We fly to Vienna on 17 August arriving at 12 noon and leave from Vienna on 2 Sep at 10 am. We are doing a Danube River cruise starting in Budapest on 21 Aug and ends in Prague on 28 Aug. The cruise spends 2 days in Budapest but no excursions in Prague. We also spend 1 full day and an evening in Vienna. We would like help in planning the pre and post days. So we could spend 17, 18 in Vienna and take the train to Budapest on 19 and spend an extra 2 days in Budapest before boarding the cruise. End of cruise in Prague on 28 August and spend 28,29,30 in Prague and take train to Vienna 1 Sept to leave on 2 September. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Where to stay and what to do. I do have Rick Steve's Eastern Europe book for planning help. Thanks.
Plenty to keep most folks busy in Budapest for 3 to 6 Full Days.
Where to stay: Its August so its high season so getting a little distance from the tourist mob will pay for its self. That means NEVER in District V. That would be any Hotel with a zip code that has a 05 as the second and third numbers. Some rare exceptions like the Four Seasons.
I would suggest you stay in District VI or VII but you want to be as close to Deak Ferenc ter (ter = square) as you can get or you want to be along the No. 1 Metro line. The metros in Budapest are clean, simple to understand, and if it’s the No.1 line, historic.
A brilliant exception to being close to Deak Ferenc ter is the Corinthia Hotel ($$$$$).
As for specific hotels, I must admit I have only stayed in two. The first is the K&K Opera. We’ve been there a half dozen times and those that I have recommended it to thought is was good. The location is almost ideal in my mind. We now stay in a nearby apartment when we are in Budapest. The other hotel was the Art’otel in Buda. That was a one-time visit and we won’t be returning.
If you find something you like, give me the name and I can tell you about the neighborhood.
As for things to do, if I were you, I wouldn’t miss St. Stephens day.
Here are a couple of special events from my favorite Budapest website: http://visitbudapest.travel/
St. Stephens Day
August 20th is the greatest national holiday for Hungarians, celebrated with day-long festivities followed by spectacular fireworks throughout the country. August 20th commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state, it's like Hungary's 4th of July. Also called as St. Stephen's Day, remembering Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, who was canonized on August 20th, 1083 by Pope Gregory VII.
Festivities start in the morning with the raising of the Hungarian flag and continue on all day long, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the Danube.
Junibor Wine Festival
August 25 – August 28 ‘Junibor’ is an annual celebration dedicated to Hungary’s young winemakers and their wines. In 2016, visitors can taste over 100 varieties from 30 winemakers during the 4-day event. To complement the offerings, food vendors will serve tasty fares and the winemakers will be on hand to guide wine lovers through their vintages.
Thursday: 4 pm to midnight
Friday - Sunday: noon to midnight
James has covered the basics for you but I do see the caveat re hotels "a distance from the tourist mob", so I will offer my 2 cents as I have found the perfect location that is a bit quieter but by no means far from all the main Budapest sights, at the southern end-- near Fovam ter, the end of Vaci utca, Great Market Hall and the Szadbadsag hid (Liberty bridge), steps from the metro and trams at Fovam and about 5 minutes to Kalvin ter station. I stayed at the Boutique Hotel on So utca my first trip and while it was a lovely, clean hotel with a great breakfast included, the room was terribly small. Next trip, this May, I stayed next door at the Residence Baron and had an enormous room with a view of the Danube off to the side, and breakfast included, for around $90. Front desk staff was wonderful and overall exactly what I wanted, so when I return next April I'll be staying there again.