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Day trip to Budapest or Salzburg?

I am flopping like a beached mackerel! I will be in Vienna for six days in December with two of my adult daughters. I recently asked about a day trip and decided upon Budapest, a 2:20 train ride each way. I then bought tickets. wmt1 then graciously volunteered superb Budapest tips and information that I copied and then mapped out.

Yesterday, while re-watching television shows regarding the Christmas Markets that I recorded two years ago and kept, all seem to feature Salzburg and it is very appealing. Salzburg too is about a 2:20 train ride.

So do I take a loss on the Budapest tickets and switch to Salzburg? Our primary interest is the Christmas Markets. Which city might have things different from the offerings in the Vienna Christmas Markets? I could fo both, one on Thursday and the other on Saturday, but that is a LOT of traveling.

I apologize for being such a pain and so undecided, but I am getting up in age and do not know how many more times I can take this trip and this is the first time with both daughters, so I want it to be memorable and special.

Posted by
5393 posts

It's purely a matter of opinion. While neither city can be "done" in a daytrip, there is much more to see in Budapest, and it is a plenty "romantic" city to look at. Salzburg is more subtle, and takes more time to get a feel for. I mean, for example, strolling through a cemetery and seeing that the US military governor of Salzburg loved it so much that he and his wife are buried there.

Disclosure: I'm not big on Christmas Markets, but that's partly because US Christmas markets sell so much imported merchandise. I have also been to plenty of (non-seasonal) flea markets (like in Antwerp, for example) in Europe where imported (especially Polish clothing, I thought) makes up much of the merchandise.

In December, a key fact for me would be which city has the most available versions of Glühwein?

Have you checked on southern Czech republic and Bratislava (haven't been there myself). For a 2:20 train ride, I'd consider hiring a car service if necessary for a day in Cesky Krumlov or the 3 T's (if they have Christmas markets, I guess, for you.) The question is whether you will ever get to Budapest, otherwise.

Posted by
16485 posts

Go to Budapest. Everything will seem like half price compared to Austria. Budapest is a world class city, while Salzburg is a comparative backwater. Ask yourself, "What would Mozart do?"

Posted by
4645 posts

Corona restrictions are tightening up at the moment in Austria and crossing a border might take extra time.

I'd stay within Austria on a day trip for sure. Salzburg is definitely magical, so not an option to regret at all.

Posted by
74 posts

Budapest! Salzburg lovely but sleepy, outside of opera festival, and very expensive. Budapest fascinating, full of variety.

Posted by
13424 posts

As of today, the Austrian border is open without restrictions.

The Budapest markets only sell local crafts and Hungarian produced products; each vetted by a review board in advance.

The Budapest markets almost always rank among the top in reviews of all markets; every review is different but Budapest almost always hits the top 5 or so.

These are all subjective as h...., and there may be some ulterior motives behind the rankings, but it gives you a general idea of the better ones to visit.

This one its 2, no mention of Salzburg: https://www.europeanbestdestinations.com/christmas-markets/
This one its 4 (and Salzburg is 2): https://www.thetimes.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/best-christmas-markets-holidays
This one Budapest 3, Salzburg 6: https://www.roadaffair.com/best-christmas-markets-in-europe/

I wouldn't call Salzburg backwater: its a pretty city and either would be a good choice.

Posted by
2986 posts

I find both places to be great (though I find most places/things to be great). Having been to both Christmas markets, I think either will more than satisfy your hunger for such a market. If I were in your shoes and already had tickets to Budapest, that's where I would go. If the borders tighten, you can always go with Plan B.

Posted by
201 posts

The time for cold feet are over. Budapest it is! wtm1 gave me excellent ideas and guidance. I will report back on my great time.

Again, a sincere thank you to all who have helped me by giving their opinion and ideas.