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Itinerary Advice Spring 2017: Prague - Český Krumlov - Ljubljana - Budapest

Greetings!
I've been searching for an itinerary that inspires me and I'm getting close!

My husband and I (in our 50's) fly in to Prague, then out of Budapest, 18 nights, April 20-May 6. I already have 6 nights booked in Prague, then 2 nights in Český Krumlov - so that's set.

Please take a look at my proposed itinerary below. I'd like to keep our train trips between locations to around 3 hours (certainly under 5 hours if possible), but don't want to spend nights in places that aren't worthwhile either (tough tradeoff, I know!).

Is Ljubljana worth 4 nights? Or should we stop somewhere for one night on the way from CK, or as we leave heading to Budapest?

Here's my draft itinerary:

April 19, Land Prague
April 20 Prague
April 21 Prague
April 22 Prague, DAY TRIP maybe: Terezin
April 23 Prague, DAY TRIP maybe: The Konopiste Castle,
April 24, Prague
April 25, Český Krumlov
April 26, Český Krumlov
April 27, Ljubljana, or stop somewhere on the way to Ljubljana to break up the long train: Idea - Graz?
April 28, Ljubljana
April 29, Ljubljana
April 30, Ljubljana, or stop somewhere for one night on the way to Budapest to break up the long train: Ideas - Maribor Slovania, Ptuj Slovenia, or Graz Austria, or other options???
May 1, Budapest
May 2, Budapest
May 3, Budapest
May 4, Budapest
May 5, Budapest
May 6, Budapest
May 7, flight home

Thank you!
Tracy

Posted by
17009 posts

The train route from Český Krumlov to Ljubljana goes through Linz (Danube access, and the Matthausen concentration camp is less than 15 miles away) and Salzburg.

I stopped over in Graz several decades ago and found it a very attractive untouristy (at that time) city. Don't know what it has in the way of specific sights, but it was great for wandering around and admiring the architecture. Another option kinda sorta on the way to Budapest is Zagreb, but it wouldn't really break up the trip well and I'm not sure about transportation connections. Zagreb has a very nice and large historic district, an active café culture, and an unusual number and variety of museums.

Ljubljana itself is a very nice city: picturesque old town stretching along a river, varied architecture, art museums, a castle, and a weekend art/craft market (don't remember which day). 3+ full days there would be a rather leisurely visit, but if you decide you've seen enough, there are some very good day-trips: Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, Vintgar Gorge, and the Julian Alps to the northwest. The first three can be managed via public transportation if you're a bit patient (maybe two of them in one day), or by taking one of the frequent buses to Lake Bled and then grabbing a taxi onward. To see the Alps well would probably require a car and at least one night away from Ljubljana. The Ljubljana tourist office is very, very helpful with information on day-trip possibilities, and English is widely and well spoken by the young folks in Slovenia.

Elsewhere in Slovenia you have the Postojna Caves (more touristy) and the Skocjan Caves (a bit less touristy). I think Postojna is easier by public bus, but Skocjan can be managed. I'm sure there are bus tours (a more costly option) from Ljubljana to Postojna; I'm not sure about the Skocjan Caves. Not too far beyond the Skocjan Caves is Lipica, where Lipizzaner horses are raised. I bet there's a bus tour going there as well.

Posted by
11001 posts

Ljubljana is your long haul. One reason I haven't been there yet. If you want to do something off the wall I know there are discount flights to from Ljub to Belgrade (I like Belgrade) and then discount flights to Budapest.

Or you could take the bus down to Zagreb, spend a night, then the train on into Budapest is about 6 hours with out a change.

From Cesky K to Ljub. I would stop over in Salzburg for a night

Truth is I would save Slovenia for a trip with Croatia and Montenegro and look elsewhere for this trip. Austria and Slovakia are on your route or out of Budapest there are some really interesting day trips, overnight trips, 2 night trips and discount 1.5 hour plane trips.

But make sure you are in Budapest on May 1st for the air show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuAcgHsqLi0 and wave hello ............ we'll more than likely be there. Also hoping to get to Kyiv for "Victory Day" (military parades, celebrations, etc). Probably leave the heavy stuff in the Budapest apartment and take a small carry-on on Wizzair to Kyiv on the 6th or 7th and return on the 10th or 11th of May. Roundtrip, nonstop, direct is about $105. The value of 3 nights of unused apartment is less than $200. Another great two night trip is Belgrade and there are a few interesting places you can reach in Romania the same way. Okay. sorry off subject.

Posted by
87 posts

Thank you for the feedback (everyone). I'm now looking at:

Prague, 6 nights with one or two days trips to The Konopiste Castle and/or Terezin.
Český Krumlov, 2 nights
Salzburg, 4 nights
Budapest, 6 nights with Afternoon trip to Szentendre (Danube Bend) and/or Vac.

I do like the idea of simplifying things and having plenty of time in each place.

Feedback??

Thanks very much,

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

Prague, 6 nights with one or two days trips to The Konopiste Castle
and/or Terezin.

After visiting the Jewish quarter in Prague, you may not feel a desire to visit Terezin; or it may double the want. Never know. Messed me up pretty good.
Take a look at Karlštejn castle.

Český Krumlov, 2 nights

If you take a late morning shuttle down (CK or Bean) and a mid-day shuttle on to Salzburg the next day it would be enough time in CK for my enjoyment.

Salzburg, 4 nights

Haven't been there, but I hear 4 nights might be a stretch.

Budapest, 6 nights with Afternoon trip to Szentendre (Danube Bend)
and/or Vac.

Easy to stay busy in Budapest for a week. I do it several times a year. But I am biased..... After you have your room reservations I can send you some ideas.

Tracy

Posted by
87 posts

James,

Yes, after more reading and discussion with my husband, I'm coming back full circle and thinking Vienna instead of Salzburg! ha - so funny the way things work out. The only thing I worry about is only being in huge cities the whole time (except CK isn't huge I suppose). That's why I'm hoping to fill in a couple of smaller places with day trips.

I'd love to get more specific ideas from you when my itinerary is finally set! (day trip ideas & more).

I can easily spend a week or more in any large city - so I'm not worried about filling our time in Budapest. So excited to spend time there - I've heard so many great things!

Tracy

Posted by
87 posts

James,

And regarding Karlštejn castle - it looks amazing, but I have bad knees and was concerned when I read you have to hike up a super steep trail to get to the castle. Thoughts? I'm used to walking for hours and hours in Europe on trips, but am somewhat limited when it comes to too many stairs or steep inclines.

Thoughts?
Thanks,
Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

There is a classic tour and as hard as I keep looking for alternates; it just plain works well:
We all have our preferences and these are mine. I am of your generation so maybe we share a few things in common.

April 19 Arrive Prague
April 20 Prague
April 21 Prague
April 22 Prague / Castle or Terezin day trip
April 23 Prague

The tourist sites in Prague are in compact zones and you can cover a lot quickly. The drawback is that since the sites are in compact zones the crowds are intense. You are correct about the Karlstejn Castle. We hired a guide to drive us out there. She gets out of the car, announces she knows a short cut through the woods; and then announces “I am athletic, you will follow me”. Her back was turned so she didn’t see my response as I huffed and puffed up the trail. I have an extra day here to help cope with Jet Lag; but you might want to swap it for something else.

April 24 After breakfasts Bean Shuttle or CK Shuttle to Cesky Krumlov. (about 3 hours)

CK can be a little crowded as well, but most are on day trips, so they clear out by midafternoon and don’t return till late the next morning. That gives you some room to breath in the late afternoon and early morning. You could spend two nights here but you can cover most of it in one night.

April 25 Bean Shuttle or CK Shuttle to Vienna (about 3 hours)
April 26 Vienna
April 27 Vienna and day trip to Melk
April 28 Vienna

I “like” Vienna, but I don’t love it. If you are into Imperial Europe and museums it’s a good place. Less intense than Prague you might want to swap a day in Prague for a day in Vienna.

April 29 Morning Train to Gyor, Hungary (< 2 hours) – visit Archabbey at Pannonhalma (Hotel Klastrom)

Gyor is a “city” but the baroque center feels very much like a town.
http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/hungary-countryside/gyor/
The hotel Klastrom is a converted 18th century cloister. http://klastrom.hu/en
Nearby s the Archabbey at Pannonhalma. It’s a working monastery and school with a new modern vineyard and winery.
https://www.google.com/search?q=pannonhalma&safe=off&biw=1216&bih=675&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjvkIaw94LQAhWL5IMKHUpiAFUQ_AUIBygC&dpr=2.25
and
http://bences.hu/lang/en/en

April 30 Noon Train to Budapest (< 2 hours) You have to be on your way to Budapest by the 30th so you can see the air show and participate in the May Day events. Or I guess catch a very early train on the first of May.

May 1 Budapest ( I have a 5 day itinerary I can send you)
May 2 Budapest
May 3 Train to Eger (keep your room or leave the heavy luggage at the desk)
May 4 Train back to Budapest
May 5 Budapest
May6 Budapest
May 7 Flight Home or…………
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmlL9mImEe4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4P8EnrzHOE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH9zBwrYXxE

Posted by
87 posts

Thanks James! I look forward to looking at all the links too! Liked the story about the tour guide "Follow me!" haha.

Can you give me more information on what the May day festivities in Budapest are like? We need to figure out if it's worth it to go to Budapest one day earlier than planned.

Do you think Eger could be done (one day in Budapest) as a day trip? If not, why would you recommend it as an overnight? Do you have recommendations on what to do in Eger and where to stay (reasonable)? We usually stay in Airbnb's, but for one-night stays that can be a hassle.

Thanks,
Tracy

Posted by
87 posts

James,

How do you think Eger and Pecs compare (for an overnight from Budapest)? My husband would enjoy being in a wine area, but he likes reds (and I read that Eger is more for white). Ideas?

Thanks,

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

One of the things that Eger is famous for is Egri Bikavér (Eger Bulls Blood) as the name implies a red wine from Eger. A blend, it’s sort of Hungary’s answer to Chianti but a little heavier. It can range from awful to well worth the effort. Look for bottles marked Superior or Grand Superior. It’s a two hour train trip out of Keleti station so you could make it a day trip. I’m not a great source for Eger because my time there has been pretty limited. Your best bet would be to hook up with a wine guide for half a day. You can visit the cellars and sample the wine (yes, mostly white). This is a pretty good site. http://www.ieger.com/eger-wine.html The only hotel I have stayed in in Eger is the Sentator Haz. It came well recommended and lived up to its reputation. The location is about as ideal as you can get too: http://www.senatorhaz.hu/en.html Looks to be 64euro. The owner/manager is a grumpy old guy (its been a few years, hope he is still there) but that’s part of the charm.

Pecs is pretty amazing and I probably enjoy it a little more than Eger; but its further away (a solid 3 hour train ride). Each time we are in Budapest my wife asks to go to Pecs. I haven’t been to Villany but it is known for its reds and there are some well respected wineries down there. You would be best served with a guide out of Pecs.

Here is some more information. http://visitbudapest.travel/activities/hungary-countryside/pecs-villany/ Actually if you peck around in that website its one of the best for planning a trip to Hungary. The only place we have stayed in Pecs is the Hotel Palatinus which was probably a grand place 75 years ago. Now its clean and comfortable and very interesting because you can see through the age and imagine it as it was. The location is absolutely ideal.

I have been in Budapest the week before May Day and the week after May Day, but my schedule has never allowed me to be there for May Day. 2017 will be a first for me. I’m going to be there principally for the air show. I’ve seen videos for years and it looks amazing over the Danube River. But here is a little more information on previous celebrations. http://visitbudapest.travel/budapest-events/may-day/ and http://dailynewshungary.com/may-day-in-budapest/ and http://mmzoneblog.com/may-day-budapest/ One of the factors that shapes most of my trips is special cultural events. It gives a great break from mass tourism and you get to be more inclusive in the culture. I have been in town for a number of other celebrations and holidays and the Hungarians generally do it very well.

Since your husband enjoys wine. I know the place for him. Its called Kadarka’s Wine Bar and its about a 4-minute walk from the Opera House. http://kadarkawinebar.com/gallery/ I can give you some names so you can introduce yourselves. The owner and the staff will go out of their way to introduce him to Hungarian wine. The food menu is pretty amazing. We stay in a place about a 2-minute walk away and over the years these folks have become very special to us. Even when buying by the glass they will let you taste each wine before the full pour. You can sample a lot of wine in one evening this way. I call it a perfect sniff two, drink one and repeat sort of event.

Posted by
87 posts

James,

YES KIEV! I would love to go there sometime soon - my family is from there - great grandparents. Have you been?

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

I was there in September. It was one of our best trips ever which is why we are returning in May. Skip Vienna, and come down to Budapest, spend a few night; then take Wizzair to Kyiv ($55) for a few days and then return to Budapest for a few more days. I suggest this because Budapest is one of the few places with direct flights to Kyiv. OR, purchase your flight open Jaw, arriving in Prague and departing out of Kyiv; then connect to Kyiv out of Budapest.

Understand, I travel for the people and the culture more than the sights. The sights just add a backdrop and a context. One of the reasons I am not in love with Prague. Yes, beautiful, but its so touristic its hard to know the people. We go to Hungary for the people; among the kindest and most considerate we have encountered in our travels and the culture is reminiscent to the US when i was a kid. Sort of like going home. - oh, and its a stunningly beautiful city - The Ukrainians are proud, brave and driven; and wonderfully kind.

IF you do decide to go, you might consider running down to Odessa for a day or two. Its a pretty city, but more important is if you don't go now you may not be able to for some time to come. Putin has declared Odessa and the entire Ukrainian Black Sea Coast as part of historic Russia and he has publically stated he wants it back. Since the West let him invade the eastern provinces and "annex" Crimea then I suppose they will sit back while he takes the south as well.

Posted by
11001 posts

Okay, I know this thread has gone dead, but I ran across this photo and I thought it said a lot about my favorite part of Budapest.

This is the Budapest opera house. http://www.opera.hu/data/downloads/2016/09/16/exterior_photo_P%C3%A9ter_Hermann.jpg

The people sitting outside are actually sitting in chairs that have been set up on the famous Andrassy ut boulevard. When there is anything significant going on in the Opera House, they close the boulevard, set up the chairs and the giant screen so people can watch what is happening on the stage. No charge to attend. I have something to do with performance venues in my job, and I am pretty certain you are viewing something approaching 1000 spectators. I imagine a few are tourists, but the overwhelming majority are Hungarian families who, if they cant get a ticket to get inside, think it worth the effort to see the performance this way. I am not sure that you would have this sort of citizen support for Opera, Ballet, Orchestra in the other Central European theaters that is enjoyed in Budapest.

On the left is a very nice restaurant called Callas Café and on the right is a pedestrian street that leads to several more nice places towards the rear of the opera.

I have been inside for shows and Galas and I have sat outside with the masses. Always an amazing experience. Its also the part of town I always stay in.

Posted by
87 posts

James,

Wow!!!!! That picture is amazing. Love it. And love that the "masses" can experience the performance for free - wonderful! Thanks for sharing - and for the info on the restaurant too!

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

In good weather when we go to the Opera we call Callas and just say; reservation for dinner after the opera. They know what time the shows let out. Without the theater, its still a good place to get a nightcap and watch people walking Andrassy ut in the evening,

I am going a little batty. Ready to go back, but i have to wait till the first week in January.

Posted by
87 posts

How often do you travel? Are you retired? Any tips on being able to travel often? (special deal sites, etc?) We try to take one 3 week trip a year...would love to do more!

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

While I am waiting on Michigan and Pennsylvania; If you are going to the theater in Budapest, there is no dress code. HOWEVER, a lack of telling someone to have manners does not excuse that person for having bad manners. The Balcony is generally full of tourists dressed like they just walked across the Gobi Desert in August. The Boxes are generally Hungarian professionals; most in very nice business suits, some in sports coats, On the main floor you will find a few more tourists who enjoy the theater enough to pay extra for the seats and as such generally know how to dress. The Hungarians who make up at least 80% of the orchestra will generally be in coats and ties at a minimum. My favorites are the elderly couples that we often see. They are pensioners and they aren't wealthy but they shell out for decent seats and they pull out the suits and furs they purchased in the 1960's and they dress to the hilt. If for no other reason, out of respect for these wonderful folks who spent way too much of their meager incomes for a fancy night out on the town; that I dress well for the theater or I don't go at all.

Posted by
87 posts

Yes, I was surprised to get a post here - I'm so tense, disappointed, sad, horrified. Thanks for the slight distraction. :0

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

Tracy we go over usually 3 times a year. Generally 2 trips of 16 days and one trip of 9 days; work allowing.

We fell in love with Budapest about a decade ago, then about 7 years ago we invested in a small tourist related business in Budapest. That business income isn't much but it pays for the plane tickets and housing, and some of the trip cost is a write off that adds to the ability to go over. Yes, I have to work part of the trip, but I have the evening on those days. The business assets are appreciating so it doubles as a retirement investment.

I love the old Soviet Europe so we generally do someplace else followed by Budapest. We will fly into a place like Kyiv or Bucharest or Sofia; do a few days of sightseeing and then move on to Budapest to rest and relax. I have become a near expert on places to land in Europe that are a short non-stop flight away from Budapest. January (actually 31 December) we stop in Edinburg to do some fishing before moving on to Budapest. May I think we are going to Baku and in the fall probably back to Kyiv. All these connecting flights are about $100

Posted by
87 posts

James,
Sounds like you do it right! I'm so excited to see Budapest and spend some time there.

Tracy

Posted by
11001 posts

I am a workaholic and put in 60 hour work weeks and i need my time in Budapest to decompress.....

Posted by
2096 posts

Wading into the fray....so it seems I will be in Budapest again 4/28 and leaving 5/2, and I figure if anyone will know when the Opera and Operett schedules are out, it's James. I really loved the musical comedy I saw at the Operett in May and hope there's something equally delightful when I'm there.

Posted by
11001 posts

Arriving on 4/28 and leaving on 5/2 so you will see us then. My plans are still fluctuating a bit but I do know I will be there 4/30 through 5/2 plus either the week before or the week after those dates.

The Opera program is at http://www.opera.hu/programme#?y=2017&m=4&evad=&helyszin=mind&mufaj=mind
The Operett will be published about 2 months prior; but just in case they put it up sooner, check it every week or so: http://www.operett.hu/operett.php?pid=schedule I told you what seats to get at the Operett, right? The shows are fun but see quickly.

I love this photo inside of the Opera House (cause that's me standing in one of the boxes): https://scontent-dft4-1.xx.fbcdn.net/t31.0-8/12698574_10153411838053181_6245520460857571526_o.jpg

If you like Jazz you might also check out the Opus Jazz Club. They don't post the schedule until about a month prior.

Also The Liszt Academy of Music has a stunning venue with pretty excellent concerts. http://lfze.hu/en/all-programs They will advertise about 3 months out generally. But again, check on a regular basis.

Posted by
2096 posts

Thank you, James! And I would absolutely love a chance to meet you and your wife, perhaps at Kadarka's--my visit in May I was fighting a cold and didn't do nearly enough drinking or eating and plan to hit some of your suggested places this next trip.

Posted by
11001 posts

Kadarka, my favorite people in my favorite place. I will be the one outside on a lap top working most every evening. When we met these folks about 6 years ago they would sell me a bottle and lend me a glass and a cork screw to take home for the evening. Of course they knew our accommodations were only 100 feet away. Since then they have done amazing things for my family and my friends.

Snack time at Kadarka's
https://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47a5ce28b3127cceea079ab788f500000030O09AZsXDdo5Zg9vPhQ/cC/f%3D0/ls%3D00003094781320151009154059059.JPG/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/
Actually the grapes were a gift from the vineyard owned by the parents of the waitress.