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LNWC Jul 16th, 2014 01:34 PM

Hi everyone! My husband and I are having a heck of a time deciding how to divide our trip to Central Europe this November and I'm hoping I can get a little feedback. We're going to be in Europe for 10 days (including the day we get there, at 8am). We never wait in line for anything, we feel like the only tourists in most places, and the Christmas markets are usually in full swing!

This year round trip tickets to Budapest were crazy cheap and we couldn't pass it up even though we usually like to do open jaw. We decided to do Budapest/Vienna/Prague, and we'll stop in Bratislava on our way back to Budapest so we can break up the 6/7 hour train ride. Our travel style is usually such that we move pretty quickly through the "attractions" so to speak, and then take our time wandering around getting lost/taking in the architecture/sitting in cafes and restaurants.

This my long-winded way of asking - anyone who has been to these cities, which did you like best and why? I've dreamed for years of going to Prague, but interestingly, as I do my research Budapest really stands out to me as a place that has a lot of the character and great areas for just wandering that I really love. I have a lot of friends that say Vienna was just the best, but while I love palaces and museums, there's only so many I can see before I feel I'm doing them an injustice because they blend together. In fact I had been considering cutting a day from Vienna, but my friends have me questioning that choice. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

Andrew Jul 16th, 2014 01:53 PM

Of course, without an open jaw, you will lose most of a day just getting up to Prague, unless you fly (perhaps not cheap).

I did Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in ten days about ten years ago - very common trip.

We all have different preferences. Personally, I didn't care much for Vienna - certainly didn't hate it, glad I went, but two nights was enough for me. (I'm not much of a museum person and wasn't interested in seeing a concert.)

I liked Prague the best and have returned since my original visit. It is a charming, compact walking city. In tourist season it's overrun with tourists; maybe you'll have better luck in November.

Budapest certainly has a lot to offer, and it's a very interesting place. But it's bigger than Prague and not as "charming" - and getting around on foot is more challenging because it is more spread out. (But public transit is excellent as I recall.) I don't think you would regret spending a significant portion of your trip there.

LNWC Jul 16th, 2014 02:06 PM

That's a very helpful reply, thank you! It's good to hear from someone that did Vienna in two nights - I have been considering that, but I keep hearing from people that enjoyed Vienna.

joannyc Jul 16th, 2014 02:10 PM

I completely agree with Andrew! Liked Prague best, Budapest, next, then finally Vienna.

Do consider flying directly to Prague upon your arrival in Budapest. That is what I did. Saved a lot of time.

And, do consider an overnight in Cesky Krumlov, maybe instead of Bratslavia.

You could fly into Prague, take the School Agency bus to C. Krumlov, Lobo Shuttle (or other shuttle) to Vienna, and train or hydrofoil to Budapest.

I actually took a 'day' tour to Budapest and put my luggage in the back of the van. Got the tour of Budapest, the tour guide parked by my Budapest hotel (Marriott) and told the group they had a few hours for lunch and time on their own. I grabbed my luggage from the back of the van and checked into my hotel. It worked out great for me!

LNWC Jul 16th, 2014 02:21 PM

Thanks joannyc! I'm feeling better about my impressions of what we'll enjoy from my research, thanks :)

Andrew Jul 16th, 2014 02:49 PM

With only ten days and in November, I'd skip Cesky Krumlov for sure. Even when I visited in mid-September the town seemed pretty dead. I wonder how much is really open in November (the castle probably is and you can no doubt find places to stay - but still...) It certainly seems like a summer destination (with people going rafting on the river, etc.). Otherwise, Cesky Krumlov seemed highly overrated to me.

BigRuss Jul 16th, 2014 02:51 PM

Thinking the hydrofoil is a bit dicey in November.

The classical music aficionados lean toward Vienna because: Beethoven, Brahms, Salieri, Strauss (I, II and III), Schubert, Haydn and that Wolfgang something something dude who was the subject of a highly fictionalized biopic about 30 years ago.

Others tend toward Prague and Budapest because both were subjects of the two dark empires of the 20th century - Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia (the years 1944 and 1956 have special resonance in Budapest, 1938 and 1968 in Prague) - and were also seats of power in various Habsburg and central European imperial incarnations. We've been to Prague and Budapest and you could easily drop 5 nights in each.

LNWC Jul 16th, 2014 05:08 PM

My husband and I actually both played a stringed instrument in school (it's how we met), so I would actually love to see a concert in Vienna. However, I think what appeals to me more about Budapest and Prague vs. Vienna is that they seem to have a very different character compared to what we've experienced on our previous trips. We've been all over Western Europe - England, France, Italy, Germany, and I think we just want to do something different.

We're pretty set on Bratislava I have to say, again, for something different. We both loved the look of this tour:

kja Jul 16th, 2014 05:27 PM

I loved all three cities, spent 4 or 5 days in each, and wish I'd had more time in each.

Andrew Jul 16th, 2014 06:24 PM

LNWC, I know exactly what you mean about something of a "different character," and I think you are correct: Vienna, for all its virtues, feels fairly conventional and more like Western Europe. Budapest especially seemed from another part of the world: very exotic. Prague is different from the west too but hyper-touristy now.

If you've never been, put Poland and Slovenia + Croatia on your list for future trips if you want some extraordinary places that feel very different from Western Europe.

Percy Jul 16th, 2014 07:32 PM

Having been to all four more than once I would rate them like this:
1. Prague
2. Budapest
3. Vienna/ Bratislava

Since you have traveled all over Europe, you know your way around places.

In Vienna there are "main " places to see and you should make a short list of what you want to see.
I can give you a list but you probably have your own.

2. Budapest is more open to sightseeing than Vienna because the Danube flows right through the middle and divides Budapest into "Buda and Pest."

some main sites to see here are:

1. Citadella and Freedom Statue ( seen from almost anywhere in Budapest)
2. Buda Castle ( you can take the funicular up)
3. Mathias Church and Trinity Square.
4. Fishermen's Bastion.
5. St.Stephen's Basilica
6. The lovely Parliament Building
7. Heroes' Square ( you should go here)
8. and of course you will walk across the Chain Bridge.

What can I say, what should you see in Prague!!..
well just Prague itself, everywhere you turn there is something to see.

I will overload you with information about Bratislava and you can cherry pick the places you want.

Don't fool yourself this is a nice place to walk about and see the old architectural buildings and squares.
You can do Bratislava Castle, it has nice views back to old town Bratislava.

There is the Old Town Square.

Slovakia National Museum and Monument

Esterhazy Palace and National Gallery
The Fisherman Square ( Rybne Square) with the Czech Embassy right beside it....very ornate building

The column in this square is the Pestilence Column ( for the Contagious Plague Disease)

Then there is the Hviesdoslav Square which is tree lined and 4 blocks long with the ornate National Theatre at one end.

You will see the US Embassy here as you walk along this lovely 4 block square.

Then there is the famous St.Michaels Street leading to St. Michaels Gate , which you have to pass through.

STOP right under the archway of St. Michaels Gate....look down on the cobbled stone street.... and you see this Bronze Circle pointing out North East West and South directions.... take a picture of this.

There are THREE bronze statues in and about the Main Town Hall Square that you can try to find

1. A Napolean Soldier........he is right in the Main Square

2.The Sewer Man...he is coming out of a manhole

3. A Paparazzi Man statue holding a long lens camera, he is just around the corner of a sidewalk cafe..

Take a picture of all three ..IF you find them all!!

We are not finished yet.

Look at that huge new bridge across the Danube.
You see that saucer like building on the top of the single Pilon.

That is a revolving restaurant

Well you walk across the 2-3 euros and take the elevator to the top ....No it will not take you to the restaurant..BUT to the very very top, outside in the open air.

You are really on the very top, the restaurant is now below you.

Ahhh, nice views from here isn't it.

Take all the pictures you want in a 360 degree view.

So there is lots to do here, and I have not even mentioned some of the Government Palaces like:

Grasslkovich Palace
Freedom Square ..very lovely
Slovakia Radio Pyramid Building is something to see, so is

the National Bank across the street from the Pyramidal Radio Building.

Right below Bratislava Castle is the Parliament Building along the Danube.

fourfortravel Jul 16th, 2014 09:01 PM

Living in Vienna and having visited Prague and Budapest on several occasions, I would rank them as favorites: Prague, Vienna, Budapest.

Each of the cities offers a different experience to a visitor, no one experience better than another, but I rank Prague about Vienna because the people are friendlier than many Viennese, and Vienna above Budapest because, well, I live in Vienna and can go beyond the conventional tourist checklist for enjoyment. By default, really, is how Budapest ends up in the third spot.

Yes, Vienna is Imperial and full of museums and classical music this and that, and that is what most first-time visitors feel compelled to see and do. (Confession: I've lived here two years and have been told that I "must" go to the opera. We both dislike opera--why "must" I go?) But outside the tourist trap of the InnerStadt there really is more to the city. Depending on when in November the visit will be, a few of the larger (though more commercial) Christmas markets may have opened, too.

For every Vienna/Budapest/Prague lover you'll probably find a hater on this forum. Decide what appeals to you about each city and allocate your time based on that. Happy Planning!

thursdaysd Jul 16th, 2014 09:22 PM

Well, I have to disagree with all the love for Prague. I would rank them:

Bratislava - a very, very distant fourth

I very much doubt you will find Prague, Vienna or Budapest short of tourists. I was in Budapest in November 2011 and was surprised by how many tourists were in evidence. One reason I rate Prague lower is because the old town is smaller and it therefore feels more overrun with tourists.

I am not at all musical (I went to a ballet at the opera house, not opera) but I still find plenty to do in Vienna, but then I enjoy museums. (And markets. And Secession architecture.)

For my last trip to Budapest start here:

LNWC Jul 17th, 2014 04:05 AM

Percy - WOW! That's amazingly helpful, thank you so much! I'm even more excited about Bratislava.

Fourfortravel - I think you're right, it seems to really depend on what your interests are when deciding which city, and that varies widely (which is why I've been going back and forth!). I suppose we won't know for sure until we go.

thursdaysd - I wouldn't say anywhere will ever be devoid of tourists in the main squares :) But that's the nice thing about getting out into the neighborhoods! Your photos from Budapest are beautiful!

Taltul Jul 17th, 2014 04:45 AM

We spent a week in Budapest in late October a couple of years ago. The tram system is fantastic. You can get everywhere. We enjoyed ourselves but it isn't a place I would go back twice. We really enjoyed hiking around Margaret Island. It was fall and the leaves were changing colors. We also went on the Children's Railway up into the mountains. I got the tip here on the forum. There's plenty to see in two days there. There's also a hop on hop off bus but the transportation is so good (tram system) that in my opinion it's a waste of time.

PalenQ Jul 17th, 2014 05:38 AM

We decided to do Budapest/Vienna/Prague, and we'll stop in Bratislava on our way back to Budapest> You're doing three long train trips - if you want flexibility to hop any train anytime then investigate the European East Railpass, valid on all trains and if going first class it can be a great deal.

If you want to go the cheapest way go to the national rail websites and book in advance discounted tickets that are train-specific and I think have restrictions on changes and refunds but can be cheaper all told - but compared to walk-up fares the Eastern European Railpass can be a great deal.

For lots of great info on trains in those countries check out these IMO superb sources:; and

Percy Jul 17th, 2014 07:33 AM


Like your picture of the Fisherman's Bastion, very nice with the darker clouds in the background and almost no tourist seen in the picture.

This is something else you should do LNWC, take a night walk along the Pest side , say by the Chain Bridge and see how lovely the Buda side is lit up at night.

The Buda Castle is all lit up as is Fisherman's Bastion and of course the Chain Bridge also.

You really have to see this in the late evening, the lit up buildings are really a sight to see.

This is shown in thursdaysd's picture entitle Buda at Night.

BigRuss Jul 17th, 2014 08:35 AM

Well, Percy honked by failing to include Dohany Street Synagogue (which has the Weeping Willow), Szoborpark, TerrorHaza and Anonymous statue. The Freedom Statue has more than a few . . . ironies.

BigRuss Jul 17th, 2014 08:40 AM

And I have a travelogue for Prague and Budapest you can view. Just list an email address you want to receive it (blahblah[nospam] and I'll send it.

PalenQ Jul 17th, 2014 08:57 AM

Russ - that link don't work, at least for me - can you check that yourself to see if it works!

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