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Prague or Budapest: Budapest view of Danube

Prague or Budapest: Which One Should You Visit?

Czechia Hungary Travel Planning

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!).

Read Next: 6 of the Absolute Best Viewpoints to Visit in Prague

… 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.

… 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 We Stayed in Prague:

Airbnb Flat in Prague 2 — Karel’s flat was in the perfect location for us: a quiet neighborhood with plenty of restaurants nearby, a 10-minute walk to the trams and metro to get into the city center, and available at a reasonable price. The flat was comfortable and the wifi worked well: we wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again!

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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.

Read Next: The Ideal 3 Days in Budapest Itinerary for Your First Visit

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!

… 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 off of 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 We Stayed in Budapest:

AEG Apartman in Budapest — We adore this apartment! The location is perfect (about a five minute walk from St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Opera House, and a metro stop), and the apartment itself is beautiful and airy. The host, Gergley, was very kind and easy to work with. The next time we go to Budapest, we will immediately check and see if this apartment is available before considering any other lodging!

Never used Airbnb before? Sign up with our link to receive a discount on your first stay!

Though we stayed in an Airbnb for this trip, on a shorter trip to Budapest, we would likely stay in a hotel similar to these (midrange with good reviews, an excellent location, air conditioning, and wifi):

Jackquaters (9.0 rating on Booking.com) — 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.

Feodorm Apartments (9.3 rating on Booking.com) — Perfect for the budget conscious traveler who wants to be close to the action, Feodorm is located a short walk from the Hungarian Parliament Building.

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.

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

Read Next: Eight Exciting & Unusual Things to Do in Budapest

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.

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.

Tell us in the comments: which city do you prefer, Prague or Budapest?

Don’t visit Prague or Budapest without travel insurance! We use and recommend World Nomads for their affordability, ease of purchasing & the clarity of their contract!

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Prague or Budapest: Which One Should You Visit

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27 Comments Write a comment
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27 Comments

  • Erica September 19, 2017

    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.

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      Speaking my language! The wine and the coffee are both great in Budapest. 🙂

  • Hope September 19, 2017

    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!

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      Right? The best decision is not having to make one and going to both!

  • Abhinav Singh September 19, 2017

    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.

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      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!

  • Heraa Farooq September 20, 2017

    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 🙂

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      Hope you manage to not have to choose! 😉

  • Yukti September 20, 2017

    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.

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      Timing can definitely be hard! Hope you get a chance to come back this way and check out Budapest as well.

  • Tania Mukherjee September 20, 2017

    Thank you so much for comparing the two cities. I generally travel in tight schedule so I think Prague will fit me better. But I have never heard of ruin bar before, it sounds interesting.

    • Kate Storm September 20, 2017

      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!

    • Sami November 18, 2017

      You are like me. I can’t plan ahead cause I’m so busy at home, so make a decision and i book 3 days before my flight

  • Shibani September 20, 2017

    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 🙂

    • Kate Storm September 21, 2017

      I love how much opinions vary on this! But yes, you definitely need to go back to Budapest if you can–it needs more than one day if possible!

    • Sami November 18, 2017

      For a guy from Kuwait, do they speak English?

      • Kate Storm November 18, 2017

        Most people who work in tourism do to some extent! We haven’t had any problems getting around in either city using English.

  • Mariella September 21, 2017

    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.

    • Kate Storm September 21, 2017

      Ha, that sounds like me in the winter anywhere! There’s a reason I want to chase summer all the time. 😛

  • Abigail Sinsona September 21, 2017

    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!

    • Kate Storm September 21, 2017

      Both Charles Bridge and the castle are gorgeous! You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

  • Lexi December 24, 2017

    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?

    • Kate Storm December 27, 2017

      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. 😉

  • Enrico Paolo Gorospe Cruz January 10, 2018

    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?

    • Kate Storm January 10, 2018

      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. 🙂

  • Yagiz Konus January 19, 2018

    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 😀

    • Kate Storm January 19, 2018

      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.

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