Julie Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Itinerary 294 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. If the date and time you prefer is sold out for your visit, you can also purchase skip-the-line tickets through Get Your Guide. 

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.

Kunsthistorisches

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:

Top 10 Things to do in Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava makes a great day trip from Vienna.

With two days:

One Perfect Day in Salzburg, Austria

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.

With three days:

One Perfect Day in Hallstatt, Austria

Add one more day onto your Salzburg day trip to visit Hallstatt, a fairytale town that has become quite popular in recent years.

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 294

  1. 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
      Author

      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

  2. 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
      Author

      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
          Author

          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
      Author
  3. 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

  4. 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
      Author

      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

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