Budapest versus Prague

I thought it would be fun to write a comparison post about our week in Budapest in our Airbnb (aka, Budapest 1.0) and our week in Prague. Also, I am very behind on blogging, so this is a way to write about both in one post! Here is my breakdown comparing these two full-week stays early in our trip.

Our Home

Drying laundry in Budapest – dryers are rare in Europe!

We thought our Budapest Airbnb was really nice – bright, airy with a nice cross-breeze, plenty large with a kitchen with a table where Chad could work separated from combination living and bedroom. It was in a really cool old building and was nice and quiet with great wifi. The kitchen was well-equipped for our needs (and I had my first experience with using a European washing machine and then line-drying, which is the custom here).

But our Prague Airbnb was even better – huge, equally cool old building, great work desk in the living room for Chad, well-equipped eat-in kitchen (including a dishwasher!), and a huge bedroom that was separate from the living room. Wifi was also great and the building was quiet and featured a charming clock-tower across the street. This round goes to Prague.

Our Neighborhood

Statue of Liberty on Gellert Hill in Budapest

For our week in Budapest, we decided to stay on the Buda side to provide a contrast with our future stay of six weeks in Pest. Buda was really nice and afforded us some epic morning walks, the first of which was to the Citadella on our very first morning. We were also able to walk to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion and some lovely parks. But, Buda was very residential and awfully quiet. There were no regular bars nearby, most restaurants were a little pricey for our one night out (though we had a great meal at the Vietnamese place around the corner for a good value) and the grocery stores in the area were fairly limited in their selection. But we had both a tram and a bus stop right on our street, making it easy to access the whole city, and we truly loved our epic morning walks. Here’s a gallery of our walk photos; click on the thumbnail for full size:

In Prague, we stayed in the Zizkov neighborhood, which was about a 10-minute tram ride or 30-minute walk to the Old Town. We loved this neighborhood, which was also surrounded by parks for some great morning walks, and featured the coolest cemetery we’ve ever been in (including New Orleans). There were plenty of nearby bars and restaurants with much better prices than we found in the tourist center of Old Town. We had a great Billa grocery store just a few minutes walk away and the tram was a couple minutes up the hill. We really loved the neighborhood, so I think I have to give this round to Prague as well.

Attractions

St. Stephen’s Holy Right – pay a euro for it to light up

By the time we got settled in Budapest, we really needed to buckle down and focus on work, so we didn’t spend a lot of time sightseeing, other than our epic morning walks. But, the few things we saw we enjoyed. We spent a great three hours in the Hungarian National Museum and also really loved Margaret Island. Buda Castle was great for wandering around and feeling like you were somewhere really old. I think our favorite attraction was St. Stephan’s Cathedral (or St. Istvan), which featured the relic called the Holy Right (and is literally St. Stephan’s right fist). You had to pay a euro to light up the Holy Right to see it, which was cool, and the church itself was huge and gorgeous.

 

Television Tower was in our neighborhood – we went up with Sara our first night

Prague was one amazing sight after another – we loved it. Prague Castle was not quite as nice as Buda Castle, but it did feature St. Vitus Cathedral, which was pretty incredible. We also really enjoyed the Strahov Monastery with its two gorgeous libraries – Theological and Philosophical – and cabinet of curiosities. We loved the beer gardens and the rambling streets and the Charles Bridge and the statues around every corner. And, Prague featured what might be Chad’s favorite museum experience ever, the Speculum Alchemiae, which provided a tour of a recently (15 years ago) rediscovered alchemical lab from the 16th century. It was so cool and well-done we had to go get a beer after at 11 a.m. in order to process all we’d seen. We also enjoyed the Television Tower standing tall above our neighborhood (and going up in it our first night was neat) and all the charming buildings. Prague was made all the better by sharing our first couple days and much of our sightseeing with my dear friend Sara. So, yes, Prague is the definite winner here.

Cost of Living
I expected Budapest to be quite a bit cheaper than Prague, but that wasn’t fully the case. My quick and dirty calculation shows us spending $255 for our week in Budapest and $290 for our week in Prague on things like food, museums, transportation and eating out. That is not a big difference considering we did more tourist activities in Prague and had some added food expense from hosting my friend. Our Airbnb in Prague was about $10 more per night, but it was also a much nicer place. So, I’ll give this round to Budapest (it was definitely less) but by less of an edge than I predicted.

Conclusion
It may seem that from Prague’s emphatic 3-1 victory that perhaps we should have chosen it as our home base. But we really loved Budapest, and Prague was certainly more touristy. However, it was also much more liveable than I expected, so while I have no regrets about choosing Budapest for later this summer, we definitely want to come back and spend more time in Prague. Another great excuse to keep traveling!

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