Last updated on May 23, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Central Europe

Prague vs Budapest – The best (and the worst) of both

It is always hard to make a comparison between two cities in the same country, even harder between two capitals although both in Central Europe.

I have been asked so many times if it is better Prague or Budapest, and my genuine answer has been always Budapest, but this may be different for you, and I will tell you why.

On this post, I will take you through the most important comparison points and I will tell you which city works best and why.

I have visited both cities so many times. In fact, I love so much Central Europe that I explored a good part of it.

And I eventually bought a small property in Budapest with the idea of living there and use it as my European base.

As a result of my experience, I also wrote more below about actually living in the cities, which one is the best choice and why.

But without further ado, let’s start with the first point: transportation

Prague vs Budapest
Prague vs Budapest

Prague vs Budapest for transportation

Getting to Prague or Budapest

Prague here has a slight advantage for its position and number of flights landing at the city airport.

Prague has a much higher influx of tourism and, as a result, more airlines flying there, including low-cost.

There is more competition and therefore lower ticket prices. My last flight to Prague has costed me 17 Euro with EasyJet, a price that you can hardly find for Budapest.

Moreover, if you are in Germany or Austria, you can also think of taking the train or the bus to Prague.

I had recently a bus with Flixbus to Munich for 15 Euro, including bags, a real bargain, and the trip took just 5 hours from the centre of the city (a similar time to a flight considering the transportation to/from the airport, check-in process, etc)

Taking a train/bus to Budapest can be done from Vienna in Central Europe, but it is too far away from any other major city or capital.

Check FLiXBUS timetable

Getting to Prague by bus
Getting to Prague by bus from Munich 

Are you planning a trip to Munich?

Check out my full guide to the best areas of the city

Getting around the cities

No winner here. Both cities are well served with metro lines, buses and trams.

The ticket cost is slightly more expensive in Prague (more on a cost comparison later) but besides that, you will have a similar kind of service.

I must admit that the Metro Line 1 in Budapest, together with the Kodály Körönd metro station (Andrassy Utca), is one of the best experiences to have in this beautiful city.

You will feel like stepping back in a time machine or catching the famous Harry Potter train on platform 9 3/4.

Both cities have the main train station next to the Historical Centre and the international airports are well connected to the city centre by public transportation (2-4 Euro ticket).

You can also decide to book your private transportation to the hotel for an excellent price, which will save you 40 minutes to one hour.

Keep also in mind that the cobblestones in the streets and the pavements can be treacherous if travelling with a big trolley, especially in Prague, where I usually book my transportation from the airport to the Old Centre

Airport transfer Prague    Airport transfer Budapest

The famous old yellow trams
The famous old yellow trams of Budapest

Prague or Budapest for the best attractions?

Just for the mere quantity of attractions, Prague is the clear winner here.

But it’s not all about quantity.

In Prague, you will find the largest ancient castle in the world.

There are museums every second corner in the Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the entire Prague 1 district is like an open-air museum.

Budapest doesn’t have as many museums, indeed much less choice, however still a good variety.

Budapest is, however, world famous for its thermal baths and swimming pools, some of the oldest in the world, a must-experience once there.

The Historical Centre is lovely, however not as impressive as in Prague.

The main reason is that Budapest was bombed during the second world war meanwhile Prague was able, or lucky, to mostly avoid that.

One interesting thing to notice in Budapest, even in the central District VI, is that a few of the most beautiful buildings have still signs of the bullets from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Here are my suggested 5 Prague’s main attractions:

  • Charles Bridge, although badly damaged and rebuilt during the many floods experienced in the capital of the Czech Republic, it still retains a unique character
  • Prague Castle, the biggest ancient castle in the world
  • The Old Town Square with its many gothic buildings that escaped the WW2 bombing
  • The National Technical Museum, a real surprise in Prague and a must visit with kids. 7 floors of unique exhibitions (full review of the NTM here)
  • The Karel Zeman Museum, one of the best museums if you are into video and photography to understand the history of special effects
  • you can read more about my guide to a 2 or 3-day Prague itinerary where I wrote about a few iconic destinations and lots of hidden gems of the city.

and in Budapest

There are many other attractions that should be mentioned here for both Budapest and Prague. This is just a short list.

National Technical Museum in Prague - An honest review
National Technical Museum in Prague – An honest review

Prague vs Budapest for nightlife and party

This is a draw in my opinion. Both cities offer so much, although in a different way.

There are two sides of the fun though: the Old Town and outside the city center.

The Old Town

That is where most of the travellers go, and you will find in both cities lots of bars and a few clubs where you will meet mostly other travellers.

They are the best spots to exchange stories and information.

Beer is cheap in both cities, between 1 and 2 Euro for a pint.

Budapest is also famous for its Hungarian wine, a must try at a reasonable price

These are a few of my favourite bars

Prague

  • Orange Bar: a cosy little bar with around 10 tables and a good selection of cocktails in the Jewish Quarter. The best spot to cool down later in the night.
  • FRAME Gin & Tonic Bar: now, if you love this cocktail, then FRAME must be in your must-experience list. With around 120 types of gin and 40 types of tonic, you can’t get it wrong. Are you not into gin & tonic? Simply, don’t go there.
  • BeBop Bar: with its luxurious, still cosy, interior design and the great selection of cocktails at a reasonable price, BeBop is going surely to impress you. It is off the beaten path but still a good spot to pass by.

Budapest

  • Szimpla Kert: one of my favourite ruin bars in Budapest. The interior is just amazing, post-war with Trabant cars and old pieces of furniture. Based on a few rooms with different music and vibe
  • GoodSpirit Whisky & Cocktail Bar: best spot to go for a cocktail in a lovely environment
  • VinoPiano Wine Bar: this is a great place to taste the Hungarian wine thanks to its wide selection of local wineries. The bar is also in a post-industrial building, which makes it so cool.

Outside the historical centre

This is where the locals go, and you will be less luckily to meet other travellers.

The capital of the Czech Republic has two areas that are 10 minutes by public transportation from the Old Town: Vinohrady and Zizkov.

Vinohrady has a good mix of expats and locals with some cool bar, pubs and restaurants. It’s more for a trendy night.

Zizkov caters more for a young crowd with lots of pubs (it is said the highest concentration in Europe) and a few clubs around.

In Budapest, head to Raday Utca, one of the trendiest streets with many restaurants, cafes and galleries.

The Budapest VII district, the Jewish Quarter, is a great place to go for a late night between ruin pubs.

The backyard at the Szimpla Kert Pub
The backyard at the Szimpla Kert Pub

The Opera House

In both cities, you should check out the program at the Opera House, usually providing amazing shows at a very affordable price too.

The Opera House in Budapest is in Andrassy Utca and it stands out for its neo-Renaissance style.

The building was designed by Miklós Ybl, a famous architecture from the 19th century.

In Prague, the opera house is known as the State Opera, originally opened in 1888 and today part of the National Theatre of the Czech Republic

Prague vs Budapest for families

Budapest is the winner if visiting in the summer.

I love the swimming pools there.

My favourite is the Palatinus Strand Baths on Margaret Island.

It’s outdoor and with huge pools and grass areas all around. You can easily spend the entire day there.

Margaret Island is also a great spot for a walk, with playgrounds in a pedestrian only island.

Streets tend to be also much wider in Budapest and less chaotic.

In saying that, Prague has more museums that kids will love.

I am thinking here, for example, of the National Technical Museum or the Karel Zeman Museum, but this is just the start of a long list.

That is why Prague would work better in winter.

Both Budapest and Prague have restaurants that cater for families with kids.

One thing that Prague has more is a much bigger selection of cakes and sweets shops, almost every second window in the most popular streets of the Old Town.

Not sure though if this is an advantage or a drawback 😮

Bridges of Prague
Bridges of Prague

Prague or Budapest for cafes and restaurants

Another hard choice, I must say. I love both for food.

Prague has a wide range of choice. You can find literally all types of cuisines and cafes.

Very trendy are the bakeries, French inspired, that besides offering of course bread, are a good choice also for lunch.

They don’t come cheap though, especially in the Old Town.

The restaurant selection in Budapest is not as wide but prices are cheaper.

I personally love the ruin bars and street food places of District VII. You can have great value food in a hippie atmosphere.

These are my favourite cafes and restaurants

Prague

  • Krcma U Pavouka (Old Town): this is a must experience in Prague. A medieval dinner in a cave organised like the famous Game of Thrones. As you walk in, it’s like stepping into a parallel world. During the dinner you will get to enjoy medieval shows, of course, with sword fights between the tables, belly dancers with live medieval music, fire games and I could keep going (read my full review of U Pavouka here). Dinner is a set 5 courses and open bar wine and beers included in the price. Book well in advance because it is so popular, especially on weekends and summer days.
  • Hostinec U Sadlu (New Town): for a quiet night in a typical Czech restaurant with some of the best local food you can find in Prague. For an intimate dinner, enter through the tiny door to the ground level. You will find around 10 tables. Otherwise, turn around the corner to take the door to the underground level.
  • Le Caveau (Vinohrady): set in a perfect location, facing the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord, this beautiful cafe is THE place to go on Saturday mornings when the street is closed for the local market, with live music, and outdoor tables. Food is excellent, although limited in the choice, with sandwiches and scrambled eggs. French inspired, they have a great selection of pastry and croissant, of course. My fav is the chorizo scrambled eggs.
  • Dobra Trafika (Vinohrady): a Bohemian cafe with a retro design. Another must try for a relaxed cafe or a drink later in the day, sometimes with live music.

Budapest

  • Karavan (District 6): this is the place to go for the best street food in the city, at a good price too, with a huge selection, from burgers to typical local Hungarian dishes and fast food too
  • Bécsiszelet Vendéglő (District 8): you want to go there if you are after an authentic old-style Hungarian restaurant. It’s very basic, but very tasty too, not to mention the lovely service. Located underground as it used to be in the communist days.
  • Beerstro14 (Old Town): this place is not all about food, great by the way and at a reasonable price. It’s also about the wide beer selection, mostly locally made, that comes paired with the dinner. The atmosphere and character of the place is incredible, a must try in Budapest. There is only one drawback. You need to book the table well in advance because it is so busy!
Prague medieval tavern - A dinner review of U Pavouka
Prague medieval tavern – A dinner review of U Pavouka

Prague or Budapest for a 3-day itinerary

Both destinations are fascinating, and will keep you well occupied throughout your stay covering both the main sites as well as a few little gems.

This is a possible itinerary for Prague:

  • Day 1: Take a walk in the Old Town starting from the Main Square of this beautiful city. Visit the Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock. Head to Charles Bridge and visit the Karel Zeman Museum
  • Day 2: It’s the day dedicated to the Prague Castle (don’t miss the St. Vitus Cathedral). In the afternoon, explore the Malá Strana area stopping at the John Lennon Wall, the Contemporary Art Museum Kampa and take the funicular to the Petrin Tower for the spectacular view.
  • Day 3: In the morning, head to the National Technical Museum and spend the afternoon exploring the Vinohrady cafes, bars and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, head to the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord for the beautiful local farmer market with live music

And for Budapest:

  • Day 1: Have a stroll in the Old Town, in District V to have a taste of the city. Include the St. Stephen’s Basilica in your walk. In the afternoon, plan a visit to the Hungarian Parliament Building
  • Day 2: Time to visit the fabulous Buda Castle. In the afternoon relax at either the Széchenyi Spa or the Gellert Baths
  • Day 3: Explore the Great Synagogue in the morning, then have a stroll in the Great Market Hall for some shopping in the restored neo-gothic hall and take a Danube River Sightseeing Cruise in the late afternoon.

You can also organise a day trip from both cities to the nearby attractions. 

Where to stay in Prague or Budapest 

There is a wide spectrum of choice for both cities, from hotels to apartments.

Budapest tends to be 30-40% cheaper than Prague.

Just keep in mind to avoid the restaurant and bar areas.  A few streets can be quite noisy, especially in the Old Town.

I wrote two extensive guides about staying in Prague and staying in Budapest, both recently updated. 

Shortly, here are some of the best options for a stay in the two cities:

Check more areas and options in my Prague Guide

Where to stay in Prague [BEST AREAS and HOTELS)
Where to stay in Prague [BEST AREAS and HOTELS)

Check more areas and options in my Budapest Guide

Best Places to stay in Budapest
Best Places to stay in Budapest

Is Prague or Budapest cheaper

Budapest is the winner here.

Prague pays the price of its popularity, therefore it is all more expensive, especially in high season.

Accommodations are 1.5 times more expensive in Prague than in Budapest.

Food can be even twice the price.

One thing they have in common is the cheap local beer, between 1 and 2 Euro based on the pub

Usually the flight ticket to Prague is cheaper, just because there is more competition.

If you live in Germany, Prague is also reachable by car or FlixiBus, which makes the trip really cheap, sometimes even under 20 Euro.

Best time to visit Prague and Budapest

Both cities have similar weather, so this is not really a decision factor.

Typically, winter can be very cold and with snow and ice, although in the last few years the temperature has been not as bad.

January and February are the coldest months when the temperature can go down to -5C or even -10C (23F-14F).

Autumn and spring are the unreliable seasons nowadays, where you can experience warm days with temperature up to 20C (68F), or cold rainy days with the thermometer collapsing down to 5-10C (41-50F).

Summers are typically warm, with temperatures between 20C and 25C or above (68F-77F)

In summer, the days are usually sunny and dry, however you do get to experience substantial rainfalls from time to time, that may create floods in the city. Prague had one of the worst 20 years ago in August.

Overall, the best time to visit Prague or Budapest is probably May-June and September

July and August, are also good months, in fact the peak season, but keep in mind that Prague can be really busy during that time.

Remember to book your accommodation well in advance in these months.

Prague vs Budapest to live

It is down to preference here. In my opinion, Budapest is a better place to live.

I love Prague, but living there can be a bit too much.

Prague sometimes feels like a big Disney World where all is organised for the travellers, less so for the locals.

This is especially true in Prague 1, the central area of the city.

You will find a nice vibe in Prague 3 or further away, but it is not really walking distance from the Old Town

In the Prague 1 area, supermarkets are also very limited and, of course, expensive.

Moreover, renting a place in Budapest is cheaper than in Prague, down to 50% or even less.

If you want to buy in the Czech capital, well, good luck. You need to have a budget similar to other European capitals. 

Generally speaking the living cost is lower in Budapest, by a big margin.

Budapest is also a university city, becoming popular with western students, which means you will have around a nice multicultural environment in both bars and cafes.

Budapest V and the beautiful Parliament building
Budapest V and the beautiful Parliament building

Prague vs Budapest for banks and currency exchange

Both countries have the own currency, the Czech Koruna and the Hungarian Forint.

If you plan to stay for an extended stay for 6 months or over, then it makes sense to open a local bank account.

Be aware, however, that both countries are famous for the expensive bank system.

For a shorter stay, even for a long weekend away, I highly suggest opening an account on Wise and activate the local currency.

In this way, you will avoid the typical expensive bank fees for both the ATM and card payments (at leat 5 times more expensive on the last researches).

Wise is a listed international online bank that let you exchange currency at Google transfer rate (yes, the exchange rate that you see when you search on Google), instead of the usual bank exchange rate, typically 3-4% higher, besides the bank fees, of course.

You can use this link to get fee-free transfer up to 500GBP (or equivalent).

Open a free wise account

In Prague, I was recently surprised by the Unicredit Bank ATM that charges a fixed 5 Euro fee (125 Korunas) to withdraw local cash, doesn’t matter what international card you use.

I went instead to Komerční Banka, and they did not charge any fee.

125 Korunas can buy you 3 pints of beer 😉

Budapest vs Prague - The forever question
Budapest vs Prague – The forever question

My final comments on Budapest and Prague

Both cities are fantastic and worth visiting, of course.

It all comes down to your travel style and available time.

Prague is more compact and in 2 days or even a long weekend, you can visit most of it.

Still, there are so many museums that having more days will help to have a better overview, especially if you want to expand your visit to Prague 2 or 3, outside the Old Town.

Prague is more pretentious with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurant that cater to a more luxurious clientele.

Budapest is the largest city of the two, and you will spend more time walking around and that is why I suggest staying for a long weekend or even more.

Most of the thermal baths are on the Buda side of the city, connected to the Pest side (the Historical Centre) by many bridges over the Danube River.

In saying that, the transportation system is so good that you can easily and quickly get around the city.

Budapest is much less pretentious, in fact it is more hipster with its popular ruin bars and building facades still in need of attention.

Do not miss the medieval castles in these beautiful cities.

As I opened this post, Budapest is the better choice in my opinion, but it may be different for you. 

Let me know what you think in the comment area.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

4 thoughts on “Prague vs Budapest – The best (and the worst) of both”

  1. This is an amazing and very helpful article! My husband and I, along with our 2 year old were deciding between Prague and Budapest in November, but only for a couple days. It seems like Prague would be better for us. Thank you for taking the time to write this article! Blessings! 🙂

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