Central Europe

We have a total of 19 days including flight from LA to Berlin and back from Warsaw to LA. We like to visit the following cities and some day trips. We have booked our RT Sep 16 from LA to berlin and return Oct 4 from Warsaw to LA. Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, and Warsaw. Please, suggest the best route to cover this, number of days in each city, and places to visit. We like to travel by train. Thank you all. Shah

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
308 posts

Suggest you get the Rick Steves eastern europe guide book and maybe the Germany or Berlin snapshot book. In the front of each section is the "planning your time" part where he suggests how long to spend as well as a description of how to spend your time in each area. That is how I do it. I hope that helps.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I would start by using a map and the German train website - bahn.de - for train schedules between your cities. Then you can plot out a route. Usually a line "connecting the dots" on a map works - but I don't think it will with your chosen destinations, since you are locked into Berlin to Warsaw. Next, for each train trip add 2 hours to the travel time - that's to get from hotel to train station to hotel. Packing/unpacking is extra - and depends on how efficient you are. Now add time for "maintenance" - laundry, shopping for food/necessities, etc. Personally I think you are trying to do way too much. 19 days means 17 in Europe at best, of which the first one or two you are affected by jetlag and maybe lack of sleep, depending on your flights. It looks like you will have little more than one full day in each city and no time for day trips. You are looking at 5 countries with 4 different currencies and 4 different languages. In each city, you will need time to get oriented (find/read signs, use trams/metros/buses, find your way to/from your hotel to tourist sites, etc.).

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Chani has given you great advice. Go to the Bahn website NOW (see this tutorial for how to use it: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm), and see how long it will take to get between your planned cities. Just as there is sticker shock, you will probably have "train travel time shock" - some of these cities pairs take many hours to get between. And if you think that using night trains is the answer to that problem, do a search on this Helpline for "night trains." You'll see that some people love them, but many say "never again." If you don't sleep well on a night train (and you won't know until you try it), you arrive tired, unwashed, and cranky; this doesn't save time at all, as you then spend the next day too miserable to enjoy your sightseeing. You can also take flights between your cities; however, some of these will require connections, so they may not save time. To find flights, use http://www.skyscanner.com/. Note that flights get much more expensive closer to the trip, so you would need to buy these well in advance. All of the cities you mentioned have lots to see. Even to scratch the surface, you will want 2-3 full days in each. A full day is not one of arrival or departure, but one where you wake up and go to sleep in the same place. Because of all these factors, I agree with Chani that you are trying to see far too much. If someone coming to the US had 17 days on the ground, and wanted to see Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans, what would you say? My answer to you is the same <g>.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

For Warsaw (all these places are easily accessible by walk, metro, or tram): - Old Town & Royal Castle - Lazienki Park - Warsaw Uprising Museum - Wilanów Palace - Jewish Ghetto
- Nowy Swiat (long street) Krakow is well covered in guidebooks - the obvious places are the Old Town, Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter), Schindler Factory, Wawel Hill and Castle, Museums

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Specific to your question you might want to look at this schedule. This keeps the train routes fairly simple and under 5 hours (I think) each. Krakow to Budapest is on Orangeways Bus (pretty nice). If you go to Google Maps you can "Get Directions" and see the route. You will notice that if you connect Warsaw to Berlin you have a circle and you can arrive and depart at any point along that circle, giving you more options on an Open Jaw Ticket or you could even fly in and out of Budapest (for instance) and then run the circle starting and finishing in Budapest. I choose Budapest because of the list it's the most laid back and it's a good place to end any trip. You might also consider skipping Warsaw or Warsaw and Krakow and spend more time in the other fantastic cities. (fly into Berlin and out of Budapest). 1 depart the US 2 Arrive Berlin 3 Berlin 4 Berlin 5 Berlin to Prague 6 Prague 7 Prague 8 Prague to Vienna 9 Vienna 10 Vienna 11 Vienna to Budapest 12 Budapest 13 Budapest 14 Budapest to Krakow 15 Krakow 16 Krakow 17 Krakow to Warsaw 18 Warsaw
19 Depart for the US

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2506 posts

I like a slow pace when traveling. I took the train from Berlin (4 days, not enough time) to Warsaw (4 days, just enough), to Krakow (3 days including a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau), Vienna (3 days, not enough time). No trip was more than 5 hours, except Krakow-Vienna. Trains were comfortable and on time. Different currencies - can be difficult to estimate so you don't end up with lots of leftovers. I pay hotel bills on my last day in non-Euro countries with whatever cash I have left (keeping enough for transportation to the train station), and the rest with a credit card.

Posted by Suren
Los Angeles, California, USA
2 posts

Thank you all so much. I may skip Warsaw and spend in other cities. Please, recommend any day tours some of might have taken and recommend. James , Thanks a lot, I more or less had similar detailed plan. I need to look into train and bus schedule to maximize my days. Thanks again all for your time. Shah

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

I am going to get a little flack for this but with you desire to see a lot and just a little time to do it in you might consider reducing some time from one or two of the cities and adding it cities you might enjoy more. Everyone's perception is going to be different so this is just my take on it. I have never been to Berlin but the people I have known who have been to Berlin and who have enjoyed it were the same people who enjoyed Prague over Budapest. So my perception is that you want to spend more time in Berlin and Prague and less time in Budapest and Vienna if you are under 40, like high energy environments, like night clubs and find baroque and older architecture most interesting, love good beer and love good sausage. For Vienna and Budapest you might want to spend more time if you are over 40 and are looking for a lower energy trip, have an interest in theater and classical music and art neuvo, art deco and 19th century architecture interest you, love good wine and enjoy more formal dining. I am best with Budapest so I will narrow that one down a little more vs. Vienna. Budapest will be better for you than Vienna if Jewish History and Cold War History speak to you. Vienna will be better if Imperial European History speaks to you. Much of what you will experience in Vienna will be state owned or will be museum in nature. Most of what you will experience in Budapest will be privately held and serving a daily function in the fabric of the City. Hence Vienna is better restored, white and shiny while Budapest looks a lot more worn like an comfortable old pair of shoes.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Notice I tried to put it in positive terms for all. It doesn't mean you can't get great sausage in Budapest (because Hungary has some outrageously good sausage producers) or that you can't hear outstanding classical music in Berlin (because I would bet Berlin has more venues than Vienna does). I was looking for markers for the atmosphere as much as anything else. Safety has come up a few times in these posts. Measuring crime is always subjective but I found one source that placed the rate of assaults in the countries in Rank Order like this: Germany in 12th place had the most crime with 619 per 100,000 Austria ranked 17 with over 440 per 100,000 Hungary ranked 42 with 127 per 100,000 Czech Republic ranked 78 with
Poland ranked 73

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

@James Your generalization about folks liking Berlin are the same folks giving an edge to Prague over Budapest applies to me. The remaining bits of your theory then evaporate save for good beer.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Bruce, Its probably an impossible goal. I've just noticed that people who love Prague generally haven't cared much for Budapest and vise versa. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but if you could figure out the markers that attract or repel then people could do a better job of deciding how much time to spend in each city. So, how about you? Can you comment on maybe four positives about each of the cities from a first hand perspective? like I said, I would rather concentrate on positives than negatives.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

I started to ponder the positives in each city and quickly came to the conclusion I do like all and would gladly return to all. As a generalization, what I like about Budapest, I tend to like more in Prague and Berlin. If I had to sort in return priority, it would be Berlin (by far), Prague, Budapest and Vienna. Just my opinion.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

I agree with that return priority, basically: #1. Berlin "(by far)" exactly where I've been returning to over and over since 1971, then Vienna. Budapest, as I was only there as a day trip in 2010, which I need to go back, lastly Prague, which I have not seen in ages.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

It's sort of tough isn't it? And just to say what order you would return is insightful but doesn't answer the question of why. We've all seen the posts on this very question and it becomes a competition of who is better when it should be an examination of which appeals to whom and why. For Prague you might say, Energy, Beer, Baroque, River.
For Vienna you might say Opulence, Museums, Germanic, Music. Don't guess this is going to be possible.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Hi Suren, I've been to all the places you list, and agree with Chani that it's too much in essentially 17 days. Well, I think you would be short-changing a few locations. A few things to note: Berlin to Prague train is about 4h40m Prague to Vienna train is 4h45m Vienna to Budapest train is about 2h50m Budapest to Krakow overnight train is 10h30m/Daytime bus is 6h15m
Krakow to Warsaw train is about 3 hours As you can see, you will spend over 24 hours on a train during your trip (and just under that if using trains and the bus). And I'm a little confused how you can eliminate Warsaw from the trip if you already have tickets booked into Berlin and out of Warsaw? Regardless, cutting it out would be a shame, Warsaw has a very special history. And Krakow is spectacular. Actually, we very much like Poland in general, it's got a tremendous amount of historical sights and your tourist dollars go very, very far there. I'd take another look at the map and would encourage you to eliminate at least one stop. Or maybe not stretch yourself so far geographically, and consider Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Wroclaw, Krakow, and Warsaw, instead (disclaimer: I've never been to Wroclaw but hear it's cool, and we will be visiting one day). Good luck with the planning!

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Budapest to Krakow by bus is about 5 hours I believe. Check Orangeways bus for the schedules. Otherwise yup. Angela, my memory served me well on that one!!

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

The Orangeways bus leaves at 07:00 and arrives at 13:15. I do not believe it runs daily.