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Vienna - Prague - Budapest

Thanks in advance for any suggestions! My husband and I will be traveling in April with another couple to these three cities. Unfortunately, we will only have 12 days to spend. I've begun my research and thought I'd ask for your advice as to the order in which we should see these cities and what are your favorite spots/highlights in each one. We are considering renting a car to drive between each location, but would consider hiring a driver or the train. We prefer to hang out with locals but would like to see the key elements in each location. Also, any recommendations for sports or adventure experience would be great too. We will be flying out of Boston and possibly going through Munich. Again....thanks so much.

Posted by
4637 posts

Logistically the most sense would make to fly open jaw to Prague then by train to Vienna again by train to Budapest and fly back to US from Budapest. Or vice versa: Budapest, Vienna, Prague. Having so little time for these three beautiful cities I would recommend Rick Steves books about them. He highlights what to see if you have 3 days, 4, 5 etc. If you want to see just these three cities (and I am afraid you won't have time for anything else), take a train. Car would be a big hassle (renting in one country, dropping in different one is very expensive, then you would need freeway stickers, international drivers permit, know the international traffic signs (we don't have them here), gas is at least twice as expensive there, parking in these three cities is not easy, either). On the other hand train is very easy.

Posted by
177 posts

It is completely doable. As previous person stated, fly open jaw into one and leave from the other. North to south or vise versa.

For our honeymoon we got into Prague at 3:00pm and spent 3.5 days in Prague.

From there we took a train to Vienna and spent 3 full days there.

At first we wanted to just take a train to Budapest but we decided to spend a day in Bratislava.

So we took a train from Vienna to Bratislava and spent a day there.

Then we continued our journey into Budapest for 3.5 days then onto Belgrade and other cities after, you can easily just fly back home from Budapest.

That's a total of 11 days and you have 1 more day to spare to add in whatever you want.

We are young and fit late 20 and early 30s couple. So we didn't feel rushed or missed anything.

For Prague Major highlights are: Old Town, Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and surrounding, Jewish town (Josefov), Czech National Gallery, and the dancing building.

For Vienna: St. Stephen's and surrounding area, Opera house, Hofburg Palace, Belvedere (lots of people miss this, but I like Kustav Klimt so it's nice to see Kiss in person), City Hall and surrounding, Museumsquartier, Haus der Musik (we had lots of fun there), Albertina (Albrecht Durer's young Hare is there), Lots of parks around town that you can go into, we also took the ring train around and stop at where ever we think that looks interesting, so we stopped by a bunch of neighborhoods northern part of town.

For Bratislava: changing of the guards, old town, we didn't go into the UFO but hike up the castle instead... Bratislava has some interesting food. You can try a sample platter at 1. Slovak Pub.

For Budapest: We followed a lot of Rick Steve's self guided walk. He has a self guided walk for each neighborhood. We did not do the bath instead we took a bike ride around Margaret Island. This is the only city that we wish we spent another day in. But we pretty much most highlight of the city within 3 days. We even made it out to the Liberty Statue and hiked around that park.

Have lots of fun!!!

Posted by
12320 posts

Excellent, my favorite subject. Begin in Prague and end in Budapest because Prague is the most hectic and tourist infested and Budapest is least tourist infested and the most comfortable. In each, since you want to mix with the locals rent an apartment in lieu of a hotel room. My personal preference is an apartment represented by a reputable company that manages apartments for a living and not an apartment from an individual. For sights and experiences I am best with Hungary. I will leave Prague and Vienna to those that know it better than I do.

In Budapest you can do the typical tours of the various districts and sights or you can drive a Russian tank or race a Trabant. You can walk the streets of the WWII Jewish Deportation ghetto and touch the consecrated ground that led to the deaths of half a million or you can walk the halls of a Cold War Nuclear Fallout Shelter / Hospital hidden deep in the ground. You can see some of the greatest Art Deco, Art Nuevo, Bauhaus architecture in Europe. You can drink great wine and cheap beer; eat at Michelin star restaurants or stand with the locals at a cheap but delicious lunch counter. You didn’t give a date but there are Palinka festivals, and music festivals. Classical and Madonna on stage. Best of all, for me at least, you can live the city easily and be something better than a tourist. Yea, I sort of like the place. Shop for antiques or play on an island park in the middle of the Danube. Ride the yellow trams and experience the M1, the oldest underground metro line on the continent. You have heard of Paris’ Champ De Elysees but did you know it was modeled after Budapest’s Andrassy ut (or was it the other way around? Hmmmm). How about horse racing on the city streets!! All possible.

A couple of scenarios.

This version takes you past a lot, but at a brisk pace and there is a lot of money spent on guides and cars. Some people want to get a taste of a lot and this will do that

Day one; Depart the US
Day two Arrive Prague
Day three In Prague
Day four In Prague
Day five Car/guide/driver from Prague to Karlstejn Castle to Cesky Krumlov. Total drive time less than 4 hours. Total trip time with a tour of the castle, lunch, etc maybe 8 hours. Cost 300 euro. Beautiful drive.
Day six Van service Cesky Krumlov to Vienna. About 3.5 hours. Cost 70 euro.
Day seven Vienna
Day eight Vienna
Day nine Car/guide/driver from Vienna to the Archabbey at Pannonholma, Gyor for lunch then on to Budapest. About 3.5 hour drive time and 8 hours with tours. Cost 300 euro.

Day ten Budapest
Day eleven Budapest (too little time in Budapest for my taste, read Franks last paragraph above)
Day 12 Budapest to home

This is a lot less expensive and provides more time to get to know the (fewer) locations better:

Day one; Depart the US
Day two Arrive Prague
Day three In Prague
Day four In Prague
Day five Train to Vienna. 4 to 5 hour ride. Cost 70 euro
Day six Vienna
Day seven Vienna
Day eight Train to Budapest. 3 to 4 hour ride. Cost 60 euro
Day nine Budapest
Day ten Budapest
Day eleven Budapest
Day 12 Budapest to home

Rental Car? I would do it. First the raw cost of the car, then the cost of gas and tolls, then you are too nervous driving to see anything as you go along. Then you pay 20 euro and up a night to park it in the cities and then there is the surcharge for renting in Prague and dropping it in Budapest. Naaaaa, not worth the effort and guides and trains and metros and busses will get you where ever you need to go.

And of course there are a lot of other options depending on the date, budget and interests. Hope this gets you primed.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks so much for all your advice - and it seems to be the consensus to ditch the rental car - trains will work fine.....I'm getting very excited about our trip and really appreciate the itineraries... James - your love of Budapest certainly comes through!! I can't wait to see all of the sights you noted, but I have to admit, driving the Russian tank seems very intriguing. We will be traveling the beginning part of April - probably not the best weatherwise, but on the positive side, there should be less tourists than in the summer. Again, many thanks.

Posted by
12320 posts

We go often in mid to late March to early April and the weather is fine in April. Frequency of rain is a little greater but rain showers in the region are generally short and more often than not the sun comes back out. So bring an umbrella. There will be fewer tourists in Prague (but still a lot). Tourism in Budapest is more spread out over the city and except is some small zones tourists are generally not 'thick' like in Prague or Vienna.

Here you are: http://tank.hu/ Thought I was kidding?

Send me a note if I can help you with anything else.

Posted by
14267 posts

I did that trip about 3 years ago in May. I started in Budapest, ended in Prague. I don't think the order matters. I didn't have to deal with jetlag and had a reasonable amount of time in each place.

I was in Budapest for about 4.5 days, then took a late afternoon train to Vienna for 3 nights, then a late afternoon train to Prague. I used the evenings for travel to maximize daytime sightseeing time.

I thought there was more to see and do in Budapest than the other cities and it was certainly cheaper. The food was very good and the Hungarian wines are excellent and very inexpensive. Highlights for me: a concert at St Stephen's Basilica (the best way to see the church), wine tasting at the Faust Wine Cellar in the Hilton (after touring the castle), riding the oldest subway in Europe.

In Vienna, I spent the better part of a day at the Schoenbrunn Palace and gardens (Rick says its the second-best palace in Europe). Skip the Hofburg (it's very similar to the Schoenbrunn but not nearly as extensive). Vienna is romantic after dark, with the classical buildings floodlit.

I used one of my 4 days in Prague to day trip to Terezin, extremely interesting.

Posted by
6562 posts

Thanks for the information, everyone.

We'll be landing in Budapest 3/25/2014, and flying out of Prague 4/8. We notice the airfares rising 3/28, and caught a $728 one day special flight--about $300 less than what's now quoted. Since we're on the edge of Spring, we're starting south and going north.

Our travel will be by train everywhere, and we're swinging by Bratislava on the way to Vienna. Visting Cesky Krumlov would be nice, but time just won't permit it this trip.

We've been spoiled to using the Euro, and switching back and forth between the Czech and Hungarian currencies will be like "the old days."

These are absolutely three fantastic destinations. Travel websites on all these cities is all over the internet, which makes travel so much more enjoyable.

Posted by
26 posts

3 years ago my wife and I did a similar itinerary. Flew into Vienna (3 days), train to Salzburg (2 days), train to Ljubljana (2 days), train to Zagreb (2 days) train to Budapest (2 days) OVERNIGHT train to Prague (3 days) and then flew home. We absolutely love not having a car and highly recommend it. We also did Munich this past summer and stayed in a VRBO apartment outside the city center. Definitely agree with being a 'local' vice doing all the touristy things. Enjoy!

Posted by
12320 posts

But in Budapest you can stay right in the center of the city, within 10 minutes of most anything that would interest you for 45 to 65 euro a night in an apartment. Many are in fantastic 19th and 20th century apartment blocks where you neighbors might be professionals, or hourly workers or conservative Jews. Since we are on the subject my personal preference for a place to find housing is as follows: Go to google maps or equivalent and look for Andrassy ut. On Andrassy ut you will find an intersection and metro stop called The Oktogon. From the oktogon draw a line down the center of Andrassy ut until you hit the river. Now find a place that interest you within one block above or two blocks below the line. The closer to the river the more expensive and the more touristy. The Closer to the Oktogon the more "real" Since the M1 metro runs under Andrassy ut the time to the sights is about the same. Also the further below the line you get the closer you get to the wonderful old Jewish Deportation ghetto. Find something you like and let me know the address and I might be able to tell you about the neighborhood.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks again for everyone's input....definitely very helpful...James, I ran the Russian tank driving by the group and they loved it! Can't wait to try it! We will definitely take advantage of the concerts as well. If there are any other suggestions for off-beat activities, please send them here! Thanks again everyone....

Posted by
12320 posts

My wife has demanded the opportunity to drive the tank. We will do it in March and let you know how it works out. Spelunking anyone?? Spelunking in a manner only possible in a country with very few lawyers...... http://cavingtours.caving.hu/ Or rent a Trabant http://www.rentatrabantbudapest.com/main.html Bath party?? http://www.bathsbudapest.com/budapest-bath-parties Cold War Hospital / Fallout shelter http://www.sziklakorhaz.eu/en or for that matter I know of small cold war fall out shelter where you can sleep in lieu of a hotel. You will need to bring your own bedding and rat traps.

Posted by
6562 posts

You'd have more danger renting a Trabant for a day than spelunking.

The Turkish Baths on a Saturday night might also be hazardous to your health, as I've seen the pictures online. It looks like Carlos and Charlies in Cancun during Spring Break--every weekend.

When I was young, I might have taken them up on staying in a prison B&B for a night. Rooms are reasonable in Budapest, and ultra budget accommodations are not needed.

Posted by
12320 posts

The fallout shelter accommodations wasn't exactly serious and the other was in response to a request for out of the ordinary.

Posted by
2 posts

James - you're the best! I love the trabant idea -- have forwarded that to the group! How often can one say they have driven a Trabant - certainly something to add to the bucket list..I'll anxiously await your review of the Russian tank experience!