Prague or Budapest? Which city to choose

Prague or Budapest

Deciding on your next European city break is never an easy task, with so many wonderful cities to choose from. If you’ve narrowed it down to Prague or Budapest, I’m here to help you decide between these two destinations.

Having explored the charming streets of Prague and soaked in the thermal baths of Budapest, I’ve got plenty of experience in these memorable cities. 

Of course both cities offer heaps of history, epic architecture, and unique food and drink scenes. But both Prague and Budapest also have their own distinct vibes and unique experiences. 

To be totally honest, I adore both cities and I’d always recommend visiting both if you can.

However, if you simply have to choose then I’m going to share everything you need to know in this guide to choosing between Prague or Budapest, including all the similarities and differences.

By the end of this post, hopefully you’ll have a clearer idea of the city that best suits your own personal tastes and preferences.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

This post contains affiliate links. 

A brief overview: Prague or Budapest

Prague: The City of a Hundred Spires

The capital city of Czechia, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Its irresistible fairytale aesthetic comprises medieval architecture, winding streets, the iconic Charles Bridge and the imposing Prague Castle. 

Prague Old Town

History oozes from every nook and cranny, but there’s also a youthful energy that permeates through the city thanks to its vibrant nightlife. 

Whether you’re dipping into museums and galleries, indulging in a traditional Czech meal at a cosy tavern or simply soaking in the picturesque views, Prague invites exploration.

Budapest: The Pearl of the Danube

Budapest, Hungary’s capital, is split by the Danube River into two distinct parts: Buda and Pest. 

This geographical split is responsible for the city’s dynamic character, offering two very different vibes within one metropolis.

Buda, with its hilly terrain and historic castle district, provides epic views and a quieter, more residential atmosphere.

Pest, on the other hand, is where the action is: bustling streets, grand boulevards, and more impressive architectural feats, such as the Parliament building.

Budapest is known for its thermal baths and I’d recommend taking the time to relax in at least one of the city’s most popular bathing spots.

Getting to Prague and Budapest

There isn’t much of a discrepancy between getting to Prague and Budapest, whether you’re travelling from the UK, US or elsewhere.

The flight time from London to Bupapest is slightly longer than to Prague; but with only half an hour between them there really isn’t much difference. 

Getting to Prague

From the UK: Prague is easily accessible from the UK, with numerous direct flights available from major cities such as London, Manchester, and Edinburgh.

The flight time from London to Prague is approximately two hours, so it’s ideal for a weekend city break.

Several airlines operate this route, offering a range of options from budget to premium.

Prague Czechia

From the US: Travellers from the United States will find direct flights to Prague less common, but they are available from some major cities.

More commonly, flights to Prague from the US involve at least one stopover in a major European hub like London, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam.

The total travel time can range from 12 to 16 hours depending on the departure city and the length of stopovers.

Major airports like New York’s JFK, Los Angeles’ LAX, and Chicago’s O’Hare offer flights to Prague with various airlines.

Getting to Budapest

From the UK: Budapest is similarly well-connected to the UK, with direct flights from London, Manchester, and Bristol among others.

The flight duration from London to Budapest is around 2.5 hours.

A variety of airlines, including budget options, make Budapest an accessible destination for UK travellers looking for a city break or an extended stay.

Vajdahunyad Castle

From the US: Direct flights from the US to Budapest are limited and typically more common during the peak tourist season.

As with Prague, flights from US cities to Budapest will include a stopover in European cities such as Paris, Munich, or Amsterdam.

The total journey time is similar to that of Prague, ranging from 12 to 16 hours depending on the origin and stopovers. 

Things to do in Prague and Budapest

Similarities and differences

History: I consider both cities to be pretty even when it comes to historic exploration. Both boast beautiful historic districts, with Prague’s Old Town and Castle District, and Budapest’s Castle District.

Nightlife: While Prague offers a mix of traditional and modern nightlife options, Budapest stands out with its ruin bars. These are a must visit for evening entertainment.

Szimpla Kert ruin bar

Culture: Art and culture thrive in both cities, though the experience can differ. Prague’s cultural scene is deeply historical, while Budapest offers a mix of historic baths and modern culinary delights.

Scenery: Both cities offer visitors gorgeous views, whether from the heights of Prague Castle or the banks of the Danube in Budapest.

Top things to do in Prague

Explore Prague Castle: This iconic castle complex, one of the largest in the world, is a masterpiece of gothic architecture. It offers unforgettable views of the city and houses historical treasures like St. Vitus Cathedral and the Old Royal Palace.

Walk across the Charles Bridge: A stroll across this historic bridge provides beautiful views of the Vltava River, framed by imposing sculptures and statues. I’d recommend visiting at sunrise if you want to avoid the army of tourists and buskers.

Charles Bridge Prague

Watch the Astronomical Clock strike: Situated in the Old Town Square, the medieval clock is a marvel of engineering that puts on a small show every hour. Not to be missed!

Discover the vibrant art scene: From the National Gallery to smaller, contemporary galleries, Prague is a haven for art lovers.

Experience the nightlife: The city offers a diverse nightlife that ranges from traditional beer halls to modern bars and clubs.

Top things to do in Budapest

Relax in thermal baths: Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, such as Széchenyi and Gellért. My personal favourite is Rudas Baths for its spectacular rooftop bath with views over the Danube.

Cruise the Danube: A boat trip on the Danube, especially at night, offers breathtaking views of the city’s illuminated landmarks, including the Parliament and Buda Castle.

Explore the Castle District: When visiting Budapest, you simply cannot miss the historic streets of Buda’s Castle District. Here you’ll find the Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and panoramic views of Pest.

Visit the ruin bars: Unique to Budapest, these bars in the Jewish Quarter are set in dilapidated pre-war buildings, and are an iconic part of the city’s nightlife.

Taste Hungarian cuisine: From hearty goulash to sweet chimney cake, you’ll find plenty of culinary delights on Budapest’s food scene. Discover the best Michelin restaurants in Budapest.

Food and drink scenes: Prague or Budapest?

While both cities celebrate their traditional dishes, the evolution of their food scenes shows a welcome embrace of global culinary trends.

Prague is perhaps most known for its beer culture, thanks to the Czech Republic’s long-standing brewing tradition.

Budapest, on the other hand, has a thriving street food scene and offers a diverse range of cuisine from local Hungarian dishes to fine dining restaurants.

Both cities also host annual food and drink festivals, showcasing local specialties, international dishes, and everything in between. 

Prague: hearty Czech cuisine

Prague’s food scene is known first and foremost for its hearty traditional Czech cuisine.

The city’s historic pubs and taverns offer a warm welcome with dishes like svíčková (marinated beef sirloin served with creamy vegetable sauce) and goulash, a rich stew often accompanied by Czech dumplings.

Beer is an integral part of the Czech dining experience, with Prague known as the home of some of the world’s best and oldest breweries.

Czech Beer Prague

I’d really recommend sampling a variety of Czech beers during your visit, from classic pilsners to craft options.

In recent years, Prague has seen a surge in international cuisine and gourmet dining, with an array of restaurants gaining international recognition.

Food markets and street food vendors also offer a more casual dining experience – make sure you try a traditional chimney cake!

Budapest’s Culinary Scene

As you’d expect, Budapest is famous for its Hungarian cuisine.

Local dishes are characterised by flavoursome dishes such as paprikash (a creamy paprika-based chicken stew) and lángos (fried dough topped with cheese and sour cream). 

I was also surprised to find that there is a strong wine culture in Hungary. There are a number of cosy wine bars where you can taste regional wines from Tokaj, Eger, and other wine regions.

The city’s ruin pubs provide not just a unique setting for a night out but also serve a variety of Hungarian and international beers, wines, and spirits.

The growth of international and fine dining cuisine is evident in Budapest – read my guide to the best Michelin star restaurants in Budapest, coming soon! 

The city’s coffee culture is also noteworthy, with historic cafés and modern third-wave coffee shops dotting the cityscape.

Prague or Budapest: other considerations

Time of year

Both cities experience four distinct seasons, with a distinctive charm to be found in each.

Prague can be enchantingly snowy in winter, while Budapest’s thermal baths offer a unique outdoor bathing experience in the cold months.

Rudas Bath

I’d recommend checking the calendar for cultural events, festivals, or holidays that might enhance the visit.

For example, Budapest’s Sziget Festival is a huge draw for music lovers in the summer, while the Christmas markets in both cities are considered some of the best in Europe.

Discover the best things to do in Budapest in December if you’re planning a winter trip.


On the whole, both cities are considered relatively affordable compared to other European capitals. However, prices for hotels, restaurants, and activities can vary.

I’d say Budapest is slightly more budget-friendly, especially for dining and nightlife. So if budget is an important factor for you, then this may sway your decision between the two cities.

In terms of currency, Prague uses the Czech koruna, and Budapest uses the Hungarian forint.

You may find that some shops and restaurants in both cities accept euros, but the exchange rate won’t be favourable, so I’d recommend using the local currencies.

Getting around

Both Prague and Budapest have efficient public transport systems, so getting around is pretty straightforward. 

That said, Budapest is significantly bigger than Prague so you’ll need to rely on public transport more.

Prague is a compact city so it’s very easy to get around on foot, which may offer a greater appeal to some.

There are also fantastic options for both cities if you plan to travel further afield – for some inspiration, have a read of my guide to the best day trips from Budapest.

Lake Heviz Sunset


English is widely spoken in both cities, especially in tourist areas, but you might find varying levels of English proficiency outside these zones.

I’d advise learning a few basic phrases in Czech or Hungarian to enhance your experience.

Final words

Prague and Budapest do have a lot of similarities, so deciding between the two can be challenging. 

If you prefer a more compact city that’s easy to explore on foot, and has heaps of history and epic architecture, then I’d recommend Prague.

I’d also argue that Prague is the slightly more picturesque of the two cities, with a distinct fairytale aesthetic.

If you’re after a slightly larger city with the unique experience of relaxing baths and the vibrant nightlife of the ruin bars, then I’d suggest Budapest. 

Plus, Budapest is the slightly cheaper of the two cities, if budget is a key consideration for you.

What’s your favourite city, Prague or Budapest? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

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Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.