Central Europe Vacation: A New Side to the Old World
I’ve seen London. I’ve seen France. So what’s next?
Recently my husband and I felt that all-too-familiar longing to visit Europe once again but this time we wanted to cover new ground. Like many Americans, we’d explored the usual suspects: France, Spain, Italy, and the U.K. And like most of the world, we were on a budget. We began to shop for a budget-friendly European vacation and quickly landed on Central Europe.
Bye-bye Paris. Hello Prague!
With the help of online travel advice and reviews, we settled on a 10-day itinerary that included Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. And what ensued was one of my favorite vacations we’ve ever taken. In fact, from a planning perspective, it was incredibly easy since all three countries are connected by high-speed trains. Plus, only Vienna is on the euro and that helped keep our costs down.
Here’s a quick look at each destination and how much time you probably need in each city.
One of the biggest mistakes we made when planning our trip was allotting too much time in Prague. For years we had heard our friends rave about it and we assumed this meant there was a lot to do there. There is not. That’s not to say we didn’t love Prague. We did. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it’s low on museums, historic sights, and attractions. What it does have is pubs and parks and cafes and plenty of expats doing a whole lot of nothing.
My advice is to learn a few words of Czech, book a hotel in the center of things (though avoid Wenceslas Square), and get ready to enjoy a relaxing couple of days drinking incredible pilsners, eating huge sausages, and strolling cobblestone streets.
If I could plan our trip again, I’d spend more time in Vienna. We only had two days and it wasn’t really sufficient. Three days would have been just about perfect or maybe 2.5. The infamous Habsburgs controlled much of this region for centuries, and Vienna was an important seat for their dynasty.
The city is chock-full of important palaces, art museums, and historic attractions. Plus, you’ll want to build in plenty of time for lazing about in the storied Vienna coffeehouses, sipping melange and nibbling Sacher Torte.
We had two days in Budapest and that was just about perfect. Much like Prague, the city is the attraction here. Divided by the Danube River, Buda and Pest were once separate towns, and today they make up the one-two punch of this incredible city.
Ancient Buda sits high on a hilltop and is the location of the rebuilt medieval section of town, complete with castle walls, a cathedral, and more. It’s the perfect place to stroll after dinner.
Pest looks a little bit like a crumbling-yet-proud Paris, sprinkled with hip cafes and trendy restaurants. And once your feet grow weary from exploring both Buda and Pest, you can visit one of the city’s many historic bathhouses. Long revered for its healing mineral waters, Budapest is the perfect place to end your trip with a nice relaxing soak.
My name: Alison Presley
Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.
How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!
What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannelés, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.
Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.