My husband and I will be traveling to Europe for 2 weeks next Spring for our 30th wedding anniversary. We were originally contemplating going to Vienna, Prague and Budapest but decided to focus on Austria and the Czech Republic instead. In Austria we are interested in Vienna, Saltzberg and the Wachau Valley and the only destination so far in the Czech Republic is Prague. We have travelled extensively in Europe and are comfortable driving or taking trains or busses but we have not been to these areas. Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated! Thank you!!!
First: I would fly so called open jaw, that means to Vienna and back from Prague (or vice versa). Your trip is possible without a car and would be quite cheaper. You can get to Wachau Valley from Vienna by train or more romantic by boat. I am sure Emily will be able to provide specifics. From there by train to Salzburg. From Salzburg by train back to Linz and from there by shuttle to Cesky Krumlov. Or all the way by train to Cesky Krumlov. From there by train or Yellow bus to Prague. Vienna and Prague will take at least 4 days each, Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov, Wachau 1 day each and the rest you can use for day trips. Suggested day trips from Prague: Kutna Hora, Karlstejn, Krivoklat, Konopiste. Day trips from Vienna I leave for comments to Austria experts.
Thank you so much for the information. We are planning to start our trip in Vienna. Do you happen to have more specific information on how to get to the Wachau Valley from Vienna? Also, are you suggesting the Wachau Valley as a day trip from Vienna? The boat trip sounds like a great idea - do you know more about it and have recommendations?
On another note, do you think it's a mistake to skip Budapest on this trip? Any thoughts???
Finally, do you know if there are high speed train options between these cities?
Austria and C.R. don't have high speed trains like France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and some others. But they still go between Vienna and Salzburg 160 to 180 km/h. Trains between Ceske Budejovice and Prague are slower. From Cesky Krumlov to Ceske Budejovice train is really slow.
About logistics to get to Wachau Valley read the question: Drive from Salzburg to Vienna, it's under Austria like your question. Especially Emily's answer is very informative. You can PM her about details of boat trip. I saw her contribution about it somewhere but now I cannot find it.
To skip or not to skip Budapest? Very difficult to answer. For Budapest you would need at least 4 days so you would have to drop some other destinations. It's your decision, read guide books, look at pictures, google and decide. Or ask James and he will tell you absolutely not to skip. Or ask George from Canada and he will tell you definitely skip it.
I love the Wachau. I'm actually going out there tomorrow for the day to see the apricot blossoms. This trip can be done as a day trip from Vienna, or you can overnight and continue on to Salzburg. Personally, I would do a day trip as you want the weather to be nice and that would give you flexibility. One of the highlights of the Wachau is the Melk Abbey. Personally, not my thing, as I prefer to hang out at the heurigen in some of the small villages and rent a bike. You could easily take the train from Vienna to Melk, then hop of either the Brandner or DDSG boat and cruise down the river. Disembark at Duernstein, explore (hike up to the castle ruins, have lunch on the terrace at the Hotel Richard Lowenherz). Alternatively, you could get off one stop earlier at Weissenkirchen and spend the sunny afternoon at a heurigen (winery restaurant; this village is known for some good ones). From either Weissenkirchen or Duernstein take the bus back to Krems train station and from there train back to Vienna. It will be a full day. Send me a message if you want more details or specific recommendations.
If you haven’t been to Central Europe before you are in for a good time. Or at least it works very well for me. There are a number of great things to see in the Czech Republic. Look at the possibility of visiting Cesky Krumlov and a few of the many castles. I’ve been to Zikov and Karlstejn and loved them. Vienna captured my attention for just two days before we changed our plans and moved on, but others can spend a life time there so that just proves that everyone is different. But that does suggest the value of remaining flexible when you travel. The Wachau valley was magnificent and the abbey at Melk is very interesting. Now we come down to the question of Budapest. You are spread a little thin already so if it were me I would either skip Budapest or Prague. The one thing that you might look at for a future trip is if you skip Prague then what trip could you put together in the future that would involve Prague, and the same evaluation with Budapest. Prague works very well with Germany for instance. Budapest works better with the likes of Slovakia and Romania ………….. and of course Austria. Doesn’t matter so much which you go to, they are both about discovery. If you go the Budapest direction look into the Archabbey at Pannonhalma outside of Gyor, Hungary. Then compare it to your visit to the Abbey at Melk in Austria.
There is another post right now concerning the wisdom of flying some place in the center of your vacation. When you are balancing Budapest and Prague you might look at the cheap non-stops out of each as a way of opening up the decision of which to put off for later. I spend more time in Bpest than your other locations so I know off the top of my head that for under $300 r/t you can get to places as diverse as Istanbul, Moscow and Jerusalem. So if those places interest you then you put Budapest off for a future trip and pair it that way. Or, there may be options out of Prague you find more interesting.
Hello to all and thank you for your suggestions!
We have decided to skip Budapest on this trip for sure due to time constraints (we only have 2 weeks). My husband only wants to have three hotel locations. So, I was thinking we would do overnights in Vienna, Salzberg and Prague. We will be flying into Vienna and hopefully out of Prague, if it's not too cost prohibitive. We would like to spend one day in the Wachau Valley as a day trip from Vienna. We were wondering if it is possible to do Cesky Krumlov or some other destination in the Czech Republic as a day trip from Prague? Do you have any advice as to how we should divide our time between these three locations? We really will only have 12 days for sightseeing since 2 of the days will be spent traveling back and forth to the U.S. We are hoping to travel in the Spring and I was told to avoid Prague on the weekends because of the crowds. I am of Bohemian ancestry and I am the first one of my family to travel to the Czech Republic so I know I will definitely spend more time there in the future. Since this is a special occasion trip (30th wedding anniversary) we want to stay at really nice places. We have our hotels picked out for Prague and Vienna but would appreciate a good recommendation for Saltzberg. Also, should we go to Vienna first, then Saltzberg and then Prague? Thank you so much for your expert advice. I appreciate it very much!
Well, you will have to push it with just 12 days. It does not matter: you can do it either Vienna, Wachau Valley, Salzburg, Cesky Krumlov, Prague or vice versa. I would check prices of open jaw: US to Vienna and back Prague to US, US to Prague and back from Vienna to US. Whichever is cheaper would be my choice. If the same price and I could not decide I would toss a coin. Because you have so little time I would try to make it as efficient as possible. To avoid backtracking I would take my luggage with me to Melk, store it there, then take roundtrip by boat to Duernstein, see the castle, have lunch etc. and then go back to Melk (could be done also by bus or train), get detailed information about your options in Vienna information centers, see the Benedictin Abbey in Melk and then go by train to Salzburg (one train change). Make sure that Melk train station has storage for luggage. It used to be that stations of that size had lockers and also manned storage. But you know, progress is unstoppable so I would rather check ahead. We stayed in hotel Elephant in Old Town Salzburg. Perfect location, spacey room and a hallway with another sofa and TV in it, very good breakfast and I think that price was reasonable. I would not recommend Cesky Krumlov as a day trip from Prague (it's three hours one way by a luxurious Yellow Bus - also called Student Agency. Has nothing to do with students, it's simply name of company. Car is only few minutes faster). Instead to avoid backtracking go by train from Salzburg to Linz where you catch shuttle to Cesky Krumlov or you can go all the way by train to Cesky Krumlov which takes longer and you change train in Linz and Ceske Budejovice where you certainly can store your luggage. I suspect that Cesky Krumlov being so touristy has some option for storing luggage, too, probably somewhere in town or in the worse case scenario at the train station. Prague has a reputation for being crowded. That's because everybody walks on so called Kings Golden Way through the Old Town narrow streets, across Charles Bridge through the narrow street of Little Quarters (Mala Strana) up to the Castle. There are some very scenic views of the Castle from Charles Bridge. Try to do and finish this walk before 9:00 am and you will avoid most of the crowds. Other parts of Prague are much less crowded. Rick Steves guidebooks are ideal for your short stay in Austria and C.R. Also read contributions under Austria and Czech Republic. Some of them are very informative. By the way do you know the name of town or village your ancestors from C.R. are from?
OK, now I noticed that you are also asking how to divide your time among those three locations. As I already said Vienna and Prague at least four days each, Salzburg 1 or 2 and I know you want just three locations but if it was me I would add just one night in Cesky Krumlov. That picturesque fairy tale like town is so beautiful at night being skillfully lit and without crowds. Enjoy your trip. I'll be in Austria and Czech Republic in June. Depending on circumstances I am also thinking about Hungary, Slovakia, Poland.
I think it’s a smart move to have dropped a city. If this were my trip I would fly into Prague and out of Vienna all other things being equal. You do realize that you have 3 travel days? It takes two days to get to Europe because of the time change and one day back. AND, two weeks is 16 days if you utilize all the weekends. We enjoy the region most in September and October but the spring is our close second choice. So here is an idea:
Day 1 Probably Saturday: Depart US
Day 2 Probably Sunday: Arrive Prague
Day 3 Prague
Day 4 Prague
Day 5 Prague to Cesky Krumlov (check out Bean Shuttle for these transfers)
If it were me and I had your family history I would splurge on this part of the trip and rent a car or hire a private guide with a car and visit Karlstejn Castle on the way to Cesky Krumlov. CK can be touristy. When we visited we went in the Spring and we spent the night. Spring isn’t the high season and what tourists there were came about 11:30 and left by about 3:30. By stopping at a castle on the way down and arriving about 2pm then leaving about noon the next day we had the opportunity to enjoy the town with few tourists. This was one of our favorite towns. Really enjoyed it.
Day 6 Cesky Krumlov to Salzburg
Day 7 Salzburg: I haven’t been to Salzburg and I have gotten mixed reviews when I have asked about it.
Day 8 Saturday, Salzburg
Day 9 Sunday, Salzburg to Vienna
Day 10 Vienna: I am going to get hammered for this: I know a lot of people who absolutely love Vienna and cannot get enough of it. Me? After two days I realized that Vienna and I didn’t speak the same language so we moved on. But, again, I am probably the minority. Look for a Plan B for each of the Cities in case you run into something isn't to your expectations.
Day 11 Melk and the Wachau Valley day trip. Melk and the Wachau valley and I do speak the same language and I really enjoyed it. Rent a car or hire a private guide if you can so you don’t get shuffled through a Disneyland ride. This is an area to be enjoyed.
Day 12 Vienna
Day 13 Vienna
Day 14 Vienna home
Day 15 Saturday
Day 16 Sunday
A quick note about your time in Prague. We stayed 4 days at Arcadia Old Town-- an amazing B&B -- and stayed in a HUGE apartment with full kitchen. It was perfect -- highly suggest taking a look: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g274707-d655299-Reviews-Arcadia_Old_Town-Prague_Bohemia.html
We did a single day trip to Cesky Krumlov -- I know it is long (3 hrs each way), but we left at 7am, and spent 10am-4pm hanging out and took the bus back for a late dinner in Prague. If you don't want to do it in one day, you might go there after prague, for a single night, then head to your next stop from there. I know there are some companies who will drive you from Cesky to Vienna, that might be a quicker method of travel than dealing with trains/buses.
You didn't ask about hotels, but the Hotel Ventana is among the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in and the location is ideal. In Cesky K. Look at the Hotel Dvorak and the room with the balcony that faces the castle. Again, ideal location. In Vienna look at the Imperial.
I have been to all the locations you are looking at and there have been some great suggestions.... I would just like to second the idea that you spend the night in Cesky Krumlov... I think you would be really disappointed to spend all the time getting there and not see it in the evening after the crowds leave. It is a charming place to chill out and enjoy... not to rush in and out of.
You should have a lovely trip.
If you don't have European Journal on your cable in your home town you are missing an interesting show. This episode has a story on Austrian tourism: