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Prague or Budapest? Eternal question.

I noticed this question many times on this forum and replied also many times. Everybody knows both are the best eye candies of Central Europe. While surfing internet I ran into this website written by people who lived in both cities and I could not agree more with their descriptions and evaluation of both cities. It really could help people to decide which city to see if they could not see both.
http://www.bbqboy.net/prague-budapest-visit

Posted by
6543 posts

Ilja, I agree pretty much with their assessment too; but overall it's a real good argument to see both.

Posted by
13990 posts

Ilja, its pretty interesting. But its like comparing apples and oranges. I've always thought that on the surface Prague was more attractive in a lot of ways. But if it is a cultural experience Budapest wins out; and it can be very beautiful as well. That also seems to break down by age too. Older tend to prefer Budapest, younger Prague. Big exception, English stag parties of all ages prefer Prague over Budapest. Then there is the crowd issue. Some things are just deal breakers for me. But I can understand 100% why some people say see Prague first. Now lets complicate things more. Lets throw in Vienna. Me, I'm glad I visited all three and took away something special from each of them.

Posted by
1878 posts

This is a really interesting comparison. He rates the river views and bridges of Budapest too low, and the wine too high, in my opinion. Believe me, looking out over Budapest from castle hill with the sun setting behind you is spectacular. But walking down from castle hill from Praque is awesome too. Very cool that they actually have grape vines growing as you walk down from the castle complex. The crowds of Prague vs. feeling like you have Budapest practically to yourself (at least when we have been there during shoulder season) is a big reason why I prefer Budapest. We were in Prague in early may and the crowds were just crazy. During our visit, we found that Prague has a sleaze factor that was not very appealing—kind of the Las Vegas for Europe with lots of stag/hen parties, gambling, and strip clubs close to the tourist areas. I actually think the sights in Prague are a lot more impressive than Budapest, but it can be very liberating not having too many things that you feel obligated to check off a pre-defined list.

Posted by
13990 posts

VS beer vs wine is might be as much an age thing as anything else. If you are a beer drinker the drinking is better in Prague. If you are a wine drinker then the drinking is better in Budapest; not so much because of availability or quality but the wine bar is more common in Budapest.

Most of the points of interest to a tourist in Prague are in one of three well defined stunning fully restored museum quality 16th century to early 20th century period neighborhoods that combined equal a little more than three quarters of one square mile to one square mile depending on how you define it. These areas are nearly 100% tourist driven. Now pour in to that area 6 million tourists and you get what they got.

The sights in Budapest are scattered all over a fairly well intact marginally restored to fairly well restored late 19th / early 20th century landscape that amounts to about 4 square miles. These neighborhoods are predominately functioning parts of the fabric of the city as a whole and don't exist solely for or because of tourism. Tourism is important, but it isn’t everything. These areas accommodate about 4 million tourists each year.

They are both good. Just depends on what lights your fire.

Posted by
2338 posts

Having been to both in the past 18 months I can easily say Budapest--so much so that I am already returning in May, I just have this strong urge to be there. I struggle with my feelings about my trip to Prague last May--stunningly beautiful, wonderful museums and food, but the crowds were simply exhausting to deal with, perhaps because so much is centered in relatively small areas in the Old Town? I never once found myself alone anywhere, no quiet respite to enjoy a view--though I'm told if you're out and about at 7 am you might get lucky.

Posted by
13990 posts

Christa........................... (in a soft voice) careful, the bug will get you ................ one trip becomes two, then two isn't enough and you need a third, then you are selling the silverware for that fourth one, the second that year, then again, and again. Your husband doesn't even know you any longer. you start saying things in your sleep like köszönöm but you don't know why. Heck, you don't even know what it means ..... they are talking through you! then you know what comes next......... you end up an Eastern European slum lord trying to feed your travel habit. See the carrot, well??? Do you feel lucky? hmmmmmm Your very own Eastern European nuclear fall out shelter in the heart of the city....... you can make it work, you know you can ... its a roof , its a place to stay...... you cant say no at this point...... this is your opportunity, take that step to the East side...... give in and let it take you........

Posted by
4637 posts

I am collecting how to say cheers in every country I have been to. The most I like egeshegedre. It's spelled differently but sound something like this. My vocabulary in this language is very poor: nemtudom Magyarom, bassom azanyat and maybe few more. When I traveled to some country I used to learn first ten lessons from the textbook for self learners and I could get around. I tried the same with Hungarian and gave it up after first lesson.
Most people don't like crowds and because of their lack of strategy Prague discourages them. I consider Prague and Budapest the best eye candies of Central Europe maybe even all Europe. But Prague is even prettier. All these towers, medieval neighborhoods which BP lacks, medieval bridge, classical stylish beer pubs and so much more. But Prague is closer to Germany where most tourists come from; Prague gets absolutely higher number of tourists, medieval neighborhoods are very compact, very walkable and streets are very narrow. BP on the other hand was rebuilt in 19th and early 20th century following it's model Paris so now you see all these wide boulevards which could easily accommodate many more tourists and still there're fewer than in Prague. BP has another advantage, it has Orient like exotic feeling because for about 100 years it was under Ottoman Empire occupied by Turks. You can see it on their cuisine, certain buildings and Turkish baths all over. I have my strategy for sightseeing in Prague: start at 7 am and have this so called Royal Way or King's Way through the Old Town across the Charles Bridge and up to the Castle practically for myself with few locals. After 9 am nobody will see me there. I am not a masochist. But there is so much more to see in Prague and you will be practically alone there. Like little street Novy Svet in Hradcany district. Or Petrin orchards. Or Letna park with fantastic views. Vysehrad and so on. So many people are complaining about crowds in Prague and justifiably. But how come I haven't seen the same complaints about Venice, Florence, Rome, etc. Crowds there are the same if not worse.

Posted by
5371 posts

Good analyses above and via the link. My vote goes to Budapest, where the tourist sites are scattered through more of the city instead of concentrating in one beautiful crowded area. Also I'm more of a wine guy and definitely on the back nine of life. I enjoyed eating in Budapest more than in Prague. I'd happily return to either city, and I'd hate to have to choose just one. And I agree with James that Vienna belongs in the mix, though personally I'd put it in third place.

Posted by
13990 posts

BP on the other hand was rebuilt in 19th and early 20th century
following it's model Paris so now you see all these wide boulevards
which could easily accommodate many more tourists and still there're
fewer than in Prague. BP has another advantage, it has Orient like
exotic feeling because for about 100 years it was under Ottoman Empire
occupied by Turks. You can see it on their cuisine, certain buildings
and Turkish baths all over.

Ilja, just a few tweeks:

The grand boulevards of Budapest were not designed "after" those in Paris. They were designed to show Paris how they had done it wrong.

Budapest wasn't really "rebuilt" in the 19th and 20th century. Pest for all intents and purposes barely existed at all before the 19th and very early 20th century. Many, many and the best of the grand buildings were constructed to celebrate the millennium of the Magyar conquest of 895.

The Hungarian empire was under Ottoman rule from 1541 to 1699. That's about 150 years. They recently announced that they think they found the burial place of Suleyman the Magnificent in the far east of Hungary.

While in many cities the most ancient of buildings are now museums for study, in Budapest they can often still be in their original use. For instance, Budapest has four working 16th and 17th century bath houses.

Posted by
4637 posts

And James, you forgot to mention that Budapest has the first metro (subway) on the continent. Before Paris and Moscow. And Budapest in 70- ties had full stores and western goods well before collapse of communism. We called their communism goulash communism and we had this joke: Hungarians are like radishes - red on the surface but white inside. Kadar learnt his lesson from 1956. He paid lip service to Soviets but did relatively independent economic policy and worked quietly with the West.

Posted by
2338 posts

James--it's all your fault that I am slowly succumbing to the pull of Budapest! I recently signed up for a daily email with a new Hungarian word, trying to be prepared so I can at least say hello, please, thank you, etc. I plan to venture outside Budapest this next trip and expect there will be less English spoken.

Posted by
4637 posts

Christa, young people nowadays speak English almost everywhere. In former communist countries it is now mandatory language instead of Russian starting in third grade. Good students are practically fluent, less good ones know at least basic. If you are patient, speak slowly, don't use slang, no problem communicating even in small towns and villages. Middle aged and old people are more likely to speak German, Russian or just Hungarian.

Posted by
13990 posts

Christa

Actually they will love you for trying to speak Hungarian. True in any culture, except maybe Moldovian. I took some lessons, but when I got to the vowels I failed miserably and quit. The best thing I have used is a CD set from Pimsleur http://www.pimsleur.com/learn-hungarian . Nothing to read. Just hear and repeat. That way the spelling doesn’t mess with your mind.

I can squeak out the standards like hello, good bye, thank you, don’t shoot, I am an American citizen, long live the Hungarian Empire, etc…. but not much else. I also have a rather interesting little phrase book that is full of what I thought were Hungarian insults, but since I couldn’t pronounce anything all I could do was open to the page and point. Got slapped once and a phone number once. Not sure if the translations are in the proper context.

When you travel back I will give you some places you can go and introduce yourself.

Posted by
13227 posts

Depending on how one would measure the Ottoman Turks in Hungary, I would say more than 150 years, ie 1526 to 1699, points for two decisive events pertaining to the Hungarians: from Mohacs to Karlowitz.

Great reference to red outside, white inside...bravo!

Posted by
781 posts

I was just in Prague in October and it was very crowded,I have been to Prague in April and May also and it was very crowded.The crowds are drawn by the sights,relatively low cost for food and lodging.I have been to Prague five times and really enjoy the city as well as day tripping to places like Kutna Hora,Konopiste and Karlstejn Castles plus other destinations further out.I did one week in Budapest and loved it,being spread out the public transportation makes it easy to get to the sights easily.As a foot note,Vienna is my favorite of the three and loaded with historic sights and culture.
Mike

Posted by
1 posts

I am going to try my best to compare Prague and Budapest (according to my experience) for others deciding if they should visit one over the other!
Prague: The Fairy-Tale City

All other factors aside, Prague’s greatest asset is the architecture. Prague is that fairy-tale place you imagine when dreaming of old European cities!

Budapest: Ancient city full of history

The architecture in Budapest was less impressive to me, but only because it followed Once Upon a Time Prague. Still, it was beautiful and the Paris of the East lived up to its name. Although some of the buildings were really showing their age, they had so much character and grandeur.

Posted by
13990 posts

Architecture? Both cities have a lot to offer.

In smaller scale Prague has the edge with the tightly packed well restored period examples.

In grandeur I think Budapest has the edge
http://d1kcl3yiuixneo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/night-parliament-budapest-9583724665.jpg

In Gothic through Baroque I know that Prague has the edge.

In modernist styles I give Budapest the very strong edge.

Functionalism 1900-1930’s Secession & Art Nouveau 1897-1905 New
Objectivity aka Rationalism 1920-1939 Bauhaus 1919-1930+ De Stijl
1920s Moderne 1925+ Art Deco 1925–1940s Modernism 1927–1960s
International Style 1930+

For Historic but Functional Context I think its hands down Budapest. That refers to the architecture serving purpose within a cohesive built environment vs it being a collection of relics.

Posted by
48 posts

Both are great. And you can fly between them on Czech Airlines. Last summer a one way fare, with exchange rates that were in effect then, was about $100/person, and took less than 1.5 hrs as opposed to an all day or all night train.

Posted by
13990 posts

My day in Budapest.

In the morning I had an appointment in the Buda hills so I called City Taxi. The dispatcher had my phone number and address in his computer from previous times I had used them. Mr. X, your car will be there in 10 minutes. Perfect. Abut 2 minutes later the dispatcher called and apologized but there wasn't a car available for 15 to 20 minutes. First time this ever happened in 10 years of using them. I said I would wait but please try to get me a car asap as I had an appointment. 3 minutes later a taxi from a competing company pulled up. The driver said he had been sent by City Taxi. Then my phone rang and it was the City Taxi dispatcher calling me to tell me he had called another company to get me since City was busy.

For the return trip my associate called FoTaxi. The driver spoke no English and my pronunciation in Hungarian is miserable so we ended up at the wrong address. A laugh and a little more carefully pronounced street name got us back on our way. BANG! Rear ended. Instantly the driver stopped the meter. Then called me another taxi. Then he dealt with the accident. His meter said 3020ft but he tried to tell me 2000 would be sufficient. I paid the full fare and got in the new taxi. Upon arrival the meter said 1250ft, but the driver explained in very sketchy English that I really owed only 800 as there is a 450 base fee that I had already paid as part of the first taxi and it would not be fair to charge it again.

Later in the day I was at the ticket kiosk at the tram stop in front of Nyugati Train Station. The machine wasn't functioning properly and a young Hungarian woman approached and tried to help me. Almost every trip someone approaches to help at one point or another.

This is one of the reasons we continue to return to Budapest several times a year.

Posted by
40 posts

I went to Eurovision last year and visited Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, and Csesky Krumlov. I enjoyed every minute of it and am glad I did it all! These are my PERSONAL impressions of both...

Prague is like a city from a storybook. Walking down it's small meandering alleys makes you feel as if you're on set of a live action Cinderella musical and everyone is going to start singing at any moment. It's clean, accessible, and affordable. The night is full of college kids roaming the street with their cheap/delicious Czech beer and it adds an electricity to the night. It's loud and it's fun (as long as you're not a total stick in the mud).

Budapest feels like a meeting of the worlds. Like they smooshed French chateaus and German castles and Middle Eastern elements together. When you walk down the street, and you look at all the varied buildings, it feels like an adventure! The bridges, the river, the dramatic hillside all feel as if they're from a Star Trek movie that someone has dreamed up using elements of life back on Earth. The rivercruise we took the first night was the perfect way to start and of all the places I went, this is the one that I just didn't feel like I had spent enough time.

Either way you choose, you're going to love it. Both cities are beautiful, but I'm actually going back to Europe for a wedding in Germany, and the city I am returning to is Budapest! I will go see Prague again. I loved it....but I'm "in love" with Budapest!