Welcome to the Tours en l'air Travel Tips page, with hot tips about hotels, restaurants, etc. near theatres and opera houses around the world. While the official Tours en l'air trips tend to stay in higher-end three-star and four-star hotels, for those of you who are happy with a more modest hotel for one of your own trips to see ballet, here are my recommendations.
If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.
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France - Bordeaux region
Stay in a luxury B&B chateau owned by two ballet dancers! More info here:
Austria - Vienna
I have stayed at three hotels in Vienna, all of which I would recommend. Nearest to the Staatsoper of these was the Pension Residenz, Ebendorferstrasse 10
A-1010 Wien, Österreich
Telefon: +43/1/406 47 86 0
Fax: +43/1/406 47 86 50
rooms 70 or 80 euros for a single, including breakfast.
This is just off the Ringstrasse near the Rathaus and the University, about 20 minutes walk or a very quick tram ride to the Staatsoper.
A little further away is the Pension Excellence, single rooms starting at 61 euros including breakfast buffet. On the second floor they also have apartments complete with kitchenettes which you can stock from the nearby Billa grocery store, Vienna Comfort Apartments, starting at 97 euros per night, breakfast 9 euros extra per person. This is closer to the Volksoper if your ballet performance happens to be there. You can walk to the Staatsoper in about 25 minutes, but tram service is also excellent.
The Gartenhotel Gabriel, Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 165, 1030 Vienna, Austria, Tel.: +43 1 712 32 05,
single rooms starting at 47 euros including a great breakfast buffet, is not within walking distance of the theatre but is on a tram line with frequent service that will get you there in 10 minutes. Its great advantage in addition to the budget price is that it is very close to the Sanct-Marx S-Bahn station for the airport train, which is very helpful if you have to catch an early flight.
There are so many fabulous cafes in Vienna that it's impossible to list them all but my favourites include:
Cafe Central for its sheer beauty
Heiner Wollzeile 9, 1010 Wien: This is my all time favourite, possibly the best cakes I've ever eaten in a truly "gemuetlich" atmosphere. There are other Heiners, particularly one on the busy Karntnerstrasse pedestrian street, where the cake is equally good, but as this one is slightly off the tourist beaten path and doesn't seem to be listed in the guidebooks, you will find yourself in the company of Viennese people and families who have just popped in for their fix of coffee and cake. It also offers nice light lunches. While you're there, head down the street and around the corner and check out the Jesuitenkirche, which will blow your mind with its baroque extravagance.
Demel just down from the Hofburg is overrun with tourists but you just have to go there for your Viennese experience to be complete, and the cakes are wonderful.
Cafe Schwarzenberg not far along the ring from the Opera House at Schwarzenbergplatz (the terminus of the tram from the Gartenhotel Gabriel) is a good place for an inexpensive dinner of classic Austrian cuisine before a performance. The cafe at the opera house itself also offers inexpensive light meals.
After the show, if you find you need even more cake, it may be hard to find places open, but the Cafe Mozart (it really has been there since Mozart's time) in Albertinaplatz opposite the back of the opera house is open till midnight.
When you go to visit Schonbrunn castle, the Oberlaa cafe in Hiezing is very pleasant.
If by now you think I have eaten cake in every cafe in Vienna, you are probably right!
France - Bordeaux region
Stay in a luxury B&B chateau owned by two ballet dancers! More info here:
Germany - Hamburg
A true find if you're visiting the Hamburg Ballet is the Hotel Pension Fink, run by the charming Korean Han family, Rothenbaumchaussee 73 | 20148 Hamburg | Tel. 040 / 44 05 71 | Fax 040 / 45 71 62 | eMail firstname.lastname@example.org. This former 19th century villa in the leafy Rotherbaum area of Hamburg has the most stunning rooms with beautiful painted ceilings, and prices starting at 49 euros for a single and 70 for a double including breakfast. It's a while since I stayed there, but I think I recall the room I stayed in did not have an ensuite bathroom. It's steps from the Haller U-Bahn station which connects to the airport bus in one direction and to the Staatsoper and downtown in the other (which is about 20 minutes walk away, past the beautiful botanical garden). As I recall, one's Hamburg ballet ticket is valid also for public transit on the evening of the show. If you're visiting Hamburg, you definitely don't want to end up in some of the seedier areas, near the Hauptbahnhof or the Reeperbahn, and this is about as unseedy as you could possibly imagine. Hamburg is a surprisingly beautiful city, and it's got a great ballet company, so seize the opportunity to go there if you can, especially in June each year when they have their ballet-every-night "Ballet Days".
Germany - Stuttgart
If you're going to see the Stuttgart Ballet, the Hotel Astoria, Hospitalstraße 29, about 15 minutes walk from the theatre, currently has rooms starting at 55 euros a night including breakfast (less on weekends). If you're flying into Stuttgart, the great advantage of this hotel is that it is literally 2 minutes walk from your room to the platform of the Stadtmitte station of the S-Bahn train that takes you to the airport. If coming by train, it is only one stop away from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof). While only a short block from Stuttgart's main pedestrian shopping street, this hotel is on a quieter side street so not at all noisy.
Another longtime fave of mine is the City Hotel, Uhlandstraße 18, rooms starting at 79 euros including a great buffet breakfast. It is only 9 minutes walk from the theatre, not quite as convenient for the main shopping streets and train station (both still walkable) or airport as the Astoria, but as Stuttgart has a fantastic public transit system it is definitely not difficult to get where you're going.
There is a nice Italian restaurant, La Piazza, just down Uhlandstrasse from the hotel, on the corner of Urbanstrasse. On the other side of Charlottenstrasse, at Rosenstrasse 32, is Weinstube Stetter where you can sample a vast variety of wines from the Baden-Wurttemberg region and eat hearty local food in an authentic German ambience.
Make sure you stop in for Kaffee and Kuchen at the Grand Cafe Planie (the big yellow building on one corner of Charlottenplatz). Their cakes are fantastic!
Italy - Milan
If you are going to the ballet at La Scala, the first thing you need to know is that to get a good ticket, you have to be on the website the minute tickets are released (9 am Milan time, 2 months before the performance you're interested in). If you miss this chance, and there are no good seats available, you can keep checking back for returns. The time I went to Milan, I settled for a not very good ticket just to be sure I could get into the theatre, and then by repeated checking found a better seat. When I got to Milan I lined up at the box office (underground in the piazza in front of the cathedral) and managed without much difficulty to sell my less good ticket to someone waiting in line. But there are no guarantees!
Try to avoid going to Milan in any of its many fashion weeks (for dates, visit the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana site), as hotel rooms will be hard to find and very expensive.
I stayed at the Ariston Hotel Largo Carrobbio 2 | 20123 Milan, Italy | Ph. +39.02.72000556 | Fax +39.02.72000914 | email@example.com which I found very pleasant. About 15 minutes walk from La Scala and likewise from the cathedral, and on a very convenient tram line. Just down the Corso di Porta Ticinese from the hotel, about 5 minutes walk, there are many restaurants, in one of which I had the tastiest penne carbonara of my life.
Italy - Rome
If you're planning a ballet trip to Rome, I would highly recommend as a place to stay the Maria Luisa, Via Antonio Salandra 6, a family-run B&B where Gianni and Stefania (a huge ballet fan) can't do enough for you. It's only 10 minutes walk from the Opera House, 5 minutes from Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa statue, about 30 seconds from buses that will take you anywhere in Rome, and about 15 minutes walk from Termini station, far enough away to be clear of the seedier Termini neighbourhood but close enough to be convenient if you're using the train to get in from the airport or from other parts of Italy. This is not a very touristy area of Rome, but proximity to the train station and the theatre are big pluses, and it's easy to get to the big sights (walking distance to the Villa Borghese and the Spanish steps, and to the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon). Rooms start at 65 euros including breakfast. Email Stefania at firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. Phone: +39 06 48 24 171
Another nice B&B was the Capitolium Rooms
If you're going to a performance at the New National Theatre (home of the National Ballet of Japan), a great place to stay that won't break your budget is the Hotel Rose Garden in Shinjuku, about 25 minutes walk from the theatre, only 8 minutes walk from the Shinjuku train station from which you can go almost anywhere, and right beside the Nishi-Shinjuku subway station. I recently stayed there for 4 nights for just over $400 Cdn (it would have been less if I had chosen a room with a single bed instead of a double bed). Internet access is free but bring your own cable. A generous buffet breakfast was only 1000 yen (approx $13 Cdn) extra. There is a very modestly priced Italian restaurant on the second floor, or if you're really minding your budget, you can buy a meal for under 500 yen at the Family Mart convenience store next door.
If your Tokyo ballet performance is at the Bunka Kaikan in Ueno park, a convenient place to stay is Asakusa, just a few stops along the Ginza subway line. It is also a convenient place to stop if you are coming in from Narita Airport on the N'ex airport express train (you have to change to a local train at Ushida). Asakusa has a great, if touristy, market. I stayed at the Toyoko Inn, a chain that has many hotels throughout Japan with very affordable prices (starting at 5980 yen, or about $80 Cdn a night) for nice rooms, and a free Japanese breakfast (miso soup and cold rice) included. There is also a Toyoko Inn near the theatre in Yokohama.
Korea - Seoul
If you are going to a ballet performance at the Seoul Arts Centre in the south of Seoul (where ABT recently performed and the National Ballet of Korea and Universal Ballet Korea often perform), a good place to stay is the Provista Hotel, 1677-8 Seocho Dong, Seocho Gu. Although the rack rate listed on its site for a double or twin room is 190,000 won, I was able to book it through hotels.com and expedia for considerably less than that (about $120 a night, but this may have been the low season). The rooms are very spacious (our twin also had a loft with an extra bed, so you could easily fit three people in a room). They also include a little kitchenette with a fridge, two gas burners, bowls, plates, cups, spoons, forks, and chopsticks, a saucepan and frying pan, an electric kettle, and a washer-dryer. You can rent a microwave for an extra 5,000 won a day. This means you can easily have breakfast in your room, although a buffet is provided in the downstairs restaurant, Felice, for an extra 15,000 won (a little less than $15). Wifi is free. The front desk staff don't speak English very well. Airport bus 6020 from Incheon airport (15,000 won) will drop you off at a stop ("Jinheung Apartments") just past the hotel (about 2 minutes walk) after about a 60 minute ride in from the airport. Just after the Seoul University of Education stop, let the driver know you will be getting off next. The stops are announced in English.
There are many restaurants, bakeries, and a supermarket nearby.
Although this is not a part of Seoul with lots of tourist sites, the hotel is only 3 minutes walk from the Seoul National University of Education subway stop. Two major lines go through here: Line 3 will take you in about 25 minutes to the major palaces, the Insadong street full of craft shops, the Namsangol Hanok Village open air museum, the Cheonggyechoeon stream, and the Sejong Centre for the Performing Arts (where Stuttgart Ballet recently performed). Line 2 will take you in about 10 minutes east to the Samseong station, close to the Coex shopping mall, and only 15 minutes walk from Bongeunsa temple. Going west on line 2 three stops to Sadang station, you can transfer to Line 1 three more stops to Ichon station for the National Museum of Korea, which is well worth a visit. Subway fare is incredibly cheap in Seoul, only about $1 a ride. You might be advised to practise stair climbing ahead of your visit, though, as the subways are very deep and the stairs out of them are very steep (this is true of the Tokyo subway system as well)!
From the hotel, it is also easy to get to the Korean Folk Village in Suwon. This is an open air museum where several traditional dwellings from around Korea have been relocated and you can learn about traditional Korean crafts. The Korean farmers' folk dances (at 11 am) are really entertaining. From the hotel, walk about 10 minutes east to Gangnam subway station. Turn right and you will see a centre median in the street which is reserved for southbound buses. Catch the red express 5001-1 bus (runs about every 15 minutes), which for 2100 won will take you directly in 40 minutes to the Korean Folk Village (Miksochon in Korean, but the bus will announce this stop in English).
The Seoul Arts Centre is about 25 minutes walk away from the hotel, or you can take line 3 south one stop to Nambu bus terminal where you can connect to a shuttle bus that takes you right to the theatre (or you can walk from there). But you might as well just take a taxi, as it is only about 4000 won (less than $4!) straight from the hotel. BUT make sure you have the name and address of the Seoul Arts Centre in Korean written down on a piece of paper for the taxi driver. Do not ask the front desk just to translate "Seoul Arts Centre" for you as they will get it wrong.
Although getting to Korea will probably be expensive, once you get there, it's a pretty inexpensive place to visit, as you can get great Korean food for less than $10, subway and taxi fare is cheap, and many of the sights are either free or very inexpensive ($1 or $3 admission for the palaces, for instance, and free admission to the National Museum of Korea).
A word to the wise for tea drinkers: You can get many exotic types of tea in Korea (Job's tears, Solomon's seal, mugwort, quince, papaya...) but it is surprisingly difficult to find "ordinary" black tea in grocery stores. If you are unhappy without your morning cuppa, bring a stash of teabags with you.
Try to avoid going to Seoul in July, when there are two choices of weather on offer: incredibly hot and humid, or pouring with rain.
Russia - Moscow
A very helpful post about getting tickets for the Bolshoi can be found on this website:
USA - Sarasota, Florida
Please click here: http://toursenlair.blogspot.com/2014/05/travel-tips-for-ballet-lovers-sarasota.html
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