Prague vs Budapest
There are two cities which are pretty much on everyone’s Eastern European bucket lists (you know which two we’re talking about!). If you’ve only got the time or the budget to explore one though, you might be facing the impossible question: Prague or Budapest?
Both undoubtedly have their charms, whether that’s super photogenic architecture, jaw-dropping riverside views or awesome restaurants which won’t cost you an arm and a leg to eat in. They’re also prime stag do destinations thanks, mostly, to their affordability and lively activities lists (but don’t let that stop you from visiting either if you’re not in a rowdy group).
There are certain criteria which may help elevate one city above the other if you’re having trouble choosing. We’ve done the research and handily put together the following comparison of Prague vs Budapest:
For some of the coolest drinking spots in Europe...
Prague may be the home of cheap Czech beer, but it’s very hard to beat the boho-chic vibes of a Budapest ruin bar.
Lodged inside dilapidated buildings which have been left abandoned since the Soviet era, ruin pubs are the pinnacle of Budapest’s nightlife scene. The décor isn’t sophisticated (think shabby furnishings, bare walls and fairy-lights for beautification), however, they do have awesome drinks menus and buzzing DJ sets which allow you to party well into the small hours.
Many ruin bars in Budapest open during the day, too, offering a cosy refuge to chill out and plan your next move around the city. Venues to put on your list include the original ruin pub, Szimpla Kert. It’s a warren of rooms inside an old warehouse boasting themed bars, cool artwork and even a vintage Trabant car! Alternatively, Grandio hostel’s onsite ruin pub is as laid back as they come, plus it features loads of lush plants which have been allowed to run really wild. Love to dance? Instant is the ultimate party palace.
Orbzii tip: If you can’t pick between bars, head to the Jewish Quarter where a large chunk of Budapest’s nightlife is located.
For gorgeous heritage sites...
Deciding between Prague and Budapest when it comes to historic monuments is like trying to compare apples and oranges. While it’s a REALLY close call, Prague probably just pips Budapest to the punch with its enchanting Castle District (the biggest in the world!) and cobbled Old Town which really does look like something straight off a film set.
There’s also the prospect of taking a stroll across medieval Charles Bridge or touring the stunning St. Vitus Cathedral. Prague’s more compact size in comparison to Budapest additionally places everything within easy walking distance, meaning less need to take public transport and more money to spend on cheap beer…
That’s not to say Budapest isn’t inundated with stunning structures, too. Just look at the fairy-tale turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion, the mosaic roof of Matthias Church or the dramatic neo-Gothic façade of the Hungarian Parliament Building.
For unique cultural attractions...
Any city which lets you party while you’re getting pampered is a winner in our books. That’s exactly what’s on offer at Budapest’s largest thermal spa – Széchenyi Baths.
Relaxing sessions in bathhouses have long been a part of Budapest’s culture. That’s all down to the fact the city sits directly above a series of natural thermal springs. There’s a total of nine spas scattered across the city, each one with its own set of allures. For something indoors and featuring intricate interiors, you can’t go wrong with the Art Deco Gellert Baths at the bottom of Gellert Hill.
Turkish bathhouse Király is even tinier and features a cool dome above its central pool, while Rudas Baths benefits from a rooftop bath with 360-degree views of the city. Perhaps the most popular of all, though, is Széchenyi Baths in City Park. It looks like a lavish outdoor swimming pool complex when you first enter, yet you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful soak or indulge in a cheap massage. Come back at nightfall to attend a sparty – a spa party where punters dance and drink in their swimwear.
For seriously fun festivals...
We all know how easy it is to improve a trip simply by booking it around a festival. If you’re wondering whether it’s Prague or Budapest that comes up trumps in this department, we’re going to have to go with the latter.
The Czech capital may have a whole list of cool cultural events on its calendar – from the boozy Czech Beer Festival to the more refined International Jazz Festival – but Budapest is home to one of the biggest music festivals on Earth. Sziget sets up shop on Óbuda Island in the middle of the Danube every August and attracts some of the best musicians in the business, in addition to 500,000 party-goers. Pretty impressive!
If you like your festivals on a slightly smaller scale, Budapest hosts various other worthwhile events, especially in February when Carnival season is in full swing. And then there are its Christmas markets which definitely give Germany a run for its money with their hot spiced wine, mouth-watering Hungarian treats and very affordable ice rinks.
For mouth-watering regional grub...
If you’re unfamiliar with Eastern European grub, it’s mostly made up of hearty stews and soups created from fresh, seasonal ingredients. This kind of food is particularly welcome on a chilly winter’s day, which coincidentally is a prime time to visit Prague and Budapest.
Those keen to lead with their stomachs will struggle to choose between these two cities. Both have epic dining scenes that offer up almost every type of cuisine you can think of. Budapest takes the win for street food bites like spiced stuffed cabbage leaves and lángos (fried flatbreads). You’ll also have the option of trying tasty Jewish gastronomy at spots like Mazel Tov (also a ruin bar) or getting a sugar high eating cream cakes at one of the city’s 19th century coffeehouses.
If fine dining is more your thing, Prague has no shortage of fancier establishments where you can dig into bowls of rich goulash and svíčková – sirloin steak marinated in spices and drenched in a creamy sauce. International cuisine of a good calibre is additionally up for grabs, while the melt-in-your-mouth cookies and gingerbread baked at Perníčkův sen in Prague’s Old Town make ideal souvenirs (or just snacks for the plane home…)
Winner: Prague and Budapest
The results are in and the Hungarian capital seems to just about clinch it! Why not decide for yourself when you Dream, Plan and Book a getaway to Budapest with Orbzii?