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Budapest or Prague: Which One to Visit

During Norwegian’s latest sale, Mihir and I were presented with a traveler’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.

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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 and don’t know how to choose between Prague vs Budapest, read our thoughts below!

Budapest or Prague: Cityscape & Accessibility

budapest or prague

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 the 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.

Prague vs Budapest: Sights & Attractions

prague vs budapest

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?

Budapest vs Prague: Food, Drink & Nightlife

prague vs budapest

To be very honest, neither Mihir nor I am 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.

Prague or Budapest: Tourism Infrastructure

prague vs budapest

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.

Budapest vs Prague: Authenticity

prague vs budapest

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.

Prague vs Budapest: Conclusion

prague vs budapest

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 favorite out of the two? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!

About Jacky

Hi there, I'm Jacky. I was born and raised in Austria, but have lived most of my adult life abroad. I'm addicted to all things Nordic, good coffee (sometimes also bad coffee), and beautiful architecture. I love my cats, although my husband Mihir is not too bad either 😉

56 thoughts on “Budapest or Prague: Which One to Visit”

  1. Great comparision, thanks for sharing it. I am from Budapest and I am in love with my city. It changed a lot during the last years in a positive way but it still kept his old charm. Beside that I am from here I also love Prague and Wien as well. I think this region is full with fantastic towns and defenitely worths a longer visit. Visit us and feel yourself at home we do love tourists here

  2. I was in Prague last May, and fell in love with the city. The metro is super easy to use. So after a few days visiting the major sights (Prague Castle, National Museum, Vysehrad, among others), I’d hop on the metro, get off at random stops, explore, and try to get lost. The aimless wandering and going into shops, restaurants, and pubs well away from the tourist spots was the highlight of the trip. Striking up a conversation with someone who speaks a different language may sound intimidating, but speaking in “broken Czech” with someone speaking in “broken English” over pork knuckle and a Pilsner Urquell made for great times, and another high point of the trip. In March, I’ll be visiting Budapest for the first time. I hope to enjoy Budapest as much as I did Prague. Beyond that, it’s a coin toss between Krakow and Riga.

  3. Hello Jacky,

    I’m in a dilemma now between Prague or Budapest. What are your thoughts now? Care to share?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Melvin,
      Tough question. If I had to choose one to revisit right now, I’d probably still go for Budapest. But you can’t really go wrong with either 🙂

      Jacky

  4. As a person who lived in both Prague and Budapest i feel like i have to share some thoughts. There is definitely not wider variety of museums in budapest than in prague, it is about the same. but house of terror would be the worst out of them all, since i left after 5 minutes of going in, and wasn’t alone according to the reviews. Food quality (street food, fast foods) in budapest is as well much lower. most of the Restaurants though are better to have a meal at. Budapest is only 29.2km² larger, so i definitely wouldn’t call that significantly. And i would agree on that budapest is a lot dirtier, more homeless people around and in poor conditions. The sights are comparable, both cities architectures are old and spectatular with more tourists being in prague, but i think there is a clear reason for that.

    1. Hi Rick! Thanks for your insight as a local to both places! I think it largely depends on what you are looking for as a traveler, but I would have to agree that both cities have plenty to offer for your average tourist 🙂

  5. We have traveled all over Europe and Budapest is the winner! It has gone through a lot of changes/ updates in the past few years. Streets are clean and safe, no more homeless people 😊
    It is very easy to get to downtown from the airport. Take a taxi, or there is a public blue bus that is specifically designated to take passengers from the airport to downtown without stopping.
    Take the hop on hop off bus tour, that’s the best way to get around and see most of the famous sights.
    People are friendly and speak English (especially the younger generation).
    Food is yummy ❤ if you want authentic Hungarian food go to a smaller sit down restaurant, stay away from mall food, although it is good, but mostly foreign foods (Chinese, Italian, middle eastern) are served at the malls.

  6. Hi,
    I’m also planning to visit one of these two cities and also between Austria (Vienna, Salzberg) and Krakow (Poland). Is it possible for you to compare these as well. Also what I would like to also know is about the expenses. Which cities are cheaper or costlier in terms of hotel, transport and food.
    I’ve been to many places in Europe and USA, so am reasonably well aware.
    Regards,
    Vishwajay (India)

  7. I am an American expat that lives in Prague. Went to Budapest for first time last weekend.
    I honestly do not understand why anyone would choose Budapest over Prague as being the better experience. The food in Budapest was better, yes. And of course the architecture is amazing, but so is Prague. I found Budapest to be less safe than Prague, with more angry and depressed people…even antisocial people. Nobody talked to one another on the metro. Tons of homeless people all over the city.
    All of the green spaces and parks in Prague are a big plus. Overall, I would say that Budapest is a 90s type of grunge style city. While Prague is more 80s style and upbeat with actual fun things to do. And Prague is far more multinational than Budapest with a very strong international economy.

    1. Hi Eric and thanks so much for your opinion! 🙂

      I can totally see where you’re coming from! We had a similar experience as you in Budapest in regards to the grunginess etc. and we also loved Prague because it was simply stunning! I guess it simply depends on what you want from a travel destination! For us, Prague was just too touristic, but of course, it has a lot of appeal. I can imagine it’s a much more livable city than Budapest!

  8. That was interesting to read. I am a tour guide in Budapest, so I am biased 😉
    but I love Prague as well! I’d say Bp is cool (ruin pubs, mecca of escape games, hidden garden bars, islands..) and Prague is romantic & has a special “haunted” vibe for me, I enjoyed it a lot!

  9. Thanks for sharing, you couldn’t choose more beautiful cities in Europe (well maybe Wienna can be compared)! But Prague is probably the most beautiful of all ?

  10. I haven’t been to Prague yet, but Budapest is one of my favourite cities.. I just love Budapest so much! I went there twice and I miss it, can’t wait to go back.. As I didn’t visit Prague I can’t decide which one is better, but I am sure both cities are worth visiting not matter what! After this post, I just want visit both cities together as well.. haha
    🙂

    1. Hi Tais!
      Yes, Budapest is just so awesome, I’d really like to go back right now and explore some more 😀 But I think your next trip should be to Prague.. just for comparison 😉
      Jacky

  11. Great comparison! I agree, even though I haven’t been back to Budapest for 10 years, so I’m sure a lot has changed. But I still hold a special spot in my heart for this remarkable city.

    1. Hi Stephanie and thanks for your feedback!
      I think it’s time for you to go back and see just how much has changed? Hope you get the chance soon! 😉
      Jacky

  12. I visited both Prague and Budapest back in 2005. I loved them both but I have fonder memories of Budapest – maybe it was the thermal baths? Or the tiny and ancient subway cars? Anyway, thanks for the head to head comparison of these cities – Now I’m thinking it might be time for me to go back to them both to do my own head to head comparison 🙂

    1. Hi Taryn and thanks for your comment!
      Oh man, when I first saw those ancient subway cars drive up at the station I felt like I travelled back in time. That just makes Budapest so special 😀
      Jacky

  13. Interesting post, I’ve been to Prague three times, the last time as the final destination on a trip which started in Budapest. There were a lot more tourists in Prague on our last visit compared to our first, maybe 10 years earlier. We were also surprised by how gritty Budapest is (Prague definitely is too, especially when you get slightly away from the tourist areas and at night). We spent two nights in Budapest and left thinking we’d only just scratched the surface. I’m not sure which is my favourite but I do know that Budapest definitely deserves a return visit!

    1. Hi Helen and thanks for your comment!
      I wished I would have been able to see Prague 10 years ago, it must have been entirely different still.
      I also think we’ll have to go back and explore more of Budapest, but in a way I also feel Prague deserves a second chance 🙂
      Jacky

  14. Oooh I loved reading through your reasoning, I’m happy that you seemed to really like both cities! I just visited Prague but Budapest is on my bucket list… so I now have very high hopes (and will pack my walking shoes…)

    1. Hi Sarah!
      Thank you for your feedback 🙂 Yes, we really enjoyed both places. I hope I didn’t raise your hopes too high though, haha. Nah, all jokes aside, I’m sure you’ll love it!
      Jacky

  15. I live in Prague and the fact that Budapest won hurts! No, just kidding 🙂 I love Budapest too, even though for me the no. 1 is kinda clear 😉 I actually live in Prague 2, which is popular among expats and totally love it! Hope you’ll have another opportunity to come and discover more of each city!

    1. Hi Veronika and.. sorry? 😀
      It’s totally understandable you’d prefer Prague.. I probably would too in your shoes! I think we really need to come back and stray a little further from the tourist corners! But Budapest is still hard to beat 😛
      Jacky

  16. What an unusual travel piece – thanks for sharing. We’re hoping to get to Prague in November so may avoid some of the touristy vibe you experienced but Budapest is still high on the possibles list. Like you I think we’ll end up doing both!

    1. Hi Rosemary and thanks for your feedback!
      I hope you are taking some useful information from our article 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love both!
      Jacky

    1. Hi Megan and thanks for your comment!
      I’m glad you enjoyed our post and hope you get to visit these beautiful cities in the near future 🙂
      Jacky

  17. I’ve not been to either of these, but what a fantastic resource and well-described post!!! You have definitely made me want to hop a flight to Budapest!!

    1. Hi Anjali and thanks so much for your feedback!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope you get to visit Budapest soon 🙂
      Jacky

  18. Brilliant post! I’m going to Budapest in April and reading about your experience has prepared me a lot! I’m hearing so many amazing things about Budapest from travellers, so I assumed that it would be tourist friendly. Really glad to know that I might have to work a little harder at communicating or be a little more prepared to get from A to B. For my first time in Budapest anything you recommend I do / see / eat based off your trip?
    R x

    1. Hi Rebecca and thanks for your comment!
      Well overall it’s still very tourist friendly, but not overly intrusive I’d say. Nobod really hassles you in Budapest.
      I would recommend you stuff your face with Hungarian cakes (e.g. Szamos, Dobos, Esterhazy) and strudels (especially those with poppyseed and/or cottage cheese!). And also eat some langos off the road and if you sit down somewhere you must of course order goulash 🙂

      I would definitely recommend going to Szechenyi thermal baths.. they are worth every penny. So pack your swimming suit 😉

      Jacky

  19. Well, I have not been to either but I feel I would love various parts of each country. 2018 is our year for these cities and this post was very helpful to read! Cheers!

  20. I’ve never been to Budapest but I have been to Prague and absolutely loved it. It’s such a beautiful city and my great aunt is Czech so I feel like it’s in my blood a bit. Maybe I should visit Budapest judging by your comparisons – if it’s beats Prague in some ways it must be amazing!

    1. Hi Emma and thanks for your comment!
      With your background I think you’d be eternally biased 😛 But I’m too.. After all Austrians and Hungarians share so much history. But anyhow, I hope you get the chance to visit soon!
      Jacky

  21. Interesting! I have been to both in summer but last year we were in Prague in winter and that is why it will take the prize for me. I think it is the most beautiful city I have ever seen in the snow. Also Prague has the Baroque Library which for me is one of the most magical places on earth. Time to visit Budapest again maybe though as have only been once! Its great having all these cheap flights isn’t it!

    1. Hi Tracy and thanks for your comment!
      We also visited Prague in the winter, but I wished we’d seen some snow. It must be magical 🙂 Hope you get to visit Budapest again soon! I’m loving me those low-cost airlines 😉
      Jacky

  22. This makes me think I need to give Budapest another shot. We absolutely loved Prague, but other than the Baths, didn’t like Budapest nearly as much. We were so tired the few days were in Budapest that it might have marred our opinion. This has convinced me not to discount it!

    1. Hi Kyla and thanks for your comment!
      Oh noes, too bad you didn’t enjoy Budapest! I think we had a similar experience in Riga, so I totally get it 😉 Hopefully you can give it another shot sometime!
      Jacky

  23. What an interesting comparison! Loved to see the similarities and differences. I’ve been to Prague, and can relate to your thoughts on it, but after reading this I’m especially interested in getting to Budapest, as I haven’t been there yet!

    1. Hi Cynthia and thanks for your comment!
      We also visited Prague in the winter, but I wished we’d seen some snow. It must be magical 🙂 Hope you get to visit Budapest soon!
      Jacky

  24. Thank you for this comparison! I was wondering the same thing when deciding between the two. I think we’d enjoy Budapest a tad more too, the thermal baths are hard to beat!

    1. Hi Ivy and thanks for your comment!
      I think the two are very similar, so it’s tough to choose. But yeah.. those thermal baths.. <3

      Jacky

  25. I definitely miss those strange bars in Budapest, thought they added some edge to the city. And don’t get me started on those dollar beers :’)

    1. Hi Daisy!
      Yeah we’ve been to some cheap places, but for being such a big city, Budapest is still reaaaally cheap. And so much fun 🙂
      Jacky

  26. I loved the way you compared every aspects of both cities covered side by side. Nicely written article. Prague looks more appealing! Hope to visit both cities at some point 🙂

    1. Hi Jaina and thank you so much for your feedback!
      Prague is so incredibly beautiful, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Hope you get the chance to visit soon 🙂
      Jacky

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