Prague is so well laid out it’s hard to miss anything great. With that said, I wouldn’t miss the Old Jewish Cemetery. It’s just off the main square in New Town.
I live two hours from Prague so I wouldn’t let the cold weather get in your way, I actually enjoy it.
I can contribute more about Budapest after I go there for Thanksgiving. I don’t know much about Vienna, but have not heard raving reviews from fellow travelers. Not sure if that is because they didn’t really explore the city or it didn’t compare with the others.
If you decide you’d like an alternate place I’d suggest Krakow. Really love that city!
I figure anywhere I go will be cold… so it’s just choosing from the places on my list! My sister goes to Krakow every summer, so I’m hoping to go with her sometime!
Let me know what you think of Budapest when you return! I’m looking forward to Prague. Central Europe looks so beautiful! Does the Czech Republic get much snow?
Prague is great, haven’t visited the other two cities yet I’m afraid, but I have heard good things about both. Apparently you can take a boat from Vienna to Budapest (or the other way around) which is supposedly very good.
Prague would be magical anytime, be it cold or warm or new years eve. I would generally prefer spring because it has a lot of parks that are great to lounge in and in the winter you won’t really get to do that. What not to miss in Prague would be the Royal Palace (for the roof) and St. John’s basilica at the castle. Charles’ Bridge obviously. If you go in spring there’s a great little teras on kampa Island with excellent views off the bridge. You can also just wind down the little streets of Mala Strana to the water’s edge and just sit there for a while, especially at night with the lights it’s gorgeous. Off the beaten track, go to the Miniature Museum. They have stuff like a flee with golden horseshoes or microscopical trains that can go through the eye of a needle. It’s brilliant. Sedlec is a very good day trip.
Krakow is excellent, so I’d second that suggestion. As far as sights go it’s no Prague though, but it has a nice atmosphere and is far less touuristy.
Thanks for the Miniature Museum recommendation — it sounds fascinating! How far is Sedlec from Prague?
Did you feel safe wandering around at night?
Krakow is on my list, but my sister goes every summer, so I’m hoping to meet up with her one summer! :)
Sedlec is about…. an hour or so by Train from Prague. There’s an ossuary there, whicsounds lame, but it’s awesome. Google it and you’ll see :). If you want to go, check when the trains leave though, because I think there was about 1 per two hours. The bus may be a good alternative…
I felt very safe at night. There are so many people walking about that you’ll rarely find yourself all alone in some creepy alley. I have heard of pickpocketing, so just mind your bags in crowds and you’ll be fine :).
I was in Prague end January last year, and was surprised that it was not cold at all. The weather was pretty good. Maybe when you walk so much u dont get cold. The city is amazing, very beautiful and the atmosphere is very pleasant as well.
havent been to the other cities unfortunately.
overall, the winter time did not at all annoy me in prague.
Thanks for the weather advice. I’m starting to feel a bit more confident about it! :)
I visited both Prague and Budapest in December (different years) and in my opinion it is the best time in the year to visit.
Both cities are charming, but for an outsider, quite similar: both share that same central-European architecture, mentality, and general atmosphere.
I recommed a visit in December since both cities hold a most intriguing christmas fairs in the city center. these include many merchants offering their things, such as art pieces, clothing, general souveniers etc. most are your ordinary “tourist traps” but some are very nice. food stalls are a MUST. In culinary terms, Prague’s fair was better.
Photos from our trip to Budapest 2 years ago can be found in my Flickr page:
What were your favorite foods while in Prague since you mentioned that the food were better?
Your pictures are beautiful!
Did you find a language barrier in either country?
I just meant that the food stalls in Prague’s fair were better, and more diverse.
If you’re veggie, skip to the next paragraph. otherwise, read on: There was a whole pig roasting in the middle of the square where the fair was held, and they were serving chunks of it. Yum.
Also, nothing is better that a cup of mulled wine (“Svazhene Vino” in Czech) to warm your heart in a cold December evening.
In terms of sweets, go for nothing but the Kürt?skalács, which you saw in my pictures:
This is actually Hungarian by origin, as far as I know, but was also sold in Prague (And that’s where I came to know it).
Relatively no language barrier: English will serve you well in centeral European capitals, as opposed to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and probably other eastern states.
Wow, the roasted pig sounds amazing. Reminds me of the stories I’ve heard about the sausage in Krakow! Definitely will keep that in mind.
Thanks for all your great tips!
Hoping for Moscow and St. Petersburg in the near future. :)
Prague is great, and I would think winter wouldn’t be too bad there though I was there in the summer. Havent been to the other 2 cities yet but while in Austria I would stop by Salzburg, very cool city.
I also recommend Bratislava it’s near Wien. And it’s very popular for New Years Eve celebration, it’s also called Partyslava. Well anyway it’s about an hour from Wien, so you might try it.
Concerning Praha and Wien, they are both beautiful cities, I think you can fully explore their narrow streets and old churches only during winter, when the atmosphere there is absolutely great.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’m definitely going to look into Bratislava now.
I would say Prague or Vienna if you are going to do the holidays…Vienna has more festivals and organized Winter holiday events, and balls and such but is considerably more expensive and could easily cost you twice as much as Prague…
Spring would be an excellent time, especially if travelling solo…late March thru mid-May have always been very good for me (maybe I got lucky), in terms of weather…and the prices are good but there is a lot more to do than in Winter.
As for Budapest…it is a beautiful city (almost as nice as Prague and Vienna)…but i find it boring in terms of nightlife, and such compared to Prague…and it is not as cheap either…two things to consider hitting in Budapest (which is also a “spa town”), are the nice spa/baths, and possibly go on a “caving” trip…there are organized ones everyday, and everyone physically able…seems to have fun on them. If the weather is nice when in Budapest…enjoy a stroll across the Chain Bridge, trek around Margit Island, and if possible…the best views of Budapest come from up on the “Citadella”…if you go up there, daytime is nice but try going about 10 PM…the city lights mostly go off about 11 or 12 PM and you can see Budapest beautifully lit at about 10. There is a wonderful restaurant up there with great food and prices for dinner…but skip the bar and the disco located next to it lol
Big crime problems in Budapest, don’t carry a purse or cell phone, and avoid ATM’s…please read my posting on Budapest.
P.S. You may also want to consider Bratislava (Slovakia), located about about 1/2 way between Prague and Budapest and about 35 minutes from Vienna…lovely “Old Town” area, and a great travel deal. I would give thought to Salzburg also…lovely.
Thanks for the tips, especially about Budapest. I didn’t know that they had the crime problems that they do.
I do love Salzburg. It’s a beautiful city.
I might look at Bratislava — it’s starting to sound appealing, too.
Thanks for all the recommendations! I really appreciate it!
Not much of a problem at all in the way of violent crimes and such…but massive problems in terms of petty theft and all sorts of scams and crime targeting tourists. Scams, cell phone and purse snatchers, and ATM “tinning” are very common…and sadly, if you spend a few days along the Vaci Utca, you will see that the police are very cozy with a lot of the rings that are involved in it :-(
I would say that maybe 35% of all the people I know, who have travelled to Budapest have had some sort of problem with this stuff (no major problems in the rest of Hungary). It is sad the local police and officials do nothing about it (and surely some get bribed), because it will eventually kill them in regards to bringing in tourism money…after all, who visits anywhere if they expect to become a victim?
It also isn’t even very cheap there as most tourists expect!
Bratislava is very nice but not as large and active as Prague…I only expected to spend 2-3 days there but was so disappointed by Budapest that, I went back to Bratislava and spent a rather relaxing additional week there.
I have not been there in the winter though.
If you try an A-Bomb (Absinthe and Redbull), make sure you don’t fall into the Donau (Danube) lol.
*absinthe is about the same in alcohol content as Everclear…and it is “psychotropic”, and for those who don’t read the cans, Redbull has warnings (at least in Europe) not to mix with alcohol…
Sounds a lot like Italy. I lived in Florence, and it seemed like everyone I knew fell victim to pickpocketing. It’s good to know to be aware though. I have noticed that accommodations in Budapest seem to be cheaper than they are in Prague and Vienna (expected). Definitely have to check out Bratislava as a viable alternative, perhaps.
Absinthe and Redbull sounds like a dangerous combination, lol.
Part of what you will bump into in Budapest is Romanie/Gypsy pick-pockets. In some places they work in packs, a very common problem in Italy…but in Budapest, they tend to work for the crime rings that operate scams and theft in layers…a bit lower profile, and keeps the police from having to crack down.
I find accommodations generally tend to be higher in Budapest for similar quality, than they are in Prague…and i would have to say most things seems to be a bit higher in Budapest.
Bratislava is less expensive than both Prague and Budapest…also considerably smaller. People are correct in saying that 1-3 days is plenty of time to “see Bratislava”…but is a really nice town to relax or party in.
The Centrum area is very nice, and a good place to hit…shopping, food, cafes, bars, nightclubs, etc…and a few days in that area and you will feel like a “local”. Being smaller, there are fewer of everything, but there is plenty to do and i think you might like it there.
I was traveling solo for part of my time there, and stayed at the Backpacker’s Hostel (about 50m from the palisady – the presidential palace, a 100m from the Centrum). I met so many nice people there that it really made for a great time. Lots of people ending up in Bratislava seem to be coming or going from Krakow, and are pleasantly surprised by Bratislava.
There are lots of great hotels and pensiones of all price ranges, so I think you will find what you like.
I wouldn’t want to discourage you from Budapest, but think a few days there and being very aware of the dangers, will serve you well there.
I think Winter is a good choice for Prague as during Spring and Summer a lot of stag (bachelor) and hen (bachelorette) parties go there from the UK to get drunk cheaply which has been spoiling the city a bit in the last few years. In Winter you are likely to see a lot less of them (not that I have anything against Brits as I’m British myself)! Don’t miss the Charles Bridge and the Royal Palace. Also, if you drink, the Czechs are famous for their beers.
Vienna is beautiful and close to Bratislava as mentioned above. However, the boat from Bratislava to Vienna only runs from April to October so you will have to take the bus (which is warm and comfortable). I visited both in February and it was freezing! There isn’t much to do in Bratislava itself but if you’re in the area and have time to call through it then why not? In Vienna you must go for coffee and Sachertorte (not sure about the spelling) – ditch the diet it’s fabulous. You should check out the schedule in advance on the net for tours of the Spanish Riding School as they weren’t available at the time we turned up.
I am off to Budapest myself for the first time in March so can’t comment much on it although I guess the boat to Vienna may also be a seasonal thing as in Bratislava.
I’ve never been to Budapest, but spent time in Vienna and a semester in Prague a few years ago. Prague is amazing. I thought winter was the most wonderful time – that’s when I’d recommend you go. if you’re not a huge fan of crowds.
In the spring, students on break and traveling families descend on the city and it can be so crowded that you literally can’t walk at a normal pace down any of the more popular streets in the older parts of the city. It can get really frustrating – especially as Prague, unlike say, Paris – is known more for it’s gorgeous architecture than anything else. The museums are ok, but nothing special. The food is getting better (apparently), but you’re not going to want to spend an entire day sitting in a cafe soaking in the Czech atmosphere. You’ll want to roam as soon as you see how gorgeous it is. So…go at a time when there are fewer people about and you’ll actually get to see how pretty it is. That’s my plug. Oh, and it also usually doesn’t get very cold there…
As for what not to miss… First I want to recommend a town about 3 hours by train away, called Cesky Krumlov. The entire town – medieval village, looming castle, etc – is a Unesco World Heritage site. It’s absolutely amazing and a nice break from the crowds.
IN Prague, I’d definitely recommend you take a day and walk from Staromestska metro stop, through Old Town Square, across the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge), and up to the castle (Prazky Hrad) before lunch. Take a castle tour, eat in Mala Strana, and then walk behind the castle through Hradcany (the name of the district behind the castle). It’s much less crowded than the rest of the city, and full of beautiful old lanes and houses. Two great old museums – the Loreta (a catholic shrine) and Strahov Klaster (a monastery) are within walking distance. Strahov has great views of the entire city and map room full of baroque paintings and ancient-looking books. It’s beautiful.
Also, for a flavor or real Czech life, take the number 9 tram from IP Pavlova metro stop all the way through Vinohrady (a district that was built mostly in the 1800s) to Zizkov, where you can see the old TV tower, parks and run-of-the-mill Czech apartment blocks. If you’re brave, get out and eat at one of the teensy weensy Czech restaurants around the Chmelnice stop – the food is down home and incredibly cheap. When I was in Prague, one of our favorite restaurants was Radost FX, a nightclub that serves great (by Prague standards) AND affordable food. Good and affordable don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand in CZ, at least that’s how it was three years ago.
I did this exact trip solo a couple years ago, but in the fall. I highly recommend it! I took the train from Prague to Vienna, and the hydrofoil on the Danube River to Budapest. I liked this order very much because finishing in Budapest (much less touristy) was lovely after the throngs of Prague and Vienna.
Vienna was my least favorite of the three. It’s possible that I didn’t go to the best places, but I really tried to do my research beforehand. If I were to do this trip again, I would skip Vienna and stay longer in the other two cities or visit Bratislava, which I’ve heard is wonderful.
If you have any specific questions about traveling in these cities, I might be able to help. Best of luck!
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