Last updated on May 9, 2023 by Wandering our World
Prague and Budapest are two of Europe’s oldest cities, and they’re often described as two of the best cities in Central Eastern Europe to visit.
They’re both inland, built on large winding rivers, and full of ancient architecture, culture, and history. Yet despite these similarities, Prague and Budapest are actually very different.
For example, Prague is known for its towering spires, beautiful nature, and exciting nightlife, as well as its history and culture. For families it may be a better choice too.
Budapest, on the other hand, is known for its eclectic music and party cultures, and for being one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit, as well as having astounding culture and architecture. And for foodies, this city is pretty special too.
That’s where we can help!
We’ve visited both of these cities, so have put together our honest comparison to help you decide which one to tick off your bucket list first.
We show you which has the better nightlife, food, which is better for families, couples and more. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Better To Visit in Winter?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Better For Culture?
- Which is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which is Better For Shopping?
A Quick Overview: Prague v Budapest
Prague: A Quick Overview
With stunning churches, cathedrals, and even a castle built in this city, Prague is sometimes known as the “City of a Hundred Spires”.
It has a reputation for some of the most beautiful, well-preserved architecture in Europe, which tells stories of a history stretching back over a thousand years.
Prague is also the capital city of the Czech Republic, and 1.3 million people call this city home, with over 8 million tourists visiting every year.
As well as incredible architecture, Prague also offers so much to see and do. Here you’ll find a wonderful mix of old and new, including nightclubs, woodlands, Beatles memorials, and more beer than you have ever dreamed of!
Many musicians, scientists, authors, and political figures have lived in Prague throughout their lives, including Franz Kafka and Madeline Albright, and the city is still inspiring everyone who wanders its streets.
Budapest: A Quick Overview
Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and it was formed in 1873 when three smaller towns, Pest, Buda, and Obuda merged to become one developing city.
Nowadays, it’s known for its interesting architecture, the Sziget Music Festival, art, and history, as well as being the thermal bath capital of the world!
Budapest has a population of approximately 1.7 million, and it’s by far the biggest city in Hungary. It’s also the largest city in Europe to be built on the Danube River.
Whether you’re interested in wandering alongside the river, soaking in one of the famous thermal mineral baths, or sitting down to enjoy a traditional Hungarian meal, you’ll never be bored in Budapest.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Prague is a relatively compact city and it’s built on flat ground which makes it perfect for walking around. You’ll be able to get to most places on foot, and this is a fantastic way to see the city.
It’s been well pedestrianised, and there are quaint cobbled alleyways and winding lanes to wander down, either by yourself or on a walking tour.
Prague also has an effective and well-developed public transport system, for those days you just don’t feel like walking. There is an excellent metro system, and there are also trams and buses that connect most of the city.
If you’re just visiting for a long weekend, then you can purchase an all-inclusive transport pass, which also includes the passenger trains and the ferries.
This pass is available for either 24 hours or 72 hours and if you’re planning to stay longer there are monthly tickets available as well.
The centre of Budapest is flat and very easy to walk around too. But overall it’s a more spread out city, and if you plan to venture out into the suburbs you’ll find it harder to stay on foot.
Because it’s more spread out, Budapest makes up for that by providing an impressive network of public transport, including metro lines, trams, buses, trolley buses, ferries, river boats and passenger trains!
You can purchase tickets for all these kinds of transport from the subway stations, or street vendors throughout the city.
There are different options available depending on whether you just want to buy a single trip ticket, a monthly ticket, or a time-based ticket.
All of these details are nicely set out on the BKK website, along with a handy trip planner tool to help you make the most of the city.
Overall Prague is easier to get around. The fact that you can walk everywhere you want to, puts it at the top of our list for transport. Budapest comes in at a close second, however, as the public transport options available are fantastic.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Prague: The Nightlife
The biggest nightclub in Europe is located in Prague, which gives you a good indication of what the nightlight there is like!
That particular club, Karlovy Lazne is five stories high, with a different type of music playing in each part of the building.
It’s not all club music in the city though, and no matter what kind of night out you’d like to have, you’ll be able to have it in Prague.
Czechs also really love their beer, drinking more of it than any other country in the world. This country devours enough beer each year for every citizen to have about 155 litres, so a trip to Prague wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the fantastic pubs!
U Fleků has been open for more than 500 years and is well decorated in traditional style.
Or, for something a little different, visit The Absintherie, a bar where you can taste some of the 100 different types of Absinthe in stock, while also learning about the history and culture behind this alcohol at the museum next door.
Budapest: The Nightlife
Budapest is also known for having great nightlife, and whether you’re after a stylish rooftop bar, a party in a derelict building, or some wine tasting in a restaurant, you’ll find it in Budapest.
This city is popular for having some of the first and best “Ruin Bars” in the world.
These cool bars are located in old, abandoned buildings, and make a great place to party! We recommend a visit to Szimpla Kert to get the party started.
For something a bit different, you might want to check out some of the after-parties at the spas and baths.
Szechenyi Spa Baths is a beautifully decorated thermal bathhouse, where you can soak in the hot tub, and then spend the rest of the night swimming in a giant dance pool.
While both of these cities are great for nightlife, for a night you won’t forget, Budapest is the place to go. It’s got some quirky, interesting bars, and your night out here is bound to be amazing.
Which Is Better For Food?
Prague: The Food
Czech food is known for being thick and hearty, and great for the winter.
The national dishes include stews, goulashes, and lots of potatoes. There’s also a lot more on offer in Prague, and you can find local and international delicacies here.
There’s a chain of pubs in this city called “Lokal”, which have a good reputation for serving traditional Czech food at a good price.
There you can feast upon bread, stew, meat, and dumplings, and wash it all down with a good beer.
Otherwise, it’s easy to find German or Austrian food, or even international restaurants serving Thai or Indian cuisine.
Romanian sweet treats “Trdelnik” are also found all over the city, and they make a wonderful dessert or even just a snack.
These hollow doughnuts, also known as “chimney cakes” are best served hot and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
Budapest: The Food
Hungarian food is also very hearty. Lots of soups stews, and meat and vegetable dishes make up the national cuisine, and you’ll find these meals anywhere you look in Budapest.
There’s also a great cafe culture in Budapest, and the New York Cafe located here has been called the “most beautiful cafe in the world” by many.
Palacsinta, or Hungarian Pancakes, are thin, crepe-like pancakes made with flour, milk, and eggs that are worth trying too. They can be served savoury or sweet, although the sweet version stuffed with ricotta and vanilla is the most traditional.
Another must-try dish is Chicken Paprikash. Usually served with traditional noodles, Chicken Paprikash is chicken cooked in a spicy sour cream sauce. It’s comforting and delicious, and it’s famous in Hungary for a reason!
Overall, Budapest is the best city to visit for food in our opinion. The food here is warming, delicious, and interesting.
Which Is Better For Families?
Prague is a great city to visit as a family, especially if you have children coming along on your trip with you.
Prague is safe, easy to get around, and relatively cheap to spend time in.
Plus it was even named by Ovo Network as the “most kid-friendly vacation city in Europe in 2022, and there’s a wide range of activities and attractions for children here.
In particular, Prague offers many museums and a lot of outdoor sites to impress children.
The Prague Zoo, located on the edge of the city is a must-see for families, and there’s also the intriguing Gallery of Steel Figures in the city.
Budapest is also a great choice as the location for your family vacation. Just like Prague, this city is easy to get around with children, and it’s safe too.
It’s also cheap, even cheaper than Prague as we discuss further down below.
Children will love visiting attractions such as the Miniversum, which is a mini-scale model of Budapest, or Cyberjump, the largest Trampoline Park in Central and Eastern Europe. There’s even the Children’s Railway in Budapest, which is operated almost completely by children under the age of 14!
Overall we think Prague is the better city to visit with children. It’s got the perfect mix of entertainment and culture, and the ease of travel makes it a dream family holiday location.
Which Is Better To Visit in Winter?
Prague is cold in winter, there’s no doubt about it.
The average temperature sits close to 0 degrees Celsius from December through to February, and it’s not uncommon for snow to fall and stay on the ground.
But as long as you don’t mind the cold, these freezing temperatures make Prague a great place to visit, in the winter months.
Why? Well Prague is much quieter in winter than it is in summer. There are fewer tourists around, which means you can enjoy the attractions without having to push through crowds, and it’s also easier to get cheap accommodation and flights.
There are also fantastic winter activities to do, including going ice-skating, watching the traditional Lamplighter at work on Charles Bridge, or paying a visit to some of the Christmas Markets.
Budapest is also very cold in winter, and on average it’s only a degree or two warmer than Prague from December through to February.
On many winter days, it’s grey and cloudy in Budapest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
Just like Prague, Budapest is also cheaper and quieter to visit in the winter. And, you’ll find plenty of ways to escape the cold here, starting of course with the thermal baths. What better way to warm up than a hot soak?
Here you can also wander around some of the traditional Christmas markets, and be sure to enjoy some warm Hungarian Kürtőskalács while you do.
We really can’t choose between Prague and Budapest when it comes to a winter holiday. Both of these cities are wonderful to visit around Christmas time, and they are especially magical if there’s been a fresh snowfall.
Which Is Cheaper?
Prague is a good city to visit if you’re travelling on a budget.
It’s got a reputation for being much cheaper than some of the Central European cities, and you can easily find cheap accommodation, beer, and meals in Prague.
If you’re travelling cheaply, there are good hostels to choose from, otherwise, you can splurge for a nice hotel here much cheaper than you could in Paris!
Budapest is also cheap to visit, and we say that it’s even cheaper than Prague. In fact recently Budapest was rated by Expatistan as 15% cheaper to live in than Prague, and these savings extend to tourists as well.
There are great hostels in Budapest, and even if you’re eating out for any meal, you’ll still find Budapest cheaper than many other European cities.
Overall, Budapest is the cheaper of the two cities. If you’re on a limited budget, then this is the place to visit.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: This city is cheap, so even a stay at the gorgeous four-star Stories Boutique Hotel in the heart of the city should fit most budgets. The hotel is incredibly photogenic, especially the ethereal ‘indoor greenhouse’. See photos and rates!
Luxury: If you’re looking for luxury, you can’t beat Matild Palace. This imposing and impressive palatial accommodation has a fantastic location, exceptional service, and the facilities are world-class. The rooftop views, in particular, are special. See photos and rates!
Budget: Situated in the heart of Prague, Old Town Boutique Apartments are beautiful self-contained apartments in one of the best locations in the city. With exposed wooden beams and wonderful city views, staying here feels like luxury but without the big price tag. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Located in the Old Town right on the banks of the river, the 5-star Four Seasons Hotel brings you celebrity treatment, world-class facilities, and superb views of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge. From the in-house spa to the gorgeous restaurant terrace, this hotel can’t be beat. See photos and rates!
Which Is Better For Culture?
Prague: The Culture
Prague began to grow before the Middle Ages, and it’s seen some fascinating periods, including the Habsburg Empire, the World Wars, and the Velvet Revolution.
The Prague Castle, watching over the city has seen all of these events, as it was first built in the late 9th century.
With so much history to showcase, Prague is full of incredible architecture, as well as museums and exhibition halls.
In addition to the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge is one of Prague’s best-known spots. This medieval structure spans the Vlatava River, and it sits atop beautiful stone arches.
It’s not all about architecture in Prague, however, and when it comes to the culture there’s so much to see and do.
Music forms a big part of Czech culture, and here you can attend classical music concerts, and music festivals, or treat your ears to the sound of buskers as you wander the streets.
Budapest: The Culture
The Hungarian Parliament Building is located in Budapest, and it is an incredible sight, being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.
This building is newer than many around it, as it was opened in 1902. It boasts an impressive 691 rooms and sits on the edge of the Danube River.
Other Budapest cultural buildings include the Dohany Street Synagogue, which is the largest synagogue in Europe, and it’s been open since the mid-1800s.
Budapest also has a lot more to offer than architecture, and it’s got a great range of museums, exhibition halls and galleries too. There are many famous Hungarian authors, and the Budapest libraries are also worth checking out.
If you’re an aspiring writer yourself, then take a stroll to the Anonymous Statue. Legend has it that if you touch the statue you’ll be endowed with great writing skills.
However in our opinion, for a truly different cultural experience, Prague is the best city to visit. As one of the oldest cities in Europe, and having been largely untouched in the World Wars, there’s so much to experience here.
Which is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
Prague is full of cobbled alleys to wander hand-in-hand if you’re planning a romantic couples getaway.
This city is full of surprises, and whether you stumble upon some street markets, or manage to catch a sunset from Charles Bridge, we’re sure you’ll be enchanted. Prague has a fantastic reputation as a place to visit, and there’s a lot for you and your loved one to do together.
One of the tourist attractions Prague is famous for is the Lennon Wall. This is located in the centre of the city, and it was first created by an unknown artist after John Lennon’s assassination.
If you visit the wall, you can join the other visitors who continue to add messages of love and hope to the wall.
And just around the corner is the Love Lock Bridge, where couples can add a padlock to the bridge, and steal a kiss.
Budapest also has a reputation as a romantic city.
Whether you prefer to take a cruise along the river, snuggle up with a glass of wine, or watch the sunset from Gellert Hill, this is a wonderful place to take a holiday with your loved one.
The thermal baths are the perfect place to relax, and Gellert Bath has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful ones to visit, and perhaps treat yourself to a massage.
Another romantic outing is a trip to Margaret Island, which is located in the middle of the Danube River.
You can take a ferry across, and spend time wandering the gardens and parks. In the middle of the island is the Margaret Island Water Tower, where you can climb to the top and enjoy the “kissing hall”.
But all in all, we think for a couples holiday, Prague is the better city to visit. The architecture and culture of this city, as well as romantic attractions, make this the perfect getaway location.
Which Is Better For Shopping?
Prague is full of exciting shops, and if you enjoy shopping then you’ll be busy here!
In the Cerna Ruze shopping centre, you’ll find a wide range of stores to suit anyone, including clothing and souvenirs.
For a focus on clothing, the Fashion Area is located slightly further out of town, but it’s packed with hundreds of brands to choose from.
And of course, another store you must visit in Prague if you like shopping is the Shakespeare and Sons English language bookstore, which has a brilliant collection and a wonderful atmosphere.
Of course, you can’t go shopping in Prague without visiting some of the second-hand stores dotted around this city.
Prague is home to some brilliant vintage and second-hand clothing stores, and this is the perfect place to pick up some one-of-a-kind pieces.
When it comes to shopping in Budapest, this city is known for its wonderful markets.
With an impressive range of products from local produce, to culinary delights, and Hungarian designed clothing and accessories, you’ll be able to find anything you’re on the hunt for.
The Great Market Hall was constructed in the late 1800s and is often considered one of the finest indoor markets in Europe, so it’s worth a visit.
If you’re looking for something more contemporary, then there are several large malls in the centre of town, including the Westend Shopping Centre and the Arena Mall. These house hundreds of stores, as well as restaurants and cinemas to keep you entertained all day.
For shopping, we say take a trip to Budapest. The markets are outstanding, and the cheaper prices mean you’ll be able to pick up some fantastic bargains.