek Mistak, Piotr Saul, and many others.

Another fascinating destination for art lovers is Le Guern (Widok 8), an interesting gallery that focuses on the most significant figures of the contemporary art scene, both Polish and international. The gallery space is open to different artistic attitudes and forms of creative activity including photography, painting, sculpture, drawings, installations, film, video art, and so on.

From here, walk to Pies Czy Suka, a design store and cocktail bar at Szpitalna 8a, which also has a passion for contemporary art, organizing all kinds of exhibitions.

Or try THE PICTURES Art Bar Cafe at Chmielna 26 for cocktails and a sensual decor that combines balck and white photography with comfort.

Besides these random stops, Warsaw has many other galleries clustering around the center. It is easy to discover them in a simple walk. There are also many design stores, which sell authentic pieces at fair prices. If you are an art lover in Warsaw you will always find something to do.

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pretzel

Oktoberfest in Bratislava will only celebrate the season of good beer with a two-day program, on October 6 and 7 this year. The beloved celebration will take place at Tyršovo nábrežie, on the banks of the Danube. Albeit small scale, this is an international event, uniting breweries from Slovakia, Moravia, Austria, and Germany. There will be no less than 15 such breweries showcasing their signature brews and seasonal specials. A large selection of bottled beers from all over the world adds a plus of diversity much anticipated by beer connoisseurs. Foods typical to Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world, like large warm pretzels and sausages, will be available as well.

Musical entertainment is the main offer in the program of the festival, with a variety of concerts, including punk ‘n’ roll, punk rock, foxtrot, tango, swing, jazz, indie pop, and hip hop. The festival is part of the White Night in Bratislava 2016 event, which offers visitors an unconventional artistic night walk through the city, full of new experiences and sensations.

Visitors will have the opportunity to see art installations, and a whole range of attractions in a new light: animated unconventional spaces, parks, bridges, embankments, facades, and much more. About 45 stops are planned for the event, which takes place at night, October 8-9, from 7:00 pm until 2:00 am. There will also be interactive games, art installations, and an after party at Ateliér Babylon, the official after party of Nuit Blanche 2016.

Accommodation is usually hard to find during these events, so book ahead. Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava has a special offer for stays of two nights of longer this season, allowing you to save up to 20% off the standard rate. In addition, we’ll pamper you with a milkshake and with delicious cookies. The offer comes with other perks, like free use of the fitness area and sauna.

For those with no preference for beer and pretzels, October offers several other entertainment opportunities. One of them is the Red Bull Flying Bach, a unique show at Istropolis, featuring the dance group Flying Steps with a special breakdance performance on Bach’s well-known work “Well-Tempered Clavier.” You can check out the official Visit Bratislava website for more exciting events during your stay in our city in October.

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oktoberfest

It may be colder, it may be rainy, it may seem dull and gray, but, in fact, October is a very exciting month to visit Budapest. There are many festivals that turn autumn into a season of true celebration.

The month begins with Oktoberfest when Felvonulási tér becomes the capital of beer. Popular breweries, as well as small microbreweries and craft breweries, will line up the stalls at the City Park. This is the fourth year when festival participants can experience the celebration in the Bavarian Paulaner Oktoberfest tent. A 40-meter high Ferris wheel will offer visitors the opportunity to see the city from up high. The festival begins the last weekend of September, on the 29th, and lasts till the second day of October.

Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival is the second festival of the month, brightening the city with a wide range of events, from contemporary classical music to theatre premieres, from popular music to contemporary circus, from dance to visual art and beyond. The venues of 2016 include Müpa Budapest, Liszt Academy, A38 Ship, Budapest Music Center, Castle Garden Bazaar, Vigadó, Akvárium, Millenáris, and Bálna Budapest.

Cafe Budapest

Who could miss the Budapest Pálinka and Sausage Festival, which takes place at the iconic Buda Castle on Castle Hill in the first two days of October? There will be several types of palinka available for tastings and purchase. Palinka is usually paired with sausages, so visitors will also enjoy such regional specialties. Music and live entertainment make this event even more appealing.

Kürtőskalács, the Chimney Cake Festival, is another interesting event that you shouldn’t miss. It takes place in the second weekend of October at the City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle. This festival celebrates the Hungarian kürtőskalács pastries and will present various technique of preparing chimney cakes, over charcoal or fried in oil, in many sizes, and different flavors.The highlight of the festival is the great chimney cake bake-off.

kurtoskalacs fesztival

Art Market Budapest will take place from October 13 until October 16 this year. The international art fair at Millenáris will feature a variety of art and crafts objects for purchase. There will also be an exhibition, CHIM: Children of the War, and other interesting events.

The Budapest Restaurant Week ends this list of festivals with an invitation to gourmet cuisine. It takes place from October 10 until October 16 in several participant restaurants, including our own
La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy. If you plan your vacation in Budapest during the restaurant week, we invite you to check out our Joy of Autumn City special offer, which is available throughout the season, until December 1st, 2016. Booking directly on our official site you can save 15 % of the usual rate when staying 2 nights, and 20 % when staying 3 nights or more. See you there!

La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge

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Joy of Autumn

It’s that time of the year again, when the trees turn to vibrant colors shortly before their leaves fall to cover the ground with a comfy blanket of orange, yellows, and reds. Mamaison Hotels & Residences celebrate the season too, by bringing you a special offer with the Joy of Autumn City promotion.

Joy of Autumn City offer

Our new special offer is available in selected Mamaison Hotels & Residences hotels, throughout the season, till December 1st, 2016. Booking directly on our official sites you can save 15 % of the usual rate when staying 2 nights, and 20 % when staying 3 nights or more. Each participating hotel offers different perks with this package.

Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava

Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava is happy to offer Joy of Autumn City with perks like free WiFi, free room upgrade (upon availability), and free use of their fitness and sauna area. You will be welcomed with a fresh milkshake, and homemade cookies.

Mamaison Andrassy Hotel Budapest

Mamaison Andrassy Hotel Budapest will welcome you with hot chocolate and homemade cookies, and their Joy of Autumn City package also includes free WiFi and free upgrades when available.

Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest

Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest is participating in this promotion too. They welcome guests with hot tea and homemade cookies. Their perks include free WiFi, free upgrades, and free use of fitness and sauna.

Mamaison Riverside Hotel Prague

Mamaison Riverside Hotel Prague will pamper you with a free cup of hot milk, a hot chocolate with amaretto, or a milkshake and cookies upon your arrival. In addition to free WiFi and free room upgrade (when available), they also offer a free 3 hour city tour with an experienced guide.

Mamaison Residence Belgicka Prague

Mamaison Residence Belgicka Prague offers a free city tour too, in addition to all the other perks. You will be welcomed with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

Mamaison Residence Downtown Prague

Just like its sister residence in Prague, Mamaison Residence Downtown makes you feel welcome the moment you enter the lobby. They have delicious homemade cookies, and you can choose a welcome drink from a duo of hot milk and hot chocolate. Free city tour, free WiFi, and free upgrade upon availability are their Joy of Autumn City perks.

These are the participating hotels that offer Joy of Autumn City packages this season. Remember, these offers are only available on their sites, and only to guests who book directly.

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Fryderyk Chopin Statue in Warsaw © Artur Bogacki - Fotolia.com

Each European capital exudes a special charm, and each is individual in its own right. According to UK’s Post Office Travel Money Cost of Culture report however, Warsaw is Europe’s cheapest city for culture, with prices under a third of those in Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and other cultural capitals. A Financial Times report:

The cost of visiting a range of top attractions including art galleries, museums, heritage sites and tickets to the National Opera and National Ballet cost 40 per cent less than 2015.

warsaw

If art is what you seek, Warsaw is a paradise: it offers fascinating art spaces, featuring both contemporary and classic works, true temples of beauty, where you can enrich your soul, while getting closer to the spirit of this outstanding destination. Some of the locals recommend destinations such as Kuratorium Gallery, Keret House, Leica Gallery, Bęc Zmiana, the Poster Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, but you can also visit Galeria Test, Galeria Sztuki Katarzyny Napiórkowskiej, and the Zachęta National Gallery of Art. Some offer free entrance, and others charge a symbolic fee to allow you to see their treasures.

leica

Or walk in the footsteps of Frédéric François Chopin, whose musical genius drew inspiration for many of his early works from Warsaw herself. Most of the attractions on this path are free to visit: the official route suggested by the City of Warsaw offers several multimedia benches, which have an interactive sound system that will play Chopin’s music. There are 15 spots where you can rest on one of Chopin’s Benches, all connected with landmarks that played an important role in the life of the composer.

Or visit the SOHO Factory for art, culture, and entertainment. They have such an outstanding seasonal programme. You can participate in gardening sessions, or visit an exhibition, come in for a concert, be active in a workshop, and much more. This is a vibrant space, with plenty to do and see, designed for all ages. Even foodie dining is possible here.

SOHO Factory

History buffs will enjoy the History Meeting House – Dom Spotkań z Historią. The institution has a strong focus on Central and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century, attracting intellectuals from all fields.

The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle is one of Warsaw’s cultural treasures. Their schedule includes contemporary music, experimental films and video art screenings, creative workshops, and a wide array of cultural activities for young and old. Schedules change often so visit their website before you plan your visit.

Finally, just walk down the streets of Warsaw, and pay attention. There’s enough to catch the eye: street art, statues, monuments, and monumental architecture. Even local bars adorn their walls with contemporary art that will surprise and incite you.

For affordable accommodation in luxury and style, check the special offers at Mamaison Residence Diana Warsaw.

Two Bedroom Diana Suite

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Radio City

For travelers in Moscow during the Rio Olympics, there are many great places to take in broadcasts from Brazil, but none so chic and thoughtful as RADIO CITY (РАDИО СИТИ). This classy restaurant/bar is centrally located at 5 Bolshaya Sadovaya Street, just a pole vault from the Mayakovsky monument in the old hotel “Beijing”. For atmosphere and big screen sports joy, this is the best place in Moscow to wine and dine during your favorite sporting events.

With 4 huge screens, 22 plasmas, and ten sumptuous house beers to choose from, guest can take in synchronized broadcasts or individual events from boxing to volleyball and everything in between.

14 minutes from All Suites Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka, this sports arena of sports bars is also a good place to cheer with the locals. It’s been a popular icon of Moscow for some time, mainly famous with the locals for the beer, burgers (voted among the best in Moscow), and pizza, and European football of course. Newcomers like the retro surrounds and the big discounts on promotion.

So, if you can’t get the Rio Olympics off your mind these next two weeks in Moscow, you can book your table directly for the Rio Games telecast any night of the games right here.

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dance bazaar

If you wonder what’s hot and what’s not next month in Budapest, the answer is pretty simple: everything is hot (and we are not talking about the weather!). The month kicks of with the Dance Bazaar – in fact, this event begins at the end of July, and extends fourteen days in August. It takes place July 29 – August 14 at Castle Hill, Várkert Bazár, with tango, flamenco, contemporary and traditional performances, as well as a dance program at Táncbazárban. The festival is organized by the National Dance Theatre of Hungary.

The hottest festival of the season is the Sziget Festival – but tickets are already sold out. The festival will welcome more than 450000 spectators from over 102 countries, eager to watch performances by the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, John Newman, Kodaline, M83, MO, Naughty Boy, Parov Stelar, and Sigur Rós, among many, many others. Sziget – Island of Freedom – is held between 10-17 August. Art lovers will enjoy the Sziget Festival art zone, featuring contemporary sculpture, installations, and much more.

Sziget Festival

The Festival of Folk Arts Mesterségek Ünnepe (August 23-26) at Buda Castle gives you the opportunity to see and purchase authentic arts and crafts: pottery, painted eggs, wood objects, textiles, and more. Palika tastings are also traditional at this festival, where you will also be able to taste local fare, and to enjoy a folk artistic program with music and dance.

St. Stephen’s Day is a national holiday in Hungary, celebrating the foundation of the Hungarian state. It is held all over the country, with open air concerts, gastronomy events, art fairs, and more. Just walk around the Capital and you will find the locals enjoying their free day in style: Danube embankment in Buda, Várkert Bazár, and St. Stephen’s Basilica are the most important locations.

Another interesting event is the ‘Junibor’ Wine Festival at Szent István tér, which appeals to the public with over 100 varieties from 30 winemakers. Of course, the organizers also offer food pairings. The event ends the month: August 27-30.

And finally, the Jewish Cultural Festival introduces Jewish culture to the general public through a rich program, featuring theater, music, dance, and art. Venues of the festival include the Dohany Street Synagogue, the Goldmark Hall, and the Rumbach Synagogue. The festival begins August 30 and ends September 6, 2016.