Julie Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Itinerary 300 Comments

For those who want to tour three of Europe’s great cities, this central Europe itinerary is perfect. Start with Budapest, a gorgeous city known for its thermal baths, unique architecture, and stunning setting along the Danube River. Next, travel to Vienna, a sophisticated city rich in history and culture. End with Prague, the most beautiful of the three cities (in our opinion), laced with Gothic architecture that somehow remained unharmed during World War II. We even added in a side trip to the quaint but incredibly scenic Cesky Krumlov, one of Europe’s great small towns.

Be prepared to walk through some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, dine in outdoor cafes, learn some important European history, go to the opera (for only a few euros!!), and sample some of Europe’s best beer.

This Central Europe Itinerary is Good For:
  • Those who love exploring cities
  • European History, especially WWII
  • Cafe Culture
  • Museums
  • Photographers

Day 1

Arrive in Budapest

Depending on your flight, most likely you will arrive in Budapest in the morning or early afternoon. Check into your hotel, get settled, and do some exploring around your hotel.

A wonderful, low-key introduction to Budapest is a cruise on the Danube River. 


Have dinner and go to bed early, doing your best to get adjusted to the time change as quickly as possible.

We recommend: Hilton Budapest in the Castle District. From your hotel window, gaze across the Danube River to the beautiful Parliament building, one of the icons of Budapest. The Fisherman’s Bastion is just a few minutes away, offering more of the best views over Budapest.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fishermans Bastion

Day 2

Budapest: Fisherman’s Bastion, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, St. Istvan’s Basilica, and Pest

Budapest is really “two cities,” Buda and Pest, that are split by the Danube River. There is much more to visit on the Pest side of Budapest.

Start your day by touring Buda: Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and Buda Castle. These are some of Budapest’s most popular sights and from here you will get some of the best views over the city.

Budapest Itinerary

Have lunch at Pest-Buda Bistro or Cafe Pierrot.

Take the funicular down to the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, another Budapest icon. Walk across the Szechenyi Bridge to the Pest side of Budapest. Take a peek inside the Four Seasons Hotel, also known as the Gresham Palace…this place is beautiful!! It’s worth a quick look.

Budapest Bridge Central Europe Itinerary

From Gresham Palace, it is just a short walk along a pedestrian-only street to St. Istvan’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic Basilica. Tour the Basilica and if you have the energy, climb the dome for more views over Budapest.

In the afternoon, stroll through Pest. Enjoy the view from the Danube Promenade, go shopping in the Great Market Hall, and enjoy another fabulous view of the city from Gellert Hill.

End the day with dinner and drinks. Ruin bars, derelict buildings that have been transformed into cheap yet interesting places to grab a drink, are a unique Budapest experience. For a list of bars to try, check out this list on CNN Travel.

Day 3

Budapest: Parliament, Opera, House of Terror Museum, New York Cafe, Szechenyi Baths

In the morning, tour Parliament, Budapest’s grandest building. The only way to see it is on a tour and tours sell out far in advance. Make sure you book your tickets well before you visit Budapest.

Pro Travel Tip: Click here to visit the official website to reserve your Parliament tickets in advance.

Near Parliament is “Shoes on the Danube,” a memorial to Jewish people who were shot and killed during WWII.  This is a very important piece of history in Budapest and should not be missed.

Continue your tour of Budapest with a walk along Andrassy Ut, one of the main streets that runs through Budapest. This avenue is modeled after the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Walk past the Opera house, cafes, and shopping stores to the House of Terror Museum.

Have lunch at the opulent New York Cafe.

After lunch, visit the House of Terror Museum. Journey back in time to WWII. Learn about the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s, not only to Jewish people but to the entire city of Budapest. Continue the history lesson as you learn about Communist rule in Budapest enforced by the Soviet Union.

This museum holds nothing back. Be prepared to be shocked, saddened, and outraged by what you will see here. The House of Terror Museum really sends a message about what it was like to live in this city during the 20th century. This is not the place to bring young children…the exhibits are visually explicit and can be quite shocking.

House of Terror Prague Central Europe Itinerary

Walk or take a taxi to Heroes’ Square and then stroll around the park. Spend an hour relaxing in the thermal baths at the world famous Szechenyi Baths. End the day by having drinks and maybe even dinner at nearby Gundel restaurant.

Thermal Bath Budapest

Day 4

Travel from Budapest to Vienna, tour Vienna

Take a train from Budapest to Vienna. The journey takes between two to three hours and is very scenic. Once in Vienna, take the metro or a taxi to your hotel.

We recommend: Hotel am Stephensplatz. This hotel is located at Stephensplatz, one of the main squares of Vienna. Enjoy views out of your hotel window of Stephensdom, the church that is one of the icons of Vienna. From here, most of the main sites are within walking distance. If you need to take the metro, the station is literally just around the corner from the hotel. It does not get any more convenient or scenic than this!

Spend the afternoon touring the area around Stephensplatz. Go inside Stephensdom and climb the tower for some of the best views over Vienna. Walk down Graben, a famous shopping street, and make sure you visit Demel, famous for its gourmet chocolate and desserts.

Graben Central Europe Itinerary

Have an early dinner and then it is time to go to the opera!! The Vienna Opera is one of the premiere spots in the world to watch the opera and did you know that you can watch a performance here almost for free? Standing room tickets are sold for just a few euros…the perfect opportunity to tour this beautiful building and watch a world class opera performance in Europe.

End your day by having a slice of the world famous Sacher Torte at Cafe Sacher.

Read more about Vienna, and learn how to get those standing room only opera tickets in our article  Top Ten Vienna

Vienna Opera House Central Europe Itinerary

Day 5

Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Vienna at Night

Vienna has one of the best cafe scenes in all of Europe. Start your day by having a breakfast you will not soon forget at one of these cafes. We recommend Cafe Central.

Visit Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. For those who have been to Versailles, you may experience deja vu, as these two residences are very similar.

PRO TRAVEL TIP:  To avoid a long wait in line, book your tickets to Schonbrunn Palace in advance on the official website or take this skip-the-line guided tour of the Palace.

Schonbrunn Palace Central Europe Itinerary

Return to the heart of Vienna and continue your journey through the history of the Hapsburgs by visiting the Hofburg Palace (the home of the Hapsburgs) and the Kaisergruft (the crypt that holds the remains of the Hapsburgs).

Have dinner in town. After dinner, for an almost free tour of Vienna illuminated at night, take the tram along Ringstrasse, watching as the Opera, Hofburg Palace, Rathaus, and other famous buildings glide by.

Day 6

Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Belvedere Palace, Heuriger

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is home to works of art by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. The interior of the museum is just as impressive as the artwork.


After a leisurely lunch, tour the Belvedere Palace, which is the place to see artwork by Gustav Klimt.

From the Belvedere Palace it is a long tram ride out of the heart of Vienna to the Vienna Woods. Now you will be on the outskirts of Vienna and your tour of Vienna will end with a truly authentic Viennese experience.

Tonight, dine at a heuriger. A heuriger is a wine garden serving homemade wine and small meals of traditional Viennese foods. This is one of the best ways to get off of the tourist track and get a different glimpse of Vienna and its culture.

Heuriger Central Europe Itinerary

Day 7

Drive from Vienna to Prague, Visiting Cesky Krumlov Along the Way

Yes, you can take a train from Vienna to Prague, but you would be missing one of Europe’s lesser known  treasures…Cesky Krumlov. This requires renting a car for one day (or hiring a shuttle service) and driving from Vienna to Prague, but trust us, it is worth it!

From Vienna it is a two to three hour drive on the autobahn to the small, medieval town of Cesky Krumlov. On this itinerary, you have just a few hours to wander the streets of this quaint, little town, but it is just enough time…Prague is waiting.

Central Europe Itinerary Cesky Krumlov

About renting a car for this visit to Cesky Krumlov: Drop fees (the fee for picking up a rental car in one country and dropping it in a different country) have increased in recent years. You may find that the fee is just too expensive to rent a car in Vienna, visit Cesky Krumlov, and drop the car in Prague. Another way to do this is to take the train directly from Vienna to Prague and on a separate day, day trip to Cesky Krumlov by train, bus, shuttle, or rental car round trip from Prague.

Read our article How to Plan a Day Trip to Cesky Krumlov for full details.

From Cesky Krumlov, it is a two hour drive to Prague. Once in town, return your rental car. By now, it is most likely late afternoon. You have just enough time to visit the Old Town (Stare Mesto) and climb the Town Hall tower for amazing Prague views. Don’t miss the astronomical clock, which puts on a brief show at the top of every hour.

Prague Clock Central Europe Itinerary

End the day with a sunset walk across Charles Bridge.

We recommend: Hotel Paris Prague. Located just a few blocks from the Old Square, this beautiful hotel is in a prime location. It is clean, comfortable, and quiet. From here, you can walk to most of Prague’s main sites.

Day 8

Prague: Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Pub Crawl

Start your day by touring the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Visit the old Jewish cemetery and the Old New Synagogue (the oldest synagogue is central and eastern Europe).

Prague Jewish Cemetery

Prague is called the “Golden City of a Hundred Spires.” The best way to see this is by climbing the towers that dot Prague’s skyline. For one of the best views over Prague, climb the Old Town Tower Bridge, located at Charles Bridge. From here, get a bird’s eye view of Charles Bridge with Prague Castle forming the backdrop. It’s a great view!

Prague Itinerary

Walk across the Charles Bridge and enjoy the view. Take a quick detour to Lennonova Zed, also known as the Lennon Wall. Covered with ever-changing graffiti, this is one of the most colorful spots in Prague.

Have lunch at Coda Restaurant or Baracnicka Rychta before touring Prague Castle and  St. Vitus’ Cathedral.

End the day with a pub crawl in Prague. The Czech Republic brews fantastic beer and there’s no better place to sample it than in Prague. Popular spots are U Fleku, U Medvidku, and U Pinkasu.

Day 9

Prague: Powder Tower, Wenceslas Square, Petrin Tower

Ideas for things to do today include a climb up the Powder Tower for a different view of Prague, a walk up to Wenceslas Square (the sight of several uprisings in Prague during the past one hundred years), or a visit to the Mucha Museum for art lovers.

View from the Powder Tower

Powder Tower View Central Europe Itinerary

Spend the afternoon on a food tour of Prague and end the day at Petrin Tower for one, final amazing view over Prague.

Day 10

Depart Prague

Catch your flight home or continue on to your next destination.

When to Go to Central Europe

The best time to visit Budapest, Vienna, and Prague are during the spring and fall months. Weather is pleasant and tourist numbers are low. The weather is still very pleasant during the summer months but these cities can get very crowded. The winter months have bitterly cold temperatures and snow but very few tourists.

With More Time

Do you have more than 10 days? Here are some nearby destinations that you can add onto this central Europe itinerary, whether you have 1, 2, 3 or more days.

With one extra day:

Bratislava makes a great day trip from Vienna. Learn more in our post Top 10 Things to Do in Bratislava.

With two days:

Salzburg is 3 hours from Vienna. With two days, you can travel out to Salzburg, visit the town, spend the night in Salzburg, and then travel back to Vienna or continue to Prague. It takes 6 to 7 hours by train to travel to Prague, but another option is to spend more money for a direct shuttle service.

Get the full details on how to plan your visit to Salzburg in our post One Perfect Day in Salzburg.

With three days:

Add one more day onto your visit out to Salzburg and visit Hallstatt, a fairytale town that has become quite popular in recent years. Learn more about what to do and how to plan your time in our post One Perfect Day in Hallstatt.

Advice on Planning Your Central Europe Itinerary

If you are planning your central Europe itinerary, I recommend you read our article 7 Things to Know When Planning a Trip to Europe. In this article, get itinerary planning advice, including how to create an itinerary that lets you see what you want to see without being too rushed.

If you have any questions about this Central Europe Itinerary, let us know in the comment section below!

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Comments 300

  1. Hi Julie

    First of all a big thanks for this blog. Last time we refered your itinerary and visited Italy and it was a wonderful trip. Your itinerary was a simple and easy to follow. Once again thanks for that. I have suggested this webpage for couple of my friends as well and they loved it.

    This time we ( Me & my spouse ) are planning to visit central Europe. Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Bratislava for 10 days. Trip tentative dates from Dec 18 to Dec 29. But I have seen in your review that it’s bitterly cold at that time. So should we reschedule or change the location. I have heard that Christmas time is very beautiful in Prague and Christmas markets are wonderful. My wife love the Christmas lightings.

    Kindly reply your advises and dress requirements  when you have time

    Best Regards

    1. Post

      Hello John. Thanks for writing in. Yes, I have heard that central Europe can be very cold in December. And I have also heard that the Christmas markets are wonderful and I would love to see Prague at Christmas. I don’t mind the cold and I wouldn’t hesitate to go in December (in fact, we had planned to do just that in December 2020 but couldn’t with COVID). So, I think you are going at a great time, especially if you want to see the Christmas decorations. Just bring lots of warm clothing! 😊 Cheers, Julie

  2. Do the churches in Budapest, Salzburg, and Prague have attire restrictions, like the Vatican does? We’ll be going in summer (I know – hot!) and am wondering if we’ll need to plan to have shoulders covered and something other than shorts on our legs. Many thanks!

    1. Post

      That’s a great question. As far as I am aware, there are no attire restrictions. In Salzburg, I know that there are no attire restrictions, at least not in 2018. We were here on a 95 degree (Fahrenheit) day and we wore shorts and T-shirts. To be on the safe side, don’t wear a sleeveless shirt, or bring a shawl/scarf to put over your shoulders. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post

      You can get train prices on Rail Europe.com. And for hotels, you can search Booking.com. The prices you pay, especially for hotels, will depend on the season you are traveling and the level of hotel you want (budget vs midrange vs luxury). Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi, We love your website! We are looking at a Central Europe itinerary for a 17 day trip (including travel days to and from North America) to visit Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Salzburg and possibly a time a day trip to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg. How would you recommend adding the extra day’s to your itinerary? We would probably spend a couple more days in Vienna. Thank you so much and appreciate your time!

    1. Post

      There are several different ways that you can add Salzburg/Berchtesgaden to this itinerary. You could do this itinerary as it is written, add more time to Vienna, and travel out and back to Salzburg from here, spending a few days in the Salzburg area. So, Budapest -> Vienna -> Salzburg -> Vienna -> Prague. Or, you could do this as a loop. Budapest -> Vienna -> Prague -> Salzburg. From Salzburg, you could return to Vienna to fly home, or go to Munich and fly home from here. Finally, you could also go Budapest -> Vienna -> Salzburg -> Prague. All work well, but one of the factors to consider when making your decision are the flight options between your home town and these cities. You might have a direct connection to one or two of these cities, and there will most likely be a city or two on this list that is cheaper to fly to.

      Salzburg and Berchtesgaden each need a full day. Plus, you will need another full day to account for the travel time to get here. That puts you at 13 days. You can put your extra time into any of these cities on this list, consider a day trip or over night stay in Hallstatt, or you could spend a little time in Munich. It just depends on how quickly you want to move from place to place.

      Cheers, Julie

  4. Hello Julie,

    I am back again with more questions. What would you recommend being a more favorable Itinerary to keep my 2 teen boys happy and engaged ? Deciding between Hungary/Vienna/Prague or Balkan Trip(Croatia) ?

    1. Post

      That’s an easy one to answer. Definitely Croatia. Tyler and Kara loved our Balkan Peninsula trip and Tyler can’t wait to go back to Dubrovnik some day. Croatia is more about small towns, beaches, islands, hiking, and really good food. The central Europe itinerary is amazing, but it has a big focus on history and museums. So, I think your teenagers will like Croatia more. Cheers, Julie

      1. Hi Julie,

        Thank you so much for your valuable and timely feedback. Croatia it is !!! If we decide to add Slovakia to our Croatia trip and skip Bosnia, do you think that’s manageable in a 9-10 day trip ?

        Thank you for your insight and really enjoy your blog !!!

      2. Hi Julie !!
        Let me rephrase my question, what would be a good choice to add to Croatia travel ?
        Would you consider Slovenia and if you did would that be a good option for 2 teen boys ?
        Thank you so much Julie.. Appreciate your time and feedback sincerely!!!

        1. Post

          Take a look at our Balkan Peninsula itinerary. This is an 11 day trip, so you will have to take something out, which could be Bosnia. You could start and end in Dubrovnik and just take a day trip to Mostar if you really want to see Mostar. Another option is to start in Dubrovnik and work your way up the coast, visiting Split, an island or two, Krka National Park, and Plitvice Lakes. Return to Dubrovnik or continue to Zagreb. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
  5. Amazing article and amazing cities, enjoyed it, keep up the good work!
    Visited all three with my family last couple of years.
    Recently we spent beautiful Christmas at Vienna, you can check how magical Vienna really looks like during Christmas in our Youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaZrgC7Ag5s
    Also, I made ultimate guide to Vienna on my blog here: https://beautifulwanderlustlifestyle.blogspot.com/2020/01/christmas-in-vienna.html

  6. Hello~ Thank you or this great itinerary. I have a question about Budapest. Did you feel like by staying on the Buda side you were far from the city center in Pest? We’re travailing late March and if the weather is poor, we are trying to decide which side is best to stay on. Would you choose the Buda side again? We only have two days to explore Budapest.
    Thank you!

    1. Post

      We really liked staying on the Buda side because of the view of the Parliament from our hotel building. Yes, there is a little bit more to do on the Pest side, so it is more convenient to stay here. If you stay on the Buda side, you will need to walk, take the bus, take a taxi, or walk down to a metro station and then ride the metro in order to get to the Pest side. So, I guess you have to decide between convenience (stay in Pest) or, if you want a nice view, stay at the Hilton. Cheers, Julie

  7. We are thinking of renting a car for this itinerary. How difficult do you think would it be to drive this itinerary making it a round trip starting and ending in either Budapest or Prague? Would parking in the cities or small villages be difficult?

    1. Post

      Hello Juanita. Driving between the cities should be very easy. We have driven a lot in that part of Europe with no issues. But yes, parking can be the biggest challenge. However, their are parking lots and parking garages in each of these cities, and you could look into booking hotels that offer parking (sometimes hotels will offer free parking and others may charge you for parking…but if they have their own lot, that takes away from you searching for a parking space). Once in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna, you will not need a car, because it is a lot easier to walk or to use public transportation. I still think trains are the way to go, but if you like the idea of making this a road, then go for it! 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  8. At the end of the 3rd day in Budapest in your itinerary there is a highlighted caption- “2 days in Budapest: The perfect Itinerary”. If you click on this it gives you an itinerary that is somewhat different than your time in Budapest. Would you recommend following this itinerary or your original itinerary which isn’t specified with the time of day.

    1. Post

      You are correct, the two itineraries are a little bit different. The two day itinerary (the separate post) packs a lot in to two days and you get to see a little more. This two day itinerary works great if you get in late into Budapest, or are just exhausted and can’t do much sightseeing the first day. Cheers, Julie

  9. Thanks for your response Julie !!! Love reading your blog, very informative and well organized !!! Hope you have a wonderful New Year. Looking forward to seeing adventures for 2020.

  10. Hello Julie.. I have been enjoying reading your travel experiences and this one to Central Europe is no exception.
    My husband and I would like to take our boys 14 and 12 and were considering either during Easter Break or Thanksgiving break.
    What do you think would be a better time ?
    Thank you for your time !!!

    1. Post

      I think both would be a good time to go. When Tim and I did this trip, it was at the end of April, right after Easter, in 2011. It was a wonderful experience. The weather was great for sightseeing (not to hot, not too cold). Over Easter Break, you will have some crowds, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. Over Thanksgiving Break, it will be chillier, but you won’t have as many crowds. I guess you have to decide between good weather and bigger crowds in April vs. chillier temps but smaller crowds in November. Cheers, Julie

  11. Hello Julie

    A superb and informative travel blog; we are planning to travel Budapest, Vienne & Prague in May2020. And I notice there is no direct flight either fly to Budapest or Prague or Vienne, which mean we need to set the start/end point in closeby country, may i ask which country will be the best starting point, where i can spend 1-2 days before heading to those 3 countries, cheers

    1. Post

      If you can get a flight to Munich, you could go Munich -> Prague -> Vienna -> Budapest. If you get a flight to Berlin, you could go Berlin -> Prague -> Vienna -> Budapest. Those two cities (Berlin and Munich) have large international airports so hopefully you will have more luck with one of those. Cheers, Julie

  12. Thank you Julie for sharing your experience. I am planning our Central Europe tour next spring with our 13 & 20 yr old children. My husband and I were thinking if we will join a tour or do it by ourselves. We did a Western European tour last time by ourselves and it is quite exhausting. But reading your blog, I am inspired to do it again by ourselves. Do you think it will also be cheaper than joining a tour? Our tour will start from Munich, is it better to go Vienna, Prague and Budapest?

    1. Post

      Hello Maria. In general, it is cheaper to do it on your own rather than taking a tour. When you take a tour, you pay a little extra for the convenience of having everything pre-arranged and to have a guide. Planning a trip on your own will take more time on your end, since you have to book hotels, trains, etc, but you also have a lot more control over where you stay and where you go. I also think it’s a lot nicer traveling on your own, rather than in a group.

      If you start in Munich, I think the best order would be Prague -> Vienna -> Budapest. So, take the train from Munich to Prague and then do this itinerary in the reverse order. Have fun planning your trip and let us know if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

  13. Hi,

    We are travelling from SFO to vienna (round trip). I love your itinerary. However can we do Vienna – Budapest – Prague and back to Vienna? can we do it on a 10 day trip?

    Thank you!

    1. Post

      Hi Claudette, if you need to backtrack then I would just recommend checking the train schedule to see how much time it will take. If this is done during the day then you’ll need to cut out something from the itinerary. If you can find an evening or late train back to your starting city then that could reduce the amount of time you lose from sightseeing. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post

      Hello, we are not a travel agency so we do not book tours/travel. This is an itinerary to help you plan your own trip. Feel free to share it with a travel agent who can give you a quote. Cheers, Julie

  14. Hello again Julie.
    1)I am planning my trip and want to know when I take the train from Budapest to Vienna, do I need to make train reservations while here in the USA or can I wait until I get to Budapest and ask for assistance at my hotel. Also, when I arrive at the Vienna train station do I need to make taxi reservations in advance or can I ask my hotel(Stephenplatz) in Vienna if they have a shuttle to pick me up at the train station?
    2) Should I get my tickets to see the parliament in Budapest while here in the USA or can I get tickets when I arrive in Budapest? Can I purchase the Prague castles tickets in advance?
    3) Can I get standing room tickets at the Vienna opera house while here in the USA or do I have to wait 2 hours in line to get tickets before the show….I am going in early April if that helps with your answer.

    1. Post

      Hello Larry. I recommend booking your Parliament tickets and your train tickets in advance. An easy website to use for train tickets is RailEurope.com. Once in Vienna, it’s very easy and cheap to take the metro from the train station right to Stephensplatz. Your hotel can tell you which metro line to take. Or, you could walk outside the train station and take a taxi, but the metro is so easy to use that I would recommend this instead. I believe that you have to wait in line for the opera tickets, there’s no way to get them in advance (that I know of) unless you actually purchase a non-standing room only ticket. Cheers, Julie

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