In the early stages of planning a 14-15 day trip with my husband and 18 year old son to the four cities mentioned. Thinking train to connect between cities (or maybe bus?) and could use some hotel recs with triple rooms near train stations. Thanks!
Krakow is something of an outlier in this itinerary. Shortest train travel time would be to start or end in Krakow. Krakow-Vienna-Prague-Berlin or reverse. All connected by direct trains.
You really don't want to stay near Berlin Hbf, as there is nothing of much interest nearby, but easy to just make it near one of the S-Bahn stations elsewhere in Berlin after making a connection at the Hbf. Like near the Zoo Bahnhof or Savignyplatz. Pension Peters is my favorite near Savignyplatz and has family rooms for up to 5 at reasonable prices.
Others have their favorite parts of Belin, but nobody stays near the Hbf.
Krakow, check out Amber Design. We had a two room layout with an extra bed which we did not need. The staff were extremely helpful, arranged reasonably priced airport pickup for us and a small tour to Auschwitz. It is just a few blocks to the central square.
I suspect as you dig more into sightseeing opportunities in those cities you will come to the conclusion that 14-15 days isn't long enough. You are going to have to make some painful decisions, I'm afraid. Krakow is lovely, but given the time you have available I'd postpone it until a later trip (and include more of Poland). LImiting the trip to Vienna, Prague and Berlin would allow you to get a more comprehensive look at those cities. Now, if you have zero interest in art and historical museums, your initial plan may be OK. (But in that case I might question choosing Berlin with its wealth of historical sites but mostly modern architecture.)
The train and/or bus ride from Krakow to Prague will eat up the better part of a day. Alternatively, there is an overnight train that will conserve sightseeing time, but may leave you exhausted the morning after and unable to enjoy your next day(s). I loved it, obviously, or I wouldn't mention it. The overnight train got me into Prague rested and in time for a 10am city tour. I'm in a minority on that opinion.
There are sleeping cars which can hold 3 people - you might have to purchase the 4th place to have it to yourselves.
From the standpoint of transit efficiency, these combinations work well:
Krakow, Prague, Berlin (ok)
Vienna, Prague, Berlin (better)
You could also add Dresden if you still want a 4th city. It's lovely and quite compact, and an easy mid-way point between Prague and Berlin.
Thanks to Sam and Suki and acraven—greatly appreciate all suggestions and will check out your links!
14-15 days is nowhere near enough time. This is a return trip to Prague after 30 years (I cannot wrap my mind around how I’m old enough to say that, much less how I’ve not been back) and to Vienna and Berlin after 25. Krakow is a non-negotiable because we have never been to Auschwitz and must make that pilgrimage and pay our respects. We know Poland is worth lots more time, but school and work schedules won’t allow a longer vacation. The history buffs + the art historian in the family have argued this trip down to three cities + Krakow/Auschwitz. We know we will return, and the kid will, for sure.
Cwsocial, can you tell me more about the overnight train? In theory—could we take it to Krakow, store our luggage, meet the tour to Auschwitz, return to a hotel and spend the night in Krakow? Or spend a night in Krakow and then take the overnight train on day 2 post-Auschwitz to our next stop, probably Vienna? Or is my 20 year old brain thinking of possibilities that my 50 year old self will regret? Tell me about your experience, please.
You can read about the Krakow-> Prague overnight train, which I did:
And the Prague-> Krakow direction:
The site, which I've found to be accurate down to most details (though confirming is still a good idea) says that the "safe & comfortable sleeper train leaves Prague Hlavni at 22:15 and arrives in Krakow Glowny at 05:41 next morning."
Here's a website where you can easily check dates and prices to do the math to see if it's good value for 3 people:
In theory—could we take it to Krakow, store our luggage, meet the tour to Auschwitz, return to a hotel and spend the night in Krakow?
Having done the same, though going from Krakow to Prague, yes you can. I took the overnight train, took my luggage to my hotel and easily made a morning sightseeing tour in Prague.
Or is my 20 year old brain thinking of possibilities that my 50 year old self will regret?
Perhaps. I'm a very light sleeper. But I grew up taking family vacations in an RV, with lots of rest stops and stops for gas. So the motion and noise of the train as it pulls into each station, waits a few minutes and pulls away again, didn't bother me. (Though I'm not sure how many of the stops the overnight train makes.) A nighttime cold pill probably also helped.
On arrival in Prague, I was awake and rested for a very full day of sightseeing. Oh, and I was well past 50 when I took that train.
Others will tell you it was the most miserable experience of their travels and they will never do it again.
In Vienna I would sleep there for five nights and visit:
Hofburg Imperial Apartments
Spend an evening (or leave at intermission) at the Vienna State Opera and walk over to Café Sacher afterwards and sample their famous torte cake. Not that it’s the best, but this is the original recipe. Order one that you can all share.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Day trip to Bratislava by direct train (1h) and tour the old town.
From Vienna take an overnight train from the Wien Hbf station to Krakow Glowny. Not sure if this train runs nightly, but it is direct and you want to reserve a sleeper car. I did this once and highly recommend it.
In Krakow sleep in the Jewish neighborhood for three nights and visit the Main Market Square. You should also take a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau by direct bus (1h 45m). Spend a minimum of three nights in Krakow.
From Krakow take an overnight train from the Krakow Glowny station to the Praha hl.n station and then a taxi to the old town and sleep there for three nights. Make sure you visit:
Old Town Square
St. Vitus Cathedral
From Prague take a direct train to Berlin (4h 15m) and visit the:
Berlin Wall Memorial
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
MaryPat, wow, thank you! I appreciate your attention to detail and your excellent suggestions. I’ll definitely work them into our itinerary.
CWsocial, your rail links are so helpful—thanks! The idea of a sleeper train appeals to all of us and sounds like a great idea—hopefully there will be some actual sleeping—maybe we have read too many books, but the adventure of train travel is alluring, isn’t it?
If you don't sleep well on the overnight train, the problem most likely will not end with being sleepy on the day you arrive. You may find (as I did) that you need a very long nap that day and are jetlagged afterward.
The Krakow-Prague night train makes 12 intermediate stops throughout the night as you travel, with all the braking, cars clanging at the stop, then accelerating out of the station. The longest undisturbed time is roughly from 1:30 am to 3:30 am.
Vienna is a night train hub, departing from Wien Hbf. I've taken several rides from that station to Hannover or Hamburg, which is the terminus.
Taking a night train saves you day hours of traveling that distance, maybe with transfers along the way. The night train ride eliminates the changing of trains on day schedules.
One of the best night's sleep of my life was on a train. My Mom hated the stopping. I wake up a lot anyways, so when the train stopped I rolled over and went back to sleep. I loved loved loved the rocking motion and slept like a baby!
the adventure of train travel is alluring, isn’t it?
It is one of my favorite travel adventure memories!
Today I had a rude surprise as my travel agent was trying to buy my train tickets from Berlin to Wroclaw Poland.
US citizens must enter Poland by air unless they meet one of the exemptions. I'm posting what my travel agent sent me and I verified on the US Embassy site for Poland. We are now flying to Poland from Berlin and then continuing our trip by train within the country. If you change to start in Krakow as Sam suggested you would meet the requirements, or you can fly from Vienna, Prague or Berlin.
POLAND- LINK: https://pl.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/
Entry and Exit Requirements:
Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? Yes
Citizens or legal residents of the United States who are traveling on an international flight are permitted to enter Poland. Quarantine Restrictions are still in force (please see Quarantine Information below for more details).
Are U.S. citizens required to quarantine? Yes
All travelers who are permitted to enter Poland must undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine at their place of stay in Poland, except for people who qualify for one of the following exemptions:
For arrivals from the Schengen Area: travelers who have a negative COVID test result from a test performed in a Schengen Area country within 48 hours prior to arrival
Travelers who are completely vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine that is approved for use in the European Union
U.S. citizens traveling by land or sea must qualify for one of the following entry exemptions:
Foreigners who are spouses or children of Polish citizens or remain under the constant care of Polish citizens
Foreigners holding a Karta Polaka (ID card for those with a claim to Polish heritage through ancestry)
Foreigners who have the right of permanent or temporary residence in Poland
Foreigners who are authorized to take up employment under the same rules as Polish citizens, who perform work in Poland, or will present documents showing that they will take up employment immediately after entering Poland, and who are in possession of one of the following:
Certification of registration to perform seasonal work
Work contract or statement entrusting a performance of work to a foreigner
Pupils, students, graduate students, and postgraduate students enrolled in Polish educational institutions
Scientists conducting research or developmental work in Poland
Foreigners participating in international sports competitions as a competitor, member of the training staff, doctor, physiotherapist, judge, or accredited journalist
Foreigners who drive a vehicle used to transport goods
Persons with diplomatic status in Poland and members of their families
Thistledown, thank you. So kind of you to share what you have learned. When are you going? Being fully vaxxed does not seem to matter at all, does it?
I also read from the Polish government website that travelers can enter by any means if crossing a Schengen border.
Please note that you have to register before crossing the border to the Czech Republic.
Online form: https://plf.uzis.cz/