Prague and Budapest are two of the most beautiful cities in Europe and trying to work out which one to visit with the few vacation days you might have is not an easy task.
If the world was perfect, you’d just hop from one to the next, spending a long weekend in each but, unfortunately, unless you’re retired with a bit of cash in your pocket, this simply isn’t reality, so you have to choose but how?
Well, it’s a tough decision to make but hopefully, in this Prague vs Budapest comparison, we’ll shine some light on the city you’d get along better with so you can enjoy your next vacation to the max.
The capital of the Czech Republic, or Czechia as it’s also referred to, Prague is always described as like being in fairytale by those who have traveled there, are they’re not wrong, there something about Prague that makes you feel a bit other-worldly.
What makes Prague so fairytale-like in my eyes is the combination of the stunning Vltava river that flows through its core along with the amazing architecture that surrounds it. The bridges over the river, the hundreds of spires on the skyline, the old cobblestone streets, and the gothic buildings all come together to make one beautiful city.
Known as the “City of a Hundred Spires” (there are more than 400 spires), walking around Prague feels like you’re on a movie set of some romantic comedy like Nottinghill. It’s super engaging and draws you in, you feel at home quite quickly in Prague.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is also an architectural delight. The city is split into the east (Pest), and west (Buda) by the beautiful river Danube and are joined by old ancient bridges that connect each side. With over 1.7 million residents, the city is buzzing and alive.
Budapest is also home to some great architectural sites such as the old palaces and is has a rich history too, though quite a scary one. The Nazi invasion of WWII pretty much wiped out the whole of Budapest and thus it had to be rebuilt, hence why a lot of the buildings are new-ish except for the old buildings that did survive.
Budapest is known as “The City Of Baths” with over 118 thermal spring bathhouses in the city which are open to the public. You’re never far from a place to have a dip in Budapest so be sure to bring your swimsuit with you, even in winter.
Prague and Budapest are very similar in terms of size and inclusivity. Both of the cities are a lot of fun and the people are very welcoming. I’d say the main differences between them lie in that Prague is an old fairytale town with regards to the buildings themselves whereas Budapest is relatively new due to having to rebuild after the war but, is home to a lot of spas of which Prague has almost none.
The best things to see and do in Prague are all about being out and about on the ancient cobbled streets taking in the historical vibes and seeing all the amazing architecture that surrounds you as you go. Wherever you walk in this stunning city, there is something around the corner that catches your eye.
If you have never been to Prague, chances are you have still seen a picture of the Charles Bridge at sunrise going over the Vltava River as mist rises off the water, as it’s the most iconic shot taken in Prague and on a lot of postcards.
While you’re in Prague, you have to go and see the Charles Bridge but seeing it during the day isn’t worth it as the bridge will be covered in traffic and tourists. You need to get for a sunrise coffee by the river which you can sip as you take in the perfect medieval bridge’s stunning arch with some of the best natural scenery highlighting it.
A visit to the Prague Astronomical Clock is another must while you’re in the city. The clock dates back to the 1400s and you’ll find it on the walls of the Old Town City Hall. There is always a crowd gathered outside the clock as every house between 9 am and 11 pm, the clock chimes, and the “Walk of the Apostles” begins.
12 figurines representing the Apostles come out of the clock and make their way to the clock window for everyone to see – it’s probably the coolest clock in the world and amazing that it was built in the 15th century.
You’ll find the Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town, so you’re not wasting any time seeing it, as walking around the Old Town is also a must-do while you’re in Prague. The cobblestone streets and gothic builds are literally dripping in history and there is no better way of connecting with Prague than walking the streets of the Old Town, stopping into pubs and cafes as you go.
While the Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral are probably the most touristy places you can visit in Prague, you kind of have to go and see them. Yes, there will be crowds, especially in summer, but the buildings are stunning and give s great insight into the history and faith of the locals and the city.
Something I loved doing in Prague was seeing the John Lennon Memorial Wall. Street artists dedicated a huge patch of wall to the legend and the paintings are pretty incredible if you like that sort of thing.
One final recommendation for Prague is going on a river cruise over sunset. You’ll get to see the city in its golden hour when pink skies turn to dark and the amazing old buildings all start lighting up. If ambiance was a city, it would be Prague.
Related: Best Day Trips From Prague
Budapest is full of great things to do. This is one fun city and you can have an off-the-wall experience with dancing until 6 am if you want to, or a more laid-back cultural experience taking the city in, or mix it up, your choice.
A must-see, while you’re in Budapest, is Parliament House. Sitting on the banks of the Danube, this stunning building is an example of magical gothic architecture with incredible spires, towers, and arches that are just lovely to look at.
You can take a tour around the 691-room Parliament House and see all the old statues and stunning paintings inside as well as learn all about the political history of Budapest from your expert guide who shows you around.
Another must-see, while you’re in Budapest, is Buda Castle which sits at the top of Castle Hill. Buda Castle was built in the 1200s and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is, quite frankly, more of a palace than a castle and the architecture is mind-blowing.
You’re not just going to Buda Castle to see the build though it’s also filled with some of the best galleries and museums in Budapest. Inside you’ll find the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Széchenyi Library, and the Castle Museum. If you want a culture fix of Budapest in one sitting, the Buda Castle is the place to go.
Fisherman’s Bastion, a neo-Gothic viewing terrace is somewhere everyone needs to go and have a coffee or eat a sandwich while exploring the city. The Fisherman’s Bastion was built around 1896-1901 as a celebration of the 1000th year of the Hungarian state.
The views from the top are amazing and you’ll find a 200-year-old Ruszwurm Patisserie while you’re up there from which you can try some amazing pastries while watching the city and the Danube flow by.
You can’t go to Budapest and not visit one of the 118 urban spas in the city and Szechenyi Spa Baths is one of the best ones. You can swim in a lane pool, enjoy spa treatments, massages, and sauna, or simply enjoy the baths for a soak. The setting, an old Turkish building is also quite delightful. The place also turns into a rave on weekend nights, if you like a night out.
Something else Budapest is famed for is its ruin bars, and the original one to visit is Szimpla Kert. it’s made up of a large open courtyard and inner rooms that are covered with old communist memorabilia, electric art and furniture, plus it has an awesome vibe.
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Picking a winner for this category is almost impossible. Both Prague and Budapest are exceptionally charming cities with loads of amazing things to see and do.
They are both fairytale-esc too, although I think Prague is a little ahead when it comes to that due to how old the city is as it wasn’t bombed during the war. But, the 118 spas of Budapest is a huge draw too along with the ruin bars… which do you prefer the sound of?
If you love food then you’re going to love Prague as the cities food scene has come a long way in the last 10 years. You can find pretty much every cuisine from around the world in Prague, from French to Italian and Asian, it has them all.
Prague is also home to a few Michelin start restaurants too, so if you’re in the mood for a taste journey of note, you can head one of those for an evening.
Prague is all about beer when it comes to drinking and the Czech Republic drinks more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world. Even if you’re not into beer, having a pint in a Czech pub is something you have to do while you’re away.
The traditional cuisine of the Czech Republic is all about hearty, filling meals that keep you going and they are absolutely delicious. Dishes like česnečka (garlic soup), knedlíky (dumplings), trdelník (warm rolled pastry covered in sugar), and smažený sýr (deep-fried cheese) are must-try local dishes while you’re in town, especially at one of the pubs.
The best pub to head to if you want a smorgasbord of local dishes and beer is Lokál Dlouhááá. Lokál Dlouhááá has a lively local atmosphere and it draws you in, so much so, that by the time you leave the pub, you’ll feel like you’re a local. It’s also a great place to have some goulash, dumplings, and fried cheese along with several pints of Czech beer.
For another local treat, you should head to Sisters Bistro to try a famous local chlebíčky (open-faced sandwich). The sandwich is made with fresh bread and toppings that include cured meats, cooked meats, local cheeses and you’ll find some veggie options too.
If you’re done with the local food in Prague, try the other semi-local cuisine, Vietnamese. Prague is home to a lot of Vietnamese restaurants as a lot of Vietnamese people moved to Prague for work during the reign of communism and ended up serving their delicious food for a profit. One of the best Vietnamese restaurants to try is Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan.
If fine dining is on the cards for one of your evenings, then the Michelin-star restaurants of La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise and Field have a tasting menu of 8-10 courses with or without wine for each to match. The journey your taste buds will go on is something you can’t quite explain with words.
Budapest is also home to fantastic restaurants that serve up an excellent variety of global cuisines to an excellent standard. From local dishes to fine dining at the two Michelin-Starred restaurants in the city, you’ll find something to suit your tastes wherever you go.
The traditional food in Budapest is somewhat similar to the dishes you’d find in Prague. Dumplings, mushroom soup, goulash, and chicken with paprika gravy – you get the idea. It’s hearty, home-cooked food that is delicious and worth trying.
If you’re looking for some of the best places to try some traditional Hungarian dishes, a little cafe next to St. Stephen’s Basilica called Kisharang Etkedze is the place to head to. They serve up all the local cuisines you could want to taste and in a nice al-fresco cafe atmosphere.
On a Saturday, Cafe Kor is the place to go and you’ll be surrounded by locals if you do. The Hungarian consomme served with dumplings is great if you want something light or a started to warm your bones. Ratatouille with sausages and eggs is a dish that isn’t usually served together in the western world but in Hungary, it works, and if you’re feeling like a hearty meal, this is nothing more traditional than some pork with cabbage and potatoes.
If you’re all about farm-fresh produce, the Zeller Bistro restaurant serves up delicious dishes where almost 100% of the ingredients come from the owner’s farm. Light touches and a refined menu make this place a great spot.
Szimpla Farmers is another fantastic farm-to-table restaurant that specializes in organic food that is slow-cooked to perfection. They also serve some amazing fresh bread, and other burgers, both meat and veg options, are spot on!
For a special treat, you can head to Borkonyha, a Michelin starred French bistro with over 200 types of wine on offer, or head to Costes for a seasonal menu with a similar quality of foods – you can choose your own tasting menu to spice things up a bit.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to Prague vs Budapest and their food scenes and I can’t pick an outright winner. Both their local dishes are quite similar and the restaurant scene in each city is solid and growing. I guess it’s nice you can rest assured that no matter which of the two cities you choose to visit, your taste buds are in for a bloody good time!
During the summer, Prague has some lovely weather with average highs of 24°C and lows of 15°C between June and August, making for great temperatures to wander around the city in. But, this is also the wettest time of year in Prague and the city sees around 9 days of rain a month during this period, so if you do go in summer, bring a rainjacket.
During summer, Prague is pretty crowded and the tourists are everywhere, local and international, so you should expect it to be very busing during this time of year.
In the wintertime, the temperature in Prague plummets quite considerably and you should expect average highs of 4°C and lows of -2°C. Despite the cold weather, the streets of Prague light up at Christmas and become very festive. Lots of outdoor markets with great food stalls and little shops hit the squares, the lights are a bit magical, and there are good vibes all around, so visiting at Christmas is a great option.
The best time to visit Prague, in my opinion, is in April and May, or September and October. The weather will still be warm, the crowds will be to a minimum, and you’ll avoid the rainy days that come with summertime.
During the summer, Budapest is balmy just like Prague with average highs of 28°C and lows of 15°C between June and August. It’s actually quite a bit hotter than Prague during the peak summer of July & August, so it’s lucky there are 118 spas to cool off at.
Like Prague, the streets of Budapest do get crowded in summer, but that’s not to say it’s a bad time to visit, as the rainfall is limited to just 5 days a month on average, unlike Prague’s 9 days.
The average temperatures in winter in Budapest are the exact same as in Prague with highs of 4°C and lows of -2°C. Budapest is also quite fun and alive at Christmas time with lights and markets but it doesn’t quite have the same charm as Prague, so it’s a winter visit you’re planning, Prague is probably best.
Just Prague, if you want to visit Budapest with great weather and fewer crowds, the months of May, June, September, and October are your best bet.
When it comes to Prague vs Budapest and the weather, they are pretty much exactly the same bar Budapest being a little drier and warmer in summer. Nevertheless, they are equally good to visit weatherwise just Prague has a bit more festivity to it around the Christmas period.
Both Prague and Budapest are very affordable cities for Europe, especially when compared to the likes of Paris or London, so whichever you end up choosing, your money is going to go pretty far.
Generally though, Budapest is little but more affordable than Prague, but the difference isn’t too bad. For a standard meal, you’ll pay around $6 in Prague whereas in Budapest you’ll pay around $5.70. For dinner for 2 people at an upmarket restaurant, you’ll pay around $33 in Prague but in Budapest, it’ll be $31.
If you want to enjoy a beer at a pub, in Prague you’ll pay $1.89 and in Budapest, you should expect to pay around $1.60. So they are pretty similar when it comes to costs except for coffee. A coffee in Prague is around $3.10 while coffee in Budapest is a whopping 35% cheaper at $2.33
Overall the cost of living in Prague is around 12% cheaper than Budapest when you exclude rent from the costs. If you’re on a tight budget, you might
If you’re traveling on a budget and want your money to go a tiny further then Budapest is a good choice but they are both incredibly affordable so I wouldn’t let costs force your decision between Prague vs Budapest.
Have you chosen which city you want to travel to in the Prague vs Budapest conundrum? It’s not an easy choice as they are quite similar and both fantastic places to visit. You’re going to have to do both right?
Spend the late summer in Budapest soaking in the rays at the spas and spending time at the ruin bars and techno raves. Then go to Prague for a fairytale long weekend just before Christmas to get into the spirit of things? Sounds ideal to me!
If I had to choose, it would be Prague simply for the old city vibes and architecture, but Budapest is a very close second.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!