Vienna or Budapest

I'm going on a 2 week trip out to Europe in May, and I've got my itinerary down except I can't choose between going to Vienna or Budapest. I will only be staying in either one for about 2 days, so which one is better? I would prefer answers only if you've been both! Oh, and I will be arriving to the Vienna or Budapest by train from Prague, and I will be going to Venice by train after the 2 days in either city..

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

J.D. Are you sure you can get from Vienna or Budapest by train without having to go by bus part of the way? There are mountains between the two cities and Venice. I've been to Vienna a couple of times (and loved it), but not Budapest.
Therefore, I cannot comment.

Posted by J.D.
Provo, Utah, United States
17 posts

I looked, and yes, you can get to Venice by train from either city. Vienna seems to be a quicker trip in general, but both are possible.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

If you do a search on this forum (or any other travel forum), you'll find people who prefer Budapest, prefer Vienna, like both equally, or dislike both. With that preamble, I'll say that my personal experience was that I much preferred Budapest. But, there is no "right" answer, one is not "better" than the other. Each has lots of stuff see with only 2 days. So, even if you don't like the city you choose, you'll have plenty to see and do while you're saying to yourself, "I'll never come back here". One warning: Prague, Budapest and Vienna are spoken of as triplets, and of course they have not only geographic proximity, but shared history. But they're VERY different; I compare them to apples, oranges, and bananas. It is important to approach each one on its own terms. For instance, if you love Prague, don't expect either Budapest or Vienna to be anything like it, or you'll be very disappointed (as my sister was). Ditto if you hate Prague; don't dread the other cities, but expect them to be different. Since you only have 2 days, one way to decide is to look at Rick Steves' recommended 2 day itinerary for each, and see if one city appeals more based on his highlights (which are, of course, only his opinion).

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Budapest is my favorite, but for two days go to Vienna as it is more shallow and makes for good two day trip.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
258 posts

To go from Prague – Vienna – Venice the total trip time is about 13 hours. Prague – Budapest – Venice is about 19 hours. If it's a toss up, I'd go with the less travel time.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

What are your interests? If you are a music lover, well, then Vienna should be calling your name. Also, if you are interested in history the Habsburg's played a key role and there are some wonderful museums. It's an interesting city for modern history as well when you think about what happened there in the 30's through the 50's and 60's. Just tonight I was talking with a couple of friends and we were all were reminiscing about the opera we saw in Vienna. Mine was Madame Butterfly decades ago from the cheap, well not seats as you had to stand.

Posted by J.D.
Provo, Utah, United States
17 posts

I would say my interests are mainly seeing some cool architecture, landscapes, and castles. Also, I am always interested in good food. Museums would be a plus, as well. I'm trying to keep my costs down, overall, as well.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

My opinion: the food is much better in Budapest. An Austrian who posts here says that the food in Vienna is great because it is a melting pot of influences from its empire. That may be, but of those places in the former empire, Hungary had (to me) by far the best cuisine. I didn't have any problems with food in Vienna, but it couldn't compare to Budapest. Of course, there are Hungarian restaurants in Vienna. Not an opinion: Budapest is definitely cheaper than Vienna. Having just implied that you should go to Budapest for the above reasons, I agree with the logic that shorter travel times are always good. So, using that criterion, you should go to Vienna. Both have interesting architecture (different kinds, of course) and lots of museums. "Of course, people do go both ways." As I said above, you really can't lose.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1466 posts

Logistically, as Dawn says, Vienna makes more sense. Both capitals are somewhat grandiose (Vienna little bit more) that you would not guess they are capitals of two small countries. But they used to be capitals of Austrian Hungarian Empire which was much bigger than present countries. Vienna seems slightly more upscale; they did not have 40 years of communism. Vienna is also more expensive. Budapest has beautiful open views across the river from Pest to Buda and from the top of hill in Buda views all over Pest. Vienna lacks these views. I like both cities and to decide just for one would depend on my momental mood. Or logistics.

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
502 posts

My bias is well known around here: I love my adopted city, Vienna. So keep that prejudice in mind as I make the following points. Yes, Vienna if you are at all into classical music and opera. Vienna for its museums. The Kunsthistorische museum is one of Europe's best (and they just opened a new treasure room that I can't wait to see). I also like the small but fine Roman museum. Military Museum has the car in which WWI began! Vienna for its palaces and history as the capital of the Habsburgs. The Treasury at the Habsburg palace has the spear of destiny, "Charlemagne's crown", the Order of the Golden Fleece, Nails from "the true cross", etc. Wild stuff. Vienna for art deco and Hundertwasser architecture. Vienna for its large open air market, the Naschmarkt. Vienna for its classic old coffee houses and the lavish desserts you can find in them. Vienna for its proximity to the Vienna woods and the little wine villages (Grinzing) that are a half hour away by tram. Did I mention that I Love Vienna? I will say that Budapest is better located/prettier in the sense that the Danube flows right through the city, whereas in Vienna the river is off to one side. Vienna is also NOT the place if you are looking for spicey food. Also prices are cheaper in Budapest, although the gap has narrowed. As noted, Vienna is probably your choice for a quicker trip to Venice afterwards. Your choice! It's apples and oranges. Have fun.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I went to Budapest, Vienna and Prague on one trip. I enjoyed them all. So there is no "right" choice. Vienna is the most Western in style, very much 18th-19th century opulence. It has the Schonbrunn Palace (which Rick rates as the second-greatest in Europe, after Versailles). Of the 3, Vienna was by far the most expensive for lodging, food and sightseeing, Budapest the least. Budapest is the most Eastern. Hungarian food and wine are very good and inexpensive.

Posted by J.D.
Provo, Utah, United States
17 posts

Thanks everybody for your feedback! Another influencing factor - another one of my influencing factors in the decision is the train ride from either city to venice afterwards - does anybody have any experience going on daytime trains from either Budapest or Vienna to Venice? What's the scenery like?

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

I would say Vienna because the logistics are better and the 2 day limit is more appropriate. Unfortunately you will miss the difference that is Budapest. As beautiful as the other places are there isn't a topic or activity listed above that I don't think you will find to be more "real" an interesting than when it is presented in Budapest.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Hi, Ideally, you should try to visit both cities, Vienna and Budapest. Both offer much, one of them being cuisine. But, under a pressing time constraint, I would pick Vienna.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

Vienna or Budapest? New York or Baltimore? The first is a world class city, the second is worth seeing. That doesn't mean that everyone will like the former more than the latter - but there's way more to see and do.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

It think we are about to fall into the old Budapest or Vienna trap again. To cut to the end 98 posts later, the vote will be 50% for Vienna and 50% for Budapest. Both cities beat Prague in the over 50 group and both cities loose to Prague by a large margin in the under 30 group.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1466 posts

James, you made me feel young again because my vote goes with the group under 30.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

I should have said "Under 30, feeling under 30, Russians and Jews"

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I'm 33 and I love Vienna. I liked Budapest. I want to return to both, but Vienna is of more interest to me. I'm also a history nerd, and while both cities have plenty to offer in terms of history and art, Vienna wins in terms of it's former importance of the seat of the ruling family of the Holy Roman Empire/Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. Budapest is gritter (which is usually something that is in the plus category for me) but Vienna is not as staid as a lot of tourists make it out to be. There's a lot more to it than the opera and some horses. It has a really thriving modern art and food scene, for example. Vienna to me feels like someone took Berlin's hipsters and crammed them into a more compact and cleaner Paris with a German accent. Anyway both cities are totally worthwhile but since Vienna shaves 7 hours off transit time for a not-too-long trip, I would really suggest going with Vienna in this case.

Posted by J.D.
Provo, Utah, United States
17 posts

Thanks again for all the feedback so far! Does anybody have a comment on the post about train rides from either city to Venice that I made earlier?

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts
Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

JD, I didn't mention that I have been to both Budapest and Vienna but, admittedly, very superficially in Budapest, which obviously warrants return visits. If it's history you're into, both cities are steeped in it. After all, Vienna was viewed as the Imperial City, the only one, à la their saying: Es gibt nur eine Kaiserstadt, es gibt nur ein Wien. In Budapest being at the Heroes Square gives you a sense of their unique pride along with that sense of nationalism (as long as you weren't under it). It does not strike me the same way when I'm at the Heldenplatz in Vienna. (also the heroes square). BTW, that's an Austrian accent, specifically the Viennese accent.

Posted by Kurt
Nassau
52 posts

I suppose if you speak or read neither German or Hungarian, neither would make much difference, but the Hungarian language is a challenge. I'm not talking about having a philosophical conversation, just reading street signs! Having said that at the risk of offending some (aren't Hungarians so good at other languages because theirs is so hard?) if you like food, pastry and thermal baths - Budapest is it. Some of the best meals I've ever eaten were in Budapest. Of course it's the lard, but I don't want to offend even more adventurous souls!

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
502 posts

"Vienna to me feels like someone took Berlin's hipsters and crammed them into a more compact and cleaner Paris with a German accent." Sarah That's a quotable quote, Sarah. I love it.