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first time traveling to Berlin, Vienna and Prague

My boyfriend and I decided to book a trip together this November. I have traveled overseas alone before but this is his first time so I want to make sure that he gets the full experience. I have been reading other blogs, tips and tricks etc. But when it comes to sightseeing what are the must sees?!!! This is where I am struggling. I get mixed review about everything. We are spending 3 days each in each city. Can I get some recommendations on what is worth the time and money ?

Much appreciative!!!

Posted by
2360 posts

The guidebooks Rick Steves sells are very helpful. Prague and Vienna are both covered extensively in the Eastern Europe guidebook.

Posted by
12090 posts

"...mixed review about everything." That's exactly why I don't read reviews on cities such as Vienna, Prague and Berlin, much less have my trips there dictated by them. The review is "mixed" since people have different interests and priorities.

You have picked three wonderful, lovely cities to visit. I went to all three by the time I was on my 2nd trip in Europe. Vienna and westBerlin were absolute visits on the first trip, solo, ie I saw it as unthinkable then in 1971 being in Europe without going to Berlin.

What are your main top priority interests? His main interests? Berlin is spread out, huge, don't just focus in Mitte, . Take the S-Bahn # 3 from west to east (Eckner) beyond Karlshorst.

Prague survived the war intact, undamaged given a wartime situation, was the last capital to be liberated, since the US troops were order to go no further than the Linz-Pilsen line, ie, Prague was off-limits. The "American Monument" attesting to its liberation is in the "center" in Plzen (Pilsen) . I went there in 2001.

Posted by
11153 posts

"But when it comes to sightseeing what are the must sees?!!! This is where I am struggling. I get mixed review about everything. We are spending 3 days each in each city. Can I get some recommendations on what is worth the time and money ?"

With only 3 days, you will have to be very selective, particularly in Berlin and Vienna. But, as you say, everyone will have different views on the "must sees" and "must avoids" of each place. The best you can do is for you and your boyfriend to look at the lists of top attractions, learn more about them, and decide what draws you most.

If you want to see Rick's opinion on this, scroll down on each city's link and click on "At A Glance" for:
Prague https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/czech-republic/prague
Vienna https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/austria/vienna
and Berlin https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/germany/berlin

In each entry, if you scroll down further under "Watch," you can see Rick's videos and travel talks. Just be aware that some of the videos are getting old (10 years or more).

In the end, only you can decide what's worth the time and money. For instance, I loved the German History Museum in Berlin and could spend a whole day there; others would be bored out of their minds in 30 minutes. The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is often cited as an absolute, ten out of ten, spectacular sight, but to me it was only "good."

And accept, right now, that even with the most intensive research and planning, you will not know how you will react to a sight or attraction until you've seen it. In Berlin, I only went to the Aquarium because my mother wanted to, but we both ended up loving it; I preferred it to the more famous zoo. The Berlin Botanic Garden, on the other hand, was distinct let-down for both of us.

Posted by
77 posts

"Must sees..." are very personal. Your interests are different from mine - guaranteed! So, rather solicit the opinions of others I suggest you sit down with your BF and the RS guidebooks. Start with the the introductory pages for each city. Then go to the "Berlin at a Glance" page (and for each city) and check off those listing that seem interesting to both of you and then read on to the detail pages for that site. That should give you some clarity of your options. You will probably be unable to see everything on your list so prioritize. Do plan to leave time to simply wander around especially in Prague and Vienna. Also carefully read the local transportation pages and consider transportation time (and availability) in setting your day's itinerary.

That said - here are my opinions. Berlin is a big city with lots to see. A guided tour makes sense here to get a feel of the city and its options. The Museums are great. The holocaust memorial is moving as is the wall. Prague sights are mostly walk-able. Best beer in the world. Lots of cafes and bars but note that each serves only one brand of beer. You can usually tell from the logo on the awnings. This argues for allowing time for a bit of bar hopping. Vienna is lovely. Definitely get a metro pass. You can get anywhere on public transit. If you are interested in classical music this is the place. Something going every evening.

Researching can be stressful but pays off. However, don't get too rigid and just race from one site to another. Walking around and/or sitting in a cafe or bar people watching is also fun. Talk to hosts and concierge's about current events and activities and you may find yourself adding or subtracting from your plans.

Have a great trip, Robbie

Posted by
77 posts

Forgot about the RS videos. He has excellent 30 minute shows on each city that will give you a great overview and, with my above suggestions, help you to prioritize you plans.

Your local library will likely have copies and they show regularly on many PBS stations. And they can be viewed on this web site under the "Watch, Read, Listen" tab. Other resources are there also.

Posted by
1421 posts

When I look back on the cities I've visited, my list of "must see" attractions and the "things I remember most" are quite different.

In Prague, like most tourists, I wanted to take Tram 22 up the hill to visit Prague Castle and see St Vitus Cathedral.

My favorite memory from Prague was after visiting the castle and cathedral. I walked up the hill and bought a picnic lunch in the grocery store above Prague Castle (I believe it may have been Zabka.) Then I walked back down the hill a short way to the park benches just below Bellavista restaurant (I think it may have been replaced with another restaurant, but it still shows as Bellavista on my Google Maps) and enjoyed the incredible views looking down over Old Town Prague.

Definitely worth the time (a short walk from Prague Castle) and the money - free for the view from the parkbench!

Posted by
1421 posts

My favorite "must see" sights in Vienna were the objets d'art at the Kunthistoriches Museum and the Silver Collection at the Hofburg with its over-the-top dinner and silver settings.

My favorite memory in Vienna is from taking the public trams for a self-guided hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour around the center. This is well described by Rick Steves in the guidebooks covering Vienna. There is also an audio tour that you can listen to while you make the journey, describing each stop.

Posted by
12090 posts

I would suggest getting The Rough Guide Berlin for planning the visit there, likewise with Vienna. Can you stretch the visit in each city to 4 full days? Maybe you have to set a more stringent priority as to choosing what to see.

For me of the these 3 cities, top priority was Berlin. So I went to Berlin first, then to Vienna at the end of the trip, ie that first one. It worked out geographically too.

Posted by
1915 posts

Have an "Ich bin ein Berliner" of a time And you should be visiting
where that was said.

Actually, given the amount of time you have, you should not. That was spoken at Rathaus Schöneberg, which is fairly isolated from other highly-trafficked tourist sites in Berlin. Only die-hard JFK fans should include it on a first trip to Berlin. Some mistakingly believe the "Ich bin ein Berliner" line was uttered near the Brandenburg Gate (which, of course, you should see during your Berlin visit), but it was not.

I absolutely love Berlin, but my interests may not be your interests. I strongly agree with those who recommend using guide books to find what speaks to you as things you should visit/do while in the 3 cities planned for your trip (or, as Harold suggests, look at the info Rick Steves provides on this site). For the record, I share Fred's affinity for the Rough Guide to Berlin.

Here's a great thread on "What Not To Miss in Berlin": https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/what-not-to-miss-in-berlin

Posted by
1551 posts

As a different sort of perspective, if you are going in late November, each of these 3 cities will have wonderful Christmas markets. I will be in Vienna during this time and have some time allocated to browsing through the markets.

In addition to the research you will do to gain a better idea of sights and activities, be sure to sit in a cafe with a coffee and just people watch. In November you may be forced inside but it is still a delightful way to pass some time. I was there last time in the month of June 2015 so being outdoors was easier.

I love the history of these cities, be assured it’s not only the purview of men to like history. The history and culture of Europe keeps drawing me back!

I am going on the RS tour of Munich Salzburg Vienna in late November and making plans for my free time. This return to Vienna will allow me to go farther afield in my sightseeing. There are two exhibits I’m planning to see and a concert I plan to attend. When you dive into the guidebooks and tv shows you will see how much there is to choose from. But remember, tell yourselves you will be back.

The quote above translates to “ I am a jelly doughnut “. Not what JFK intended.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1915 posts

The "Ich bin ein Berliner" line is a very interesting subject whose modern understanding has been heavily influenced by urban legend. The line was actually written by Robert Lochner, a native German (and native Berliner) who served as the President's translator during his trip to Berlin. There was some debate whether to include an "ein" or not, according to some sources I have read. In the end, "ein" was included. The term "Berliner" referred to a jelly-filled pastry outside of Berlin, but that term was not used in Berlin; the term for that item in Berlin was Pfannkuchen. No one at the time in any way misunderstood the President or was amused by his statement. It was clearly understood as a statement of solidarity with West Berlin and an affirmation of US support for a free West Berlin. The jelly doughnut idea surfaced well after the speech was made. An interesting read on this topic from the Smithsonian: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-does-everybody-think-jfk-said-im-jelly-donut-180963779/

If you watch the speech (and it is a speech well worth watching), you will see there was exactly zero chuckling in the crowd regarding that line; there was just unadulterated adoration of JFK and appreciation for the statement (especially after the second time he used it in his speech). The speech on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56V6r2dpYH8&t

Posted by
1551 posts

Dave,
Thanks for clarifying! I was puzzled by the strange translation of the phrase when I first heard someone say “...jelly doughnut” - (I took a couple years of German in college).

Yes, I agree with you, JFK’s speech is a proud and inspiring moment.

Posted by
1915 posts

In our age of Fake News awareness, it's interesting to note that one of the main propagators of the jelly doughnut myth was a lazy, poorly-researched, poorly-fact-checked 1988 NY Times op-ed piece entitled, "I am a Jelly-Filled Doughnut." The piece stated the "Ich bin ein Berliner" line was delivered at the Berlin Wall (false), and the author had the audacity to imply that JFK's handlers were careless/lazy for not "finding out" his false fact that Berliners used "Berliner" to refer to a pastry.

See the Scopes article on this topic that includes a snippet from the NY Times article: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/the-hole-truth/

Or see the original at the NY Times website: https://www.nytimes.com/1988/04/30/opinion/i-am-a-jelly-filled-doughnut.html

My apologies to the OP for hijacking the thread.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you so much to everyone for your input!!! It definitely helps. I have purchased the books from Rick Steves on each and already have the app downloaded. Thanks to these I know about the walking tours he provided. I appreciate the time to reply

-Danielle