Winter holidays in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest
Everyone, me included, is anxious and ready for summer. Seriously, enough with the cold, snow, and hail. But if you're like me, you're already planning your next holiday trip. Hopefully this post will help, especially if you have two weeks of vacation and need to escape the Christmas chaos (and your family)? May I suggest a two week adventure to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest? Here's my tips, advice, and recos for a beautiful Christmas and New Years Trip to Central Europe.
Prague| It's a fairly small city, you only need a few days to explore without feeling like you're missing out. Here's my must-dos:
Prague Castle: This is one of the oldest castles in the world. Plan for the day here, it's beautiful as is the views and when you get cold, stop by one of the Christmas market stalls for hot, mulled wine.
Charles Bridge: Beautiful walk from dinner after Kampa Park (see below) back into the city. Suggest the bridge during the evening as the day is crazy, busy.
Old Square: Meander with locals and tourists alike and stroll through the Christmas market stalls, eat the holiday fare, drink hot mulled wine, and take in the holiday cheer.
Kutna Horna: Book this day tour from Prague to visit the famous bone church, St. Barbara’s cathedral (famous for this gothic church being funded by local miners for over 100 years), and lunch with the locals over a delcious meal at Dacicky's.
Kampa Park: A fine-dining experience at one of the most beautiful resturaunts in Prague. Reserve a table at the window to overlook the water and watch the boats cruise past.
Estrella: Vegetarian menu only, but don't be skeptical. I promise you won't even notice the meat is missing. Lunch is set menu and is (wait for it), only $5/person! Be sure to come back at dinner for their beet burger.
Vienna| Catch a train from Prague to Vienna and settle in for the best foodie week-long ever. I'll save the foodie recos for another blog post, but be forewarned that you need to arrive a few days before Christmas or you'll miss all the Christmas markets like we did. Regardless of what websites and posters say, in reality, locals will close up shop and head to celebrate (rightfully so) with their loved ones. You'll be among the strangler tourists arriving at empty Christmas markets wondering WTF.
Here's a few for our fave places and yes, I've stopped writing a little blurb about why these places are awesome. It is, just visit.
Schonbrunner Gardens: Visit these gardens early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Be sure to get to the fountain at the top of the gardens for a beautiful view.
Palmenhaus Schoenbrunn: Beautiful greenhouse and butterfly house is a nice repreve from the crowds and the cold.
St. Stephen's Cathedral: If you are planning for Christmas Eve service, get here at least three hours ahead of time to stand in line to get in for mid-night mass.
Albertina: one of our favorite museums with our favorite hotdog stand outside the front doors. Stop for a quick bite before you enter the museum.
Budapest| Jump on a bus and head from Vienna to Hungary for a several days to celebrate the New Year. The history, the people, and the hot baths here made it our favorite city on the trip.
Buda Castle: aka the Royal Palace aka the Budapest History Museum aka National Gallery: It goes my many names and there is a lot to do and see here. Plan for a fews days to tour the Castle and the Museums. You can do it in a day, if you must; just get here as soon as they open.
Gellert Bath: This is a beautiful bathhouse and definitley must do while you're in Budapest. That said, more tourists than locals come here and the prices reflect it. Still it's worth a visit anytime of the year.
Lukacs Bath: You'll defitinltey be the only tourists at our favorite bath, located on the Buda side, as locals speak little to no English. But, don't be intimidated, everyone is friendly and the experience is amazing. We loved the jets and whirpools. Make sure to bring cash with you as they don't take credit cards.
Danube River: Worth strolling the river on both the Buda and Pest side for different perspectives. Book your New Year's Eve cruise on the river in advance as tickets sell out quickly. The food and views are worth it!
Gellert Hill and Statue: Hike up to the top of this hill for beautiful views of the city. Head back down on the opposite side you came as you can grab a quick bite of hot stuffed cabbage and mulled wine to warm you up at the local food stalls lining the side of the mountain.
Tanti: I surprised Kyle here for his birthday dinner and the service and food was amazing. Unfortunately, they recently lost their Michelin star, but it would still be worth a visit for a modern take on Hungarian food paired with local wine.
The Christmas/New Year Markets: The stalls throughout the city make it fun to meander and get lost in. They also have the most delicious local, holiday food for very inexpensive making breakfast, lunch, and dinner options easy with diverse food to choose from; everything is delicious! Stop frequently for hot, mulled wine to warm up and keep walking until you need another refill. It makes for the perfect relaxing, holiday.
Central Market Hall: Amazing food hall where you can stock up on paprika, spices and herbs, or grab some food or a picnic outside on the river.
I hope you love these cities as much as we did!