Prague or Budapest: Which city should you visit?
Making the decision to visit one city or country instead of another is challenging sometimes. Of course, if we had all the time and money in the world, I’m sure most of us would choose to travel to every city on our bucket list, but limited funds and vacation days can require tough itinerary decisions! When considering central European destinations, lots of visitors want to go to Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Prague, and Budapest, among other cities, but I’ve seen a lot of people debate whether to go to Prague or Budapest because they don’t have time for both destinations. I’m going to give you my take on each city to help you make that decision by comparing them in areas like costs, food, attractions, nightlife, and more! Each city is unique (despite their similar classification as central European capitals), and I hope you have the chance to visit both at some point!
Prague vs Budapest: Things to do
Whether you visit Prague or Budapest, each of these cities feature similar attractions, like medieval castles and churches, iconic bridges, and museums that address their common Soviet pasts.
Prague: There are a number of things to do in Prague, but the city is perhaps best known for its picturesque Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, and the graffiti’d John Lennon Wall.
- The Old Town Square is in the center of the old city, and it features the famous medieval astronomical clock, located on the Old Town Hall building. The square is absolutely beautiful, lined with pastel buildings that are home to restaurants and bars.
- The Charles Bridge connects the old town and the “new” town, offering beautiful views of the city. There are normally a number of street entertainers and artists along the bridge.
- Prague Castle is another major tourist attraction in Prague. Although the castle is interesting and historically significant, I found it somewhat underwhelming (especially compared to other famous castles in the region).
- St Vitus cathedral is a beautiful old church located next to Prague Castle.
- Wenceslas Square is another major square, lined with shops and restaurants.
- There are a number of interesting museums, including the Jewish museum, located in the historic Jewish ghetto, the Communism Museum, and the National Museum.
- The John Lennon Wall is probably one of the most Instagrammed parts of Prague- it is a graffiti’d wall featuring messages of love and peace. Apparently the wall has been used for this purpose since the Czech Republic was part of the Soviet Union.
Budapest: Budapest offers some similar attractions, like old castles, churches, and museums, but there are also some unique things to do in Budapest!
- St. Stephen’s Basilica and Matthias Church are two beautiful old churches located on either side of the city.
- Buda Castle is a magnificent old castle that now houses the Hungarian National Gallery.
- Thermal baths- There are a number of public thermal baths located throughout Budapest. One of the most popular is the Széchenyi thermal bath, which I enjoyed when I visited! A lot of these baths are ornately decorated and frequented by both tourists and locals!
- The Fisherman’s Bastion is an old fort located on the Buda side of the city! From the fortress, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Hungarian Parliament building (which is another must-see if you’re in Budapest!)
- Margaret Island is a peaceful island that serves as a public park in the middle of the Danube.
- The Chain Bridge connects Buda and Pest, and lots of people enjoy walking across it for great views of the city!
- There are a number of museums that history buffs may enjoy, like the House of Terror, which focuses on Nazi and Soviet impacts in Hungary, and the Aquincum Museum, which focuses on an excavated Roman bath.
- Check out my blog about things to do in Budapest for more!
Prague vs Budapest: Food
Prague and Budapest both feature excellent examples of Czech and Hungarian cuisine (respectively).
Local dishes that you can’t miss in Prague are:
- Trdelník – also known as chimney cake – a sweet cone of dough roasted over a pit and coated in cinnamon and sugar (and sometimes filled with ice cream!).
- Guláš – Goulash – heartwarming stew often served wth bread dumplings.
- Pilsner – beer from the Czech Republic!
Food you can’t miss in Budapest:
- Goulash – again! Both cities are known for their goulash.
- Lángos- Hungarian fried bread topped with savory things like cheese, onions, and bacon! Bonus points if you get this at the Great Market Hall, a giant market selling Hungarian goods in Pest.
- Anything made with paprika- it’s everywhere!
- Palinka – Hungarian fruit-flavored brandy.
Prague vs Budapest: Nightlife
If you’re a partier trying to decide between Prague or Budapest, you may have a tough decision ahead of you! Both cities have vibrant nightlife, but I personally prefer Budapest because of its unique offerings.
Nightlife in Prague:
- There are a number of giant nightclubs in Prague if you like to go out late and dance. One of the most famous is Karlovy lázně, but I personally found it gross and certainly not worth a visit! The people there were all either very creepy or very drunk when I went. Check somewhere else out if you go to Prague and want to dance!
- There are some cool themed bars in Prague, like AnonymouS Bar, where bartenders serve seriously creative drinks in anonymous masks.
Nightlife in Budapest
- Ruin bars. Budapest nightlife will always be my favorite because of the ruin bars, which are previously abandoned buildings turned into nightlife hubs. Some ruin bars are chill, nice places to grab a drink with friends, while others are funhouses with crazy themes and packed dance floors. My favorite ruin bar in Budapest was Instant, but Szimpla Kert is very famous as well. You definitely have to go to a ruin pub if you visit Budapest!
- Budapest is known for (relatively) cheap alcohol! According to this article from the Telegraph, drinks in Budapest cost about half as much as they do in other major European cities.
Prague vs Budapest – Practical Information: Safety, Getting Around, and Costs
When making the decision to visit Prague or Budapest, it’s important to consider the practicalities that may impact your stay.
Safety in Prague
Although we had no major issues, something was just a little off about my trip to Prague. I was traveling with two other girls, and we just found the vibe in the city to be a little off putting at night. We were used to being catcalled in Paris, but in Prague, we felt like people were always watching us, and we saw a lot of seedy encounters. However, my experience wasn’t so bad that I wouldn’t return. Prague was much more touristy than Budapest in my opinion, so I kept vigilant watch over my purse when we were out and about in case of pickpockets.
Safety in Budapest
I felt completely safe when I was in Budapest. My friends and I went out until all hours of the morning, and we never once felt unsafe. Compared to our experience in Prague, Budapest felt so much safer (and less touristy).
Getting Around in Prague vs Budapest
Both cities have great public transportation, but they’re both very walkable, so we hardly ever needed to take the metro or a bus! We did take public transportation to get to the baths in Budapest, and we thought it was safe, efficient, and clean.
Cost of Visiting Prague or Budapest
I found the prices in Prague and Budapest for food, attractions, and transport much cheaper than in Paris or London. Budapest was a little less expensive than Prague, but I thought both were relatively inexpensive compared to some other major European destinations.
Language Barriers in Prague vs Budapest
Plenty of people speak English in both Prague and Budapest, so you shouldn’t have much trouble if you’re an English-speaker.
Prague vs Budapest: Final Thoughts
Whether you visit Prague or Budapest, you’ll have a trip filled with beautiful architecture, good food, and fun nights out. If I had to choose between Prague or Budapest, I would personally choose Budapest because I loved visiting the thermal baths and going out to the ruin bars, and I felt like Budapest was a little less touristy. On the other hand, Prague is often described as a fairytale city straight out of a Disney movie because it’s so beautiful! Now that you know what each city has to offer for nightlife, things to do, and food (as well as the practical things you need to know before you go), hopefully you can make a decision that fits your travel preferences!
Have you visited Prague or Budapest? What did you like? If you’ve visited both, which did you prefer?
Heading to Europe this summer? Check out this packing list guide!