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Travel itinerary: Budapest to Vienna to Salzburg to Prague

I need help figuring out a workable time frame for the trip itinerary I'm planning.
I've allocated 12 full days plus 2 days to and from US. Is my timing too tight in Vienna and Salzburg? Should I add a day to either Vienna or Salzburg? Should I take that day away from Prague or Budapest?

I've read the threads about trains so I have a handle on the hours and possible transfers. How is driving between some of these points? Which would you suggest driving instead of taking a train? Any and all advice is appreciated!

Arrive Budapest: stay 5 Nights

Train to Vienna: stay 2 nights

Train (or rental car) to Salzburg: stay 1 night

Train to Prague: stay 5 nights

Posted by
2487 posts

Two nights doesn't do justice to Vienna. One day less for Budapest and skipping Salzburg would be more balanced.
Budapest to Vienna and Vienna to Prague can all be done by direct trains. Check for schedules Advance bought tickets (from 3 months before departure date) can come at a huge discount. Consult for reliable practical advice.

Posted by
1521 posts

As Vienna has much more to offer than Budapest and Prague, I would stay three nights in either, skip Salzburg and stay the rest of the time in Vienna.

This is the website of ÖBB (Austrian Railways):
It is kind of a nuisance, but eventually you should be able to book "Sparschiene" tickets, which are the cheapest to travel to/from Budapest and Prague from/to Vienna. Prices can be down to € 19 for one ride. Consider to spend extra € 3 for a seat reservation, so you need not to walk through the train with your luggage to search for a vacant seat.

Austrian RailJet train from Budapest to Vienna is 2 hours 40 minutes, from Vienna to Prague 4 hours.

Posted by
4 posts

Wonderful feedback from you both; thank you!

I will definitely consider skipping Salzburg and adding a day to Vienna, which is not only where my husband's family was from, but also where his father went to medical school in the 1930s. So we want time to see the sights and explore his family's history, too.

Posted by
6950 posts

I agree with the above postings. Vienna is one of the great European cities--their Music City. The architecture, history, art, music, opera is wonderful--as are their dancing horses. We never tire of visiting there.

Posted by
334 posts

We were recently in Prague, Vienna and Salzburg. I enjoyed Prague and Salzburg much more than Vienna. With that said, because you have the most ties to Vienna, I think you should add time there and take a day away from Prague. I wouldn't miss Salzburg, though. We were there two nights, but I wish it would have been more.

Posted by
3485 posts

I would also suggest extending your stay in Vienna as much as possible ( drop Salzburg , and though it pains me to say this , Prague as well ) . Vienna is an incredibly involved and interesting place , and even four or five days would barely give you a taste . This fine documentary will go far in acquainting you with the city - . I have scheduled a travel group meeting for December 10 at one PM at Panera's , 452 Fifth Ave ( one block south of the 42st library ) Several of us have recently returned from Vienna , and this promises to be a lively afternoon . I'm in White Plains , and I'm sending you a PM as well .

Posted by
13708 posts

For a little balance of opinion. I would put the same post in the Czech and Hungarian forums ... or at the very least in "General". You might get some additional insight.

Posted by
13708 posts

Also, I always try and plan around events. With some dates we could look at what is going on in each city and that could have some impact on the decisions.

This isn’t the trip you asked about, but it’s the classic trip with two extra options.

1) Depart US
2) Arrive Prague. I always suggest starting in Prague because it is the most crowded and exhausting in my opinion, so hit it while you are fresth.
3) Prague
4) Prague
5) Morning Bean or CK Shuttle from Prague to Cesky Krumlov. This breaks up an otherwise sort of long train ride and lets you see the fairey tale town of Cesky Krumlov / river / castle, etc.
6) Mid afternoon Bean or CK Shuttle from Cesky Krumlov to Vienna.
7) Vienna
8) Vienna
9) Mid day train, Vienna to Budapest
10) Budapest
11) Budapest
12) Budapest
13) Budapest
14) Budapest
15) Home

Now, if you think that’s too much time in Budapest (I don't) then I suggest that you take and early afternoon train out of Vienna to Gyor (1.5 hours). There you check into the Hotel Klastrom a converted old monastery. That evening you enjoy the historic downtown district, the next morning you take a taxi to the Archabbey at Pannonhalma. After about 3 hours a taxi back to Gyor, pick up your luggage and go to the train station for a 1.5 hour trip to Budapst.

Alternatively there are some good day trips and overnight trips out of Budapest and Vienna. Melk for instance is a good use of one day from Vienna; and would justify an additional day in Vienna.

This is just my preference based on what interests me. For me, Prague is too compact and so full of tourists that I don’t think I am experiencing anything Czech. Vienna for me is a little too overly restored and as a result seems sort of plastic. Budapest is my love and I return several times a year. So, yes, I am very, very biased based on what I enjoy.

Posted by
15037 posts

I have to agree with my forum friends - eliminate Salzburg and spend more than 2 nights in Vienna. How to allocate among the 3 cities is a catch-22 situation. Until you've been, you won't know. We all have our preferences. I would say that Vienna, having been modeled much on Paris, is very Western in atmosphere, while Prague and Budapest are very different. I do like your plan to start in Budapest and end in Prague.

Posted by
13708 posts

This is just my preference based on what interests me. For me,
Prague is too compact and so full of tourists that I don’t think I am
experiencing anything Czech. Vienna for me is a little too overly
restored and as a result seems sort of plastic.

I guess I should clarify, these are my worst criticisms of Vienna and Prague, which are fairly insignificant relative to all that is amazing about each.

Posted by
3485 posts

I would not say James is " biased " . He is , understandably , a great advocate for Budapest . We made our first visit in 2013 , in great part , influenced by James' infectious enthusiasm . Chani raises a very valid point , in that all three of these cities will affect people differently , that concept was palpable to us on our first visit to these places in 2013 . In preparation for a visit to Budapest , this wonderful book by the author and journalist Kati Marton , is a must for a deeper understanding of this great city - Available here -

Posted by
2329 posts

If you've not been to any of these cities (I've been to all 4) and have 13 nights I'd allocate along these lines, keeping in mind that you have a connection to Vienna:

5 Budapest
4 Vienna (could also do a long day trip to Salzburg)
4 Prague

I am incredibly biased towards Budapest and since my first visit in 2014 I've returned this year and will return again next April (also to Vienna), and I'm taking Hungarian lessons. I seem incapable of visiting Europe without spending time in this most wondrous city and I'm not going to fight it any longer!

There's so much to do and see in all 3 and I think this number of days will allow you to get comfy in each, with time to explore the must-sees and also relax as needed. Prague in late May completely exhausted me but it's quite spectacular so just gear up for the masses of people. Vienna and Budapest have a pleasantly busy vibe but nowhere near as hectic.

Posted by
13708 posts

Steven, I am biased. I admit it. Different things "speak" to different people so everyone is biased to one degree or another. But I was a little negative about Prague and Vienna and that really wasn't my intent. Great places, glad I went. But now I just keep getting pulled further and further east.

As for the book; wonderful, but best read along with the her father's (Endre Marton) interpretation of the same series of events. The book: The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution is out of print, but you can usually find a copy on Amazon or Ebay. His is a first hand account and her's is some first hand and a lot of research after "The Change". Fascinating reads.

Also read the bios of both; and her mother. Pretty amazing family in general.

If you go back to Budapest I can give you directions to the prison where Kati Marton's mother and father were held. Still there. Still a prison. Still creepy.....

Posted by
646 posts

We were a week each in Vienna and Prague last summer. We would happily have stayed longer in either city.

Vienna has as many great art museums as Paris, several fine palaces, coffee houses galore, and concert opportunities. But while we enjoyed the museums and palaces, we didn't enjoy the city itself nearly as much as we enjoyed Prague. Perhaps this was because we like narrow winding streets and human scaled buildings better than broad avenues and monumental architecture. If you love art, you are not giving enough time to Vienna.

Prague is lovely just to be in. Old town is narrow and winding opening up to superb plazas full of people and life. It is hilly and there are many great vistas. Art Nouveau details are everywhere. There are fewer block buster sights. Though it is the city to see Mucha, there are really no world class museums, but there are certainly a couple small gems. The Jewish Quarter is facinating. We spent much of our time in Prague just walking. If you would like time spend you time outdoors walking, Prague is for you.

Salzburg was fun, but I'd stay two night or not at all. Like Prague it is the atmosphere, not the sights that make Salzburg worth visiting.

Budapest we have not visited yet.

What time of year are you going? I suspect Prague's charms would lose something in the rain, but Vienna's museums and concert halls would not.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for all the wonderful responses! I am thinking about the varying perspectives and preferences, and what it comes down to is, we really can't go wrong no matter what we do!

I am a huge art, architecture and history fan, as is my husband, so we will really enjoy the specifics of each place. I have names of private tour guides from friends for Prague and Budapest, but not for Vienna. If anyone has a great recommendation for Vienna, please do let me know!

We have gotten so much more out of our trips when we have hired knowledgable and communicative guides.

Lastly, I'm using an AMEX Platinum to travel, and wondering if anyone has any special tips in terms of room upgrades, dining, etc,
aside from Platinum's published perks and benefits.

I love this forum : )


Posted by
2487 posts

Vienna is a showcase of spectacular turn-of-the-century architecture. Google on Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner. If you're a serious architecture enthousiast the Kirche am Steinhof is something not to be missed (
Another Viennese specialty are the social housing projects of the '20s with the Karl-Marx-Hof and the Rabenhof as highlights.
For impressive old-fashioned K.u.K. architecture the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) is unbeatable ( as is the War Ministry on the Stubenring.

Posted by
12970 posts

@ for "a great recommendation for Vienna, let me know." I have numerous recommendations on Vienna if you two are into tracking down history sites (good, bad, and the ugly) aside from the good suggestions above. (ie, Stubenring....I'll have to look into that one in May 2017). I'm referring to sites on Habsburg history, military sites/memorials, and WW2, such as the Flaktürme (towers), Heldenplatz, etc.

Posted by
183 posts

If you tire of the baroque:
Wagner's Postsparkasse on the ring (across from the war ministry building actually) is one of my favorite buildings in Vienna. It is open with some limited tour/visit possibilities. The Wien Museum is quite good and there is a small museum dedicated to Wagner's impact on the city through his railway projects and his urban planning efforts. The latter is in one of his old art deco metro stops right on Karlsplatz. (Both the Wien museum and the wagner museum are free the first sunday of the month.)

For modern architecture, you might want to visit the entirely new campus of the Wirtshaftsuniversität. Adjacent to the Prater, it lies between the Messe Prater and Krieau stops on the U2. It's an interesting collection of modern buildings but I think its real strength is the site plan (not the headliner library by Zaha Hadid which is indeed pretty cool). The area around the university is undergoing major redevelopment with new offices and housing. You can book an architectural tour there as well. It's an interesting side stroll from the Prater. Another site for modern stuff would be to ride allllll the way to the end of the U2 and visit the Seestadt Aspern development. A huge new development outside the city with a lot of sustainability emphasis. More for the urban planning geek, though.

The Wittgenstein Haus is interesting too. You can only get in there when there is a scheduled event, though.