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PRAGUE - VIENNA - BUDAPEST Questions on Itinerary

Greetings! we are two folks in our 50's traveling to Budapest - Prague - Vienna for 18 nights next spring. We like to absorb the culture, visit museums, eat good food (on a budget), walk the city a lot, and enjoy a relaxed pace on our visits. We like to spend a good number of days at locations so we are not so rushed and pressured to see everything in 2 or 3 days. I have bad knee problems, but still walk a ton in Europe, but appreciate having that extra time so we can have a restful chunk of the day in addition to all the walking, as our time allows.

I'm just beginning my research, but would appreciate input on this tentative itinerary. I'm hoping to book our flight this week, flying into Prague and out of Budapest, or vice versa. (any input on which is better and why??). The cost is virtually the same.

Questions:

  • List item

Should I cut Vienna (or Prague, depending on where we start our trip)
short by one day and go to Cesky Krumlov (just for one night) on our
way to the next destination?

  • List item

Any input on the ordering of our
cities? We could either fly in to Prague, then go to Vienna, then
Budapest OR fly in to Budapest, then go to Vienna, then Prague? Is
there a better ordering? I realize this is pretty subjective, but
wondering on people's experience? I've read that Prague
(architecture) is so magical, so thinking maybe we should save that
for last?

  • List item

We currently have 6 nights in each of the three cities. Should we have one shortened and lengthen another? Why?

  • List item

Are there side trips that we should add in that we just SHOULDN'T miss? And why?

Any other comments welcome!

Thank you!

Tracy

Posted by
6068 posts

I would shorten Prague by 1 night and spend it in Cesky Krumlov. I loved spending the night there and having the evening and next morning with no crowds of day trippers. Of course I was there in July so it was busy, maybe not so much in shoulder season. I also spent 6 nights in Budapest before flying home from there and I wouldn't shorten your time there. All three have great day trips you can take so having many nights in each is a good idea. I loved all three of them.

Posted by
11000 posts

Questions:

• List item Should I cut Vienna (or Prague, depending on where we
start our trip) short by one day and go to Cesky Krumlov (just for one
night) on our way to the next destination?

YES, Cesky Krumlov is a wonderful stop and breaks up an otherwise long transfer to Vienna. Overnight is essential to enjoy it. Take the day from Prague.

• List item Any input on the ordering of our cities? We could either
fly in to Prague, then go to Vienna, then Budapest OR fly in to
Budapest, then go to Vienna, then Prague? Is there a better ordering?
I realize this is pretty subjective, but wondering on people's
experience? I've read that Prague (architecture) is so magical, so
thinking maybe we should save that for last?

Prague is the higest energy of the three and Budapest the most comfortable of the three. Start in Prague and then end in Budapest where you can unwind before heading home.

• List item We currently have 6 nights in each of the three cities.
Should we have one shortened and lengthen another? Why?

I would go bonkers with 5 or 6 days in the crowds of Prague and I would be bored out of my wits in Vienna for 6 days. I can only do so many museums. So look at day trip possibilities out of each city. Vienna and Melk for instance.
Six days is a very nice trip to Budapest.

• List item Are there side trips that we should add in that we just
SHOULDN'T miss? And why? Any other comments welcome!

Okay,
1. Arrive Prague
2. Prague
3. Prague
4. Prague
5. Afternoon CK or Bean Shuttle Prague to Cesky Krumlov
6. Morning CK or Bean Shuttle Cesky Krumlov to Vienna
7. Vienna
8. Vienna
9. Vienna / Melk Day Trip
10. Vienna
11. Morning Train Vienna to Gyor (google Pannonhalma Archabbey) – Hotel Klastrom
12. Afternoon Train Gyor to Budapest (least expensive of the three and best food of the three)
13. Budapest
14. Budapest
15. Budapest / Szentendre Day trip or overnight to Eger or Pecs
16. Budapest
17. Budapest
18. Budapest home

Posted by
11158 posts

First, while Prague, Vienna, and Budapest are spoken of as triplets, they are each quite different from each other. Everyone reacts to each one differently, and you do not know how you will react until you've been there. So, I'd allot roughly equal time to each, with perhaps one more night to the first one you arrive in, just to allow for a "jet lag day." Note that James is quite vocal in his dislike of Prague and his love of Budapest, and that's fine - for him. But you should hear what my friend and her daughter had to say about Budapest - to put it gently, they won't be going back anytime soon - but they really liked Prague and Vienna. And my sister loved Prague (she has returned several times), didn't like Budapest that much (partly because she thought it would be like Prague - object lesson there), and positively loathed Vienna. I personally had a great time in Prague, a great (but very different) time in Budapest, and was cooler to Vienna (fine for one visit, but it doesn't draw me to return). You get the picture.

I'm not sure if it matters which you see first; play around with the airfares and schedules to see which works best for your flights. James always emphasizes that for him, Prague is disrupting to his equilibrium and Budapest is relaxing. Again, this is his reaction and that's fine, but it's hardly a universal one (I found Prague a very easy city to visit, and had my own disruptions in Budapest; and as I said, my sister was tense in Vienna from the moment she arrived to the moment she left). So, go with an open mind, and structure the trip however it works best with trains and flights.

I do think 6 nights is a bit much in each of these cities, unless you have identified specific things you want to do in that time. With 18 night total, I'd plan on day trips and overnights from them.

When I went to Prague (2007), I did an overnight in Cesky Krumlov and an overnight in Olomouc. Both were very worthwhile visits. Each is 2.5 to 3 hours from Prague, hence the need for the overnight. Cesky Krumlov is also one of those places that's busy with day trippers but that empties out a night.

Similarly, from Budapest (2008) I did overnights to Eger and Pecs. I wasn't taken with Eger (although the fact that it rained during most of my visit may have influenced my reaction), but loved Pecs. Again each is 2.5 to 3 hours from Budapest (too far for a nice day trip). I did daytrips to Szentendre and Vac; Szentendre was OK although it was very touristy, but Vac was a gem and I practically had it to myself.

I had only five nights in Vienna (2004) and on that trip it was my arrival city, so I didn't take any side trips.

Posted by
4637 posts

I must say I agree the most with Harold. Prague is an eye candy, so is Budapest with their open views over the river which Vienna lacks. Prague unlike Budapest or Vienna has two medieval neighborhoods and is fairy tale magic. Vienna is grandiose. Budapest has wide boulevards and some oriental fragrance. You can feel it there. It was occupied by Ottoman Empire for over hundred years. During that time Bratislava was the capital of Hungary. If you really want to soak the ambience six days for each city is appropriate. If you start getting bored by any of them go for day trips. There are plenty of options. I would not recommend to take a day from Prague because that's the city where you will land and you will need some days to recover from jet lag.

Posted by
11000 posts

Harold, I love Prague! It's the other 2,473,978 tourists I don't care for. My least favorite of the 3 is Vienna. I generally suggest less time in Prague because the tourist zone is more compact and you can move through what Prague is famous for more quickly than you can Budapest. Vienna is an amazing museum town. But admittedly museums don't light my fire. So, unless you love museums you can hit the highlight in Vienna in less time than Budapest as well. But what Prague and Vienna do have that is fabulous is great day trips and overnight trips within in their respective countries. Hungary has nothing to compare to the Czech countryside for instance. With a car and some time you can see some pretty spectacular castles sitting in amazing scenery.

Posted by
11000 posts

(I saw this a while back and thought it clever)

Budapest Recipe:

To 40 parts of late 19th and early 20th century culture norms and architecture; add 5 parts medieval Prague, 20 parts Empire Vienna, 10 parts Paris city planning, 15 parts Jewish heritage, 5 parts Roma heritage and 5 parts Ottoman legacy. Then throw in liberal amounts of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Bauhaus to taste. Shake well and using war and occupation freeze in 1939. Thaw after 50 years, but before serving sprinkle liberally with uprisings and human tragedy. Eat immediately. As it sits out it will change into to something else and be lost forever.

Posted by
87 posts

Thank you all for your input! I'm not a HUGE fan of museums, but my husband does like them - so we tend to go to the "biggies" when we visit a city (but we don't have to hit every one, if there are too many).

Do folks think including Vienna is a good combo with Prague and Budapest? Or is there a better stopover that is less expensive, charming, and/or gives a different feel. I'm feeling like Vienna, Prague, and Budapest are all BIG cities and it might be nice to break it up more with smaller villages.

I do plan on adding in Cesky Krumlov and probably Gyor (one night each) - or could do a bit longer in those (or a similar location) and eliminate Vienna. Ugh, so many options!

Tracy

Posted by
11000 posts

I think you have it figured out pretty well. If you are a huge museum fan and if hubby will put up with it you will love Vienna. I still sort of stick by my itinerary I listed above. Not so much on my preference, but on how much time it takes to do each justice and because it mixes in some interesting smaller places as well.

http://bences.hu/lang/en/

What are the travel dates, because that can have an impact on the fine tuning.

Posted by
87 posts

James, I really like the itinerary you posted - thanks, much appreciated.

Tracy

Posted by
87 posts

James, I really like the itinerary you posted - thanks, much appreciated.

Tracy

Posted by
4637 posts

If you want some smaller town (not exactly small town, just smaller than Prague or Budapest) between Prague and Budapest, you can stop on the way in Brno or Bratislava.

Posted by
12121 posts

Hi,

Six days in Vienna ...you are just starting. I suggest spend the same in Budapest, skip Prague, go to Brno and Olomouc instead in Moravia...good historical sites.

Posted by
12121 posts

When I was referring to Brno and Olomouc as historical sites, it was in reference to Napoleon.

Posted by
329 posts

I loved Budapest, Vienna, and Prague--but then, I usually find things to love about any place I go.

We spent 6 nights in Budapest, 4 in Vienna, and 5 in Prague (with a night in Cesky Krumlov, a night in Salzburg, and 3 nights in Munich on the same trip.) We spent the most time in Budapest because it was our arrival city, and we filled the time and still missed some things. Mind you, we went to a different bath every 2nd day (3 in total), so that took some of our time (and was totally worth it, in my opinion). Of the 3 cities, if I were going to choose one to live in, it would be Budapest.

I thought 4 nights was a good amount for Vienna. My favourite sight there was Schonbrunn, and that takes most of a day once you include the grounds, mazes, gloriette, etc. We didn't go to every museum, but I did enjoy the Sisi museum at Hofburg Palace and thought the parallels between Sisi and Princess Di were interesting.

5 nights in Prague was plenty. We saw the major sights we wanted to see and had plenty of time for meandering, too.

We chose to start in Budapest, because we went in early July and thought the weather would get hotter as the days went on, and Budapest is the furthest south. That worked out well for us.

I definitely think Cesky Krumlov is worth a stop, and it would make sense to stop overnight between Vienna and Prague, as has been mentioned. You can get a shuttle that will pick you up in one city, take you to CK, and then take you to the other city the next day. We used Lobo Shuttle and booked a private "tour" with them the day we travelled to CK, stopping at a couple of castles (Hluboka and Divci Kamen (a ruin)) on the way from Prague. In fact, the day we visited those two castles followed by Cesky Krumlov was probably my favourite day of the trip, and that's saying a lot, because it was a fantastic trip.

Enjoy, whatever you decide!

Posted by
87 posts

James,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge! I've inserted my still fluid itinerary with dates - and yes, I'm having trouble maneuvering around May day.

Questions:
Do you think it would be an issue to travel by train or bus on May day?
I'm sure it would affect the schedules, but not sure how much of a
hassle that would be. I'm not a huge fan of one-nighters (haha),
but also don't want to overstay somewhere where one night is plenty.
That being said, I'd like to have Krumlov or Gyor be 2 nights -
would you recommend it be Krumlov or Gyor? I would even consider
doing both 2 nights (and cutting out one night in Budapest), but then would be traveling on May day, which
I'm not sure I want to hassle with. When you suggest an overnight
trip to a location outside of Budapest, do you typically keep your
hotel/accommodations in Budapest and just double-pay for that night? I'm always on a budget, but would consider doing that so as not to have the hassle of switching hotels upon return from the overnight.

  • List item

Tues, Apr 18, Flight
Wed, Apr 19, Land Prague 1:35 pm
Thur, Apr 20, Prague
Fri, Apr 21, Prague - possible day trip to Konopiste Castle (if we're not to tired)
Sat, Apr 22, Prague
Sun, Apr 23, Shuttle to Krumlov
Mon, Apr 24, Afternoon shuttle to Vienna
Tues, Apr 25, Vienna
Wed, Apr 26, Vienna - Day Trip to Melk
Thur, Apr 27, Vienna
Fri, Apr 28, Morning train to Gyor - Pannonhalma Archabbey, Sleep Gyor
Sat, Apr 29, Gyor
Sun, Apr 30, Morning train to Budapest
Mon, May 1 , Budapest (May Day Holiday)
Tue, May 2, Budapest
Wed, May 3, Budapest - Day Trip: Vac?, Szentendre? Overnight Eger or Pecs?
Thurs, May 4, Budapest
Fri, May 5, Budapest
Sat, May 6, Budapest
Sun, May 7, Early Flight home

Posted by
11000 posts

May Day has no impact on the train schedule http://elvira.mav-start.hu/elvira.dll/x/uf?iehack=%3F&ed=57F7AD69&mikor=-1&isz=0&language=2&k=&ref=&retur=&nyit=&_charset_=utf-8&vparam=&i=Gy%C5%91r&e=BUDAPEST*&v=&d=16.05.01&u=1&go=Timetable

There is a great airshow over the Danube in Budapest on May Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Oz7wF-qe9o and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0px9HFIVYjY And the spring Jazz Festival.

Overnight trips to Eger or Pecs are great. I would rent an apartment and, yes, keep it while you do the overnighters. Can be as cheap as 55 euro a night for a nice place in a good part of town.

If you do two nights then arrange to arrive late afternoon, then leave early morning. Both Ceksy and Gyor are interesting depending on your likes. Cesky is a lot more scenic but the tourists are wall to wall. Gyor is more of a village atmosphere (in the old town) and in all honesty I enjoyed Pannonhalma more than Melk. At the very least they make good studies in differences.

By the way, look for me. I will be at the air show. If you plan your trip a little different you can spend Victory Day in Kyiv (May 9) it’s about $150 RT out of Budapest.

•List item

Tues, Apr 18, Flight
Wed, Apr 19, Land Prague 1:35 pm
Thur, Apr 20, Prague
Fri, Apr 21, Prague - possible day trip to Konopiste Castle (if we're not to tired)
Sat, Apr 22, Prague
Sun, Apr 23, Shuttle to Krumlov
Mon, Apr 24, Afternoon shuttle to Vienna
Tues, Apr 25, Vienna
Wed, Apr 26, Vienna - Day Trip to Melk
Thur, Apr 27, Vienna
Fri, Apr 28, Morning train to Gyor - Pannonhalma Archabbey, Sleep Gyor
Sat, Apr 29, Gyor
Sun, Apr 30, Morning train to Budapest
Mon, May 1 , Budapest (May Day Holiday)
Tue, May 2, Budapest
Wed, May 3, Budapest – overnight to Pecs
Thurs, May 4, Budapest
Fri, May 5, Budapest – afternoon trip to Szentendre
Sat, May 6, Budapest
Sun, May 7, Early Flight home

Posted by
32 posts

Depending on which city you are departing from in the U.S., the more practical starting point in Europe is which city has a direct/non-stop flight from the U.S. The last thing you need/want is a flight delay from the U.S., which then causes you to miss your connecting flight in Europe.

Posted by
4637 posts

There used to be (and I hope still are) the direct flights from the US to Prague by Delta from JFK and Atlanta. I am not aware of direct flights to Budapest. There are some to Vienna. One from Dulles (Washington D.C.) and from N.Y. and maybe more.

Posted by
11000 posts

Unfortunately no direct flights from the US to Budapest. One of the reasons I always do my "someplace else" portion of the trip on the way over. If I miss a connection on the way back, the worst that happens is I miss a day of work. My vacation time is more important than my work time...... Don't tell my boss I said this.....

The other reason I put Budapest last is that's its an easy place to visit. I put all the difficult and high energy stuff up front and wind down my vacation in Budapest so I go home in a better mood.

Posted by
39 posts

As I read the thread of your itinerary dilemmas, I'm wondering if you think you'll only get one chance at these cities. You're young . . . if you don't see it all or you fall in love with something special, you can come back.

Posted by
1 posts

Another suggestion for a day trip from Budapest is Hollókő, which is an ethnographic village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Very unique and worth the visit!!
or try Tihany which is on the North side of Lake Balaton. Very charming.

Posted by
1 posts

My partner and I are going in a few weeks and we are flying in and out of Budapest (the flights were so much cheaper!) and we are taking the train from Budapest to Bratislava (for a day trip) and then on to Vienna and then New Years Eve in Prague before taking the train back to Budapest.

I know your question is about itinerary but I wanted to pass along some useful information if you will be traveling by train.

We looked into tickets from RailEurope for our trip because we have used them in the past when traveling to Spain, but after doing a little more research (www.seat61.com) we decided to book directly with the different countries railways. It's a little more leg work but between the two of us we saved $414 for the same trains! Just out of curiosity I went back and looked at the tickets that we purchased last year for our round trip between Barcelona and Madrid and we would have saved $80 by purchasing directly with Renfe.

Definitely look into it... for two people... $400 savings can mean a lot of experiences in your destinations!

Safe travels to you and when we get back if I have some updated information to pass along regarding itinerary, I will definitely post for you!

All the best,

Joshua

Posted by
17009 posts

Thanks for posting the fare information, Joshua. It's a useful reminder. New posters, especially, seem reluctant to accept that using RailEurope can be unnecessarily costly.

Posted by
63 posts

We just finished a 10 day stay in Wien and Budapest. I'll be brief as most things have already been pointed out. We did skip Prague due to all the reports of tourist pollution. We should have gone 15 years ago and we may never go now for that reason.

I'm not sure where you're at but there are good ORD-VIE flights on Austrian Air. We left Thanksgiving day from Chicago to Wien and flew open jaws back through Budapest (connecting back in VIE). Airfare was only $520 rt pp. I booked back in August.

Another reason to make Budapest the last stop on your list as it will be the best for shopping. By throwing out my old underwear and socks every day I was able to make room in my carry on luggage for goodies we purchased at the Central Market.

If you're an old car or history nut, then take the Trabant tour in Budapest. It was great! Just google it.

Posted by
56 posts

Tracy

We took a similiar family vacation in June, but was only 16 days. We originally planned on roughly equal time in Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I changed our itinerary after listening to a Rick Steves' podcast, which noted there were diminishing returns with each additional day in a city. Based on that logic, I added 3 days in Salzburg to our intinerary and subtracted one day from each of the other cities. There were two advantages to adding Salzburg: One, it was a much different city (smaller, mountainous) than the other three cities, which gave much needed variety. Secondly, I thought it was easier to pack/train/unpack one time enroute to Salzburg in lieu of multiple day trips from the other cities. My other suggestion is to arrive in whatever city is easiest to get to (number of flight and duration). You are better off with more severe jet lag when you return home vs. when you first arrive in Europe. Enjoy your trip

Posted by
2 posts

Hello Tracy,

The private transportation is not cheaper than the train, but more comfortable and the local transfer companies also give you the opportunity to explore sights/attractions along the way that would be otherwise difficult to reach via public transport. This is some: http://transportbudapest.com or http://privatetransferbudapest.com/special-offers.html , etc.

But you can find many options on the internet.

Have a safe trip and happy new year!