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Day Trip from Vienna- Budapest or Prague?

We plan on spending 3 days in Vienna following Oktoberfest in Munich and want to do a day trip to either Budapest or Prague. Which is better in your opinion? We realize that both need several days to full see, but we don't have time on this trip. Looking at guided tours and train schedules, it looks like visiting either will constitute a long-day. If you have any recommendations on day tours to either, please let me know as well. I don't really want to pay $1,000 for a private day tour, but would like to know if there are more options than the standard trips offered on Viator. Thanks!

Posted by
4637 posts

I would not do either. Both are too far for enjoyable day trip.

Posted by
18835 posts

I call these Bounce Visits and I do them from time to time. I love Budapest, but I am biased. Still it is the closer of the two. Early October in Central Europe the weather is generally very good, and that helps a lot.

Take an early train (there are two or three that will get you to Budapest between 8 and 11am) in and the last fast train back out (there is one about 9pm that will get you back to Vienna about midnight)... 3 hours each way ... And you could have 12 hours in this beatiful city. If you are interested let me know and I can set you up with a good plan for the day. No tour guide necessary as it is an easy and fun city to navigate.

Still, having said all of this the better plan is to stay in Budapest and make the day trip to Vienna. All thing being equal most recommendations do lean to a little more time in Budapest and Prague than Vienna.

Posted by
15686 posts

Do you really have 3 full days in Vienna? Even if you do, I think Vienna has enough to fill three days. If you do take James's itinerary, remember that it is not just 3 hours each way. Include the time it will take you to get from your hotel to the train in Vienna (possibly in rush hour traffic) and from the train to the historic center of Budapest, then double it and add it to the 6 hours of intercity train travel. Then decide if it's worth it.

Posted by
18835 posts

Chani and Ilja are two of the most level headed and informed contributors in the forum. It’s very hard to argue with them.

Vienna isn’t one of my favorite places in the world which is one of the reasons I was quick to say go for it. You can spend any amount of time in any location and if you find it enjoyable then you are doing the right thing. So there is no right or wrong. Day trips from Budapest to Vienna are pretty common for shopping or for the theater or some event. So this isn’t a big deal in the eyes of the locals. The Westbahnhof train station is about 10 minutes by taxi from St. Stephen’s in Vienna (pretty central to the tourist district). Since I am pretty conservative I would leave for the station about an hour before the train departure. That would mean getting in a cab between 5:30 to 7:00 depending on which train you take. Yup pretty early. Ticket is about 30 euro.

At the Budapest end you will arrive in Keleti Station which in and of its self is the first stop of your tour . Budapest isn’t as much about a “tourist District”, the entire town is the attraction. I would put you on a short one stop metro ride, then a tram that runs down the middle of a fascinating street; maybe with a stop at the New York Palace Café (yes this is a café: ). Then its on to Andrassy ut which the French used as a model for the Champs-Élysées (or was it the other way around?) ( ) Eventually ending up at the river ( )and on to Buda. Every minute of the trip is about why you came.

Because the train station is a stop on one of the three main metro lines the trip back is easy, direct and worry free.

As an alternative if you want to make it easier you can hire a car and driver to pick you up at you accommodations in Vienna and take you directly into Budapest. That would make the door to door trip about 2.5 hours. It’s been a while since I did something like that but I think you can get it done for under $400. Good if there is 4 of you, not so cheap for just one or two. Still it would save you a little time on the front end. The trip back to Vienna I would still say the train is best. I have a guy I can recommend if it comes to that.

Also consider spending the night and taking an early train out the next morning. That will give you the opportunity to enjoy some of the night life, pubs, theater or good restaurants or maybe even a tour of the lights. (This view does exist and I can tell you how to get there: ) You could still be back in Vienna by 10 am the next day. But if you do this the hotel you choose will be pretty important to maximize you time.

Just remember that there are no absolutes. If you think you would enjoy it then go for it. I always keep contingency plans. I am always afraid that after having spent so much money to get some place that I just might not enjoy it as I had hoped. If when you get to Vienna you are having the time of your life then maybe skip the day trip. A lot of people like Vienna just that much. On the other hand Budapest about a dozen years ago was my "Plan B" for a trip to Vienna. Good thing too because I didn't much enjoy Vienna at all. After seeing Prague, Paris, Rome, London, it was a let down. My Plan B turned out to be my favorite place in the world. Still, I love and respect those that cant stand the place. its all about what you enjoy.

Posted by
5450 posts

Too far for a day trip to either one of these places. Why not consider the Wachau Valley - a lush hilly wine-growing bend in the Danube with medieval villages, short river cruises and biking paths available. It takes about 1 - 1.5 hour to reach Melk from Vienna, then head down to Krems. This is also a UNESCO world heritage site and the Melk Abbey is glorious. This area is the most popular day trip from Vienna and you will be there for the grape harvest. See some countryside!

Posted by
516 posts

Prague of the two but you will be so upset you didn't spend several days. You can easily spend a week in just Vienna. You could see the Melk Abby or take a look at Salzburg.

Posted by
4535 posts

I agree with most of the others, Vienna is easily a 3 day visit to begin with, I wouldn't add a very long daytrip to another city worth a 2-3 day visit in itself. And Prague is not close to Vienna.

Posted by
18835 posts

When we do the bounce trips we generally rationalize them with by associating them with an event. The best two we did were Moscow and Jerusalem. Last year on January 5th we flew from Budapest to Moscow (about $300rt) spent the night in a stunning 5 star hotel with a room with a view of Red Square (affordable because it was January), then the next day saw the Kremlin and the area around Red Square; then went to church for the celebration of Orthodox Christmas (the excuse for the trip, and really, really worth it). The next day, back to Budapest. It was an incredible trip. We made another trip from Budapest to Jerusalem one year for the first day of Chanukah. Basically the same schedule and the same ticket cost. Vienna being so much closer it is a trip we would make out of Budapest with an overnight in Vienna or in the case of @aorsaba the reverse would be true.

As for 3 days in Vienna. I know people who spent a week there and wanted more time. I also know those that spent two days there and couldn't wait to leave. You just never know until you try. I am sort of on board with the settle in someplace and then take some day trips to test the water in different locations. I guess the only tip is don't try and see too much. We focused on Red Square and a very few important locations in Jerusalem. We've done some similar trips to Sorrento and Florence and the Banska towns of Slovakia. We returned to the ones we were most impressed with for longer periods of time but we lost nothing and had a great experience with the short trips.

Posted by
1446 posts

A completely different sugestion: Bratislava, Slovakia.

It's a perfect daytrip out of Vienna - an easy one-hour train trip to get there and just enough of interest there to keep you busy for a day.

I really enjoyed it when I did it and I think of Bratislava as the quintessential "daytrip" city.

Posted by
14580 posts


With only three full days set aside for Vienna, the first thing is that you don't have ample time for the city. I agree that there is absolutely no need to do a day trip r/t with such a short stay. But, if you really want to get out of the Vienna, do a day trip to Graz, or, a place closer: Eisenstadt in Burgenland. Either one you'll find very interesting. Direct train connections go to both.

Posted by
85 posts

Hi - My thoughts. I'm not sure how the train connections are on these though.

Option 1: You could stay in Salzburg out of Munich. Its close and a small city to visit. Arrive in the afternoon, spent the night and on your way to Vienna the next day. You get to see another city...but its on the way and time schedule wise it might work out. Salzburg is a beautiful city. Con....not as interesting as Budapest of Prague.

Option 2: I like Diane's thought of Bratislava. It's close. It's not very touristy. Not as beautiful as Salzburg, Budapest, or Prague but unique.

Option 3: The one I'd choose. Stay in Vienna the full time. 3 days isn't much time.....I'd not want to waste time traveling back and forth. Second choice would be one of the 2 above ....whichever works out best for train schedules.