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JayR Apr 10th, 2017 03:45 PM

Zagreb, Prague or Belgrade?
My wife and I will be in Europe in July and have 5-6 days to kill. We are planning to visit two cities - one of them will definitely be Budapest, but we're debating between Prague, Zagreb and Belgrade for the other. Any thoughts? We're both in our 50s and have traveled a lot; we're OK with museums and sights, but the main goal is to kind of hang out and take in the local scene.

Andrew Apr 10th, 2017 03:58 PM

Prague is charming and lovely, a great walking city, but it is also mobbed with tourists now. I loved Prague, have been back twice, and hope to visit again someday - perhaps off season.

Zagreb didn't do much for me. I didn't hate it, but it didn't charm me. I enjoyed the main sites but felt "done" in Zagreb after about half a day. I had an opportunity to return when flying out of Zagreb on another trip a few years ago but declined to stop and visit again.

I haven't been to Belgrade.

What about Ljubljana, Slovenia? One of my favorite cities. Granted, it is pretty small - but lovely. Less touristy than Prague, some beautiful architecture.

What about Krakow, Poland? Another lovely old city with lots of history.

kja Apr 10th, 2017 04:27 PM

It all depends!

For me, Budapest and Prague in 5 or 6 days would be WAY too much -- I wanted about 4 days for each.

I was glad to spend 2.5 days in Zagreb and could easily have enjoyed more time there.

I haven't been to Belgrade yet.

Good luck!

danon Apr 10th, 2017 04:59 PM

I have not visited Belgrade and Zagreb in a long time , but for me ,
neither comes close to beautiful Prague.
Spent a day in was enough.

fourfortravel Apr 10th, 2017 11:50 PM

I have had the good fortune to visit all of your proposed cities, as well as Ljubljana and Krakow; some within the last three years and others as recently as within the last few weeks.

Ljubljana and Zagreb (the old city) are compact enough to appreciate in a day. We liked Ljubljana more than Zagreb for the riverfront dining; Open Kitchen (on certain spring and summer Fridays); and their wonderful Saturday Farmer's Market.

Prague and Krakow are perennial favorites with us, though we avoid both during July because of the tourist crush. Catching the early morning colors from the Charles Bridge is a special treat; it's also one of the nicest times to walk through the Stare Mesto. Holesovice Market is a spectacle; a walk through Vysehrad would be an escape from most tourists. Stary Kleparz (farmer's market, again) in Krakow makes for an unparalleled "local scene;" and the architecture of the city is charming, especially when viewing it from a horse carriage ride at dusk.

Budapest is a long day trip for us when there is something of interest going on, like a festival; we've gotten to "know" the city and the places we like to explore well enough, but even after our first full visit of three days felt it would be place to revisit, as we do.

Belgrade impressed us with its architecture and its people (and the food). Like Ljubljana and Zagreb, a full day would give you a good sample of the city.

I'll throw Sarajevo, Bratislava, and Vienna into the mix. Sarajevo's main bazaar is a walk through history and culture; you could add in a half-day driving tour to understand more of its history. We live in Vienna, and in July when not at the pool we head into the Vienna Woods or the vineyards for a light walk followed by lunch at an Alm or a Heuriger. Few activities are more local than that! Bratislava is a favorite getaway on Sundays, especially, when Austria is closed. The city is also compact enough to appreciate in a day; the Communist history driving tour in an old Skoda is way fun; and there is dining scene that seems to be improving with age.

I hope this is helpful.

HansHarl Apr 11th, 2017 02:03 AM

You know, I haven't been to any of the cities yet, but I've heard much enough about Prague to advise you to visit it. The historical city centre is exceptionally beautiful and breathtaking. Those narrow streets old buildings in medieval gothic style are amazing, trust me. I was in Rothenburg in Germany a couple of years ago, and that city is a very good example of what medieval athmosphere is.
Besides, what country is more famour for its beer that The Czech Republic? ;)
(aye, Germany too :) )

JayR Apr 11th, 2017 11:37 AM

Thank you so much everyone for your responses - much appreciated. I will definitely explore Ljubljana and Krakow as options. We're leaning toward Prague but I'm a little concerned it might be a bit crowded and touristified - we like to draw a balance between history and tourism on the one hand and simply getting off the beaten path and hanging loose on the other. We will be flying in and out of Barcelona (most likely). If we flew into Budapest I assume we could go by road or train to most of these places and then fly back to Barcelona? Thanks again everybody! Jay

Andrew Apr 11th, 2017 12:03 PM

There isn't a great train option between Budapest and Krakow, but there's a good train option to Zagreb or Prague. Ljubljana is a bit longer - there's a direct train I think but it may not be a super nice train with a dining car, etc. Make sure you know which train station in Budapest to leave from as well.

dugi_otok Apr 11th, 2017 02:59 PM

Some train info:
Budapest to
Prague (0 changes)6hr41
Zagreb (0) 6hr14
Belgrad (0) 8hr10
Ljubljana (2) 8hr52
Vienna (0) 2hr41
Krakow (2) 10hr37

I am partial-

Budapest (4 days), Zagreb (2 days)

For Zagreb

1st day- the city

2nd day- A day trip to Plitvice National Park- A World Class Blockbuster Site

Stay here (Famous stopover for Orient Express passengers)

Perhaps a night of Folk Music

kja Apr 11th, 2017 04:05 PM

Again, while it depends on your interests, I wouldn't try to mix Budapest and Krakow in the same 6 day period -- just too much to see in each of these magnificent cities, IMO.

Ljubljana could work, although the length of the trip would be a factor to consider; I, personally, would wait until you have time for a bit more of Slovenia and Croatia. Zagreb could work, but I'd want more time there, particularly if you try to fit in the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

NONE of the places mentioned on this thread are "off the beaten path." Quite in contrast, they are all firmly on that path.

If Barcelona is part of your itinerary, you could, perhaps, visit Budapest and then go to somewhere along the Costa Brava for a couple of days. You could find a few less touristed places there....

Andrew Apr 11th, 2017 04:17 PM

Actually, there's an 8:00 direct train from Budapest to Ljubljana, leaving Budapest at 8:30, but you have to leave from Budapest-Déli station on the Buda side, not from Budapest-Keleti station.

JayR Apr 11th, 2017 05:18 PM

Wow, you guys are amazing - I am new to Fodor (have been active much more on Tripadvisor) and I have never seen so many helpful responses! Thanks a ton. I definitely will do some more homework. From what I've researched so far Ljubljana and Krakow (regretfully...) seem a little time consuming to get to and also to fly out of back to Barcelona. I think I'm going to narrow it down to Zagreb, Belgrade or Prague (maybe with a short halt in Bratislava en route if I can add another day somehow). Appreciate the feedback...

Andrew Apr 11th, 2017 05:23 PM

I doubt you would be disappointed with Prague, as long as you expect a lot of tourists especially on the Charles Bridge and the old town area. It's such a lovely city. If you visit, try to get up early one morning and walk across the Charles Bridge before it gets so busy with people. I've seen some amazing sunrises on the bridge up early.

kja Apr 11th, 2017 05:32 PM

If you don't have your flights yet, then don't return to Barcelona -- fly out of your last destination. Once you count the cost of getting back, there may be little difference in cost, and your time is priceless.

joannyc Apr 11th, 2017 07:47 PM

I loved Prague! I would retire there if I could. So, it gets my vote.

Some restoration work on the astronomical clock and tower has begun:

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