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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.