We discovered cosy Café Calma on a recent visit to Prague and it became one of our favourite haunts. They served a good range of cakes and pastries, and the breakfasts were great, with excellent croissants. The café also serves proper meals, including decent vegetarian options. Eating at Café Calma was inexpensive and the staff were friendly and helpful. In summer you can sit outside and watch life go by in the adjacent square.
I stayed at the Hotel Hetman in October 2012, when I transited via Warsaw. I spent only one night there, but overall I was impressed by the level of service. Although the room was small, it was comfortable and very quiet. The buffet breakfast was amazing, with everything from Polish pastries to slices of Spanish omelette. The hotel has good connections to the city centre and is handy for Warsaw East railway station (Warszawa Wschodnia), where you can catch many intercity and international trains.
It was an interesting experience as I stayed in the Hotel Wilenski as it was then in November 1999, and even stayed in the same room. At that time it was a very basic hotel that appeared to have changed little since 1989. I would definitely stay at the Hotel Hetman the next time I'm in Warsaw.
As its name suggests, simple and homely Koldunine specialises in koldunai, ravioli-like dumplings which are basically the Lithuanian version of Polish pierogi or Russian pelmeni. I popped in for lunch and tried koldunai filled with potato, which were much tastier than they sound. The service was quick and friendly, and if I had more time in Vilnius, I would have definitely gone back. Koldunai is not a gourmet restaurant, but it’s a good option for lunch or when you’ve built up an appetite after sightseeing. The food is tasty and authentic, and doesn’t cost much either.
Savičiaus g. 6,
+370 679 26259
Google map: bit.ly/U5X4gW
Coffee Inn is ubiquitous in Vilnius (and in Riga too), and I stopped by a few times. I really enjoyed the coffee and filling hot chocolate, and the small range of snacks included cheesecake, which was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Coffee Inn was reasonably priced, and the staff were friendly.
While I instinctively prefer individually-owned coffee shops, this establishment seemed a bit more than just another you-could-be-anywhere chain. For example, I visited two branches in Vilnius (and two in Riga), and each one was different. Most had a random assortment of very comfy, mismatched chairs, and some had a small but diverse collection of books, which you could read at large tables, giving the coffee shops a slightly Bohemian feel. And the branch at Gedimino 2 is actually inside a bookshop. A good place for a quick stop-off, but equally good if you’re in no hurry.
Branches throughout Vilnius including at Gedimino pr. 2, Pilies g. 3 and Vokiečių g. 18
One of the great pleasures of historic central Riga (Vecrīga) is aimless wandering, and you’ll find some of the most evocative streets and lanes at the northern end of the Old Town. Don’t miss the narrow, intimate Trokšnų iela, and the Swedish Gate at Aldaru iela. Close by are the equally photogenic Mazā Pils iela and Klostera iela.
Trokšnų iela, Aldaru iela, Mazā Pils iela & Klostera iela
Google map: bit.ly/SGH96M
I visited on a chilly autumn morning in October so I needed something to stave off the cold. The hot chocolate and muffin that I ordered did the job perfectly. Among other things, Kuuka Kafe serves great coffee, superb homemade cakes (try the carrot cake), and panini. The interior is cosy and welcoming, and try to nab the very comfy sofa if you can. While not extortionate, Kuuka Kafe isn't the cheapest café in town, but it’s worth it, and you’ll probably find yourself going back at least once.
Grēcinieku iela 5, Old Town, Riga
(+371) 28 77 39 34
Google map: bit.ly/RWGvUq
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