Prague and Budapest: Perfect Together

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Prague and Budapest combine for a fantastic central European vacation.

Why do Prague and Budapest vacation packages work so well? After all, the two cities are in different countries. They’re a decent distance from one another. The average travel time between Prague and Budapest, whether by train or motor coach, is around seven hours. So why are Prague and Budapest coupled together so often?

Maybe it’s because Prague and Budapest bring together the best of eastern Europe. In one vacation, you can explore a kaleidoscope of historic cultures, from a center of European Judaism, to the heights of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Prague and Budapest really are perfect together, complimenting each other with shining examples of two different historic timelines.

Prague: A Fairy Tale City

Between Prague and Budapest, Prague is the more medieval of the two.

Between Prague and Budapest, Prague is the more medieval of the two.

While many centers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were given hefty upgrades during the 18th and 19th centuries, Prague was a bit of a backwater. It also escaped the heavy bombing many other cities suffered during the second World War. All that adds up to create a treasure trove of architectural styles from the 12th century onward. Prague’s most famous for its Gothic styles, and many of its crown jewels date back to the Gothic period, including the Charles Bridge, Saint Vitus’ Cathedral and the Old-New Synagogue.

Prague's clustered spires create an evocative fairy-tale atmosphere.

Prague’s clustered spires create an evocative fairy-tale atmosphere.

But you’ll also find grand Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau designs throughout the city center. All in all, Prague’s incredible variety of historic structures have earned it the distinction of being the largest urban center on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This walkable city will keep you looking up and ignoring tired feet while you head for the next landmark on your list.

Prague's world-famous Astronomical Clock is just one of its medieval icons.

Prague’s world-famous Astronomical Clock is just one of its medieval icons.

When you’re hungry, Prague delivers with street food and Czech cuisine. Consider the trdelnik, a central/eastern European specialty perfect for warming your hands on a chilly day of sightseeing. It’s dough roasted over an open fire and rolled in cinnamon, sugar and nuts. If a hot, crusty, sweet pastry doesn’t sound awesome enough, you can find them stuffed with sweet spreads like Nutella or chocolate. And for dinner, try svíčková, which is a classic Czech entree of braised beef with a cream sauce and bread dumplings.

Grab a trdelnik to warm up in winter - or to cool off in summer.

Grab a trdelnik to warm up in winter – or to cool off in summer.

Love beer? Good. Prague is known for its breweries, which let you lift a pint for famously low prices in beer-halls, gardens and rooftop bars all over the old town.

Budapest: An Imperial Jewel

The Hungarian Parliament Building rises against the Danube River.

The Hungarian Parliament Building rises against the Danube River.

Meanwhile in Budapest, the Austro-Hungarian empire lavished grand new architecture on its co-capital in the nineteenth century. The city’s Western Railway Station was built in glorious ironwork by the Gustave Eiffel Company. And the landmark Hungarian Parliament Building is a symphony of spiky spires in the dramatic Gothic Revival style, built between 1885 and 1904. One of the city’s most historic-looking features, the white-stoned spires of the Fisherman’s Bastion, are also a 19th-century riff on Hungary’s long-ago tradition of Romanesque architecture.

The Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest is a fantasy castle offering incredible views.

The Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest is a fantasy castle offering incredible views.

You can still find medieval Budapest, though. The pedestrian district of Castle Hill is a prime example, where residents still live in homes dating back to the 14th century.

While far more spread out than Prague — Budapest straddles the Danube River, and is literally named for districts on either shore, Buda and Pest — the city’s public transit can get you around. You’ll spend more time in trams and traveling in Budapest than Prague, but the spell-binding sights you’ll experience are worth the extra commute.

Budapest's trams offer scenic routes around the city's sprawling historic districts.

Budapest’s trams offer scenic routes around the city’s sprawling historic districts.

When in Budapest, by the way, it’s time to eat those most Hungarian dishes: chicken paprikash and beef goulash. The tender roasted chicken is tinted orange with paprika and tops spatzle, little pasta dumplings. A dollop of sour cream finishes the dish. Goulash is tenderly cooked beef with paprika and spatzle. Hmm. Sensing a trend here? Even if the recipes sound a little similar, the experiences are delicious, and perfectly hearty after a long day discovering Budapest’s gems.

The grand New York Cafe in Budapest.

The grand New York Cafe in Budapest.

Where Prague is all about the beer, in Budapest you’ll want to try the Tokaji, a sweet Hungarian wine. Budapest also has a splendid cafe culture, with ornate cathedrals to coffee and desserts serve up frothy cappuccinos and confections beneath gilded chandeliers.

Prague and Budapest: Perfect Together

You could go all in on medieval Prague or imperial Budapest, but it’s so easy to do both cities in one vacation, why not combine them? Prague and Budapest vacation packages make it easy to book a multi-city vacation that includes hotels, transfers and even tours and excursions in both cities. If you’ve got a week, a package with three nights in each city makes for an incredible European getaway.

Through May 2018 you can book the Prague and Budapest Special, an extra low-priced vacation package offering three nights in each city, transfers, hotels, flights and optional tours. There’s a suggested itinerary to help you plan your vacation. Or you can enjoy a fully-escorted tour and skip all the vacation planning with the 8 Day Affordable Central Europe vacation, which includes Budapest, Prague and Vienna.

No matter what you choose, Prague and Budapest make a truly amazing European vacation. So why pick just one?