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Suggest best seven day itinerary to Eastern Europe in May

My wife and I have 7 days and will be flying to Vienna in May. We would like to spend time there as well as in Prague and Budapest. We have not been to any of those places. We need help in how we should allocate days among those cities.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for your input. We are locked into flying in and out of Vienna, so if we had to to choose between Prague and Budapest which would it be? We like history, architecture and quaint countryside day trips. Thanks.

Posted by
1818 posts

In my opinion seven days is not enough time for these cities unless you just want to check them off your list. Chose two that are closest together and make plans for them. Then split the time in half.

Posted by
11153 posts

I agree with Monte. If you are locked into flying in and out of Vienna, see that and either Prague or Budapest, but not both. If you can fly open jaw (called "multi city" on Kayak, Orbitz, etc), then pick any two of the three, and fly into one and out of the other. Remember to account for the time it takes to travel between these places. Use the Bahn (German rail) website to find travel times, following Rick's directions: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm. Even though the three cities are spoken of as triplets and have a shared history, they are as different as apples, oranges, and bananas. So, I agree with splitting your time evenly among the ones you do get to, as you won't know how you will feel about each place until you see them. If you do a search on this board, you'll see quite a range of reactions to each. In 7 days, you barely have enough time for two of the cities, once you account for travel time. You definitely don't have enough time for all three, unless your only goal is to check them off a list instead of enjoying them.

Posted by
1324 posts

I don't like Prague either (note: from everything I have heard mine is very much a minority opinion) but it would probably be the better of the two choices presented. But you know another option is Krakow, although its about an hour further than Prague.

Posted by
1919 posts

Vienna is a big city, with a lot to see. Why not just do Vienna? I know that you want to do a lot, everyone does. But if you stay in Vienna, rent a car, go on day trips, you will enjoy yourself, and not get frazzled. </p> Here's what I would do: Day 1: Tour downtown. St Stephens church. Walk around. Day 2: Museums or culture. Day 3: Day trip to Malthausen Concentration Camp, Near Lotz (75-80 KM; rent a car). This is a very interesting camp, and well worth the trip. Day 4: Day trip to Metz-Krems. This is discussed in Rick Steves. Day 5: Palace day: Schoenbrun Palace. There may be a music event.
Day 6: Day trip to Bratislava. Nice little town. Half-way between Vienna and Budapest. There are plenty of fun things in Vienna. The Prater amusement park, the wine gardens (the heurigern), the Nacht Markt. 7 days is not enough for 2. Do one great world city (Vienna) with day trips. You will be enchanted. Before going, read books by Frederic Morton (Thunder at Twilight, etc) about Vienna 100 years ago.

Posted by
10923 posts

Before I throw in my biased two cents worth, what day do you leave the states and what day do you return to the states. I'll do a little research on what is going on and let you know. But yes, it is tight, especially if the 7 days includes travel time; but still you can have a great time.

Posted by
13933 posts

I'd opt for Budapest because it's a shorter train ride - just over 3 hours vs. almost 5 to Prague - especially since you have to do it twice. I don't understand how Krakow got into the discussion, it's 8 hours by train from Vienna! You could also consider a couple of days in Brno instead. It depends on how much time you have on the ground. I think Budapest and Prague are equally interesting. Prague is a little more touristy, Budapest is a little more "gritty."

Posted by
11153 posts

I had a great time in Prague, a great time in Budapest, and not as great a time in Vienna (although there is certainly plenty to see; I just didn't enjoy the vibe as much). So, as I said above, decide whether you want apples, oranges, or bananas, and choose accordingly: Apples: Vienna (committed) Oranges: choose Prague Bananas: choose Budapest There really is no other way to know until you see them for yourself. You will see that James has a strong bias towards Budapest and against Prague; my sister has an almost equally strong bias in the exact opposite direction (and while she didn't care for Budapest, she loathed Vienna); and a friend far preferred Vienna to the other two. So, just accept that you will see what you see and miss everything else (particularly with only 7 days to play with), and start flipping some coins.

Posted by
6150 posts

If you've never been to any of the three, just draw a number out of a hat and spend your time there. Or make your life simple and stay in Vienna - there's lots to do in one week and you can take short side trips. You won't know what you're missing with the other two and that's fine. If you try to chase all three, you'll spread yourself too thin.

Posted by
11153 posts

If you want to see videos of the three cities, which will give you more information than a coin toss or drawing out of a hat, Rick's videos are on Hulu and YouTube.

Posted by
10923 posts

You said you had 7 days but I wasn't sure what that meant. Seven days in Europe? Seven days total with travel? Or ???? If it is 7 days total, stay in Vienna and do day trips to Melk and Gyor. Otherwise look below. If you still have one more day then add a day to Vienna. Day 1: Leave the US Day 2: Arrive Vienna Day 3: Vienna Day 4: Late Train Vienna to Budapest Day 5: Budapest Day 6: Budapest Day 7: Morning Train Budapest to Vienna
Day 8: Vienna to Home

Posted by
3696 posts

I have been to all 3 cities a couple of times and my favorites in order are Budapest, Prague and Vienna. Vienna was bigger and more spread out than I like, and while I had a good time do not need to return. I think Budapest is beautiful and love the food as well. Enjoyed the river cruise and also took a hydrofoil from Budapest back to Vienna one time. All are wonderful locations and obviously everyone has their own favorite for certain reasons. In case Krakow is in the mix... I went there just once and really enjoyed it and it was very inexpensive, but not sure I would take it over the other choices on this trip.

Posted by
10923 posts

I purchased lots of beer in Prague I purchased some pretty bad concert tickets in Vienna
I purchased an apartment in Budapest. Let me think, which of the three do I prefer.........hmmmm???

Posted by
865 posts

>"Vienna is a big city, with a lot to see. Why not just do Vienna?" I agree. Vienna is incredibly underrated. The city unites the old world charm of Prague and the buzzing 19th century quarters of Budapest. Maybe Vienna is underrated because you have to make an effort to appreciate the city? The old quarters aren't as picturesque as Pragues (but more grand), but after a while you notice that Pragues centre is a collection of hotels, restaurants, embassies and souvenir shops without Czechs today, while normal Austrians still live in Viennas old town, which is filled with shops, restaurant and coffehouses steeped in tradition (some are more than 200 years old, like some tailors who already worked for the imperial family).
And while many people love the buzzing 19th century quarters of Pest (the eastern part of Budapest), only a few know that Vienna offers exactly the same. Simply because Pest is the centre of Budapest, while the 19th century quarters of Vienna, which are (maybe) even more grand, surround the centre. You have to cross the Ringstraße (Viennas Andrassy ut) to see them.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi, I've been to all three, Budapest three years ago as a day trip, enough to picque my curiousity historically to return, Prague ages ago. Maybe that doesn't count. My first time to Austria I set aside 7 days for Vienna, a haunting and captivating city. But since all three are unknown to you, I heartily suggest Vienna. Spend the whole time there, the 7 whole days, or allow not more than two day trips r/t: Graz, or the Burgenland to visit Eisenstadt, or Budapest. All three every doable by train. From Vienna to Budapest r/t on the same day gives you a discount.

Posted by
10923 posts

Harold, the. RS videos are a good start but the need to be supplemented with something more current. I believe the Vienna, Prague and Budapest videos date to about 2004 and a lot has changed.

Posted by
177 posts

7 days is tough for all 3, especially if you never been there before.
3 days each will make it 9 days not counting flights, if you wanna see most of the sites. Personally if I only have 7 days and I want to do those 3 cities, I'd fly into Prague and not Vienna, so you can take the train and go south. Even if it cost 200 dollars more. Now you are stuck with taking the trian north, then waste time in transit passing through Vienna again, vise versa. But since you already booked your flights without thinking... You can totally do them in 7 if you forgo some sites that you have no interest in. I have no idea what your interests are, but if it's up to me to make an itinerary for you, and I am a history and art buff: Day 1: Check into Le Méridien by the Opera House. Assuming it's around 3pm, get a snack bread from the Karlsplatz Metro station, have a quick picnic at Burggarten. Check out the architecture of the Opera House, do not go inside (you will see more impressive interior in Budapest). Go into Albertina. After that, go to Haus der Musik, then Stadtpark. Take a tram from there to Rathauspark. Check out the City Hall. Have dinner around there. Walk back along the ring and pass some impressive architectures such as Parlament and Kunsthistorisches. Conclude your day. Day 2: Follow Rick Steves Self guided walk starting from Opera, to St. Stephens, St. Peters, Hofburg Palace. Forgo Kunsthistorisches Museum, take a tram back to Opera, take the Metro to Südtiroler Platz, or tram to Schloss Belvedere. Go to Belvedere, Most women loves Kustav Klimt, and that's some brownie points for you.

Posted by
177 posts

Day 3: Take a train to Prague (almost 5 hours, wasting a whole lot of time), I am going to tell you to wake your butts up early and get to Prague by 12pm. Check into Design Hotel Josef. Start exploring right away to Old Town Square, Back to Palladium area, check out that giant black building, forgot what it's called, it's like a gate. Powder Gate? Day 4: Jewish Quarter (four synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Memorial Hall), Down and cross Charles Bridge, Explore Prague Castle area. At night take the tram along the river, check out the Dancing House, and do whatever pleases you. maybe check out the Museum Metro stop and Mustek Metro stop area.

Posted by
177 posts

At the night of Day 4, take a night train which depart around 12:00am, and arrive in Budapest around 8:30am. But do check the schedule, I think it may have some closures depending on the day that you travel. Day 5: Drop off your luggage at Hotel Palazo Zichy, have some breakfast. Borrow the business center at the hotel, buy the tickets for the Parliament online. Print them out. Head down to the Great Market Hall, up the Vaci st. St. Stephens, Us Embassy area, up Andrassy... House of Terror, Hero Square, City Park, hop into Széchenyi thermal bath. Day 6: Head down to Parliament with the tickets you booked first thing in the morning... prob. around 9am. Walk down along the river pass Shoes on the Danube, continue down and check out Deák Ferenc tér Area, take a bus from
Erzsébet tér to the Buda side and check out the castle area. Late afternoon, come back through Margit Bridge, rent a bike at the island park and ride around the island. Day 7: If you have time, take the train to Bratislava, spend a few hours there, then take a train to Vienna, and back to your airport and fly out. if not, plan your day 7 your self base on the time you have.

Posted by
10923 posts

Frank, I was with you right down to the Hotel Palazo Zichy. I understand that it is a lovely hotel, but if you are on a limited schedule it's not the area I would stay in. I only "recommend" hotels I have actually stayed in and since I have only stayed in a handful of hotels in Budapest it is unrealistic for me to say one hotel in Budapest is the best or even better than.... What I do know and understand is where the sights are and getting around in Budapest. So I generally emphasize a zone to stay in. Then you can shop for the best deal and the most suitable hotel for an individual's taste and values. That zone is generally two blocks north of or three blocks south of a line extended from the Oktogon, down the center of Andrassy ut and on to the river. You can find five stars and hostels in that zone and it very central to everything and great transportation to the places at the fringe of walking to.

Posted by
177 posts

When I arrived in Hotel Palazzo Zichy, I thought to myself the same thing. Crap I should of booked something closer. After one night, I quickly realized that is not the case. The tram and metro system is so convenient that I was glad we stayed away from the busy areas. On top of that Zichy was super convenient to and from Keleti, which most of his train will likely arrive and depart. that hotel is so central to both Metro and Tram, instead of most other hotels only to metro or only to tram. It is the #2 most recommended hotel in Budapest for a reason.

Posted by
177 posts

I just reread my reply, it kind of came off as rude. I didn't mean anything rude by it. But I do agree with you, pick an area and research your hotel from there. My recommendations are only my opinion so Andrew has a starting point to base the research off on. I always find it helpful when I have something to base my research.

Posted by
10923 posts

Frank, no problem. I bet I sound a little pompous. Like now probably. I spend a lot of time in Budapest every year and I encourage tourists to "live" the town and not just visit it. You are correct about the metro and if it were someone's second or third trip, then what the heck. First timers, like you were I guess, can have a great time at the Zichy but there is just a little edge to all day and all night convenience to the zone I suggested. I know the tourist doesn't have to get comfortable with the metro because so much will be a few feet away. I have known a number of people that have stayed at the Zichy and none have ever had a bad word. I've seen the outside and pictures of the interior and it is nice. I really just want people to enjoy the place as much as I do. We stayed in half dozen hotels in various locations around town for a half dozen years then we bought our vacation apartment in the zone that I recommend and for the reasons I recommend. But you know Frank, there isn't a right and a wrong and I respect and understand your point of view. Everyone is different and that's what makes life and traveling so wonderful.

Posted by
10923 posts

Oh, lets talk about Tripadvisor. So the Zichy is better than the Meridian; a real 5 star? I use Tripadvisor as well. But I keep in mind that 1 they compare apples and oranges 2 that a small boutique hotel with 30 rooms that has been open 10 years gets 20 times more reviews (not good or bad, just raw quantity) than a hotel with 200 rooms that has been open for 25 years. I just cant reconcile that in my mind. 3 Then you read the claims, "best hotel in town"! Really? That reviewer stayed in every hotel in town?
4 How do you define best? My opinion and that of my wife are not even consistent on that issue. But still its a great source to read opinions and draw your own expectations.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi, Good that you're flying into Vienna. That's a given that you'll be visiting that city. Basically, you have to choose between Budapest and Prague. As regards to the weather factor, Budapest in May is comfortable, not the oppresive heat you encounter in August. Both Budapest and Vienna are comfortable in May; they'll get hotter and hotter as the weeks go on where you could get up to 38C in Budapest. Given the two I'd choose Budapest over Prague for a host of reasons: 5 days for Vienna, 2 for Budapest...no day trips.

Posted by
10923 posts

Fred is correct, its subjective as all get out. May is really a good time to visit the region. In Budapest May is one of the wetter months but most of the rain in Budapest comes in short showers. Heavy, heavy RAIN is infrequent. The record high in May is 93F and the average is 70F. The weather in Vienna isn't significantly different and Prague might be about 5F cooler in May. The message might be that if you are going to the region between April and September make sure you get a room with air conditioning. I never did figure out what 7 days means so its tough to make much of a recommendation. Normally I am biased to Budapest, but that's totally personal taste. People who visit both Budapest and Vienna generally develop strong feelings for one or the other, but you don't know until you get there so for that reason I would suggest as balanced a trip as possible, or maintaining some flexibility. We discovered Budapest by cutting a trip to Vienna short because the places just did not speak to us. We went on to Budapest and fell in love. Other have had the opposite experience. Again, first trip, then balance it as much as possible.

Posted by
47 posts

So obviously it depends on what you are interested in and if you have your heart set on a big city- but we visited the region of South Moravia in Czech Republic a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Mikulov and Znojmo are cool little towns, and easily accessible by train from Vienna (although having a car would give you the freedom to explore even further). The area seemed to be quite popular with Austrian and German tourists but we didn't run into any other English speaking tourists the whole time! We really felt off the beaten path, which was fun. The language barrier wasn't too restrictive- patience, smiles and a lot of hand waving go a long way! Restaurants always had an English menu on hand. The main drawback was that we weren't able to get any castle tours in English (they would give us a printout of the English text to carry along).