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Prague or Budapest or both?

Planning a trip for late May 2019 and would love input. Leaving PHX 5/19 - 3 adults & grandson. We would like to see Budapest and Prague (fly PHX to BUD thru LHR) then return to London for several days to explore the city (have never been there). Our daughter & gr.son would then fly home and we'll go on to Ireland for a few days before returning to PHX. We've planned 3 full days each in Budapest and Prague (will fly to Prague from BUD and then Prague back to LHR since flights are cheap and fairly short). The reason for including London is British Air does a great direct flight between PHX & LHR so we'd like to finally explore London. We're seasoned travellers and enjoy exploring cities plus day trips by train to smaller towns and sights.

I'd love to hear from folks if Prague & Budapest are too similar to combine on a fairly short trip? Would it be better to pick just one of them and spend more time to allow for day trips? Any recommendations for a 3 day itinerary in each place? We've wanted to see both cities for awhile but haven't been able to fit them into past trips. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
4683 posts

I did not find Prague and Budapest similar at all, other than the way you'd find any two old cities in Europe similar. I'd do both.

Posted by
4108 posts

I agree, they're very different. Compared to Prague, Budapest will be more "laid back" with fewer tourists. I think three full days is enough to see the major sights and get a feel for each city, but I wouldn't plan any day trips unless something in particular appeals strongly to you. For me, Budapest highlights included the Great Market, Stephansdom, House of Terror, and Great Synagogue, along with surrounding neighborhoods and streets. Prague highlights included the main square, Hus church, astronomical clock, Jewish quarter (especially the cemetery), Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square, and surrounding neighborhoods and streets.

After three days in one or the other city, you may find yourself wanting to come back for a longer stay. Or not. But you'll have experienced both and you can make any future plans based on that. And I hope you'll have enough time to "finally explore" London. A week wouldn't be enough in my book, but hopefully you'll have more opportunities.

Posted by
11 posts

You've both made me feel better about visiting both cities...but now I'm wondering...should I add another day to Prague since I'd like to see a bit smaller town also and heard Tabor is wonderful?

Posted by
4634 posts

@Dick. Wenceslas Square is usually considered to be main square in Prague. To avoid misunderstanding I would rather use the names of squares like Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, etc.
Johanna, add one day to Prague and you can go to Tabor. It is easy as one day trip. It was founded by religious rebels Hussites in 1420. Google Hussites and read little about them. There is a Hussite Museum in Tabor. The visit will be much more interesting if you know a little bit about it ahead.

Posted by
11 posts

@Ilia I've read a lot about the Hussites and Tabor and thought it would be very interesting Thank you - I think adding a day will be well worth it.

Posted by
10369 posts

I'm too biased to offer an opinion, but if you haven't spent about an hour reading the posts in both forums you should, just to confirm your thoughts.

Posted by
11 posts

@James E That's part of the problem - I've been reading both forums for days and both cities offer so much. Don't want to rush either city but maybe this way we can get a good feel for both for a return trip. I really value everyone's input.

Posted by
10369 posts

Okay, i will throw in my two cents

3 full days means you are arriving the night before and leaving the day after? Then you will get quite a bit out of Budapest. That would be one sort of trip. Anything less becomes a different sort of trip; both viable but my advice would be somewhat different. Mainly where to stay and how to get around. On a short trip location will have a huge impact. 4 full days is sort of a prime trip for Budapest.

I hate gross generalizations, but here I go.

Prague attracts, and re-attracts 20 to 35 while Budapest 30 and up. If I were a 25 year old student doing what 25 year old students do when there is no parental control, i would head straight to Prague.

Prague's major sights are in 3 distinct well defined and quite small districts. You can see a lot in a short period of time.
Budapest has a similar district, but 75% of the sights are scattered around requiring reliance on public transportation

Prague gets more visitors a year and they are crammed into smaller areas.
Budapest fewer, but spread out so you have a more independent feeling.

Both cities have good public transportation. You will rarely need it in Prague on a short trip.
The public transportation in Budapest has been leveraged to add to the experience of the trip. Mostly tram lines, they can be fun and the trips are as good as the destinations because the whole city is the prime attraction.

Prague's sights pre-date everything you will find in Budapest except for a few still functioning Ottoman bathhouses (15th century). Prague's restored tourists districts are beautiful.

85% of all that you will see in Budapest is 19th century and very early 20th century as the high point of Hungarian civilization was about 1835 till WWI. It varies from great restoration to somewhat gritty and natural.

I suspect that Budapest is a bit more kid friendly (you didn't say how old the grandson is) but here i am especially biased because i have entertained kids in Budapest and know what to do.

Budapest is maybe 15% less expensive.

They are both excellent choices.

Posted by
11 posts

@James E Wow - this was great information and what I was looking for. You've given me a good feel for each city and the input on age groups helps too. Grandson is 6 - young, but has traveled with us to numerous countries since he was 4 and absolutely loves bustling cities. Friends of our age (50+) have also said they enjoyed Budapest more so I think that will be our focus for more time. Since Prague has more of the "older" history I know we'll enjoy it as well but understanding the size of each city will greatly help with planning on where to stay and how to allot our time. Many thanks for your insight!

Posted by
755 posts

Hi,
Because of a wedding we are headed back to Czechia. We will visit Prague because our kids have never been there, Brno, Olomouc, and Nove Mesto na Morave.

It has been a bit more than 10 years since we have been in Prague, BUT it was already over run with tourists then. And I will second the comment on "if I were a 25 year old with no parental control, I would head for Prague", but make the age 19. Old town Prague is one huge t-shirt, puppet, and glass shop filled with trinkets for tourists. If you keep your eyes at the second floor (their first floor) level of the buildings then the city is as beautiful as always.

Budapest on the other hand is too busy to be over run by tourists. We have been there 5 or 6 times. It is a real city with real people and real shops and stores. Been there in every season, and all had their charm. Go to the City Baths (Széchenyi Bath, pack a swim suit). I have a map I supply anyone of Budapest (pdf) that I made myself, so give to friends who go there. It has the basic mass transit lines a tourist wants along with the major places to visit. I am at wmcca@hotmail.com

wayne iNWI

Posted by
10369 posts

Johanna

The size of the the areas of interest in each city will really surprise you.

In Prague the typical 2 or 3 day visit may require you to do something other than walk just one time.
Its pretty much all there and all very compact.

Budapest does have one zone that is tourist central. Mainly because of the junk shops and its proximity to the river. A little good there there to see but not much. It pretty much defined as the center of District V. Still its three times the size of Prague's Old Town. As you get up stream i the District it improves quite a bit.

There is a central point called Deak Ferenc ter (square) from which all but a very, very few of the sites are less than 10 minutes away by tram or the M1 Metro Line. As i said above, the trams are excellent ways to see the city and the best of visiting the city are the places in between the sites.

Posted by
11 posts

@James E - I mapped Deak Ferenc Ter and it's pretty close to the center of District V. Was thinking that might be a good area to get our accommodations but would like to avoid being in the middle of "tourist central". We don't mind walking 10-15 minutes to public transportation and trams and prefer a neighborhood a little quieter but with good restaurants and shops nearby. Any suggestions?

Posted by
10369 posts

Okay, District V, the main concentration of tourists, is located between the Danube and the other sides by a loop road (more or less that is defined by Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út which becomes Károly krt and then Múzeum krt. and finally Vámház krt. as you head south.

Deak Ferenc ter located on that loop road where Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út becomes Károly krt (more or less). So, if you walk to the river you go through the heart of District V. If you walk away from the river you walk away from District V and into some pretty nice and fascinating parts of town. Remember, Budapest is as much about the town as it is the tourist sites.

So, get out of the Vth, but as lose to Deak Ferenc as you can. One way to be a little further out and still be close is to stay on our just Andrassy ut, because the M1 metro line runs under Andrassy ut and it will take you to Deak Ferenc ter in just a few minutes. Its a fun old metro line too.

Before we bought our vacation home we stayed in a number of different places in town, but when it came time to make a decision, staying on Andrassy ut, near a metro stop on the M1 was the requirement. So thats always my recommendation; that or District VI or VII near Deak Ferenc ter.