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A city steeped in history, with prominent landmarks and buildings dating back further than many of us have been alive. Incredible cuisine, river views, and stunning bridges. Are we speaking about Prague or Budapest? Both!
These two cities, just a few hours apart, are two of Europe’s top destinations if you’re after art, history, and culture, all packaged into one delightful visit.
They have their differences, though; where Prague delivers a medieval atmosphere, Budapest is known best for its nightlife scene. So, if you’re planning a Europe trip, which of these cities should you visit?
We often hear this question, so we thought we’d help you out a bit. Join us as we compare each city, which is best for every different kind of traveler and vacation, and which will fit your budget best.
We’ll weigh both cities’ pros and cons and highlight what makes each unique and worth your travel time.
By the end, you should know which of the two cities you’d instead visit — or at least visit first. And if you don’t, we’ve added a bonus guide on seeing both.
Prague or Budapest: Which one to visit?
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Things to consider when choosing between Budapest or Prague
We have intimately explored both Prague and Budapest and have considered various factors in writing this guide to help you decide on which city to visit. You will find our preferences/ verdict for each of the categories along with accommodation tips below.
Prague vs. Budapest: Transportation and connectivity
If you’re anything like us, ensuring your intended destination offers easy transport options is essential. So it’s one of the things we looked at first when trying to decide between Budapest and Prague.
Luckily, both Prague and Budapest have fantastic public transport options, but Prague is often better enjoyed on foot.
Prague is also more condensed than Budapest, and the main attractions and significant landmarks are close together. Budapest is spread wider than Prague, which makes transport essential to see much of the city.
If you’re not walking in Prague, you can use the metro, trams, and buses. You can purchase a City Pass, valid for 48, 72, or 120 hours (starting at € 89 per person). This pass gives you unlimited public transport rides and includes entry to a few of the top Prague attractions.
Budapest is walkable, but being divided into two sections (Buda and Pest), the city is much too big to walk.
Being right on the river, the city has a well-structured system of river boats, ferries, trains, buses, trolleys, trams, and metro for you to choose from.
Budapest also has a City Pass card, starting at € 33 (choose from 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120 hours), that offers unlimited transport, free entry to attractions, and many discounts too.
Verdict: While neither city is hard to get around, Budapest’s transport is better overall because it needs to be.
Budapest vs. Prague: Accommodation
Prague’s accommodation matches the city’s fairytale-like atmosphere. The compact layout means staying in the historic center is easy and the most obvious choice.
Neighborhoods like the Lesser Town or Hradcany (Prague Castle) are perfect for luxury and boutique hotels.
You will also find cheap hostels and quaint guesthouses. It can be somewhat more expensive in the city center, being so close to all the attractions, but it makes walking around much easier.
Stay in Pest (in Budapest) for its busy streets and lively scenes, or Buda for the historic ambiance many visit this city for. Either way, Budapest is home to several great places to stay. Whether you want a hostel, family suite, or romantic honeymoon room with river views.
There are also internationally recognized hotel chains amid the locally owned spots.
Verdict: Both of these cities boast fantastic hotels to stay in, but Budapest, being a bit bigger, has a wider variety to choose from.
Is it cheaper to stay in Prague or Budapest?
In both cities, you have a range of budget-friendly to luxury accommodations. As with most things, Hungary’s Budapest comes in at just slightly cheaper than Prague with everything, including hotels and BnBs. You’re also likely to find a few more budget options in Budapest than you will in Prague.
Read Next: We’ve also compared Brussels and Bruges for those heading to Belgium next.
Prague vs. Budapest: Which is more picturesque (and with major fairytale vibes)?
Prague has an almost unfair advantage here since the city is already known as a fairytale-esque destination. This city is enchanting, with its cobblestone streets and classical music spilling out as you stroll through them.
The historic squares and colorful buildings add to the magical ambiance, and because it’s such a small, intimate city, it oozes fairytale charm in every hidden alley and courtyard.
We really love Prague 🙂 for its history and wonderful architecture!
That’s not to say that Budapest isn’t easy on the eyes. The city’s blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture set against the hilly surroundings creates a scene from a children’s book.
The Danube River helps create a captivating setting, especially at night. However, Budapest has more of a cityscape and is less old-timey than Prague.
Verdict: Prague’s charming Old Town historic center, castles, and bridges give it the title of most picturesque. While the Czech Republic city wins this one, its Hungarian counterpart has many of its own scenic attractions — you just have to look a bit harder for them sometimes.
Read next: 35 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe.
Budapest vs. Prague: Where to find the best restaurants
You’ll find two very different tastes in Prague and Budapest because the cities are in separate countries.
There are ample places in each destination to eat, from small cafes to traditional restaurants and markets, as well as a collection of international restaurants.
Where Prague provides the experience of a meal in one of the historic cafes, Budapest shines with its riverside restaurants. Both have a selection of excellent Michelin-starred establishments as well.
The only true difference is that Budapest generally has lower prices for meals and drinks. However, you’ll find enough budget-friendly places to eat in Prague if you look hard enough.
Read next: Budapest Food Guide.
Verdict: If you’re after an affordable meal, Budapest wins the battle, and Hungarian dishes will have your mouth watering, we promise. Prague does have a bigger selection of international restaurants, though, so if you’re not phased about budgets, you may prefer the variety.
Prague vs. Budapest: Which city is touristy?
Whether you want the touristy vibe or not, there’s more of it in Prague. This city used to be known as an underrated travel destination, but you can’t call it that anymore! The city sees millions of tourists yearly, a higher number compared to Budapest.
Prague also caters well to tourists, with fantastic activities and attractions open year-round. Prague Castle and Old Town Square are where you’ll mostly see the throngs of travelers.
Since so many foreigners visit each year, there’s no shortage of guided tours, English-speaking staff, and accommodations. But on the other hand, it makes it expensive and full of feet on the streets.
Budapest is still a popular city, and you’ll find people visiting from all over the world. It’s a bit of a bigger city, though, allowing everyone to spread out, decreasing that crowded feeling that’s often prevalent in Prague.
There are still plenty of things to do and see in Budapest, and the city has its own unique way of welcoming tourists and offering reasons to visit.
There’s a lot of emphasis on the Danube River, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and Buda Castle. This city has its fair share of English-speaking locals and guided tours to facilitate tourists.
Verdict: Prague feels more touristy, thanks to it often being much more crowded, but both are popular destinations for foreign visitors. It’s also good to note that both cities experience their busy season from around April to September and mid-October.
Read: One day in Prague | One day in Budapest
Budapest vs. Prague: Which city has more things to do?
When comparing these two cities, deciding which one ultimately offers more to do is hard. Budapest is quite spread out, which makes it seem like it has so much more to keep you occupied. Plus, it has more museums, restaurants, etc.
But Prague is compactly packed with attractions; they’re just closer together. So, if you want to do more in a shorter time, this city is designed perfectly for that.
Another thing to note is that the number of things to see and do in Prague and Budapest is almost equal. And since Prague is so much smaller, that’s impressive.
Again, this may come down to personal preference and what you prefer to be doing. As well as how long you’re staying, because you can see and do a lot more in a short time in Prague, but you’d need to stay longer to get the same out of Budapest.
Verdict: This is a tie — both cities have plenty to do and a wide variety. There are museums and art galleries galore in either, and historic sights and landmarks are found in both.
Read: 4 days in Budapest itinerary
Prague vs Budapest: USP for each city
Down to the important question: What is each city’s unique selling point? Prague is well known for its culture, but Budapest also has plenty of that.
Prague’s unique claim to fame would have to be the massive structure of Prague Castle.
Being one of the largest castles in the world, the entire property spans an area of about 70,000 square meters. Sitting on Castle Hill, overlooking the city, this castle has seen much of Prague’s history and is a prominent piece of its present.
On the other hand, Budapest doesn’t have to boast too loudly to be renowned for its thermal baths, which date back to Roman Empire times. These spaces have always been a place to socialize, relax, and exchange with fellow bathers.
They’re a big part of Hungarian culture — you’ll understand why as soon as you try one.
Verdict: Budapest will almost always win for the city’s thermal baths. This attraction puts the city on the map for so many travelers, and they’re worth visiting at least once.
Read: Prague in 2 days | 2 day Budapest itinerary
Prague vs. Budapest: Best for Christmas and winter trips
Christmas markets, snowing streets, and festive feelings galore — who doesn’t want to spend winter in either of these European cities? Winter in Europe often means a snowy wonderland, and whether you’re in Prague or Budapest for this season, you’re bound to be enchanted.
If you’re in Prague, expect the Old Town Square to light up with festivities; wooden stalls create a welcoming market that offers handmade gifts, traditional treats, and a gloriously large tree right in the center.
Charles Bridge and Prague Castle also get decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations during this time.
There are festive events, including classical music concerts and theater productions to enjoy, and every cafe in the city brings out a spectacular Christmas menu.
Czech families have a tradition called “Štědrý den,” a homely gathering on Christmas Eve. You won’t find too many restaurants open, but a select few will offer Czech Christmas dinners for you to get into the spirit.
Budapest makes for an equally snow-covered escape during winter, especially over Christmas.
The best place to do your holiday shopping here is at the Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square, which also hosts a number of live performances throughout the period — and has its own majestic tree.
There is also a market at St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the medieval-style Buda Castle Winter Festival is not to be missed!
Budapest in winter means ice skating in City Park, festive boat cruises on the Danube, and hearty Hungarian festive food.
Verdict: This is a tie — both Prague and Budapest promise that warm, magical Christmas feeling. New Year’s is also a festive time in Budapest, so if you’re not up for choosing, try Prague for Christmas and Budapest for New Year.
Budapest vs. Prague: Which is better for couples?
If it’s movie-scene romance you’re looking for, Prague is often the most obvious choice. With the city’s timeless beauty around every corner, it’s hard not to fall in love here — with the landscape and each other.
Date nights in Prague can be made up of theater performances, concerts, and Vltava River cruises.
From breakfast in one of its historic cafes to lunch at an art gallery and a candlelit dinner in an alluring restaurant, Prague entices couples of all ages.
There’s a fairytale book kind of beauty about this city, and it creates the perfect setting for couples in love.
Budapest isn’t without romance, though. There’s still plenty to swoon at here; the city is often referred to as the “Paris of the East,” being such a love-filled destination.
Sunsets on Gellért Hill drinks at one of the many “ruin” pubs, and evening cruises down the river are all idyllic date ideas. Our date night was at the lovely New York Cafe in Budapest and it was amazing!
Both cities cater well to couples, and you’ll find romantic memories in either. It depends on what kind of couple you are and what you enjoy doing together.
Verdict: Prague provides cultural immersion, perfect for a romantic vacation with classic music, museums, and art. Budapest, though, is great if you’re on a much-needed relaxation vacation with its thermal spas and river cruises.
Prague vs. Budapest: Which is better for families?
Traveling with kids? Budapest is known for its fun waterpark, and it’s a lot more lively than Prague.
While Prague is a much more walkable city, which can make it easier to get around, Budapest feels much more spacious, with fewer crowds to overwhelm younger kids.
Prague is home to a terrific zoo, and there are enough parks and museums to ensure that everyone of all ages stays entertained and stimulated throughout your trip.
Another great thing to do in Prague if you visit as a family is the city’s own waterpark, Aquapalace Praha.
Of course, a family trip often requires a bit more budgeting since there’s more of you; for this, Budapest is the top option. Accommodation and meals will cost you less in Budapest, so you could spend more on activities.
Verdict: Families big on art and culture may revel in Prague, but Budapest tends to have a few more kid-friendly activities, like city parks and even a water park — plus it has plenty of museums. It’s also less crowded and has wider streets to walk down.
Prague vs. Budapest: Where’s the best nightlife?
Both Prague and Budapest welcome crowds of partygoers, young and old. Several lively bars and clubs within the Old Town area come to life, especially over the weekends.
Whether you’d prefer to have chilled drinks before bed or you’re up for dancing until 5 am, Prague invites the party people happily.
Budapest is also very much a party town for those looking for it. There are several great places to drink and dance in Király Street and its surroundings.
One thing Budapest offers nightlife seekers that Prague doesn’t is the “ruin” bars that bring a unique feel to nighttime fun.
As we’ve seen with most of these comparisons, the bonus of Prague is how condensed the city is, so having a few drinks and then walking back to your hotel safely is possible here. Whereas in Budapest, you’d likely need to arrange some sort of transport to get you back to bed.
Read next: Best Prague Night Tours
Verdict: While Budapest is renowned for its fun and lively nightlife, Prague offers plenty of bars and restaurants that provide just as much fun once the sun goes down. This is another tie for both cities, with Budapest just a fraction ahead of things.
Budapest vs. Prague: Which is affordable to visit?
No one can say that budget doesn’t come into play when traveling, so when planning your next destination, which will be easier on your wallet?
Prague isn’t known as a cheap city to visit — often, it’s quite the opposite. So it’s clear when looking at prices that Budapest offers a much more budget-friendly stay. Not that the latter city can’t be expensive as well, but you’ll find more affordable accommodation and cheaper restaurants.
Transport in either city is relatively the same, but with Prague being so walkable (free), you’ll likely spend less traveling around than in Budapest.
As for attractions, if you buy the CityPass cards mentioned above, you could have free entrance throughout your stay in either city — but Budapest’s city pass is slightly less expensive.
Verdict: Budapest remains the cheaper place to visit out of the two. Everything here, from food to accommodation and activities, is less expensive than in Prague.
Prague vs. Budapest: Which is best for visiting other European countries?
Perhaps you don’t want to be stuck in one city when there’s a whole continent to see! And we don’t blame you for that. So, which of these cities is the best starting point for a full-on European adventure?
Prague and Budapest are located in areas that make exploring the rest of Europe easy, especially if you want to see more of Central Europe’s gems. These cities also have extensive public transport, like buses and trains, that go well into other nearby cities and countries.
If you decide based on time and how close each city is to other countries, you’d need to first decide where else you want to go in Europe.
Prague would be closer to visit Germany and even travel to Belgium. Budapest is closer for an Italy trip and slightly closer if you plan on visiting Switzerland. Both cities are perfect if you’ve planned an Austria itinerary next.
Verdict: You shouldn’t find it too hard to travel out into other European countries and cities from Prague or Budapest, but the latter’s larger and more international airport makes it slightly easier.
Read next: 2-week Central Europe itinerary
Budapest vs. Prague: Choose Budapest or Prague based on your travel style and interests
The best way to decide your next travel destination is to pick one that suits you.
🚶♀️ Everyone travels to find different things; if you’re not one for walking, you may not enjoy your time in Prague.
Likewise, if you prefer not to travel too much from one point to the next, Budapest will just frustrate you.
💸 If you’re looking for a destination that will help you save some money, Budapest is where you need to go.
🧡 For high-class culture and fun, Prague is the clear winner.
🖼️ Both cities boast magnificent museums, but Budapest has a wider variety of museums you’ll find.
👩❤️👨 If you’re planning a romantic vacation, Prague will undoubtedly tick all the boxes.
If you’re not one for the heaving throngs of crowds, rather choose Budapest. Budapest is a beautiful city once the sun goes down and the city lights turn on, while Prague is known to be a ‘dimmer’ city at night.
Things to do in Prague for the first time visitor
If you’re choosing to go to Prague, you’re about to be dazzled by all the fantastic city activities and attractions you’ll find. Here’s a list of a few top things to do.
1. Stroll across Charles Bridge
Take a leisurely walk across the iconic Charles Bridge, adorned with statues and offering breathtaking city views.
2. Explore Old Town Square
Immerse yourself in the historic charm of Old Town Square, surrounded by stunning architecture, the Astronomical Clock, and vibrant street life.
3. Admire the Lennon Wall
Marvel at the colorful and ever-changing Lennon Wall, a symbol of peace and a canvas for artistic expression.
4. Discover the Jewish Quarter
Step into the rich history of the Jewish Quarter, exploring synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and the Jewish Museum.
5. See Prague Castle for yourself
Witness the grandeur of Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex in the world, with its stunning architecture and historical significance.
6. Find the hourly show of the Astronomical Clock
Catch the hourly show of the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, a mesmerizing display of medieval engineering.
7. Shop and eat in Wenceslas Square
Experience the bustling energy of Wenceslas Square, a vibrant hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
8. Browse through Prague National Museum
Immerse yourself in art, history, and science at the Prague National Museum, housed in a stunning Neo-Renaissance building.
9. Visit Vyšehrad Fortress
Explore the historic Vyšehrad Fortress, perched on a hill overlooking the Vltava River, offering panoramic views and ancient architecture.
10. Take a Vltava River Cruise
Relax on a scenic Vltava River Cruise, enjoying picturesque views of Prague’s landmarks from the water.
11. Go beer tasting
Dive into the Czech beer culture with a beer-tasting experience, sampling the country’s famous brews in traditional pubs.
12. Pick up a souvenir at the Náplavka Riverside Market Hall
Seek out the lively Náplavka Riverside Market for fresh produce, crafts, and unique souvenirs along the Vltava River.
Where to stay in Prague
There’s a good range of accommodation in Prague, but if you’re looking to get the most out of the city, finding a hotel in Old Town, Little Quarter, or Prague Castle district is what we’d suggest.
You can also stay in New Town if you’d rather be out of the busy central area. When we visited Prague for the first time, we stayed a little outside of Old Town. We did enjoy walking around the city and quaint shops and restaurants.
Here are a few hotels to look at before you arrive:
- Aria Hotel Prague – This hotel boasts a rooftop garden terrace, offering direct views of the city and an on-site restaurant, and is just a 15-minute walk away from Old Town.
- Hotel Bishop’s House – Situated close to the Vltava River and Prague Castle, this hotel is set in a 16th-century building and still has an empire façade from 1843.
- Lindner Hotel Prague Castle – Promising breakfast on the summer terrace in the historic courtyard and a blend of comfort and convenience, Lindner Hotel is just 1.5 km from the iconic Charles Bridge.
- Hermitage Hotel Prague – Nestled in the picturesque second district, a stone’s throw from the Vltava River and Vysehrad Castle, this hotel combines timeless elegance with modern amenities.
Things to do in Budapest for the first time visitor
You’ve chosen to go to Budapest? Great choice, of course! Just look at all the fantastic things to do and see in this lively city.
1. See the city views from Buda Castle
Enjoy panoramic views of Budapest from Buda Castle, perched on Castle Hill, offering a captivating perspective of the city.
2. Relax in one of the city’s thermal baths
Indulge in the city’s renowned thermal baths, like Széchenyi or Gellert, for a rejuvenating and unique Budapest experience.
3. Admire Fisherman’s Bastion
Explore the fairytale-like towers of Fisherman’s Bastion, where stunning architecture meets breathtaking views of the Danube and Parliament.
4. Visit the fairytale-like Vajdahunyad Castle
Step into a fairytale at Vajdahunyad Castle, an enchanting complex showcasing various architectural styles in City Park.
5. Walk across Chain Bridge
Take a stroll across the iconic Chain Bridge, connecting Buda and Pest, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Danube.
6. Visit Margaret Island
Escape to the green oasis of Margaret Island in the Danube, which offers parks, gardens, and recreational spots.
7. Learn more about Dohány Street Synagogue
Discover the history of Budapest’s Jewish community at the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe.
8. Have a drink at one of the ruin bars
Don’t miss out on the unique atmosphere of Budapest’s ruin bars, like Szimpla Kert, set in abandoned buildings with eclectic decor.
9. Take a Danube River cruise
Book a leisurely Danube River cruise, taking in the beauty of Budapest’s landmarks illuminated against the night sky.
10. Pay a visit to Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden
Explore Budapest Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, and the adjacent Botanical Garden for a day of wildlife and greenery.
11. Discover the fascinating Cave Church
Uncover the Cave Church in Gellért Hill, a rock-carved church with a unique history and spiritual ambiance.
12. Hike to the Citadella
Embark on a hike to the Citadella on Gellért Hill for panoramic views of Budapest, combining nature, history, and breathtaking scenery.
Where to stay in Budapest
We’ve mentioned that Budapest does have a hand-up on Prague in accommodation prices and options, but it’s also a bit bigger, so you’ll need to select where you stay based on your itinerary.
District V is on the Pest side, and you can easily reach most of the city’s top attractions from here. If you’re more focused on shopping, then a hotel in District VI would make more sense. District VII is the Jewish Quarter, where the nightlife scene is buzzing.
Here are some of the best Budapest hotels we can find:
- Danubius Hotel Helia – Right on the Danube River, this hotel has spacious rooms, a large pool, and a two-story fitness club.
- Hotel Memories Budapest – Enjoy a buffet breakfast, complimentary coffee in the club lounge, and a 24-hour front desk at this stunning hotel near the iconic Dohány Street Synagogue.
- Barceló Budapest – A 4-star hotel with an internationally-styled on-site restaurant and cozy air-conditioned rooms. Some rooms also offer private terraces with amazing views.
- Hotel Gozsdu Court – Set in a renovated 19th-century building, this hotel is located near Deák Ferenc Square in the heart of Budapest.
How to add Prague and Budapest to your Europe Itinerary
Still can’t decide between the two? That’s fine! You can visit both places if you plan a Europe itinerary that lasts at least five days.
The two cities are close enough that you can fit them both into one trip, which is great if you’re having as hard a time as we did choosing between them.
Day 1: Wake up in Prague! Visit Old Town Square, wander through the streets, and stop at one of the many cafes. Then head to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, ending your day in Old Town Square for dinner and drinks.
Day 2: Cross over Charles Bridge as early as possible (it gets crowded later on), and make your way to Lennon Wall and Kampa Park. After some lunch, explore the Jewish Quarter and its museums. In the evening, book a classical music concert or discover another of Prague’s lovely restaurants.
Day 3: Get your final views of Prague, perhaps with breakfast at a cafe, and then take your chosen transport to Budapest. The trip will take up a good chunk of your day, but you’ll arrive in time for a sunset stroll along the Danube River.
Day 4: Make your first stop in Budapest, the Buda Castle. Then, walk over to Fisherman’s Bastion and later on to the Castle District. Don’t miss Matthias Church along the way. Budapest’s thermal baths are ideal to end the day; try Széchenyi or Gellert.
Day 5: After breakfast, take a guided tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building. Next, set off for a stroll along Andrassy Avenue and explore Heroes’ Square. You can have a lunch picnic in City Park. Then, you must experience a Danube River cruise in the evening and conclude your stay with a traditional Hungarian dinner.
Read next: Got more time? See this 10-day Vienna, Prague, and Budapest itinerary.
How far is Budapest from Prague?
Prague and Budapest are 525 kilometers (326.22 miles) apart, and it’ll take you around 5.5 hours to travel between them by car.
Other options to travel between the two include flights (±1 hours) and train (±6.5 hours). It’s a little too far for a day trip, but giving each city two full days, leaving a day for travel, and settling in makes for a stress-free combined itinerary.
Prague or Budapest: The verdict
The moment you’ve all been waiting for — which one is best to visit? The truth is, both Budapest and Prague offer something different for travelers.
Of course, if you are looking for the arts and musicals, Prague should be your next destination. If you’re on a tighter budget, we suggest you book your tickets to Budapest today.
Prague is the winner when it comes to walkability and picturesque vacation photos, but Budapest is hands down the place to go for a relaxing spa day in a thermal bath.
If seeing fairytale-like castles and buildings has always been on your bucket list, do yourself a favor and visit Prague. And if it’s a Danube river cruise you have your heart set on, Budapest will have you falling in love.
We hope this post has helped you to quickly plan your next visit to Europe to get to the fun part — exploring and discovering new cities.
And if you’re able, then the winning choice in this situation is to try and plan trips to both Prague and Budapest!
Use this guide to decide which one gets the first-place position on your itinerary 🙂
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