If you’re planning a trip to explore Central Europe, congratulations — it’s a marvelous place to be. Its rich history, amazing architecture, and stunning views, offer study abroad students a plethora of cities to choose from that offer ideal experiences.
Two of the most popular locations are the capital cities of Budapest, Hungary and Prague, Czech Republic. There’s no way around it, the choice will not be easy. Both cities boast interesting history and picturesque views on the Danube and the Vitava River, but also include their own unique appeal. Seeing the different attractions side-by-side is exactly what you need to make the decision that is right for you. Inspect the capitals based on sites, culture, nightlife, and more.
Sites To See
Budapest. The Hungarian capital doesn’t fall short of history on either side of the Danube River. Budapest was the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so the city is certainly your best choice if you are fascinated with the past. Traces of this time can be clearly seen even in today’s modern and bustling city.
You can start your exploration with the neo-gothic Parliament building, which is quite impressive by itself, and don’t miss the St. Stephen Basilica, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and the biggest synagogue in Europe, Dohány Street Synagogue.
Prague. The Czech capital is a real jewel in Central Europe, and has been the seat of the Roman Empire, the capital of the Bohemian region and later on, the capital of Czechoslovakia. Prague’s marvelous architecture spans impressive cathedrals, beautiful bridges, and stunning towers. The list of historical places to visit is endless, but the best picks include: Prague Castle, St Vitus’s Cathedral, Old Town Square with its astronomical clock, Charles’ Bridge, the old Jewish Cemetery along with all the synagogues in the area, Wenceslas Square, and Petřín View Tower.
Arts and Culture
Budapest. Visitors will keep busy with its diverse array of museums. The House of Terror will certainly leave you breathless, as it is a memorial to the victims of the Fascist and Communist regimes in Hungary and tells the story of these hard times. As for exquisite art, the Museum of Fine Arts will delight you with more than 100,000 pieces from all periods of European art. Besides a multitude of beautiful churches and interesting museums, Budapest also has a lively art performance scene. There are plenty of theaters and concert halls where you can immerse yourself in Hungarian theater and local musical acts. When it comes to music, start with the most famous classical and folk musicians, such as Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, or Ferenc Liszt. As for theater, try out the beautifully constructed Bethlen Square Theatre, which used to be a cabaret in 1929.
Prague. From galleries and museums to theatre and music, there is something here for everybody’s taste. Try the unconventional Museum of Miniatures. The assistance of some magnifying glasses will bring to view some unbelievable sites such as a caravan of camels in the eye of a needle or a full train built along a single strand of human hair. Other unique intrigues include the Museum Kampa, a Museum of Sex Machines, and The Museum of Torture Instruments.
As for cultural events, some of the top to take part in are the Spring Musical Festival, the Czech Beer Festival and the World Roma Festival.
Budapest. No city guide is complete without helping a visitor decide what to do when the sun goes down. Budapest will certainly not disappoint with its variety of dance clubs and bars. After all, it’s the home city of the Sziget Festival, one of the greatest summer music festivals in Europe. There are plenty of bars on the Danube River’s beaches, as well as on Obuda Island, the Shipyard Island that is also a part of the city. If you want to immerse yourself in the true spirit of the Hungarian drinking culture, the Abszolút Pálinka bar is the right place to start. It’s known as a year-round festival of palinka, the traditional Hungarian alcoholic beverage.
Prague. Prague is a great city for jazz lovers, so make sure to check out Bar Tretter’s and the like. For the beer fans out there, here is a guide for the best beer pubs in Prague, with a map. Don’t miss the restaurant and microbrewery U Fleku, which boasts eight halls and a garden. There is no way you’ll get bored in the Czech’s capital at night, that’s for sure.
The Little Surprises
Budapest. Often Budapest is called the City of Spas. There are plenty of mineral baths that will make your body and soul feel refreshed and beautiful inside and out. Their history is also quite fascinating, They were first created during Roman times, and later on, during the Turkish period in the 16th century, more baths were constructed. They remain a city attraction and a great source of health for both city dwellers and tourists.
Prague. Did you know that until 1770, the houses in Prague did not have numbers? People used decorative façade elements to make their house stand out and be recognized. Look at Nerudova Street, which holds many dark secrets. Don’t miss the urban legend about the three violins - locals believed that a trio of devils played them.