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Prague or Budapest: Budapest view of Danube

Prague or Budapest: Which City Should You Visit?

Prague or Budapest, Budapest or Prague: it’s a common question when planning a Central European trip these days, as both cities have risen in tourism prominence over the last decade or so.

Most people who have been to both have a strong preference for one or the other (including us!), but the truth is, these are both incredibly beautiful, captivating cities that are worthy of a spot on any Central European travel itinerary.

Trying to choose which to visit, Prague or Budapest?

Here’s some advice to help with your (difficult) decision:

Choose Prague If…

… You have just a couple of days.

Time can be a factor when choosing to visit Prague or Budapest, and when it comes to quick visits, Prague makes it easier to cover ground quickly. Prague’s main sites are very compact, and most can be reached on foot fairly easily from the others. We rarely used public transportation in Prague, with the exception of returning to the neighborhood our Airbnb was located in!

Travel Budget for Prague: View from Charles Bridge

… You want to walk around in a fairy tale.

Prague is a city that just oozes beauty, and that beauty is amplified by the fact that its most gorgeous areas are incredibly concentrated. Prague’s Old Town and Castle District lie on opposite sides of the Vltava River, and the Charles Bridge connects the two for tourists (just plan on fighting for elbow room during the crossing unless you’re doing it at dawn!).

… You prefer beer.

Sound silly? Not really–the Czechs take their beer seriously, and Prague is a beer drinker’s paradise. And yes, it actually is cheaper than water.

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… You want to visit an older city.

Both Prague and Budapest are technically medieval cities, of course, but Prague has much more to display in terms of older, fairytale-style architecture.

While the “Buda” side of the river in Budapset is quite old, the “Pest” side saw its heyday in the 19th century, which is when famous structures like St. Stephen’s Basilica and the gorgeous parliament building were built. Even in Buda, traveler’s favorites like Fisherman’s Bastion are not terribly dated in European terms.

Prague’s famous structures commonly date back to the Middle Ages, including the Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Prague Castle. It also famously sustained very little damage in WWll, unlike Budapest.

Viewpoints to Visit in Prague: Old Town Bridge Tower

Where to Stay in Prague

Budget

Central Spot Prague Apartments — If you want simple, clean lodging at a budget price and don’t want to sacrifice much on location, Central Spot Prague Apartments is a great option in the city.

Check rates & book your stay at Central Spot Prague Apartments!

Midrange

Gorgeous Prague Rooms — You can’t ask for a better location than this! Spacious rooms, a perfect location, and a moderate price are a fantastic combination.

Check rates & book your stay at Prague Gorgeous Rooms!

Luxury

Royal Route Residence — A beautifully decorated apartment just steps from the Old Town Square, plus wonderful views–what more could you ask for in Prague?

Check rates & book your stay at the Royal Route Residence.
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Choose Budapest if…

… You have more time to spend in the city.

While our first trip to Budapest was for three days and definitely worth the visit, we left feeling like we had barely scratched the surface of the city. Contrarily, after four days in Prague, we left feeling like while we certainly weren’t experts on the city and hadn’t gotten off the beaten path, we had covered the tourist highlights pretty thoroughly.

Prague or Budapest: Fisherman's Bastion

… You want to try out the thermal baths, ruin bars, and cafes.

Budapest’s famous thermal baths are an incredible experience that isn’t available just anywhere–we love them and would recommend the experience to anyone.

The city’s ruin bars and cafes have also achieved broader recognition in recent years: the biggest ruin bar, Szimpla, reminds us of Metelkova in Ljubljana, and we have now enjoyed coffee and cake in Budapest in some of the most magnificent coffee shops I can imagine!

The best part of all of these things? They’re not something you do once to check them off a list, they’re experiences you can keep going back to in order to enjoy the city again and again.

Prague or Budapest: Szimpla Ruin Bar

… You prefer wine.

Imagine our surprise when we learned that Hungary (which is smaller than our home state of Oklahoma) has 22 distinct wine regions! True, they’re not all going to gain global recognition, but Hungary produces some tasty wines!

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… You’re looking for a cheaper experience overall.

While both cities are known for being affordable compared to European staples like London, Paris, and Rome, Prague certainly comes off as the more expensive of the two from where we are sitting: lodging in Prague was a bit pricier (and had less choice in our price range of aiming to spend $40 or less per night), food is pricier, and tours are less affordable.

We hesitate to make a sweeping judgment about cost based on only our limited experiences, but Prague definitely left the impression of costing more than we expected (except for the beer–that was cheap!), while Budapest continues to provide amazing value all around.

Prague or Budapest: St. Stephen's Basilica

Where to Stay in Budapest

Budget

Jackquaters — Located right next to Vaci Utca and only 100 meters from the Danube, Jackquaters is the perfect location for anyone visiting Budapest. Budapest highlights like the Chain Bridge and Great Market Hall are within easy walking distance.

Check rates & book your stay at Jackquaters!

Midrange

Hotel Erzsébet — With Central Market Hall and Vaci Utca at your fingertips, you definitely won’t go hungry while staying at the beautiful Hotel Erzsébet!

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Erzsébet!
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Buda or Pest: The Best Place to Stay in Budapest

Luxury

Hotel Mika Superior — Not only does Hotel Mika Superior offer beautiful rooms, fabulous service, and a delicious included breakfast, it’s located in the old Jewish Quarter of the city, near the Dohany Street Synagogue and Hungarian Opera House–which is one of our personal favorite neighborhoods to stay in while in Budapest.

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Mika Superior!

Prague or Budapest: Tasting Table Budapest

Ultimately, both Budapest and Prague are well worth visiting–these are gorgeous, historical European capital cities that both deserve your time and attention.

If you have to choose Prague or Budapest, though, there are definite costs and benefits to each–and for every person who has visited both, you’ll likely run into a stubborn opinion about which one is “better”!

I’ve done my best to write this blog post with as fair an outlook as possible–we did enjoy both cities, after all–but the truth is, Prague is likely a one-and-done destination for us unless we stop by again on our way to exploring more of the Czech Republic.

It was incredibly beautiful to look at, and we loved checking out highlights like the Charles Bridge and the Kafka Museum, but we left feeling like we had found everything we had come for in one visit.

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Don’t miss the Kafka Museum while in Prague!

Jeremy and I are both fans of Kafka’s writing, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into his mind in this (strange) museum. The Castle, The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony all featured prominently in the museum, along with other works, and the whole experience inside it felt like walking through The Trial!

Best Viewpoints in Prague: Old Town Bridge Tower

Additionally, Prague’s fairytale buildings paired with the city’s crowds (amplified by how compact the most popular tourist sites are–the bulk of the tourists are generally in the same places!) left us feeling a bit like we were in actual Disney World after a few days.

Don’t listen to any articles that claim that this is still an “underrated” destination: Prague was crowded–with large tour groups, with stag parties, and with independent travelers of all ages.

Budapest, on the other hand, is a city that we expect to return to again and again over the years–a place that feels both comforting and exciting, with more to explore than even a half dozen trips could cover.

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55 Best Things to Do in Budapest (+Tips!)

While Budapest’s highlights necessitate a bit more travel time between them, as they’re concentrated in a few different areas of the city, that also gives the tourists room a branch out and helps Budapest avoid the Disney World effect that we felt so strongly in Prague.

Unlike Prague, we feel like we can fall into a routine and “live” here, even temporarily, and Budapest’s cultural highlights, from thermal baths to sipping cappuccino’s in some of the world’s most beautiful cafes, never get old no matter how many times we participate.

Even something as simple as the view of the Danube River at night, cutting through the city as Buda and Pest light up on both sides of the river is magical–and even two visits later, we’re not done experiencing it yet.

Couple on roof of St. Stephen's Basilica, Best Things to Do in Budapest

42 thoughts on “Prague or Budapest: Which City Should You Visit?”

  1. A question as old as time! Love how you break down the differences between the cities. Wine and coffee are key for me when I travel, so for me Budapest seems like a clear winner.

    Reply
  2. What a tough decision between two amazing places! I couldn’t decide when I went so I decided to go to both ? Your tips are great though – Prague is literally out of a fairytale, and nothing beats Budapest’s thermal baths! That last picture you captured is so cool too!

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  3. Ideally, I would like to visit both. But if I had to choose I will pick Prague anyday. Ever since I saw a Bollywood film Rockstar I have longed to go to Prague. I am also a fan of Kafka, so that is high on my bucket list.

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    • Interesting, I didn’t know Prague featured in a Bollywood film! Since you’re a Kafka fan, you’ll definitely enjoy tracing his steps through Prague–very cool experience!

      Reply
  4. I will try to visit both the places. It’s so hard to decide where to go and where not to go. But certainly sometimes the time is not in our favor and we really would have to choose between Prague and Budapest. I will certainly look into your advice. If I would have to choose between those two i think I would like to go to Prague 🙂

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    • Hello i am living in Paris and planning to visit those places but more likely i am in favor of Prague kindly let me know what is the best time to go i am planning for next year March first week.

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      • Hi Khurram!

        I’m not quite sure what you’re asking–if you are wondering what the best season to go to Prague is, they all have their benefits, but spring and early fall offer good chances with the weather while avoiding the heat and crowds of the summer.

        Reply
  5. Both places look ideal and because of time limit we chose Prague when we visited eastern Europe. Prague is definitely covered in 1 or 2 days as all tourist places are very near and also it is not very expensive. I missed Budapest during that visit due to lack of time but now whenever I get time, I would surely go there.

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    • They’re definitely interesting! Essentially, they’re bars that started in worn-out, ruined buildings and eventually started turning enough profit that they stayed and the “ruined” buildings simply became part of the motif. Very cool places to grab a drink!

      Reply
  6. I was so sceptical about my Prague visit because many sites state it as ‘underrated’. Well it was kind of nice, as I was overwhelmed by my visit. I agree with your list, I only had 1 day for Budapest(like a day trip) and seriously it was so less that I would want to go again. But I loved Prague more, because of the old town and the architecture – gosh that’s incomparable – I mean seriously. Everyone has their reasons to choose one city over other but both has their own charm and can’t be missed 🙂

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  7. Both are extremely beautiful cities and a must to visit at least once in a lifetime! If I think about it, because of my experience I would choose Budapest! Visiting central Europe in the winter is a very different experience than visiting central Europe in the summer or fall. I hated Prague because I was SO cold I wanted to simply stayed inside the hotel and don’t move, so I didn’t get the chance to admire and enjoy everything the city has to offer. Honestly, I barely remember it because it was frozen. But when I visited Budapest it was so nice out and It was summer time, taking a walk around the city was very lovely and I could actually enjoy the sights etc.

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  8. What a beautiful dilemma that is! I have never been two both of these cities, but they are both on my bucket list. If I were to pick just one though, I’d probably choose Prague. But just because I have a few items in my bucket list that I want to see in Prague, such as the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle!

    Reply
  9. I’m studying abroad both terms next year (fall ’18, spring ’19) and am definitely doing fall semester in St. Petersburg, Russia! For my spring semester though, I’m torn between Prague and Budapest. My family is Hungarian so I have a bias towards Budapest right now, but I know I can’t decide where to live for 6 months based on just that! I know I could make either work as I’m flexible. However, I think my favorite cities I’ve been to in Europe so far have been Munich, London, and Rouen. What would be your suggestion?

    Reply
    • Oooh, how fun to get to study abroad for 2 semesters in a row! As you can see, we’re biased toward Budapest too (and I also have Hungarian roots), so I would definitely recommend Budapest over Prague. It’s simply a bigger city, so especially with having a few months there, I think you’ll find more to do. Definitely go caving while you’re there!! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend skipping Prague entirely–but it’s an easy enough weekend trip from Budapest in our opinion. 😉

      Reply
  10. Great source of info. Now I’m decided to go to Budapest as I can only choose one.
    Can you recommend a quick itinerary for 4-5 days?

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    • Hi Enrico! I’m actually working on a detailed Budapest itinerary right now! It (all 2500 words!) should be out next week–stay tuned! If you sign up for our email list, I send updates & recent post links every Monday. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Hello Kate, Thanks for the comparison. One small question; we are planning to go either Prague or Budapest in April, with our 1 year old baby. Considering the kid, which one do you suggest us to go? Thanks 😀

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    • Hi Yagiz! We don’t have kiddos, so we’re not completely qualified to answer this, but my gut reaction is that both are fairly similar in terms of handling a one-year-old. Both cities are as stroller-friendly as any European city (so, not very, but they’re workable), and have plenty of parks and cafes for shady/cool resting points when the little one needs a break.

      Reply
  12. “Even something as simple as the view of the Danube River at night, cutting through the city as Buda and Pest light up on both sides of the river is magical–and even two visits later, we’re not done experiencing it yet.”
    – that was exactly the reason why I moved out here <3

    Reply
  13. Thanks; this is very helpful. My wife and have to make exactly this difficult decision this coming spring. Unless we chuck it all and go to Slovenia instead. Have a blog on that?

    Don Poe
    Charlotte, NC
    USA

    Reply
    • It’s definitely a hard choice, especially once you add Slovenia in!

      Slovenia is one of our favorite countries–we have several posts on it under the destinations tab. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Hi Kate,.
    You really break down those two places in details. Enjoy reading it very much and a tough choice. However you already help me to choose the place i’m planning to visit between Prague & Budapest.

    Thank you…. i will choose Budapest simply because of wine and my favorite coffee.

    best regards..

    Reply
  15. Hi Kate.. I am travelling to Berlin Prague Vienna and Budapest.. But I think of spending more time in Berlin or Budapest… That is about 5 days in Budapest.. Is it worth to spend so many days.. I am interested in snorkeling.. Does this country have such activity.. Secondly about visa which country encourages tourist… So I will make the tour more either in Berlin or Budapest and get visa from that country..

    Reply
    • Hi Amit,

      You can certainly fill 5 days in Budapest rather easily!

      I think you may have mixed up a word choice with snorkeling, but no, neither Hungary nor Germany is the place for water activities.

      As for visas, I’m not sure of your exact situation, but both places are part of the Schengen Zone.

      Reply
  16. I think that Budapest is still a romantic city, but Prague is not the same. Peoples of Budapest are not rude and there are not so many scammers. Architecture of Budapest is more colossal and romantic, the nature is more beautiful, that wide river with traveling international ships and nice highlands of Buda. But what about that romantic botels (hotels on the river) or just hotels? Yes you will take better service in Budapest. Food at all is more elegant with also that Tokaji tasty wine and even hungarian beer is not such bitter like czech lager beer. Baths of Budapest are gorgeous and that romantic castle Vajdahunyad situated near is very nice. You can feel the difference also using metro, tram or taxi to feel from where you receive more feeling of civilization and romance. And if you like crush of New York or maybe crush of London and that stuffy pubs with no windows and low ceilings then you can select Prague.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, Vik! I definitely prefer Budapest myself, but I have to admit that as time has gone on I’ve been tempted to revisit Prague as well–if we do, we’ll definitely go well outside of the crowded summer season, though.

      Reply
  17. I visited both cities, but personally I think that Warsaw is the city that stands out most in the region. It is modern, lively and has great nightlife. The coolest places I have been there are bars near Pawilony and New Orleans Club on Zaira Street.

    Reply
  18. I just got back from Budapest. It was my fifth time there. I’ve been to Prague once but after visiting there, I felt like one time was all it needed. Budapest, in my opinion, is just magical. It is also extremely cheap. There are many many sites to see, the terror house, the thermal baths, a cruise on the Danube River, Castle Hill, the great market Hall, Hero’s Square and much much more. I always ask myself if I could live in a particular place I am visiting and Budapest was a yes hands down.

    Reply
    • We ask ourselves the same thing, and agreed, hands down Budapest would be a beautiful place to live. The apartments there have consistently been some of the most beautiful, spacious, and comfortable of any we’ve stayed in while traveling.

      We are hoping to visit Prague again, preferably outside of the busy summer season… but Budapest will always win out between the two for us.

      Reply

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