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Austria/Budapest/Prague in May

Hello expert travelers,

I would welcome your advice. My husband and I will be taking a 2 week (14 night) trip to Europe in May 2019. We got a great fare into Munich so we will begin there and stay one night since we arrive early morning and plan to push through and see the sights before sleeping. We then plan to travel to Salzburg and stay for 2 nights. Next stop Hallstatt for one night and then we are thinking about taking a train to Budapest but this is where we need advice. We would love to stay in Budapest for 2 nights and then travel to Vienna where will will stay for 2 or 3 nights and then to Prague for 3 or 4 nights and then back to Munich to fly home to the US. Is this itinerary too ambitious ? Are we crazy for trying to fit in Budapest?
Thank you in advance for your expert opinions!!!

Posted by
1222 posts

Way too ambitious -I see disaster ahead. You will be jet lagged your first day in Munich so don't plan on remembering much of your visit and I've found not having a good sleep the first night ruins the rest of my trip. I'd leave off Budapest and spend more time in Munich.

Posted by
21083 posts

Two nights isn't enough time for Vienna, either. I don't think you're taking adequate account of how much sightseeing time is lost when you change hotels. I think you'll enjoy the trip a lot more if you spend more time enjoying where you are rather than rushing around getting ready to head off to the next stop.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for the advice. So would you suggest at least 3 nights in each city (Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague?)

Posted by
21083 posts

Salzburg is a lot smaller than the others. Actually, I'd drop it to concentrate on the other three. But then, my attitude is always that more time in fewer places makes for a better trip.

Posted by
3030 posts

So... let's think about this a little. As Heather notes, you are going to be jet lagged on your arrival day, so my suggestion is to go ahead and go to Salzburg on your arrival day so that you can knock out some travel on your jet lag day, wander Salzburg, and then get a good night's sleep there without worrying about catching a train the next morning. You could build in some time for Munich at the back of the trip. If you have 14 nights, your current wants lead to an itinerary that is something like this...

Salzburg -- 2 nights
Hallstatt -- 1 night
Vienna -- 3 (or 2) nights
Budapest -- 3 nights
Prague -- 3 (or 4) nights
Munich -- 2 nights

I put Vienna in front of Budapest because it looks like you would go through Vienna on the train to get to Budapest. There is a direct train from Budapest to Prague.

I wouldn't view that itinerary as crazy or disastrous. It's not an itinerary I would do because (1) it's too hurried for my travel style, (2) I don't like 1-night stops, (3) there's too much time spent on transportation/moving relative to time exploring places. BUT... someone recently posted on this forum that they did a similar trip in 2 weeks and loved it. I guess it comes down to what your travel style is and whether you are satisfied getting a taste of 6 places, as opposed to a deeper experience in fewer places (and that's not meant as a judgmental dichotomy).

I'm with acraven, though... "But then, my attitude is always that more time in fewer places makes for a better trip."

Posted by
3030 posts

Also... I think Munich is overrated, so to me, giving it short shrift is no big deal. It's a city. You're going to see other more interesting cities. I would much rather spend a longer time in Salzburg (with a countryside day trip or two) to add some variety to the trip. Personal taste.

Posted by
14 posts

Dave,

Thanks so much! That is a good idea. When we went to England, Rick Steves' suggestion was to arrive London from the US and head straigth to Bath and do London on the back end. We did that and it was great! Your suggestion to go directly to Salzburg is similar. We love traveling by train but are there any cities that you feel a rental car would be advisable?

Posted by
3030 posts

For the places in which you have expressed interest, I would stick with trains. I actually did rent a car during one of my stays in Salzburg so that I could get to and return from St. Georgen im Attergau for an evening Vienna Boys Choir Concert in the town's church (and a day at the lake named Attersee). Bus/train connections were not so great for that particular area, especially since I wanted to get back to Salzburg after the concert (avoiding a one-night stay in St Georgen!).

Posted by
1492 posts

There is a direct train from Budapest to Prague.

The train ride is about 7 hours lacking a high-speed track. Note that this train does not depart from Keleti train station where most international trains arrive and depart.

There are very cheap flights from Budapest to Prague offered by Czech Airways and RyanAir. If you book well in advance you can book tickets for $40 to $60 (price presumably without luggage).

Prague is overrated in my opinion. There is the old city, the Charles' bridge, the Hrad (Castle), the Jewish Quarter. Having been there several times I would suggest two nights. Try to attend a performance in a black light theater: http://www.srnectheatre.com/eng or http://www.metrotheatre.cz/

Spend as much time as possible in Vienna.

Posted by
3030 posts

wmt1 makes a good point that I meant to make. For some journeys, a flight can be cheaper and less time consuming than a train.

Posted by
14919 posts

I'm not clear if you've eliminated Hallstatt or not, but my first thought was to skip it. It will use up the better part of a day to get there and another to get to your next destination. It's just not worth it unless you plan to rent a car - and as others have said, for the rest of your "wish list" a car is not a good idea. From Munich it's about 5 hours by train to Munich, 1.5 to Salzburg, 4+ to Vienna. If you want to fit it all in, I'd advise going straight to Salzburg on landing. Then by train to Vienna and Budapest, then fly to Prague and train to Munich.

This is an aggressive itinerary. If you are only using Munich for its airport, it's almost reasonable. If you want to spend 1.5-2 days seeing Munich, I think you need to drop one or maybe even 2 cities. Consider that 3 nights gives you 2 days of sightseeing. Especially for this plan, you'll use a lot of time for travel (including time to pack, get to the train station or airport and then to your next hotel to drop your luggage). With the exception of Salzburg, I'd recommend 3 days in each city (thus 4 nights), and shortchange Munich (which is a personal opinion).

Posted by
13559 posts

Its a bit much and everyone will have their preferences. Do some more research and see how much each city speaks to you. If you like the vibe of Vienna or Budapest or Prague then it deserves four nights. For me personally, I would do this.

Salzburg -- 2 nights
Hallstatt -- 1 night
Vienna -- 2 or 3 nights
Budapest -- 4 nights (then fly to Prague. Its a 1 hour flight vs a 7 hour train ride - flight is about $115)
Prague -- 2 or 3 nights
Munich -- 2 nights

Visit each of the forums and read too

Posted by
1492 posts

My choice would be Prague 2 nights, Budapest 3 nights, Vienna 4 nights.
(As avid readers of this forum certainly have noticed, James E. always prefers Budapest over Vienna, but for me it is the other way round.)

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks to all for the great advice! I have Rick's books and plan to get educated on all of the cities in question and go from there.
You have all been most helpful in giving me a general idea of what our itinerary will look like.
I would welcome any and all suggestions of special hotels/events/landmarks that you feel cannot be missed.
The good news is that I have 8 + months to plan!!

Posted by
13559 posts

I love Budapest!! And those things I enjoy most when traveling make me biased as h.... Knowing that is why I said:

If you like the vibe of Vienna or Budapest or Prague then it deserves
four nights. For me personally, I would do this.

I can think of a whole lot of interests that would make someone think differently than me. If i were still under 30 I bet I would put Prague first. If i were a museum hound, I might be inclined to put Vienna first. But I'm just a laid back old fart and I like the comfort and the culture in Budapest. I also think its one of the most stunningly beautiful countries in Europe.

I like Anthony Bourdain's comments on Budapest

  1. On the aesthetics of Budapest: "It's beautiful here. They said that of course, that Budapest is beautiful. But it is in fact almost
    ludicrously beautiful."

  2. On the city's architecture: "If there was such a thing as building porn, it would be this. Just looking out the window as your drive or
    trolley by you think, 'I want that. Who lives there? Who lived there?
    What's it like inside? And where did they go?'"

https://www.eater.com/2015/6/8/8743617/parts-unknown-budapest-just-the-one-liners

Equal Time: Vienna
https://www.eater.com/2011/3/22/6691239/no-reservations-vienna-episode-just-the-one-liners

Equal Time: Prague
https://www.eater.com/2010/2/2/6744893/last-nights-episode-of-no-reservations-just-the-one-liners

Posted by
3030 posts

I like the responses you have received! :)

I think your original trip is doable if that's the trip you want. If you want more time in a place or two, that works, too. Some people like to move quickly through a bunch of places; some like to meander longer in a smaller number of places. Neither is the "right way" to travel -- it's really what you want.

I would welcome any and all suggestions of special
hotels/events/landmarks that you feel cannot be missed.

It might be easier for us to answer that question if you tell us what type of lodging you like (and budget) and what types of activities you like. For example, I'm a history buff who likes hiking, museums, and live music of all types. I'm budget-minded in lodging but also spring for the occasional splurge (as I did at Hallstatt). You probably already know that you can also find a lot of information by using the search bar at the top of the page, too.

Posted by
4264 posts

I like Dave's itinerary, both the order of the cities and the number of days. For me it is quite doable. In fact, I took a fairly similar trip. I did Vienna, Budapest, Prague and ended in Munich. (I did Salzburg on a separate trip) We took a night train to Prague from Budapest. It's efficient and it saved us a bit of money. Whether or not you could do it would depend on the kind of sleeper you are. I always power thru my first day which gets me on a good sleep schedule for the rest of the trip. On other trips, I have taken the approach of landing and immediately taking a train. I like that strategy, tho I try not to sleep too much because I want to be able to sleep 9:30pm to 7am or so my first night. I cover more per day than many people, because I have the energy, and I really research my destinations and prioritize before the trip. That said, everyone has different preferences. I look forward to when my husband and I will be able to travel for longer periods of time, but for now, we do what we can do.

Oh, I haven't been to Hallstat but I feel like I read that logistically it might be a bit tricky to do a Hallstat stop between Salzburg and Vienna. Some poking around on the OBB website would provide an indicator of what would work. My impression also is that it is good to spend a night in Hallstat so you can be there when it is more quiet.

Posted by
12898 posts

"...special...landmarks that you feel cannot be missed." How deep is your interest in the history, beyond superficial view? Some to track down, ie these historical sites. As it is landmarks you're after, I'll leave out the museums.

I suggest...a. the Heldenplatz, where Hitler addressed the crowds after the Anschluss (annexation), where over a quarter of a million packed in to see him.

b.. Maria-Theresien Platz..the Empress surrounded by her diplomats (main one is Kaunitz), and military commanders, eg, the defensive commander Daun

c. Schwarzenbergplatz.. to see the Soviet war memorial at one end and, at the opposite end, the statue of the Habsburg military commander Schwarzenberg ( he still lost to Napoleon a few times). Other Habsburg military commander statues to be seen in Vienna are the big one of Radetsky, in front of the big post office building, Prinz Eugen in front of the National Bibliothek (Library) and opposite him across the way is that of the Archduke Charles (Karl), that of the Archduke Albrecht at the Albertina.

d. . the Deutschmeisterplatz ...the biggest Habsburg military soldiers' statues in Vienna along with the Landwehr (militia) memorial just down from Westbahnhof.

e. . the Zenrtralfriedhof where the statues of the composers and the WW1 and 2 war cemeteries can be seen.

f. The Holocaust memorial across from the Albertina.

g. . There are 2 memorials of K. Lueger, mayor of Vienna at the turn of the century, and Hitler's favourite mayor, one is across from Westbahnhof near Mariahilferstrasse, the other is a statue in the 1st district.

h.. The statues of Goethe along the Ringstrasse, Germany's greatest poet, and that of Grillparzer, the literary master in Austrian lit at Belvedere.

Posted by
4690 posts

Fred - you seem to have a thing for statues :). I would add that the Holocaust memorial is nowhere near the Albertina.

Posted by
13559 posts

While it seems like there are small statues about every 3 blocks in Budapest, they are mostly for the art of the landscape. The only places you will find statues of any great significance in Budapest will be near the Parliament, Heros Square, the Buda Castle and Memento Park where they moved all the Soviet era relics to communism. Nothing very old or profound (except for the statue of R. Reagan) unless you know the history. For statues and acres and acres of museums spend more time in Vienna.

Posted by
1492 posts

I would add that the Holocaust memorial is nowhere near the Albertina.

I guess Fred referenced the "Mahnmal gegen Krieg und Faschismus" (memorial to war and fascism) on the square in front of Albertina.

Posted by
12898 posts

@ Emily... I meant that one mentioned above...thanks, wml

Posted by
12898 posts

@ James...Yes, I saw the Reagan statue. There is the statue in Budapest found also in Vienna that of Prinz Eugen.

Posted by
14 posts

I am truly grateful to all of you for all of the excellent advice! As my itinterary comes together, I will report back!
Many thanks to all....
@jules m, @Dave, @wmt1, @James E. @ Fred

Posted by
720 posts

Taking the exact same trip next May Susie......maybe we will run into each other!
We are flying into Prague and out of Budapest........16 days to see Prague(3 nights- been there) , Cesky Krumlov(1 night), Salzburg(2 nights-been there before), Hallstatt,(1 night), Vienna(4 nights) and then fly home from Budapest(4 nights). We landed once in Munich on our Bavarian trip but did not stay or tour there.....need to do that on a later trip. We plan 2 days in Prague as we have been there before but LOVE the Charles River Bridge.......and seeing the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery. Love Prague and the ease of getting around the clock tower area. On our first trip to Salzburg we signed up for a Hallstatt tour but did not get to take it as we were the only 2 on it and they canceled it......but when it is featured at least 3 times a week on my discovereurope Instagram feed I know we need to go and see this beautiful place. Using Salzburg as a base for Berchesgarten.......though we LOVE Salzburg, we have seen it and have taken the SOM tour.....cheesy but a necessity and great. We will have a rental car because we love to ramble around the roads on our own timetable and have driven a ton in Europe. We have not toured either of these last 2 places and are so excited about seeing them for the first time.
I would forgo Munich and do that on another trip. I think you have plenty to see in the other places. When we flew into Munich we rented our car at the airport, drove south to Bavaria, saw Linderhof castle, collapsed that night and then were on a good normal schedule the rest of the trip. I think it helps to push through that first day and then sleep well that night and after that all is well.
Like you I am thrilled to have 8 months to plan. We have our reservations in hotels made so I am enjoying this forum for advice!