Prague or Copenhagen?
January 17, 2014 10:21 AM   Subscribe

We're going to Berlin. Should we go to Prague, Copenhagen, or maybe Krakow as an additional stop?

We'll be travelling in June. One 40-sh married couple, a 5-year old, and a senior (70s). All of us are pretty experienced travelers (well, except the 5-year old) and American but none have been to Berlin and we're focusing on that for a trip of approximately 2 weeks. We don't necessarily want to stay in Berlin the whole time but can't decide which way to go from there. If we were to attempt a 2nd city for some of that two weeks, what would be better: Prague (with probably a stop in Dresden), Copenhagen (with maybe a stop in Hamburg), or Krakow? Better is defined as more interesting, prettier, more to do, better for kids, more affordable - any of these or other criteria can be used. We may rent a car but we may take trains. All that is still to be decided. We're really still planning what we want to see and then the logistics can be worked out. We like museums, art, outdoor recreation, music, food, and architecture. We don't care much about shopping or sports.

Anonymous since some aspects of this trip are a surprise for the senior we'll be with.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
For ease of getting around, lack of issues with language and general loveliness, I vote for Copenhagen.

My parents were swarmed by kids and pickpocketed in Prague. Just a data point, but not an uncommon thing. Your party will be more susceptable to being pickpocketed because you'll all be dealing with luggage and kids and the seniors will be moving slow and slow to react to situations (no judgement, my parents are in their 70s and that's just how it is.)

I've heard nothing of Krakow.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:35 AM on January 17, 2014

I'll vote for Prague. We (family of 5 - kids 10, 4 & almost 2) were there December of '12 and were never solicited, harassed, or otherwise inconvenienced. I'd recommend finding lodging in the Mala Strana and enjoying the city - it's spectacular. I have also been to Copenhagen and loved it as well, but I'm a sucker for Prague.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:44 AM on January 17, 2014

All three are great destinations, but Copenhagen is the most expensive, and Prague will probably be the most crowded. If those things deter you, Krakow is probably your best bet. It has beautiful architecture, great restaurants, lots of history, and is easily accessible from Berlin.
posted by rpfields at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2014

While Prague is pretty and historic and very easy to spend time in, I'd definately choose Copenhagen - its so much more an interesting living modern European city, if a little more gritty than you might be expecting.

Copenhagen also has the benefit of being ridiculously close to Sweden and with the oresund link you also get to go to Malmo itself another beautiful, interesting, historic city in 20 minutes on the train.
posted by Middlemarch at 10:52 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would you consider Amsterdam? Its only a bit farther than Krakow, and is perfect for your group. We were there with two kids and a senior this fall, and found plenty to do. It would be an easy drive on A2.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:02 AM on January 17, 2014

Copenhagen is likely to be the easiest, but also the most expensive. So there's that tradeoff. However, to be really honest, since you are all experienced travelers and there's a 3:1 adult to child ratio, I don't know that I'd just pick the "easiest" city where people are most likely to speak English and it's the most like America. I also think the prospect of pickpocketing is not really much of a deterrent, since that's something that happens in basically every large city, and you're planning a trip to Europe, not Epcot Center.

Some friends of mine did a similar trip a few years ago (Berlin with side trips to both Prague and Krakow) and raved about Krakow upon their return.

I have nothing much to say about Prague, but that doesn't mean it's not the ideal choice. I just don't know a lot about it.

Copenhagen With Kids article from Lonely Planet.

"Especially For Kids In Prague" from the Frommer's website.

I had a little more trouble finding comparable information for Krakow, probably because it's slightly more off the beaten path in terms of Anglophone tourism. But here's a Tripadvisor list that might be of interest.
posted by Sara C. at 11:06 AM on January 17, 2014

What about Weimar? So much history and culture and in a smallish and very easy to get around town.
posted by brookeb at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2014

Krakow is cheap, lovely and a beautiful stop. I recommend it highly.
posted by rabu at 12:08 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My answer is usually Prague.

In this case though, I think Prague will be underwhelming for your 5yo. It's a really lovely city when you can appreciate the architectural details, which I don't imagine a 5yo really would.

If I were you, I'd skip Hamburg (which is more on the industrial end of the spectrum and not especially lovely) and go to Lubeck, and then on to Copenhagen.
posted by vignettist at 12:39 PM on January 17, 2014

I liked Prague, but the language barrier was distinctly higher than in Berlin. I was not pickpocketed or bothered at all in 2008 as a single female traveler. Have you considered Dresden? The train went through there on the way from Berlin and it looked beautiful.
posted by soelo at 12:56 PM on January 17, 2014

You have two very different places
Prague and Krakow are both sort of "ancient cities" that are about seeing the sights. Prague is utterly and completely touristed and will be madness that time of year. Krakow is a less spectacular and less touristed version of Prague - although still extremely worthwhile. One might argue it retains more authenticity.

Copenhagen is a totally different ball of wax. You go there to go to a city - walk around shop, go to restaurants - see a few sights but you wouldn't choose it over Prague or Krakow for site seeing. Its also pretty expensive. Personally for me I wouldn't do it with a five year old only because you'd miss out on the dining scene - which is huge there right now. If you just went purely for site seeing - well honestly its kind of a little boring.

I don't think any choice you make is bad. Personally I'd rank Prague below Krakow only because it can be overrun. If I were childless (and money was not a variable) I'd do Copenhagen. Right now with the kid, Krakow.
posted by JPD at 12:57 PM on January 17, 2014

My boyfriend is currently in Copenhagen--just got back to the hotel after dinner at Noma (!)--and says it's an incredibly beautiful city. The architecture is lovely, there are palaces to tour, and of course there's the anarchist commune.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:33 PM on January 17, 2014

I love Prague, and I live in Copenhagen, and worked in Berlin once. Both Prague, Krakow and Berlin are a lot cheaper than Copenhagen, and specially Prague is very, very beautiful.
I'd suggest you read the links Sara C posted. I haven't been to Krakow, but I've been to both Berlin and Prague with children, and they are just not at all as child- friendly as Copenhagen, though the Berlin Zoo is perfect for small children.
From Copenhagen, it is easy to do a day trip to the Louisiana Museum and Elsinore. At Louisiana, they have the mother of all childrens' museums, and Elsinore has some of the ancient charm you would find in Prague. Narrow winding streets, a huge castle, some great museums, etc. Also, Denmark is really geared to including children. Except for maybe NOMA and Geranium, you could take your child to all the fine-dining places.
In Copenhagen, apart from what is mentioned in the Lonely Planet link, you might like the Danish Design Museum, the new Aquarium, the differnet venues of the Royal Theatre and the Radio Concert Hall in Orestad, designed by Nouvel.
On the other hand, Prague is really cheap, and my somewhat gluttonous younger child loved the luxury we could afford in Prague (at 12) I love the cultural riches, and my almost 70 year old aunt loves the spa treatments. The castle of Prague, its museums and surroundings are in my view beyond compare. And there is more - the city was a cultural hub during 16th century, the 18th century and the first part of the 20th century, and there are both living culture (buildings, environments) and museums to prove it.
posted by mumimor at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2014

And I once went to Fidelio at the opera in Prague - unforgettable! Daytrips from Prague include Marienbad and Brno, both really interesting from a cultural point of view.
posted by mumimor at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2014

I've been to Prague and Krakow, but not Copenhagen.

Prague: easy to get to by train from Berlin, and you could stop in Dresden, as you say. Dresden has a pleasant old town with a palace that you can wander through, and some good art galleries. It's probably worth a day or two. I agree with other comments about Prague. It's cheaper than Germany, but not super-cheap. Very crowded in summer. Pickpocketing is a risk, but that's the case in most big cities. Definitely worth a visit.

Krakow I loved, but most of the things I did there would not be suitable for a child and involved a lot of walking, which *might* be tough for your senior: Auschwitz tour (obviously not suitable for children); salt mine tour (probably not suitable for a child, might be too much walking for a senior); occupation museum (in Oskar Schindler's factory) which was brilliant but again a 5-year-old might be too young for it; the underground museum in the town square, etc.

On the other hand it's cheap, there is good food, and it's a very pleasant city just to walk around in (the castle, the town square, the old Jewish quarter, etc). I would definitely recommend going there at some point, but maybe not on this trip with a small child.

I didn't find the language to be a problem in either Prague or Krakow. There are plenty of tourists in both (at least in the parts of town that you will be in) and the people you meet will speak at leat basic English. (There are seemingly a large number of British tourists in Krakow: on one street near the square there were two English-themed pubs, as well as a New Zealand-themed hamburger place. Yes, really. It was great, too).

Someone above suggest Weimer, which I also liked. You might also consider Leipzig - a really pretty (and compact) town with an interesting art gallery and interesting museums about the old GDR and the Stasi.
posted by Pink Frost at 6:06 PM on January 17, 2014

Two weeks is way more than enough for a trip to Berlin - I'd suggest one week there and a week in one or two other cities.

* Prague is wonderful, but it'll be mobbed in June. In contrast to what someone said up-thread, I've been to Prague something like 20-30 times over the last decade, and never once had a problem with beggars or harassment.

* You're unlikely to be allowed to drive a car rented in Germany to Poland or the Czech Republic, but there are trains from Berlin and Dresden, and buses from southern Germany if you end up down there.

* Krakow is nice, but it's rather far away from the rest of your cities. I also had the impression of it being a smaller, less tourist-crowded version of Prague. You'll probably have to fly if you go.

* Dresden is beautiful, at least in the old town (cross the river and it's a rather different story). I don't have kids, though, and I reckon they may not find the city as appealing as an adult does. Still, if you have a chance to visit, I recommend it.

* I can't really describe Hamburg as "pretty", but it's not bad for northern Germany. If you do go, you really should visit Miniatur Wonderland. Buy tickets in advance.
posted by cmonkey at 11:36 PM on January 17, 2014

The overland trip from Berlin to Copenhagen might be a bit more interesting for a 5yr old. Train goes on to a ferry then off again and continues to the city. It would take about 7 hours though. Book ahead and a single could well be under 50 euros pp.
posted by biffa at 6:02 AM on January 18, 2014

Prague is a well known destination for stag parties from the UK. We wanted to go but decided against it for this reason, unless we can go in the off-season. A colleague of mine went in early summer and had a lovely time until the weekend came and the hotel was filled with beery lads. Krakow is getting a similar reputation now thanks to cheap alcohol, although this may have calmed down since Euro 2010.

However, I've been to both Tallinn and Amsterdam - both well known for stag dos - during the week/in the off season and they've been fine. It was easy enough to avoid the party places. If you're going there on a summer weekend, though - particularly during the World Cup - it's something to bear in mind.
posted by mippy at 9:55 AM on January 20, 2014

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