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14 Days in Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, Munich and Prague

Hello!
4 of us – wife, 2 boys (5 and 10), and I – are planning for a 2 week trip to Central Europe. We will have full 14 days there (excluding arrival and departure days) - Aug 2 - Aug 15. Based on preliminary research, I have narrowed it down to the following plan. Does this sound reasonable or too aggressive? What would you change?

Day 1 – Vienna, Sleep in Vienna
• Walking Tour
• Tram Tour

Day 2 – Vienna, Sleep in Vienna
• Schonnbrunn Palace
• Trip to Melk Abbey

Day 3 – Vienna, Sleep in Budapest
• Hofburg Palace
• Belvedare Palace
• Train to Budapest

Day 4 – Budapest, Sleep in Budapest
• Central Pest Walking Tour
• Castle Hill Walking Tour

Day 5 – Budapest, Sleep in Budapest
• Jewish Quarter Walking Tour
• City Park Walking Tour

Day 6 – Budapest, Sleep in Salzburg
• Gilbert Hill Walking Tour
• Maybe Momento Park?
• Train to Salzburg

Day 7 – Salzburg, Sleep in Salzburg
• Old Town Walk
• Sound of Music Movie Locations

Day 8 – Salzburg, Sleep in Salzburg
• Hallstat

Day 9 – Munich, Sleep in Munich
• Train to Munich
• Old Town Walk
• English Garden

Day 10 – Munich, Sleep in Munich
• Neuschwanstein Castle

Day 11 – Munich, Sleep in Prague
• BMW Museum
• Nymphenburg Palace
• Train to Prague

Day 12 – Prague, Sleep in Prague
• Old Town Walk
• St Charles Bridge Tour

Day 13 – Prague, Sleep in Prague
• Jewish Quarter
• Lesser Town
• Prague Castle

Day 14 – Prague, Sleep in Prague
• Kutna Hora
• New Town Walking Tour

Few specific questions:
1) What parts, if any, should we use a car for?
2) Trying to decide between Kutna Hora in Prague or day trip to Bratislava from Vienna, esp with 5 yr old. Recommendation?
3) We are using Starwood points for most hotels.
a) Vienna - Hotel Bristol / Le Meridien?
b) Salzburg - Sheraton Fuschlsee-Salzburg, Hotel Jagdhof / other hotel in St. Gilgen?
c) Munich - Sheraton / Four Points / Le Meridien?

Thanks!

Posted by
12360 posts

Personally, for what it’s worth:
Not enough time in Budapest and not enough time at the places in-between. Some of the train hauls are longer than I would want to do when my kids were that young, heck, I don’t like to do them now. No, you don’t need a car; your plan or the plan below.
The kids might enjoy castles and boats and rivers and zoos and parks so I might be inclined to do:

Day
1 Arrive Prague
2 Prague
3 Prague
4 Morning Bean Shuttle to Cesky Krumlov to see the Castle (couple of hours)
5 Afternoon Bean Shuttle to Vienna (couple hours)
6 Vienna
7 Vienna to Melk day trip (pretty much a half day trip)
8 Vienna (Vienna might be a little dry for kids)
9 Morning train Vienna to Gyor (1.5 hours) and taxi to the Archabbey at Pannonhallma. Night in Hotel Klastrom (converted Monastery)
10 Morning train to Budapest (1.5 hours)
11 See Budapest (I can map out a path for you). Hotel Le Meridian (excellent)
12 Late morning to Szentendre on the commuter train (30 min) and the river taxi back to Budapest (45 min) (kids will enjoy)
13 See Budapest (I can map out a path for you). Hotel Le Meridian (excellent)
14 See Budapest (I can map out a path for you). Hotel Le Meridian (excellent)
15 I really thought I could at least get you to Salzburg, but you are out of time. Head home.
Besides the usual sights in Budapest I would take the kids to Margaret Island and possibly even the Zoo. Depends on the time of the year. You didn’t say the time of the year. Also the Hotel you chose are great, but with the kids you might also look at apartments.

Posted by
4637 posts

First I would change the order of cities so you won't be going there and back. I would use open jaw and fly to Budapest, from there to Vienna -> Salzburg -> Munich -> Prague. Fly home from Prague. You won't need a car for any parts. To decide between Kutna Hora and Bratislava? I would vote for Kutna Hora. Most of your cities are big. It would be nice change to put some small town there. Bratislava is not exactly a big city but not a small town either. Your itinerary is very intensive and I am not sure you would enjoy it. And 5 year old? Personally if it was me with a 5 year old I would do it slower and do Salzburg and Munich next time. That way I could take it easy and have 4 to 5 days for Budapest, Vienna, Prague each. One day trip from each of them.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you for the replies!

I guess I should clarify a few things:
1. Flights are already booked. Landing in Vienna on Aug 1 afternoon, departing from Prague on Aug 16 morning.
2. I originally wanted to see Vienna, Salzburg and Munich. Main reason is that we thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Switzerland (esp. Wengen / Berenese Oberland) 2 years back, so wanted to get at least a bit of a taste of Austrian Alps. And then on reading more added Prague, and finally Budapest too.
3. Also, if it helps, we enjoyed Florence, Rome and Siena more than Paris and Venice. Not sure which cities of this trip would be closer to which of those.

From the responses, I am considering dropping Munich, though would still like to see Ludwig's castles - perhaps as day trip from Salzburg? I still gain 1.5 days, perhaps add them to Budapest?
Good advice regarding smaller town/village - we surely enjoy that (loved Siena). Would Gyro provide that? What is in Szentendre? Other options?
Also, just saw the hot water bath in Budapest - looked fun for kids?!
James - Would be great to have your recommendations on Budapest visit. I do plan to get the RS book and have been looking at BigBoyTravel website as well.

Posted by
4637 posts

If you drop Munich then go from Salzburg to Prague via Cesky Krumlov. If you find time stay overnight. Evenings and early mornings are the best because crowds are gone. Train from S. to C.K. takes too long with at least 2 changes. Take a shuttle to C.K. I am afraid that to see mad Ludwig castles as a day trip from Salzburg would be too much. There is a nice castle in C.K. and you can do Karlstejn castle as a day trip from Prague easily.

Posted by
12360 posts

Sarge, when you get the dates nailed down let me know and maybe I can dream something up for Budapest.

Szentendre is a small artist village just outside of Budapest. It makes a fun trip because of the nature of the village and because of the boat ride back to Budapest. Seeing Budapest rise up before you as you enter on the water is pretty impressive. One of the reasons you see so much of Budapest on those Viking River Cruise advertisements.

Gyor is a great little town with a baroque center and an impressive Archabbey on a hill top. Rivals Melk in a lot of ways and includes a working winery.

If you have to cut, I would cut in this order:
Cesky Krumlov. It's one of the greatest stops that I recommended but its not on your route. Amazing place. A shame.
Munich
One night in Salzburg
Gyor
Kunta Hora.

Posted by
500 posts

For kids you may consider less palace time in Vienna. On day 2 train to Melk. After the Abbey tour, you can rent bikes from options which TI office has. The south pathway is flat there and goes along the river. Then after you return bikes you can take a boat ride back to Vienna.

In Salzburg boys ikely would enjoy the funicular zip, lasts like a minute, up to Hohenensalzburg Fortress. This fortress has cannons, and turret holes to pop your head through, a small musuem and all things fortress/military related. It has amazing views of the river and the valley. It would be a complete contrast to the palaces and the castles the boys will see. We're old folks and amazed how something that old looked usable for today.

Just remember Prague will be very crowded. Do big things early as possible in the morning.

Posted by
12360 posts

Prague could get tough in August. Think Disneyland with English Stag parties.

Posted by
14 posts

Rethinking what we want out of the trip based on all your comments... I know Vienna, Budapest and Prague are all highly regarded and need good amount of time to experience 'properly'. However, we surely want to get some time in the mountains, even if that means cutting another day from 1 or 2 of the big cities and leaving Munich completely out (though it would be a big bummer not to get to the Ludwig castles - my younger one was thrilled on seeing its pics. Is Cesky Krumlov similar? If I had to choose one of these, which one?). There is only so many museums and castles and palaces we can take with kids.

With that in view, where would you recommend spending time (2-3 days would be great) to get the small town/Alps experience? Of course, I hope it can be had close to Salzburg area rather than going further west.

Posted by
4637 posts

Cesky Krumlov is a very picturesque medieval small town with a castle overlooking it. Almost like a fairy tale. I don't think that C.K. is similar to Ludwig castles. Small alpine town? I would suggest Halstatt. It's not too far from Salzburg.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you Ilja!

I am considering shuffling the initial part. So once I land in Vienna on Sat 8/1 at 4:10 pm, take bus or train to Budapest straight away, stay there for 3 full days (4 nights) and then back to Vienna. I am assuming I can make both the following connections, assuming the flight is not delayed:

  • The train leaves at 6:25 pm and reaches at 9:54 pm (3.5 hrs with 1 change)
  • The Eurolines bus leaves at 7:30 pm and reaches at 10:25 pm (3 hrs, no change)

Questions:

  1. Which one is easier to take, keeping kids and luggage in time. Is one starting point closer to the VIE airport than other? I am leaning towards the bus as it gives me more time in case of delays, and also does not need a change.
  2. Which one will take me closer to the Le Meridien hotel in Budapest?
  3. Given the possibility of flight/luggage delays, should I still make advance reservations on whichever option I decide, or is it easy enough to purchase on the spot without fear of running out of space?
  4. I am assuming I can take a cab from either the bus stop or train station to the hotel? I am assuming it is safe even if I take the bus?

Reson for shuffling is that this way once I am back in Vienna and do 2 days there in the city, I can rent a car to go to Salzburg, visiting Schoenbrunn Palace and Melk Abbey on the way. And then use the car to visit Lake District and Hallstat from Salzburg. Then return the car in Salzburg and onward to Munich or Prague by train. Thoughts about this plan?

Posted by
12360 posts

I don't much care for busses so I would take the train. But that's just me. Your one change on the train is in Vienna. If you take a taxi from the airport to Wien Westbf you don't really have any changes. I am guessing where the bus will take you, but if my guess is correct the train will be closer to your hotel. BUT, in either case you will be best to call a taxi, so it doesn't matter much. Do not get in a taxi in Budapest that you have not called. Not that anything terrible will happen, but you will end up paying more than its worth. YES, it is more than safe. My favorite is City Taxi http://www.citytaxi.hu/ When I arrive by train I generally call as the train is pulling into the station and then by the time I get to the pick up loop the taxi is waiting. Facing the front of the station go out the doors on your left to find the pick up loop. You do know how to use your cell phone in Europe? Right?

Posted by
14 posts

Ah, that's great to know about taking the train from Wien Hbf. Google says it takes about 30 mins by car from the airport to there. Another advantage is that there is a 6:12 pm and a 7:12 pm to Budapest. Of course, if we need a reservation beforehand, the 7:12 will be safer?
Good to know about the taxi to call. Regarding calling, we got just a data hotspot in Switzerland 2 years back, and used Vonage to make calls through it. If you have recommendations on a sim card or company to use that would work in Austria, Budapest and Prague, that will be awesome!
So with this plan, we will be in Budapest on Sat night; sightseeing days will be all of Sun, Mon and Tue (Aug 2 - 4).

Posted by
12360 posts

First phones: AT&T and TMobile have both pretty much eliminated the need to purchase SIM cards. Both companies have International plans that are hard to beat. The TMobile cost per minute I think is about $0.40 (verify) and Data is unlimited. So $0.40 to call a cab. But I keep running into tourists that don’t know how to dial a number so make sure you have that figured out (easy).

I’m no expert on Vienna. Been there a few times but not among my favorite places. But a quick look at the MAV website train schedule I see a 17:48 – 20:49, 18:48 – 21:54 and 19:48 – 22:49 as being the last three direct trains out of Wien Hbf to Budapest that evening.

It’s pretty rare that a train sells out and you have one leaving every hour so I wouldn’t worry too much about not getting on a train. But, there are some pretty steep discounts for purchasing in advance. Again, I don’t get to Vienna often but I think the difference in cost is in the magnitude of 50 euro per ticket. But with that discount ticket I do believe you have to ride the particular train the ticket is for. So if you miss it, well………………….

Oh, just so all the cards are on the table.

  • A private car transfer, Vienna Airport to hotel will set you back about 275 euro From Keleti Station in Budapest to your hotel it will cost something less than 2,000ft ($7.00 more or less). The M2 metro line runs from Keleti Station to a point within about a 5 minute walk of your hotel. Cost would be about $3.00.

I asked for the dates in hopes I could give you some ideas of what is going on in town while you are there. August is a time when most central Europeans hide behind their fans in vain attmepts to stay cool. Budapest entertainment is still very much revolves around the local culture and not so much around tourism (although that has changed a lot in the past 15 years) so August is a quiet month. Also they have a bad habit of not publishing until 30 to 60 days out. So watch: https://www.jegymester.hu/eng/Timetable/Idorend and http://welovebudapest.com/events

If you are coming to shop, the stores are closed on Sunday and if you are coming for museums, most of them are closed on Monday.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks James, this is all super helpful!
Phone - Actually T-Mobile is cheaper if you have the Simple Choice Plan. You get unlimited (though slower) data outside US. It worked fine for car directions for me last year in Canada, and I see that Austria, Hungary, Czech and Germany are covered too. I have Verizon but it is worth getting T-Mobile just for the month.

Train timings - I see the times you mentioned on MAV website, but seat61 says I cannot get it from there as the tickets will have to be picked up from a Hungary station. On bahn.de and oebb.at websites I just see the times I listed. Perhaps I am missing something. Also, as we will have to pay only for 2 people and kids will travel free, it may be better to buy tickets on the spot.

Depending on when we get out from customs etc, will be good to have info about the car handy. Is there a company you recommend for the Vienna to Budapest trip?

Looked at those event websites, seems we will just miss the Ooh La La show on 8/1. Oh well.. Will keep looking at those as we get closer to the dates.

Posted by
12360 posts

And I do have the Simple Choice Plan…… I had to go back and look. I have had good coverage from Istanbul to the heart of Bulgaria, Romania, Russia as well as western Europe. Good deal.

You do appear to be correct. Odd that the MAV website doesn’t show those arrivals. With a train every hour on the hour I wouldn’t worry about full trains. But I guess I could be wrong. I know I haven’t gotten all of the super discounts but I have always purchased the next leg when I arrive in that particular town. Less hassle and after spending thousands and thousands and thousands on airline tickets the extra $50 didn’t hurt.

There are a number that provide Vienna/Budapest car service. But I only have experience with the ones originating in Hungary which won’t work for your last minute decision. You will have to google around for a Vienna based service that could come when you call them; and then hope they have car and driver available. This sort of thing is usually booked in advance. Worst case scenario is you spend the night in Vienna and take a morning train, but I don’t think it will come to that.

Posted by
14 posts

I am thinking the following plan now (day, night):

8/1, Sat - Arrive in Viena, train to Budapest
8/2, Sun - Budapest, Budapest
8/3, Mon - Budapest, Budapest
8/4, Tue - Szentendre, Budapest
8/5, Wed - Budapest, Vienna
8/6, Thu - Vienna, Vienna
8/7, Fri - Vienna, Vienna
8/8, Sat - Melk and Hallstat, Salzburg (car)
8/9, Sun - Salzburg, Salzburg (car)
8/10, Mon - Salzburg / Lake district, Salzburg (car)
8/11, Tue - Munich, Munich
8/12, Wed - Ludwig Castles, Munich
8/13, Thu - Cesky Krumlov, Prague (or Cesky Krumlov?)
8/14, Fri - Prague, Prague
8/15, Sat - Prague, Prague
8/16, Sun - Depart to US

Thoughts? I am finding CK more interesting than Kutna Hora, as KH only has the bone church and not sure how much the 5 year old will enjoy it?

Posted by
12360 posts

A five year old will love the bone church, but that might not be a good thing. As for the route, if it works for you don't sweat it.

Never been to Kunta H. But love Cesky Krumlov. I could spend a few more days there easily.

Now you need great accommodations. My choice in Prague would be the Hotel Ventana, in Cesky Krumlov the Dvoark (the room with the balcony), in Budapest the Le Meridian or the K&K depending on your budget. Better yet an apartment.