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Trip report: April solo travel Vienna - Budapest - Prague - Munich - Fussen - Florence - Venice!

I'm finally going to stop lurking...this is my "thank you" to all the folks in this forum who (unknowingly!) helped me put together my month-long central/eastern European adventure. Hopefully I can help someone else out in return!

I am female and in my early 20s, traveling solo. I landed in Vienna then took the train to Budapest, Prague, Munich, Fussen, Florence, and Venice. I bought a Eurail pass, which I found to be fairly easy to use. The flexibility and peace of mind were nice. Train reservations were no issue, as it was mostly shoulder season.
I stayed exclusively in hostels through Hostelling International or Hostelworld. All felt safe and very clean.

Gear: I had an Osprey Meridian rolling backpack with clip-on daypack and a very small crossbody bag for my wallet and phone. The suitcase was a great size for my things and I had no problems lifting it into the overhead bins on the plane, train, etc (I'm 5'4"). I had a pair of Josef Seibel fashion sneakers for walking. Cute and comfortable!

I had the AT&T overseas plan, which was invaluable for google maps and last-minute googling.

Things I wish I brought: vaseline, NyQuil, leave-in conditioner for my hair (curly and unruly on the best of days)
Things I wish I hadn't brought: iPad, so many socks my bulky bluetooth headphones
Things I was glad I had: flip-flops for showers, scarf, fleece vest, Dryfit T-shirts, ibuprofin, portable battery, pajamas, eye shades

Cities
Vienna:
I found Vienna very easy. Public transport was a breeze. LOVED the coffee culture. I bought the ViennaCard off the app, which got me a reasonable discount on all of the major attractions. Make sure you get the audioguide in the museums and attractions! There is very little written explanation.
My favorite locations were the Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, the Mozart House, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Budapest:
Possibly my favorite city, and good just for wandering (my favorite activity). The Great Synagogue and attached Jewish museum are interesting, and walking distance from the Basilica. Great food everywhere and, while touristy, didn't have that "museum" quality that some downtowns have. Definitely still an organic, growing place with a fascinating history. I recommend hiking up Gellert hill for a vigorous walk and glorious views.

Prague:
Just too crowded. I found it exhausting, even in April. Yes, beautiful and evocative but overwhelmed by tour groups. I did go to 8:30 Mass at St. Vitus Cathedral, and that was glorious. Charles Bridge is uncrowded at 7am and very beautiful. Everything was mobbed by 10am.

Munich:
Quiet, lots of students. The Hofbrauhaus is a lot of fun and the Residenz museum is beautiful and enormous. I spent a lot of time in the English garden sunbathing. Dachau concentration camp is awful but a must-see.

Fussen:
2 hours by train from Munich, and near Neuschwanstein Castle. I found the castle to be a bit disappointing, but rented a bike in Fussen downtown and spent a day on the bike-only paths around the mountains and lakes. One of my favorite days all trip.

Florence:
Also very crowded, but manageable, and my other favorite city. Make sure to get a reservation for the Uffizi and Accademia. I did both in the same day and found it long but doable. The RS audiotours around both museums were great. My best meals were in the downtown but off the main drag -- look for the smaller places in sidestreets. Did not have any issues with aggressive shopkeepers or beggars, as I had feared.

Venice:
Found Venice overwhelming, so I only spent one day there, mostly wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere. Found it very overpriced, though the city is truly unique and worth a visit. I also visited Verona and Trieste on my other two days in the Veneto. Both were very fun daytrips and much quieter with majority locals out and about. I had no issues with my nonexistent Italian.

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Wrap up: All cities I'm glad I visited, but I wish I had time to see more of the Czech and Hungarian countryside. I loved my daytrips into the Veneto and to the Venetian islands, and would highly recommend trips to both Verona and Trieste if one is in the area. Venice is overpriced (40 euros for a three day Vaporetto pass!) and I could have done it in a daytrip. Venetians were the least friendly locals I encountered, though I don't blame them for being a little sick of tourists. Prague was likewise too crowded for me. I adored Florence and could have spent weeks exploring the city and Tuscan countryside. I had no issues as an English-speaker in any of these cities, even with the folks who couldn't speak any English -- we got by just fine on gestures, eye contact, and smiles.
I am an extreme introvert and solo travel isn't intimidating to me -- however, I did find that one has a lot more time than one thinks! I journaled a lot, listened to a lot of podcasts, and read many novels (A Room With a View is an awfully fun read whilst in Florence). There were many young women also staying in my hostels, and most weren't American -- the majority were Korean, Chinese, Brazilian, and Argentinian. I'm not someone who goes clubbing or out to bars while traveling, so I can't speak to those experiences.
Overall, a great trip! Next time, I'd love to go farther east to Poland...Romania...and maybe see more of Italy... AND I have yet to visit Greece! I'm all inspired to continue traveling :)

Posted by
732 posts

Sophia what a wonderfully concise trip report. I really like how you mention “what worked” and what didn’t and also your preferences of the quieter venues in Italy.

I often travel as a solo explorer and find it very easy. Get lonesome on occasion, but otherwise, recommend it all the time.

Thanks for your upbeat report.

Linda

Posted by
6172 posts

Thanks for reporting back. Hope you have many more successful trips.

Posted by
4076 posts

Thanks for the report. Those are amazing cities. For those interested in Neuschwanstein, I would suggest also visiting Hohenschwangau just "across the street" The interior is lovely, the English language tour provided alot of information about the family and Ludwig II that was also useful for and made Neuschwanstein more interesting. Neuschwanstein is unfinished and I don't think ever lived in and I would agree that it does feel a bit disappointing.

Posted by
503 posts

Sophia, thanks for your trip report and it sounds like you did a great job of planning your trip. I agree with you about Prague, it's beautiful but so, so crowded. And, the Charles Bridge is lovely early in the morning while you can still move about without bumping into hundreds of people. I'm glad you liked Florence, I used to love it but the last time I was there it was so crowded that you could not move freely. This was in April which I typically consider a shoulder season month. It really turned me off for Florence and I doubt I will ever go again. Glad to hear that you want to explore more of Eastern (Central) Europe. It is so very much worth it and not as crowded as Western Europe has become. I loved Poland and can't wait to go back. Croatia and Slovenia should definitely be on your list. You won't regret going to these countries. Have fun on your next trip and give us a report!!

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for your comments, all. I had a great time. Glad my report was helpful/fun to read.

@Lisa I’m not sure why I was so turned off by Prague and not by Florence. Perhaps I got lucky and missed the really terrible crowds...perhaps I went in expecting insanity...I’m still unsure. I was completely blown away by the existence of such great art and food all in one city...and more or less in situ.
I have heard wonderful things about Poland, especially Krakow! It’s on my list for next time. I also have friends originally from Sarajevo who have been urging me to visit Bosnia and Croatia for years. And I was so close to Slovenia in Trieste - I have to visit now!

@Jules glad I’m not the only one underwhelmed by Neuschwanstein. I had been looking forward to it and was a bit bummed out.

Posted by
2169 posts

Loved your trip report! I visited Prague after spending 8 wonderful days in Poland; Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk--all were pleasantly busy in mid-May so the absolute wall-to-wall throng of people in Prague was sort of a rude shock even though I knew to expect it. It's a fabulous city and well-worth a visit, but when I return it will be in a quieter time of the year. Budapest has become my favorite city, too--going there for the 4th time on Monday. After that it's Munich--and I had dithered about visiting Neuschwanstein and your report clinches it for me--rather than that I'm going to Nuremberg.

Posted by
441 posts

Nice trip report-sounds like you had a great time! We are heading to Prague next week and I am mentally preparing myself for the crowds. Hope to get some time at Charles Bridge before the masses make it too hard to breathe ;)
We went to Florence last year and it was fairly crowded but we also enjoyed the food and art quite a bit. Glad you had a fun trip!

Posted by
4637 posts

Very nice report! I go to Prague practically every year and yes, it is crowded in certain places and people on this Forum mind it a lot. I found Florence even more crowded (Venice even more) but people on the Forum are not complaining about crowds there. I wonder why. Maybe because they expect crowds in Florence and Venice but not in Prague? But they should because Prague is the 4th most visited city in Europe: after London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul. And those are quite bigger cities than Prague.

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13 posts

@Christa, have fun in Budapest! I'm already itching to go back. And do report back on your time in Nuremberg! I did enjoy Fussen, but it was Fussen itself rather than the castle that got me. A good choice if you're into cute Bavarian towns with views.

@ferrin good luck in Prague! The castle quarter was 100% deserted when I was there from about 7:45-8:30am, and Charles Bridge had only a few truly dedicated photographers/Instagrammers/Bridal shoots at 7:30 or so. I ended up getting up early and then taking a coffee break and siesta during the peak hours. :) The Convent of St. Agnes (fab medieval art collection) was also pretty quiet even in the middle of the day.

Posted by
681 posts

Sounds like a wonderful trip. I agree that all the above mentioned cities are crowded but I just know I will spends a few days there and then find a small/midsize city to visit (or country side). For Venice it was the surrounding islands (love them), Florence was the Tuscan countryside and Sienna (I know also crowded) and Prague was Cesky Komluv ( I know I spelled that wrong, right?!). All were doable by public transportation. Enjoy vacation season coming up everyone!!!!

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks Sophia-I am definitely going to try to get my family up early at least one morning so we can see the relatively deserted bridge and old town area :)
And you've made me want to go to Budapest!

Posted by
981 posts

What a great trip! I just got back from my first solo trip bit I went to a safe choice for me- England because I just love it there. I admire you for venturing out to non English speaking countries and will keep your tips in mind. When’s your next trip?

Posted by
2913 posts

We only went to Neuschwanstein because my daughter wanted to. I would not go there if it were my choice, but the unexpected benefit was the 2 nights we spent in Fussen, which I would not have gone to otherwise. I loved Fussen and its museum.

Posted by
12400 posts

Bravo for doing this trip solo.!! Thanks for a very interesting and revealing report.

Going solo in Vienna, Munich, Prague and Budapest is no big deal, as your experience showed, plus numerous good hostels to choice from. At your age I (21) I went solo too on my first trip of 12 weeks, stayed only in hostels too. Hostels is the way to go. Wombats is located in each of these three cities. I have stayed at Wombats in Munich and Vienna The Eurail Pass works a lot better when one is below 27 and depending on the itinerary...good that you found it advantageous.

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13 posts

@Claudette good for you on your first solo trip! I know that's an enormous thing for a lot of folks. For when you do venture out into the non-English speaking world, I found that really most people in the heavily touristed areas speak at least a little English. And for basic things gestures and smiles do the trick nicely. Good luck :) I don't have any new trips planned yet, but hopefully I can travel next summer sometime...hoping to do Eastern Europe proper.

@Fred I actually also stayed at the Wombat in Vienna! My favorite hostel was the Maverick in Budapest (huge enclosed, private bunks) but the Wombat was definitely a decent choice too. It was nice that there were so many young people out traveling.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Sophia...Which one? In Vienna there are 3 Wombats. The last time I stayed at Wombats was in 2015, always stayed at the Wombats on Mariahilferstraße, across from Westbahnhof....super convenient.

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13 posts

@Fred I stayed at the Wombat on Mariahilferstraße! Loved being so close to a big station/tram stop. Makes things easy!

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Sophia...Yes, staying at the Wombats on Mariahilferstraße is easy and super convenient as there is a food market almost next door, an internet cafe for cheap telephoning on the same side of the block, ca 3 mins down, the big Merkur "Super" Market inside

Westbahnhof , the shop Müller on the top floor of the station, plus 2 post offices a Chinese stir-fry eatery down from the hostel that opens until mid-night, not to mention all the tram lines and 2 U-Bahn lines converging at Westbahnhof, the #3 and #6., etc.