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.


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 Julie
    Thanks for sharing this itinerary. I am planning to stick to almost the same route in reverse order in mid August. Could you please share if it was necessary to book the train journeys in advance or are tickets available on arrival at the train station? Also in terms of planning, where can one find the train timings?

    1. Post

      Hello Ashok. We booked our train journeys in advance, just to make sure we had seats. This might not be necessary, but we feel more comfortable knowing that we have this arranged ahead of time. You can look at train timetables and book tickets on raileurope.com. Also, the Man in Seat 61 is an awesome website for all you need to know about train travel in Europe. Cheers, Julie

  2. Will most places accept euros in Prague? We are going to Paris, as well as Prague. Would you recommend us exchanging dollars for Czech Koruna or would euros suffice? Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hello Beth. For Prague, you will need to pay with Czech Koruna. Unfortunately, most places do not readily accept euros. Cheers, Julie

  3. I’m thinking about booking a 10-day trip to Prague for my son as a graduation gift. He wants to go somewhere solo. In your opinion, would this be a safe trip for a solo traveler? I’m wondering if I should just book the trip to Prague and let him decide if while there he wants to grab a train to Vienna and/or Budapest. Thoughts?
    Thanks so much!!!

    1. Post

      Yes, I think that Prague would be fine for a solo traveler. Tim and I felt very safe here, no issues what so ever. Many places in Europe are safe and great for solo travelers. He will have to be on his guard about pickpocketing as this is the most common crime faced by tourists (and can happen in any city). Cheers, Julie

    2. hey i am from Pakistan planning to make a solo trip from budapest, vienna and Prague in 2020. Kindly give details in terms of dates, cost and schedule

      1. Post

        Hello. We are not a tour company and we do not run tours. This itinerary is here to help you plan an independent trip to central Europe. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi Julie

    I’m Sira from Bangkok, Thailand.
    I have read your articles and itineraries and found these very useful for my honeymoon trip in October ’19.

    I will be traveling to Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava during 11-22 October, with my wife and I will use rental car, pick-up and drop-off at Prague International Airport.

    Below is my rough itinerary and grateful if you could suggest what I should focus more, what you would suggest to do, or change the plan, etc.

    11Oct: 11AM Land at Prague, ,drive to Cesky Krumlov and stay 1 night
    12Oct: Tour at Cesky Krumlov and depart for Salzburg around 3PM, stay 2 nights in Salzburg.
    13Oct: Tour at Salzburg, overnight in Salzburg.
    14Oct: 08.30 depart for Hallstatt, tour at Hallstatt and depart for Vienna around 3PM, stay 2 nights in Vienna.
    15Oct: Tour at Vienna, overnight in Vienna.
    16Oct: Tour at Vienna and Depart for Budapest around 3PM, stay 2 nights in Budapest.
    17Oct: Tour at Budapest, overnight in Budapest.
    18Oct: Budapest tour and depart for Bratislava around 4PM, stay 1 night in Bratislava.
    19Oct: Bratislava tour and depart for Prague around 5PM, return the car, stay 3 nights in Prague.
    20-21Oct: Prague tour
    22Oct: 11:00 flight back

    Feel free to suggest as you see best!


    1. Post

      Hello Sira. I’m glad we could help you out. I think that your itinerary looks good. I wouldn’t change anything. In several of the larger cities (Budapest, Prague, and Vienna) you won’t have a whole lot of time, which I guess you know, you’ll just have to be choosy about what you see and do in these places. Cheers, Julie

      1. Really appreciate your feedback. Yes, i have to be choosy for the whole trip! Have a great day!


  5. HI Julie, my husband and I are planning to do central Europe in September and adriatic cruise around croatia. I looked at tours and small boat cruise. The price is $4500pp. Upon reading your itinerary plan, I am thinking of doing it on our own, We have travelled in Europe and other palces and travel independently most of the times.
    Do you recommend any of the small croatia cruises which hold 30 to 50 passengers. compared to Viking, Avalon river cruises?
    We are thinking of catching cruise in Dubronik and end is Dubronik as we want to stay 2-3 days in Medjurgorge .
    Thanks, Suzette

    1. Post

      Hello Suzette. Sorry, I don’t know anything about the Croatian cruises since we have not done this. However, it sounds wonderful. But traveling independently through central Europe should save you lots of money. Sorry I can’t provide more info! Cheers, Julie

  6. Perfect timing to find this article. Husband and I are planning our 1 year anniversary trip to Central Europe. We’ve decided that Prague is definitely on our list but funny we did not even consider Budapest and Vienna. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Post
  7. Hey! I am planning to travel from India (family of 4) reaching Vienna anytime between 1-20 June. Could you please mail me the details of this particular tour including prices and transfer dates. Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hello Khushboo. Sorry, this is not a tour, just an article to help people plan a 10 day trip through these cities. You can book this on your own or have a travel agent do it for you. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
    1. Post

      You can start in Prague and end in Budapest. Just swap the order of the cities. Nothing comes to mind to be aware off, just try to allocate the same number of days to each city. Cheers, Julie

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