Things not to miss in Prague and Budapest!
December 7, 2006 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Heading to Prague and Budapest in a combined trip in a week. Have guidebooks, but what other shopping/sites should we definitely hit? Other tips?

Going with a friend, both in our mid-20s. Already have hotels. Obviously the castles and churches are a must-see, but are there any shops or sites that might not be mentioned in your basic guidebook that we should definitely hit? (Cool smaller museums/neighborhoods, cafes/parks, or reasonably-priced shopping that's not all over the US like Zara, Celio, etc.) Thanks!
posted by gramcracker to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The baths in Budapest are legendary and very relaxing. I also had one of the best haircuts in my life there.
posted by mdoar at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2006

In Prague, The Wallenstein Gardens/Palace is nice, and something I didn't come across in any guidebooks before leaving.

Have fun, I loved Prague.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:31 PM on December 7, 2006

Wander around prague, go off the beaten track, two blocks off of the tourist areas and you find lots of quirky art and galleries (that are affordable!)

Oh and prague had THE BEST THE BEST Chinese food ever. I dont know why, but it was cheap and awesome.

In Budapest, see if you can find the Simpla Kert bar. (and stay away from the malls!)
posted by stratastar at 1:39 PM on December 7, 2006

I've never visited Prague, but I've spent several months in Budapest over the past few years. I didn't do a whole lot of shopping, but I did do a lot of eating and visiting parks.

Margaret Island is quite beautiful in the summer, and a great place to just sit, picnic, and people-watch; I can imagine even in the winter it would be worth a visit. It's easy to get to by tram. (Margitsziget, here)

For food, I strongly recommend the inexpensive and family-run Szep Ilona. Easiest way to get to it is by taking the #56 Tram from Moskva Ter (convenient to Castle Hill and a major transportation center on the Buda side, with Metro) up a few stops (I think you get off at Huvosvolgyi Ut.), then walking. It's traditional Hungarian food at its best; a nice local place, but not one that's too intimidating to be a foreigner in. Most of the staff doesn't speak a lot of English, but they've always been friendly to me and I've never had a problem ordering. (Menu has English translations.) You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu there, from the goulash to the Hortobagy pancakes. Not a place to bring vegetarians, though. Here's another review, although I think it's a bit out of date (I think they take plastic now). It's somewhere right around here, but with the treecover I can't pinpoint it. It's on the left side of the street if you're following the direction of the tram away from Moskva Ter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2006

I was in Prague for a little over three months. I'm getting a little homesick for it writing this all up.

First I will start with food. I loved the Dobrá Čajovňa on Wenceclas Square (Václavské náměstí). It's a wonderful little teahouse. It's calm, tranquil and has a great assortment.

I also really, really loved Beas Vegetarian Dhaba. Cheap, filling and wonderful menu. Also close to Wenceclas square and Tyn Square.

There was a bakery I loved on Valentinska, right by The Rulofinium and Charles Univeristy. I'm sorry I can't remember it's name, you will know it my the amazing smell.

Also, for traditional Czech food, I recommend Pivovarský dùm, which is a restaurant and a brewry. Cheap and pretty tasty.

As for Museums and such, I'd recommend the House of the Black Madonna which is a great cubist museum. The cubist movement really took off in the Czech republic, including to architecture. You can in fact see the world's only cubist lamp post off Wenceclas square.

The Mucha museum is also interesting, if you like Mucha's work.

The Old Jewish Cemetary is interesting to walk through as well. You can get a package to see all the main attractions of Josefov (Jewish quarter) or just choose individual attractions.

Finally, the Television Tower, while kind of ugly, gives an amazing view of the city.

Budapest I know significantly less well. However, I think a trip to the spa would be wonderful in the winter.

Have a great trip!
posted by piratebowling at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2006

Sorry, that shoudl read "Rudolfinum" not "Rulofinium."

Also, I forgot the Petrin Hill & Observation Tower. Take the funicular up the hill, just like the one you can take to get to the castle in Budapest.
posted by piratebowling at 1:53 PM on December 7, 2006

I was just in Budapest this summer. For incredible art deco architecture, visit the 4 Seasons Hotel. It's a former castle, and while it's insanely expensive to stay there, it's free to visit! It's on the Buda side (I believe, though I always got them mixed up - anyway, across from the castle) of the Chain Bridge. Also, if you head down the street right next to the 4 Seasons (down the left side if you're facing the front of the hotel with the river to your back), there were some really cool little boutiques with great independent Hungarian designers. I found some great clothes there for cheap!

Otherwise, just roam around and enjoy your surroundings. Both cities are incredibly beautiful architecturally! Have fun!
posted by elquien at 1:56 PM on December 7, 2006

The 4 Seasons is on the Pest side. :) But elquien is right about it being gorgeous.

This Wikitravel page was helpful on my short trip to Budapest. Note that in addition to the main Budapest page, there are separate Buda and Pest articles.

I really enjoyed the Gerbeaud cafe, though I guess it's touristy.
posted by mullacc at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2006

House of the Black Madonna.

Its Cubist architecture from the 1920s, with a very cool gift shop/museum inside, right on the main shopping drag in Prague, Celetna, so you can't miss it.

Also, you don't say how you're getting from one to another, but I'd recommend getting out of capitals and into some of the smaller towns in Southern Bohemia like Cesky Krumlov or Telc, or the wine growing areas in Moravia or in the Danube bend area of Hungary. They're kind of on the way if you're in car or train, will be empty of tourists right now and people will be very happy to see you.

And if you want to save some money in both Prague and Budapest, dump the hotel and rent an apartment. You'll have lots more room and pay lots less.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:02 PM on December 7, 2006

oops, pb already mentioned black madonna...
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:04 PM on December 7, 2006

I'm going to say baths as well as far as Budapest goes...

You're both in your mid-20s so I assume you will be checking out the nightlife as well. Whatever you do STAY AWAY from the massive 5 floored night club in Prague. Not that it was unsafe, but you'll be surrounded by 16 year olds who just discovered that kamikaze shots surprisingly taste like lemonade.
posted by ASM at 3:28 PM on December 7, 2006

Finally, an AskMe I can answer!

Other places in Prague:

Vysehrad (a hill on the river about a mile or two south of old town) is in a lot of guidebooks, but is kinda "off the beaten path." You get beautiful views of the river, see some old fortifications - check it out if you have time.

Go to U Sudu, a wine-bar (you can also get Pilsner there) with twisty underground passageways. It's close to Old Town.

There's a hotel (I forget the name) across from the clock in Old Town Square that has a rooftop restaurant. You can have a beer there though. Worth checking out; it's way above the Square, with a good view of the city.

Konopiste is a short train ride from Prague. It's Archduke Franz Ferdinand's old hunting lodge, and it's full of his stuffed kills. It's pretty cool. English tours have to be set up in advance; I just did the Czech tour (not knowing Czech fluently).

When in Prague you should, of course, try alot of different beers, but make sure you visit a "tankovna" - a pub that serves beer unpasteurized, from huge tanks. Find a tankovna that serves Pilsner. There's a few around old town, but I forget the names.

If you have any other questions feel free to email me!
posted by mammary16 at 5:35 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

At this time of year there will be Christmas markets throughout Prague (and I'm guessing Budapest). The markets sell mulled wine, have many unhealthy snacks and may have music in the evening for entertainment.

You may be too early to see the main Christmas delicacy- carp. Huge things swimming in paddling pools for people to buy and take back to live in the bath until the Christmas Eve meal.

I'm in Brno (south Czech and go to Prague regularly) so if you have any more specific questions my mail's in the profile.
posted by Gratishades at 8:13 AM on December 8, 2006

In Budapest - find an old working class neighbourhood, find a restaurant/cafe, and eat what the locals eat.

Last time I was there (admittedly close to 20 years ago) in the neighbourhood behind Gellert Hill (which has the big statue that looms over the Danube) there was an old soviet era working class neighbourhood where the then state run tourist agency put me up to stay with a young couple. In the morning I found a local cafe/bar and had what I think was scambled eggs laced with bacon fat.

Lots of bacon fat.

Sounds awful, but it wasn't. And it's a fond memory almost 20 years later.
posted by Sk4n at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2006

My friends and I had an absolute blast at the Museum of Medieval Torture in Prague. (It's right next to the Museum of Spiders and Scorpions, which we did NOT visit...!)
posted by infinityjinx at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2006

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