The Best of Prague, Vienna & Budapest

Prague, Vienna, and Budapest—and the appealing day trips beyond them—each offer a unique slice of Central Europe. Spend two weeks exploring the best of each of these fascinating cities to dig into local culture, history, art, and cuisine.

Some international travelers will need to go back to Prague at the end of their trip for their flight home. However, if you can book two one-way tickets, it would make more sense to fly back home from Budapest.

Autumn panorama of boats on the river and Prague city, Czech Republic, Europe.
Vltava river and old city center, Prague, Czech Republic, Europe. Photo © Janoka82/iStock.

Prague

Day 1: Prague

Get an overview of Prague’s cultural landscape with Art Nouveau paintings in the morning at the Mucha Museum and an evening of dance, opera, or classical music at one of Prague’s ornate theaters. Walk through the historic city center and have a drink at Letná Beer Garden to round out the afternoon, followed by an evening at the theater.

Day 2: Prague

Stroll through the peaceful Wallenstein Gardens, find the John Lennon Wall, and spend an afternoon inside the Prague Castle complex. Then give your feet a break and treat your stomach to a decadent dinner of Czech cuisine before crossing the Charles Bridge under the stars.

Man with a guitar playing in front of a brightly-painted graffiti wall.
A young musician plays at John Lennon wall, Prague, Czech Republic. The wall is filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs. Photo © Manakin/iStock.

Day 3: Day Trip to Liberec

After a one-hour bus from the Černy Most station to Liberec, hop on tram #3 at Fugnerova to Horní Hanychov and follow signs to catch a cable car to Ještěd Hotel and TV Tower. Have lunch at the retro-futuristic restaurant and take in the mountaintop view.

Cable car down again and jump on tram #3 to Mikyna for quality coffee. On a rainy day, hit the nearby Lázně Regional Art Gallery. If the sun is shining, head southeast to the Liberec Reservoir where you can sip Svijany beer on the lawn or circle the one-mile path around this semi-secluded body of water.

Around 5pm, walk about 15 minutes to the center to admire the exteriors of the Liberec Town Hall, FX Šalda Theatre, and David Černý’s sculptural bus stop. Radniční Sklípek serves traditional Czech meals underneath the town hall. Catch the last bus back to Prague at 9pm.

Day 4: Prague Like a Local

For a taste of life outside the city center, start with brunch in the Karlín neighborhood before discovering the far less crowded castle complex of Vyšehrad. Join the locals walking along Náplavka and get a taste of modern architecture at the Dancing House and history at the National Monument to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror. Return to Karlín for dinner, drinks, and innovative entertainment at Kasárna Karlín.

Day 5: Prague to Vienna

Spend a last morning soaking in Prague before boarding a 4-hour train to Vienna and settling into your hotel.

Vienna

view of the interior architecture of St. Stephen's Cathedral
The interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is breathtaking. Photo © mila103/Dreamstime.

Day 6: Vienna

Explore the Hofburg and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, taking time for a quick schnitzel before seeing Klimt’s iconic The Kiss at the Belvedere. End your day with sunset views from the Riesenrad, the historic Ferris wheel in the Prater.

Day 7: Vienna

View avant-garde art at the Secession, followed by a bite and browsing at the stalls of the Naschmarkt. After lunch, explore the former Habsburg residence of Schönbrunn Palace. End your evening with live music in the Gürtel, a trendy nightlife district that occupies the arches under the elevated U-Bahn rails.

Day 8: Vienna Like a Local

See some of architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s most spectacular buildings, along with the stunning art nouveau St. Leopold Church by Otto Wagner. Grab a Käsekrainer, a sausage filled with cheese, at one of Vienna’s iconic sausage stands, drink coffee with the locals, and finish out your day with nightlife at a local hidden bar, like Tür 7.

Day 9: Day Trip to the Wachau Valley

Hop on a train heading to Melk from the Westbahnhof. After an hour’s journey, you will already see the striking, orange Melk Abbey on the hill in front of you as you exit the station. Follow the signs up the hill to the abbey and spend a couple of hours exploring, then head down to town for lunch.

Take the Wachau Cruise ferry departing at 1:45pm from Melk down the Danube through the Wachau Valley. Get off at Dürnstein and hike up to the famous ruins of Dürnstein Castle and then take the bus on to Krems an der Donau. Get the train back to Vienna to Wien Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof (1 hour).

Back in Vienna, cross the Danube Canal over to the Augarten for some late afternoon sun.

Day 10: Vienna to Budapest

Have one last Melange in one of Vienna’s famous cafes before heading to Wien Hauptbahnhof to take the train to Budapest Keleti. The journey will take just under three hours and will bring you right into the heart of Budapest. Take the metro to the city center—line 2 will take you to downtown Pest and over to Buda just north of Castle Hill, whereas line 4 will take you to the southern part of Buda around the trendy Bartók Béla Avenue. Get settled in and take a walk along the Danube before grabbing dinner downtown.

Budapest

Gold dome ceiling, decorated with statues and paintings.
Inside the beautiful St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. Photo © chrisdorney/iStock.

Day 11: Budapest

Spend your first day in Budapest exploring the Castle District. Take in the views from Fisherman’s Bastion, making time for quirky Hospital in the Rock in the afternoon, followed by a sweet at Budapest’s oldest cukrászda (confectionary). Visit the Hungarian National Gallery in the late afternoon.

Day 12: Budapest

Take in the views from the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica, explore the Royal Postal Savings Bank and Hungarian Parliament, then kick back on a Danube cruise. Spend the end of your day in some of Budapest’s most famous ruin pubs.

Day 13: Budapest Like a Local

Head out of the city center and into the Buda Hills, taking a ride on the Children’s Railway, a small railway run by children as a relic left over from Communist times. Take in the views from the Elizabeth Lookout Tower, then spend the day soaking and swimming in Lukács Thermal Baths, the local favorite of all of Budapest’s baths.

Day 14: Day Trip to Lake Balaton

Grab the train from Déli Pályaudvar train station to Balatonfüred (2 hours). Once you reach Balatonfüred hop on a bus to Tihany (you will find the buses go from the train station), which will take another 30 minutes. The bus will put you down in the center of the town, so head up to the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany for amazing views over the lake. Stop in at the Rege Cukrászda for a coffee and a cake—try the lavender infused custard cream cake—or grab some lunch in the village. Make sure you pick up some lavender-based gifts before heading back to Balatonfüred. Back in Balatonfüred, drink from the Kossuth Lajos spring before strolling down the Tragore Prominade along the lake side. Grab something to eat at one of the restaurants before taking the train back to Budapest.

Day 15: Goodbye, Central Europe

If your flight home leaves from Prague, you can take the train from Nyugati Pályaudvar (or the night train from Keleti Pályaudvar) back to the Czech capital and head on to the airport from there. Otherwise, head to the Budapest airport for your flight home.




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