The Best of Prague, Vienna & Budapest

Városliget (City Park) in Budapest. Photo courtesy of Jennifer D. Walker.

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.


Day 1: Prague

Spend the day in the historical city center, with art nouveau paintings in the morning at the Alfons Mucha Museum and views over Old Town and New Town from Prague’s town hall towers. Round out the day with a walk along the Náplavka Boardwalk and a drink at the Letná Beer Garden.

Letná Beer Garden is a major summertime hot spot in Prague. Photo courtesy of Auburn Scallon.

Day 2: Prague

Get an early start at the Prague Castle complex to avoid the crowds. Then wander through peaceful Petřín Park and check out the views from the St. Nicholas Bell Tower. Give your feet a break and treat your stomach to a decadent dinner of Czech cuisine before crossing the Charles Bridge under the stars.

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.

The Ještěd Hotel and TV Tower offers panoramic views stretching to Germany and Poland and quirky, retro-futuristic décor. Photo courtesy of Auburn Scallon.

Cable car down again and jump on Tram 3 to Mikyna for quality coffee. Then, head southeast to the Liberec Reservoir where you can sip Svijany beer on the lawn or circle the two-kilometer (about one-mile) path around this semi-secluded body of water.

Around 5pm, walk about 15 minutes to the center to admire the exterior of the Liberec Town Hall 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 8pm.

Day 4: Prague Like a Local

For a taste of life outside the city center, start with the Vyšehrad Complex for skyline views, a Gothic church, and an ornate cemetery. Stop for a drink and a snack at the Hospůdka Na Hradbách beer garden before digging into local history at the National Monument to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror. Hop on the metro to the Karlín neighborhood for dinner and drinks at a local wine bar.

Day 5: Prague to Vienna

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


view of the interior architecture of St. Stephen's Cathedral
The breathtaking interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 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 Palace. 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.

Day 8: Vienna Like a Local

Built in the 1980s, Vienna’s Hundertwasserhaus was inspired by the architect’s love of color and curved lines. Photo courtesy of Jennifer D. Walker.

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.

Local-favorite Augarten is a popular spot for picnics and sunbathing. Photo courtesy of Jennifer D. Walker.

Day 10: Vienna to Budapest

Have one last Melange in one of Vienna’s famous cafés 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. If you arrive in Budapest Déli you can take metro line 2, or if you arrive in Budapest Kelenföld, you can take metro 4. Get settled in and take a walk along the Danube before grabbing dinner downtown.


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 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 bars.

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 Bath, the local favorite of all of Budapest’s baths.

Day 14: Day Trip to Lake Balaton

Views of Lake Balaton in Tihany, Hungary. Photo © Pgaborphotos | Dreamstime.

Grab the train from Budapest 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 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 Tagore Promenade along the lakeside. 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 Budapest Nyugati Pályaudvar or Déli (or the night train from Budapest 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.

Start planning your adventure today

Auburn Scallon

About the Author

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Auburn Scallon moved to the Czech Republic in 2011, living first in Liberec before making her home base in the capital city. In addition to Prague’s architectural beauty and affordable arts scene, she fell for the lesser-known neighborhoods outside the city center. Whether she’s watching the sun set over a spire-filled skyline or sipping a cold Svijany beer (her local favorite), Prague still takes her breath away.

With a BA in Marketing and Master’s research in Adult Education for Social Change, Auburn is passionate about encouraging travel as a cross-cultural learning opportunity. Her freelance writing on the arts, food, culture, and living abroad has appeared in The Independent, Prague Visitor,, Flydoscope, Brisbane Courier-Mail and official content for Czech Tourism.

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Jennifer D. Walker

About the Author

Jennifer Walker is a British-Hungarian writer who grew up between Hungary and the UK. A PhD in Physics first took her to Madrid, Spain, where she stayed for 7 years. After casting off her hat as a nuclear physicist, Jennifer grabbed a new hat as a writer. She completed a journalism internship in Tbilisi, Georgia, before moving back to Budapest to reconnect with her Hungarian roots. She now mostly writes about travel, food, culture, and language in Central and Eastern Europe. She has written for National Geographic Travel, Condé Nast Traveler, Oxford Dictionaries, BBC Travel, The Guardian, and The Independent, among others. Although Hungary is in her blood, Vienna is her City of Dreams: its wide boulevards and old-world cafés continue to inspire her, as she walks in the footsteps of Klimt, Freud, and Mozart. She feels at home in Budapest's ruin bars and underground art hubs, Vienna's cafés and museums, and prefers to spend the summers under the colonnades in the historic spa towns of Central Europe rather than on the beach.
Like so many Prague transplants, Auburn Scallon came to the Czech Republic planning to stay for just one year. This worked out about as well as the notorious Czech suggestion to go out for just one beer. The Seattle native has lived in New York, New Zealand, Greece, Scotland, Malta, and Estonia, but as Franz Kafka eloquently observed, "Prague won't let you go, the little mother has claws."
Auburn loves surprising locals with stories of how a friendly wager pushed her to find reasons to visit each of the Czech Republic's fourteen regions. She has since spent more than a decade confirming the clichés (yes, the beer and the architecture are both mind-blowing) and falling in love with the lesser-known quirks of the country. Come for the Pilsner, stay for the Moravian wine, microbrews, and local spirits. Enjoy the pastel facades by day, delight in the affordable excellence of the performing arts by night.
With an academic background in Adult Education for Social Change, Auburn is passionate about encouraging travel as a cross-cultural learning opportunity. Her freelance writings on the arts, food, culture, and living abroad have appeared in TimeOut, The Independent, Evening Standard,  and official content for Czech Tourism. She hopes to encourage visitors to look beyond photo ops to find the Prague experiences that they'll fall in love with. Consider yourself warned, however, that you just might start considering how to stay longer than you ever expected.

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