Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. Perhaps the trifecta of central European capital cities. With Budapest, you get a fun and vibrant city, rich with history and architecture, for a small cost. Moving 2.5 hours northwest brings you to the rich and cultural city of Vienna. Austria’s glittering capital, Vienna, is known for its coffee culture, sachertorte, and opera. Vienna will set you back a pretty penny, but a stop that is well worth it. Moving four hours further northwest will you bring you to Prague, a capital that has captured my heart with its castle overlooking the city, Charles Bridge, and one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world. The vibrancy of the city is unmatched and the old architecture makes the Czech Republic an affordable country that should not be overlooked.
This is part of my “8 Day Vacay” series! A travel series aimed at nurses who are looking to take 8 days off from the hospital (with no need to take PTO) and travel to destinations both near and far. For more information, read A Guide to the “8 Day Vacay” and How to Make the Most Out of Your “8 Day Vacay”
How to Spend 8 Days in Budapest, Vienna, Prague
Written for nurses, this guide begins on a Wednesday (after working Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) and ends on a Wednesday so that you can get back to the hospital for your three shifts (Thursday, Friday, Saturday). After spending three weeks in Albania, you’ll discover the absolute highlights of this country in this 8-day guide.
WEDNESDAY – Depart from the USA, fly into Budapest, Hungary
Leave Wednesday for arrival into Budapest, BUD on Thursday; I prefer to use Kayak for finding flights
THURSDAY – Arrival in Budapest
WHERE TO STAY IN BUDAPEST
If you’re looking to splurge, I recommend staying in the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, located on the Pest side of Budapest in a central location next to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. For a more affordable option, I recommend Airbnb or booking.com. If you’re looking to be in a more lively part of town, stay in Pest. For a more relaxed stay, stay in Buda.
HOW TO SPEND YOUR FIRST DAY IN BUDAPEST
Budapest, pronounced BudaPESCHT, used to be split into two separate cities – Buda and Pest. The cities were joined together in 1873 to form what is currently known as Budapest. Both are uniquely different but equally charming and worth spending your time in. For that reason, one day will be spent solely on the sites of Buda, while day two will be spent solely on the sites of Pest.
Buda is located on the west side of the Danube River and is known for the Castle District, Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and Gellért Hill. Connected to Pest by bridges, the most popular being the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Buda sits higher than Pest and therefore overlooks it.
Begin your time in Budapest by heading to the Castle District. Here, winding cobblestone streets will lead you through the Buda Castle, quaint streets, and onto the Fisherman’s Bastion. Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most famous sites in Budapest, being built in 1895. Overlooking Matthias Church in the front, and past the Danube towards Parliament in the back. Free entrance, and a site not to be missed. For unobstructed views, arrive before the buses roll in at 0900.
After admiring the neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture of the Bastion, head to Matthias Church. A stunning church with a tiled roof that sets it apart from any other church I’ve seen. Matthias is just as beautiful on the inside and worth it to enter. Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance for approximately $6.
To end your first day in Budapest, make the climb up Gellért Hill to watch the sunset over the city.
• For delicious Hungarian cuisine, don’t miss Baltazár, located near Fisherman’s Bastion. If you’re looking to taste Hungarian wines, head to Faust Wine Cellar, located in the Hilton Hotel near Fisherman’s Bastion. Seating is limited, so make reservations ahead of time. •
FRIDAY – Budapest
HOW TO SPEND YOUR SECOND DAY IN BUDAPEST
Pest is the more lively side of Budapest. Famous for the Parliament Building, Ruin Bars, and tons of great eats scattered throughout the east side of the city. Pest also showcases the darker times of the city’s history, highlighting the House of Terror, Shoes on the Danube, and Holocaust Memorial Center.
I highly recommend beginning day two in Budapest by utilizing the free walking tour of the city. The original walk begins at 1030 every day and provides valuable information about Budapest while adding in a touch of sarcasm and a sense of humor. It is the best walking tour I’ve been on in Europe thus far.
Whether or not you choose to go on the walking tour, begin your time in Pest by visiting (I did not enter, but a visit to the outside is well worth it) the Hungarian Parliament Building. If you want to enter, you can purchase tickets online here. Upon leaving Parliament, head to the somber monument, Shoes on the Danube Bank. It’s a powerful monument honoring the Jews who were murdered by the Arrow Cross Party during WWII.
Spend the rest of your time in Pest by hanging around the Jewish Quarter. Here you’ll find the infamous Ruin Bars, a popular style bar left in “shambles”, selling alcohol from an old building. The most famous Ruin Bar in Budapest is Szimpla Kert.
• For affordable Mediterranean food, don’t miss Mazel Tov •
SATURDAY – Depart Budapest, Arrive in Vienna
HOW TO GET FROM BUDAPEST TO VIENNA
Taking a train northwest from Budapest Keleti to Vienna Hbf, will cost approximately $40 and get you to Austria in 2.5 hours. A bus will be cheaper, as low as $10, and will take the same amount of time. Depending on which bus you book, bus stops vary.
WHERE TO STAY IN VIENNA
For a moderately priced hotel, I recommend Hotel Beethoven Wien, a centrally located hotel near the Naschmarkt and Museumsquartier. They offer weekend piano shows and complimentary champagne for guests staying at the hotel. If this doesn’t suit you, I recommend looking into Airbnb or booking.com.
HOW TO SPEND YOUR FIRST DAY IN VIENNA
Vienna is a vibrant and glittering city full of opportunities to be had, history to learn, and museums to visit. In two days you will barely scratch the surface of this city, but you’ll get a feel for how the Viennese slow down and experience life.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting Austria is to experience it like a local. Here “coffee culture” is a UNESCO World Heritage tradition. It is the art of slowing down and taking your time. You’re allowed to sit in a coffee house for as long as you please, even if you only order one cup of coffee. Traditionally, however, coffee is served with cake… sachertorte being one of the more famous options. As you slowly explore Vienna, take note of the following cafes. I encourage you to stop in as many as possible to get the feel of the elegance and romance in each individual cafe.
Demel – A cafe that opened in 1786, most famously known for its delectable cakes and pastries.
Café Central – Open in 1876, people such as Freud visited this elegant cafe. Now known for their daily piano entertainment.
Café Diglas – While more of a “restaurant” feel, Café Diglas is one of my favorite places to hang out because of the decor. It makes me feel as though I was transported back in time to a powerful and pristine Vienna.
Gerstner K.U.K. Hofzuckerbäcker – Specializing in champagne, Gerstner is the place to go to watch pastry chefs hard at work and sit back and sip bubbles.
In between cafe hopping, make sure to stop at the Naschmarkt. With over 100 food, drink, souvenir, and vintage stalls; there is something for everyone in this market. Stroll through or get a table at one of the many stalls around.
By the time sunset arrives, head to Stephensplatz, where you will find the Catholic Church, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Entrance to the church is free, but if you want to head up to the rooftop you will either need to walk up the south tower, which costs $5. Or take the elevator up the north tower, which costs $6. Tickets are available for purchase inside.
SUNDAY – Vienna
HOW TO SPEND YOUR SECOND DAY IN VIENNA
A bit outside of the main attractions of Vienna sits the Hundertwasserhaus. Created and designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this attraction is an unlivable apartment complex. Created in a sense that art should be felt, making the floors and walls uneven.
If you’re taking this trip in the summer, head to the Danube to walk along the river towards Tel Aviv Beach. In the summer the river comes alive with bars setting up patio furniture, playing music, and people filling the “sandy beaches” that the bars have set up.
If you happen to be visiting in the winter, instead of exploring the Danube, head to Schonbrunn Palace. An elegant and expansive house with 1,441 rooms occupied by the Habsburg rulers. If you plan on entering the palace, make sure to purchase tickets ahead of time or plan on waiting in a long line at the door.
MONDAY – Depart Vienna, Arrive in Prague
HOW TO GET FROM VIENNA TO PRAGUE
Taking either a train or bus northwest from Vienna Hbf to Prague (multiple stations) will cost approximately $20 and get you to Austria in four to five hours. If you’d like to save time, flying is also an option and will get you into Prague in less than an hour. You’ll want to fly out of Vienna International Airport and fly into Václav Havel Airport Prague.
WHERE TO STAY IN PRAGUE
I would recommend staying in a hotel or Airbnb near the Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, or Old Town Square.
HOW TO SPEND YOUR FIRST DAY IN PRAGUE
While Prague still flies under the radar (something that is quickly changing), it has everything you could want and need in a city. Prague offers history. Some of the oldest architecture in the world. Delicious Czech cuisine and beer that is cheaper than water. It’s an affordable, energetic, and magnetic city that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
On your first day in Prague head to Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. Here you’ll be able to see out over the entirety of Prague; across the Vltava River to Prague’s Old Town. And you’ll see the famous Charles Bridge, spanning the river and connecting the old town with the lesser town. While the inside of the castle is nothing special, it’s what’s on the outside that counts. Military men guarding the castle, trained to not crack a smile. Restaurants and bars selling mulled wine in the winter and crisp wine in the summer. A complex that should be explored in its entirety.
On the same side of the Vltava River that the Prague Castle sits, you’ll find Petrin Hill. While you can take a funicular to the top of the hill, you can also walk the winding pathways until you reach the top. Here you’ll find a replica of the Eiffel Tower. You can enter and climb to the top for sweeping views over Prague.
TUESDAY – Prague
HOW TO SPEND YOUR SECOND DAY IN PRAGUE
On day two in Prague, discover the best parts of Prague, and arguably the most famous. Wander across the Charles Bridge, but start early! The bridge gets incredibly crowded as the sun peaks, making it almost impossible to enjoy your time sauntering across. Plus you can’t truly enjoy the architecture with hundreds of people stepping on it. Legend has it that if you make it all the way across the bridge, you’re in for good luck.
From the bridge make your way to the Lennon Wall. A one of a kind outdoor graffiti wall that has been around since the ’80s. To this day you can still bring your own spray paint and add whatever you want to the wall.
End your eight-day trip to the most magical place in all of Prague… Old Town Square. A historic square originating in the 12th-century, Prague’s Old Town Square comes alive at all hours day or night. In the square, you can find the world’s oldest working clock, the Astronomical Clock. With restaurants dotting the square, sit down to people watch, or for a more authentic experience skip the restaurants in the square altogether.
WEDNESDAY – Depart Prague, Fly Back to the USA
Because Europe is ahead of the US time-wise, you should be able to leave Wednesday and arrive back in the States on Wednesday. Just in time to clock in for your shift on Thursday! And just like that, your eight days in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague are over.
Important Notes About Hungary
Hungarian Forint (HUF)
112 – European emergency number
104 – Ambulance and emergency medical services
105 – Fire department, rescue services, and civil protection
Important Notes About Austria
112 – European emergency number
122 – Fire department
133 – Police
140 – Mountain rescue
144 – Ambulance
• For more information on Vienna, check out my Complete Guide to Vienna •
Important Notes About the Czech Republic
Czech, which is very similar to Slovakian
112 – European emergency number
150 – Fire department
156 – City police
• For more on Prague, check out the Must-See Sites of Prague •