During Norwegian’s latest sale, Mihir and I were presented with a traveller’s nightmare: Too many destinations to choose from! After a quick glance at our work schedules we narrowed it down to only two destinations, Prague vs. Budapest. But how to choose? After raking our brains for a couple of hours we came to the conclusion that we simply couldn’t pick just one and went ahead and booked both flights.
Seeing as neither of us had been to either city, we didn’t quite know what to expect. Naturally we did our due diligence and read every blog post and watched every vlog on both destinations since the invention of the internet. In the end our brains were about to burst with information so we purged ourselves of all preconceived notions and decided to visit both cities with an open mind.
We returned from our second destination, Budapest, just two days ago and what kind of travel bloggers would we be if we didn’t present our final verdict in the form of a blog post? If you are in a similar dilemma as we were and want to get an idea of which city we preferred and why, read on!
Cityscape & Accessability
Before we really sink our teeth into the matter, let’s start with some general thoughts. Budapest is a significantly larger city than Prague with roughly 1.7 million inhabitants over 1.2 million. Prague feels like a very compact city where most important sights are within a very short distance. That makes Prague the perfect city to explore on foot. The sights in Budapest are somewhat spread out and require a bit more stamina to explore on foot, although personally we only used the metro to go to and from the airport. However, people who tire more easily might have to depend on public transport.
The winner of this category is Prague, because all its beautiful sights are so easily accessible.
Sights & Attractions
Who hasn’t seen pictures of the illuminated Parliament Building in Budapest or romantic Charles Bridge in Prague? These two cities are both rich in history and have much to offer for the culturally inclined visitor. Overall, Prague and Budapest probably offer around the same number of “sights” which may be a win for smaller Prague. However, Budapest offers an interesting selection of museums, such as the House of Terror, which we found somehow lacking in Prague. And, of course, Prague has nothing on Budapest’s thermal spas. Sorry!
The surprisingly clear winner of this category is Budapest.
BUT, we absolutely love architecture and Prague is such a delight to walk around in. All house fronts are very well preserved and some of the beautiful entrance ways charmed my pants off. Budapest also has a lot of beautiful architecture to enjoy, but the streets are definitely not as picture-perfect as Prague’s. So perhaps we need to call it a Draw?
Food, Drink & Nightlife
To be very honest, neither Mihir nor I are big party people. Maybe that’s why we were a bit apprehensive before heading into Prague, a popular party destination for students. And indeed the streets are crowded and cheap beer is flowing all night. It was a little too much for us and we strayed a little further away where we enjoyed some traditional Czech food and beer. We left with full stomachs and smiles on our faces.
Budapest on the other hand doesn’t seem to have too big of a party image, at least not compared to Prague. We expected to have a couple of quiet dinners and cheap food bought off street vendors, but suddenly found ourselves wanting to go out and have drinks every single night! Whereas the pubs and bars in Prague are crowded with tourists (and charged accordingly), the bars in the Jewish quarter in Budapest (which we happened to stay in) were bustling with locals every single night and, dang, are drinks cheap. 3€ for a cocktail? Sign me up!!
And how could I not mention the infamous ruin pubs in Budapest? Sure, Prague’s got fantastic fine dining which we enjoyed, but downing shots of Palinka in a former factory turned bar? Priceless.
Budapest takes the cake.
Alright, if you have travelled a lot, this may not be so important to you. But for those who are a bit worried about getting around, we would quickly like to address the tourism infrastructure in both cities.
As we have mentioned above, Prague is crowded with tourists and really the infrastructure is excellent. The main sights are all very easily accessible and well preserved. You will not have a problem with finding service in English at any restaurant or hotel. Also, many places accept Euros instead of the Czech Crowns.
Budapest on the other hand still hasn’t quite embraced the tourism industry quite as much. Naturally, all around the main sights you will not have any problems. However, Budapest is more spread out than Prague and as such you may come through areas which are not really meant for tourists and where you’ll have to use your hand and feet to make yourself understood.
For us, Prague is the clear winner in this category.
Mihir and I are a little weird in the sense that we have travelled quite a few places, but never to London, Paris, Rome or anything similar (except maybe Lisbon). The main reason for that is probably that we hate tourist crowds. And we hate what large tourist crowds bring with them: rip-off prices, long waiting times at sights and museums, etc. But what really bugs us is that life in these cities seems to revolve around the tourists, not the people who live there.
I recently read a comment on Facebook where the writer said Prague today felt like a very elaborate open air museum. And the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. In the Old Town (and to a large extent also in the New Town), everything seemed to only cater to the tourist masses. I’m not sure we saw a single Czech person enjoying any of the services instead of providing them.
In Budapest we sometimes had issues communicating with staff and the city overall seemed in worse condition than Prague. Prague was very polished, while Budapest seemed a little rough around the edges, may it be dilapidated dark house fronts or the homeless finding shelter at the metro stations. In fact, when we first arrived from Finland we probably had a bit of a culture shock, which challenged us to leave our comfort zone.
Budapest wins this category, because we never received special treatment as tourists and could explore the city just as little or as much as we wanted.
Judging from pictures and videos we had a feeling that Prague would win our hearts. And for all intents and purposes it really did. We walked through the streets with sparkling eyes, dazzled by the beautiful sights. We laughed over cold beer and hearty cuisine. We felt comfortable and safe at all times. Budapest challenged us, it made us leave our comfort zone. After three full days in the city we left with throbbing feet but still felt like we had barely scratched the surface.
Prague is incredibly beautiful, but Budapest just seems to have an edge which makes it a tad more exciting. We can hardly wait to go back and explore some new street corners, eat more cakes and check out more bars and pubs. Oh, and to eat many many more langos, of course.
Prague, we enjoyed you.
Budapest, we loved you. Köszönöm.
Now, what do you think? Have we forgotten anything? Which is your favourite out of the two? Share your thoughts and pictures with us. Let’s stay in touch!