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. Just found your site & it is a godsend! I am in the planning stages to take my oldest to Europe after HS graduation. (Mother/son trip).
    Planning for early June. He loves history (especially WWII) and is drawn areas like Slovakia, Czech Republic, & Poland.
    Thank you for all the time & effort you have given in order to share your itineraries.
    We had been considering a tour, but I think any of your itineraries would be far better!
    A huge Texas thanks!!👍🏻

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  2. Hi Julie,

    Me and my friends are planning our trip to Central Europe and I came across your article (as well as a few previous articles on rental cars, etc.), and you are an absolute life saver! I think this is a wonderful itinerary, and we will definitely be leveraging a lot from it. We plan to Travel from Dec 23 to Jan 3, and will be renting a car. Currently we plan to fly into Munich, and our preliminary schedule is Munich -> Prague -> Vienna -> Budapest -> Vienna -> Salzburg -> Munich. We will spend roughly 2 days at each location, with the exception of Salzburg.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this itinerary, and any recommendations. Is there a specific city that you’d recommend we stay at for Christmas and New Years?

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      Hello Travis. The order of your itinerary works very well. It looks like you can time your visit to be in Prague for Christmas. Prague is a magical city and I think that it would be wonderful to be here on Christmas day. As for New Years Eve, it looks like you could be in Vienna, Salzburg, or Munich. All three would be nice, but Salzburg seems like it would be the quieter of the three cities. You could do a Google search for each of these cities to see what their plans are to celebrate New Years Eve, and use this to help you make your decision. Have a nice trip! Cheers, Julie

  3. W air from Tampa and connections included please. Prague Vienna Budapest in any order. Leave around 28Apr2020 for around 10 days. Let me know please.

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      Hello Steve. We are not a tour company so we don’t arrange travel. You can use this itinerary to book your trip or share it with a travel agent. Cheers, Julie

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      Hello Sapangeet. In November, it will be cold and sometimes rainy. However, these places will not be crowded with other tourists since it is the off season. The earlier in November you can visit, the warmer it will be. If you only have 8 days (I saw your other question) I recommend eliminating either Budapest or Prague. With 8 days, you do not have enough time to visit all three of these cities. Here is some info for you to read about the visa. Cheers, Julie

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      That depends on your country of origin. If you are from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, other European countries, and a handful of other countries in the world, then no, you do not need a Visa if you are staying for 90 days or less. There are countries that do require visas. If you do not have a passport from one of the countries that I listed, a quick Google search will give you your answer. Cheers, Julie

  4. Looks like a well planned trip but I have a few questions.
    1) Three different countries, so should I take Euros, US dollars, or each country’s currency? Can I use a credit card for all or some. What do you recommend?
    2) Will a US passport get me between each country quickly or do I have to go through customs with approximate wait times(if customs visit needed).
    3) Are the Rick Steve travel guides on each of the three countries worth getting or are other sources recommended?
    Are AAA maps worth getting?

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      Hello Larry. I just answered your other question first. I now see that you have a USA passport so you do not need a visa. Crossing the border between Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic are like crossing the borders of states in the US…no need to show your passport or identification. There are no border checks between these countries. However, you will go through passport control and customs when entering Europe and exiting Europe. How quickly you move through this just depends on the line at the airport. For the most part, yes, you can use a credit card for most of your transactions. This makes it easier, since each country uses a different currency. You can’t expect to use the euro in Prague and Budapest. Once you get into these two cities, it’s worth taking out a little bit of cash at the ATM, about the equivalent of $100 USD is more than enough, if you plan to use a credit card. We use Visa and Mastercard without any issues throughout Europe. We also have a Chase bank card that allows us to withdraw money at ATM’s without a penalty. Yes, I think the Rick Steves guides are great. We do his walking tours quite a bit. I don’t think you need AAA maps. If you have a smartphone, use Google Maps. If you cache the map while on wifi at your hotel, you can use this map during the day to get around. Plus, there are maps in the Rick Steves books as well. Cheers, Julie

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      This is not a tour, it is an article to help you plan an independent trip to Europe. A travel agent can book this for you if you show them the itinerary. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi, Do you have an idea of the rough cost of this itinerary? Before I go pricing out hotels and trains, thought I’d ask what you spent with meals and sightseeing too.
    Thank you!

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      The cost depends a lot on the time of year you visit, your traveling style (budget vs. mid-range vs. luxury), and how far out you are planning your trip. As a very rough estimate, for two people in Europe with a mid-range budget, we typically spend $400 – $500 USD per day ($200 – $250 for a hotel room (but this can vary A LOT), $100 – $150 for meals, the rest for transportation and activities). Cheers, Julie

  6. Great info! Just discovered your site recently and have been reading up on your articles! We are a family of for also and have been traveling with our kids who are now 11/13. I was planning on doing Vienna, Budapest, Prague with a tour group like Trafalgar ( never have done one) but not sure if we should do on our own for these three cities? I was more do-it-yourself when I didn’t have kids but just now just want to have a smooth vacation. Any advice whether these three cities are good to do without a tour company? Thanks!!!

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      Hello Mona. If you have been a do-it-yourselfer in the past, I see no reason why you couldn’t do the same thing on this trip. It requires more up front planning, such as booking hotels and transportation, but you will also save money and be on your own rather than in a group with other people. This itinerary hopefully makes your planning a lot easier. Each city has an excellent transportation network, many people speak English, and they are safe. You could start the planning process (look at flights, hotels, and trains) and if you get overwhelmed, hire a tour company. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

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