Central Europe Itinerary

10 Day Central Europe Itinerary: Budapest, Vienna, & Prague

Julie Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Itinerary 173 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.

10 Day Itinerary Prague Vienna Budapest

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. 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 Parliament

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

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.

Walk back to the Danube by way of the pedestrian street, turn right once you get to the Danube River, and walk along the promenade. In a few blocks you will arrive at “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 walk along the Danube to Parliament. Take a tour of Parliament, learn more about Hungarian history, and view another gorgeous Budapest building.

Day 3

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

Start your day by walking 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.

The House of Terror Museum is hardcore. This museum is one of the best museums we have ever been to. 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

Take a detour to the New York Cafe for lunch. This is an opulent cafe in Budapest, the perfect place for fancy drinks and fancy food. This is the perfect antidote after your shocking history lesson at the House of Terror.

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.


See Also:  2 Days in Budapest: The Perfect Itinerary


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

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.


See Also:  Top Ten Vienna


Vienna Opera House

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.

Schonbrunn Palace

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

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


For full details on visiting Cesky Krumlov, including how to arrange transportation between Vienna, Cesky Krumlov, and Prague, read our post: How to Plan a Day Trip to Cesky Krumlov.


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

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.


See Also:  13 Must-Have Experiences in Prague


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

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.


Do you have plans to travel to Central Europe? If you have any questions, leave a comment below!

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Comments 173

  1. Is there a way to print this wonderful article? We are going to Budapest (non-stop RT from ORD) and planning to visit Prague, Vienna and Bratislava too. We’ll be gone for 12 days and this is a perfect itinerary. Thanks so much for you attention to detail!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Jennifer. You can print this article (but it will include the ads unfortunately). In Google chrome, you can print copies of our articles as a pdf. Go to file –> Print –> open PDF in preview –> and then print a copy. Just to warn you, it’s a lot of pages but you can pick and choose the ones you need. For example, skip the pages with a lot of photos. I have plans to make shorter copies of our itineraries and make them available as PDF’s but I can never find the time to do this. Maybe someday… Have fun in Europe! Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi julie, we are a group of 5 adults planning to visit Eastern Europe end of october 2019 to experience the fall season. We would like to do some day trips and out door seeing to Berchtegarden and Eagle’s net from Salzburg beside visiting the big cities. Will the weather be too chilly in the month of october or should we go in the month of september.
    Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Lai. That depends on what you mean by “chilly.” Last year we visited Berlin, Germany at the very end of September. It’s not in the mountains, like Salzburg, but temperatures were very comfortable. I wore long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and at times a jacket and I was just fine. I think October would be a great time to go, like you said, to catch the fall colors. Just pack a few layers to keep you warm, but I wouldn’t think that it would be cold (other than nighttime). Cheers, Julie

  3. Good day! We loved your blog post and we are considering doing most of what was done here. Was wondering if you did this all on your own or if you had an agent help you? We were looking a companies like Monograms and Avalon Waterways…but the dates do not align with our needs. Would love to hear your advice.

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, we did this all on our own. It takes extra time to plan the trip yourself, but you will probably save some money and learn about where you are going before your trip actually starts. You will need to book your flights, hotels, and train tickets in advance. Flights are the trickiest part, because there can be so many options, which is good and bad. We do a preliminary search on Kayak and then usually book directly on the airline’s website (and sometimes even get the flights cheaper). Sometimes sliding your trip a few days can save hundreds of dollars. Once you have your flights picked out, you can tweak the itinerary and then book hotels and trains. We have never used a travel agent or tour company to plan a whole trip so I don’t really know what that experience would be like. If you have any further questions please let us know! Cheers, Julie

  4. Hello Julie! I am so glad I found your blog!! Next fall me and my friends our planning a trip to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. My biggest question is, for someone who isn’t well traveled would it be best to book this trip through a tour package like Gate 1 or is this something we can totally plan and book ourselves? Is the costs a lot different between the two ideas? Any guidance would be much appreciated!

    Thanks! Ronalee

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Ronalee. I am not familiar with Gate 1, however, if you book a tour, in general, you will pay more for the convenience of having everything arranged for you. Booking this trip is something you can do on your own but it will take some time. You will need to book your flights, hotels, and trains in advance. It’s a good skill to have, especially if you plan on traveling more in the future. Since you are doing this with friends, you can all share the “work” of planning…and it’s kind of fun…it will force you to learn a little about where you are going and what there is to see. I personally think planning your own trip is much more rewarding than signing up for a tour package, but that’s just my traveling style. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hello Julie – your itinerary is so helpful! We hope to leverage as much as possible. We have a few questions and hope you can help:
    1. If we reverse the direction to arrive Prague first and finish in Budapest, would that be a similar experience?
    2. We love classical music and plan to go to opera and recitals in Vienna. Would you suggest we purchase tickets ahead, or is it quite easier to get tickets?
    3. Instead of going to Cesky Krumlov, we hope to spend a day hiking the mountains or cycling along the Danube, if possible. Is there a town close by this route that we can do that? We also do not want to go to Salzburg as we heard it is quite commercialized.
    Would appreciate your input!
    Winifred

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Winifred. Yes, the experience will be the same regardless of the order you choose. For the music recitals, I would recommend purchasing them in advance, because there is always the chance that they could sell out. The only thing we did in Vienna was the opera, and you can reserve these standing room tickets the day of the performance. But for other music recitals, I think it would be best to reserve them in advance if possible. For hiking, take a look at Bohemia Switzerland in the Czech Republic near Germany. This is a great hiking spot and maybe it could be a day trip from Prague. We did the Bastei Bridge on the German side but the whole area is beautiful. Other than that, I am not familiar with hikes in the Czech Republic so you might want to Google search more options. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie. We are thinking of following your Budapest Vienna Prague itinerary next summer. We would be adding in 4 days to go to a moto gp race in Spielberg Austria. Few questions. You had no problems renting a car, travelling and returning it in another country? Would you recommend a stop in Bratislavia if we have an extra day?
    Thank you. Miriam

    1. Post
      Author

      In the past few years, the fee to drop a car in a different country than your starting country has gone up. It’s possible to rent a car in one country and drop it in another, but you need to check the fee to see if it is worth it.

      Yes, Bratislava is worth it if you have another day. We were just there 10 days ago and I really liked it. It’s very small and you can see everything in just one day. At some point, I will be publishing an article about it. We are currently on a big European tour and I have not had much time to write recently. But we will have SO MUCH more info on our site about Europe soon. By the way, we rented a car in Bratislava and will be returning it in Switzerland.

      Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for all the informative itineraries. I am deployed on work at Amsterdam for 2 months and was making a plan for my husband to join me for about a week’s time in Sep first week. I was looking at the possibility of covering at-least 3-4 places from Amsterdam. The train routes I found were either towards Switzerland or Germany via Cologne but not both – both of us have seen Paris and don’t want to include that in the plan. I found your plan to visit Budapest – Vienna and Prague interesting .
    Are there any other itineraries you would suggest? We will have 2 weekends and a week in between roughly. Any suggestions will be useful, as I am quite lost and don’t know where to begin planning!
    Have a great day!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Anu. There are so many great places to choose from in Europe, aren’t there? The Budapest – Vienna – Prague itinerary is a great trip. With one week of travel with a weekend on either side you have enough time to do this (plus you won’t have to deal with jet lag!). We have not been to Switzerland yet, so we won’t be much help there. We also have a Bavaria itinerary you could take a look at. You could do Oktoberfest while you are there. Another option would be Poland. We are here right now (just arrived last night) and will be visiting Gdansk, Warsaw, and Krakow. We won’t have an itinerary published in time for your trip but should have some info up about the cities this summer. If you haven’t seen it, you can also take a look at our Itinerary page for more inspiration. Cheers, Julie

    2. I am a solo traveller, booked from 30 August to 15 September for holidays in Budapest, Vienna and Prague, out of which will spend 8 nights in Budapest (on account of advance, non-refundable payment to my hotel there). Can you suggest the best one-day trips from Budapest? I love both old towns and nature. Also, should I expect temperatures in the 20’s in the three cities I’m visiting?

      Many thanks.

      Arshad

      1. Post
        Author

        Hello. From what I can find online, temperatures average in the high teens to low 20’s in September. Here is a post where you can learn more about day trips from Budapest. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  8. Hello

    Would you recommend this 10 day trip for a solo traveler? I am looking for a little excursion. I was thinking of just going to Paris but wanted to do something new. Also planning to go end of August. Any information/help/budget would be most helpful! Thanks so much.

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, you could do this as a solo traveler. I think that anything in Europe would be great for a solo traveler. If you like Paris, you will probably love these 3 cities. We like to book our trains and hotels in advance, and August will be peak travel season, so I would recommend doing this. Since you will be solo, you could stay in hostels to save money, if you are traveling on a budget. Cheers, Julie

  9. Is it possible to do (no necessarily in this order) Prague, Bratislava, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Budapest and Ljubljana (Slovenia) in about 14 days? If so, what would you do as an itinerary? I was hoping to get in Hallstatt as a day trip from Salzburg and Bratislava as a stop between Prague and Budapest for a day to cut up the time between the cities. I realize this may be rushed, but I am young and able to walk a lot.

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s funny that you ask this! We are going to Bratislava, Hallstatt, and Ljubljana/Slovenia this summer (all new spots for us). I think 14 days is enough time. You really just need one full day for Salzburg and Hallstatt, and even Bratislava. Put the most time into Prague and Budapest. Ljubljana needs a day or two. If you have 2 days in Ljubljana, you really just need one day to tour the city. With your second day, take a day trip to Lake Bled. With a 3rd day you can see more of Slovenia (which looks amazing!). Before I lay out an itinerary, you should look into flights. You may find that it’s cheap and easy to fly to Prague or Budapest but Ljubljana and Salzburg are more expensive. If you narrow down your start and end points I’d be happy to lay out a sample itinerary for you. Cheers, Julie

    2. Hi !
      Need some kind help here…We made an itinerary for 10 days trip to the eastern part..is the following itinerary possible? or could you please suggest some expert tips on this? or add some interesting but lesser known place to see? and lastly can we somehow manage to see Cesky Krumlov in this itinerary? (sorry for shooting too many questions at one go !) here is the itinerary from day 1 to 10.
      Vienna (arrival) – Vienna – to Bratislava then Budapest – Budapest- Krakow (arrival) – Krakow- Czech Republic (overnight at Brno) -Prague- Salzburg – Vienna (for departure later on that day)
      We will be coming from Doha.

      Thanks in advance 🙂

      1. Post
        Author

        It’s possible, but it is extremely fast. You are going to spend more of your trip traveling than visiting cities. I’d eliminate at least one city from this itinerary. Krakow needs a bare minimum of 2 full days (1 day for the city, 1 day for Auschwitz) and Budapest and Prague also need a minimum of 2 days (not including travel time). I know it’s tempting to squeeze a lot in, but from someone who has traveled a lot, it’s better to take some time and really experience each place, rather than skipping right through them. On our 10 day itinerary, you could squeeze in Bratislava or Salzburg, but even then it will be a whirlwind tour. Cheers, Julie

  10. Hi there,
    Your blog is so helpful! I am travel deprived, with an extensive list of places I’d like to visit. Scotland, Norway, and this itinerary at the top. I was originally thinking Prague, Vienna, Budapest, but recently am wondering if it would make sense to exclude Prague and instead try to see some of Bavaria. For example Budapest, Vienna, Munich? Flights from FL to this region of the world are pricey and unfortunately I believe I would have to fly in and out of the same airport with lots of train travel in between. I have about 10 days at the end of Aug. I’d like to see WWII history, Klimt art, timber framed architecture, and possibly get some hiking in. I am also contemplating Vienna zoo. I appreciate any advice on the idea. Thank you for your time and expertise!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Allison. Yes, you could do Budapest, Vienna, and Munich. You can get Klimt at the Belvedere in Vienna and WWII history in lots of places, but Budapest is great for this and so is Berchtesgaden, Germany with the Eagle’s Nest and Documentation Center, and Dachau in Munich. Plus, you can go hiking around Berchtesgaden and in Bavaria. Vienna and Budapest each need 2 days. With a day of travel on either end you have 4 days left for Germany. You could stay in Munich and take day trips to Dachau, Romantic Road, and Berchtesgaden. You could also do this from Salzburg, but the Romantic Road would be far away and so you’d have to skip this (but you could add in a day trip to Hallstatt instead). To take the day trips, you could rent a car or join a tour. Dachau is easy to visit from Munich using public transportation. Feel free to ask us more questions after you read this. Cheers, Julie

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