Berlin, Prague and Budapest recommendations


#1

Hello, everyone! I will be traveling to Berlin, Prague and Budapest soon. To those of you who live in these cities or have visited them, which places on the atlas would you consider to be must-sees?


#2

I did the Prague, Vienna, and Budapest “triangle,” as one tour guide put it, and although Prague was my favorite city, I couldn’t say there was one place that stood out. There ARE plenty of concerts you can attend at churches in the area, and I would recommend going to one of those. It was amazing.
I was stunned by how incredible the Parliament building in Budapest was. If they’re still having them with Budapest’s current political climate, I would recommend a tour of the building. It’s short and pretty impressive. The Shoes On The Danube Promenade are close, and it’s an impactful site, especially if you know the story that inspired the piece.
My very favorite thing was an evening stroll across the Chain Bridge and back. It’s one of the most spectacular views. If you are a photographer of any level, you’ll find lots of things to photograph.


#3

Prague is the place to celebrate Franz Kafka. The Franz Kafka museum is of course filled with Kafka artifacts, but also evokes a certain “Kafkaesque” ambiance in how the items are displayed. The bank of bureaucratic file drawers and their contents are one example. There are also two Kafka related kinetic sculptures by David Cerny. One, Proudy, is two men endlessly urinating into a pool of water. It is just steps away from the Kafka Museum. The second is a giant head of Franz Kafka made of multiple rotating layers of shining silver metal which is fascinating to watch.

While we are on the subject of kinetic sculptures, the Astronomical Clock is worth a look. A crowd gathers in anticipation of every hourly display. Which in turn attracts street performers, some quite good. (I hope the clock is not closed for repairs!)

I hope you have good weather, because Prague is full of amazing street sculpture. The hanging sculpture of Sigmund Freud, the Trifot surveillance camera, the Jan Palach memorial, the Dripstone Wall and the Lennon Wall (yes, not a sculpture) are worth a stroll. There are many others that I didn’t see that would make a fantastic extended sculpture walk.


#4

Prague is ridiculously beautiful. Somehow for all the region’s history of warfare, Prague never got hit the same way as other cities. So in the old town area, you can walk through entire sections where everything dates back to the 1300s. Walk the Charles Bridge. You’ll see a lot of teenagers making out there. It’s both romantic and metal AF. Climb one of the bridge’s towers if you get a chance. On the way up, you’ll see graffiti dating back to the late 1700s. Go to the Old New Synagogue. It was finished in 1270 and is the birthplace of the Golem legend. There is a ladder on the back wall and a small door. That’s where the Golem is supposed to live. There is also a nearby square with a statue of the Golem that could have easily served as the inspiration for Darth Vader. Near the Synagogue is the Pinkas Synagogue, the second oldest. It has the most crowded cemetery I’ve ever seen. On the inside the walls are covered with the names of Prague residents lost in the the Holocaust, and they’re so numerous, it’s devastating. On the other side of town, there’s Cafe Louvre, which was a regular hang for Kafka and Einstein. They’ve taken great pains to keep the decor and most of the menu as it was 100 years ago. Also, visit the Spanish Synagogue. Built in the late 1800s, it’s got an elaborate Moorish design. It’s just friggin’ beautiful. If you get the chance, climb Petrin Tower. You can see the whole town and it’s in a lovely park. As others have said, go see the Astronomical Clock.

In Vienna, I was literally wandering around looking for a bathroom when I stumbled into the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The main lecture hall there is gorgeous and visitors are allowed. The homes of famous composers have been established as museums. I went to Beethoven’s apartment and Hadyn’s house. Both lovely experience, if you’re a classical music fan. GO TO THE AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY! It is a friggin’ wizard library like you’ve always imagined one to be, complete with hidden doorways. If you dig the creepy stuff, check out the catacombs underneath St. Stephen’s Cathedral (also cool: Mozart got married there, Vivaldi’s funeral was there). A place I didn’t get the chance to see, but would go: Cafe Landtmann. In the early 20th century, this was the social hub of Vienna, where people would go to argue politics and talk about culture. Keep in mind that, for a couple years Freud, Mahler, Klimt, Trotsky, Hitler, Stalin, and Tito all lived within a couple square miles of this place and would have easily crossed paths there.


#5

I loved Budapest and Prague! I’ll be seconding several of the recommendations from @tralfamadore , @India_Street_Kali, and @jasonzilla1, they’ve listed some great places.

Prague:

  • This will be in all of the guidebooks, but do the Charles Bridge at least once. If you go really early in the morning, there will be absolutely no crowds, but during the day it’s filled with tourists (That goes for all of Prague, actually). While you’re there, you can pay your respects to St. John of Nepomuk at both a plaque and statue honoring him and his martyrdom by being shoved off of the bridge into the river below.

  • The western side of the Charles Bridge will place you on Kampa Island, which is a serene section of the city. You’ll find several quaint restaurants and gardens, as well as the Lennon Wall. There’s also a tiny little love-lock bridge on the island. I’ve written an AO article for it that has yet to be published, but if you’re interested, let me know I’ll go ahead and give you the details!

  • Hike up the hill to visit the Prague Castle Complex. In St. Vitus’ Cathedral, you can see a stained glass window designed by Art Nouveau icon Alphonse Mucha, as well as the lavish burial room of St. Wenceslas (of Christmas carol fame!). There’s so much to see and do in the Castle Complex, you could easily spend a day there just exploring.

  • On your way up the hill to the castle, you can grab a bite at U krále BrabantskĂ©ho restaurant, which claims to be the oldest pub in Prague and once served Mozart. The Medieval-themed decor might be a little campy, but the beer is cheap, and you’ll be dining with dozens of human skulls. That’s right: they’ll greet you above the restaurant entrance, and if you’re lucky enough to be seated in the basement, they are part of the ceiling’s decor. If you’d rather not dine with the dead, there’s a lovely crepe shop a little further up the hill.

  • Astronomical Clock, definitely. It’s worth it to see the chime on the hour. While you’re there in the Old Town square, you’ll get a great view of the iconic Church of Our Lady before TĂ˝n.

  • The Old Jewish Cemetery, the Old New Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, and several other historic attractions are all in Prague’s Jewish Quarter. You’ll also find the gorgeous Spanish Synagogue, so called because it was designed in the Moorish Revival Style in the 1860s. (Building Synagogues in this style was common all across Europe in the mid-19th century, inspired by Jewish heritage in Spain before expulsion along with the Islamic Moors in the 15th century.) I wrote about my experience at Pinkas Synagogue on this thread. The Jewish Quarter, like several other places in Prague, is a good place to contemplate the works of Kafka. He grew up in this neighborhood and attended the Old New Synagogue as a child. There is also a cafe named in his honor in the area-- Kafka Snob Food-- which is a great place to stop and grab a bite.

  • The Prague Metronome is great. It provides amazing views of the city, is relatively quiet, and you can watch the local skateboarders that congregate there. Nearby is beautiful Letenská Park with a biergarten that offers unforgettable views called “Letná ZahradnĂ­ restaurace.”

  • I didn’t see the Defenestration of Prague Window, but being a history nerd, I wish I did!

  • If you have the opportunity to get a little ways outside of Prague, definitely visit Kutna Hora and see the Sedlec Ossuary. St Barbara’s Church is also there and worth checking out.

  • I will say that Czech humor is the best. It’s absurdist, irreverent, and dark; you’ll see it in the people you meet and the street art, as well. Works like “Brown-Nosers” and “Proudy” epitomize this. Nothing is sacred!

Budapest:

  • Fisherman’s Bastion and nearby Matthais Church. The Fisherman’s Bastion Complex offers some of the most iconic views of Budapest, including a scenic panorama of the Danube and Parliament Building. The church is gorgeous and has an iconic diamond tiling pattern on its roof that is unique to Budapest architecture (Other such buildings in the city include the Hungarian Geological Institute Building, the Hungarian State Treasury, and the Museum of Applied Arts). The church is also historically significant; the last Hapsburg monarch, Charles IV, was coronated here in 1916.

  • The Sziklatemplom Cave Church is cool. (When I went in 2015, they played a boy-choir cover of “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, throughout the church, on a loop. It was great, I hope they still do it.)

  • Public Baths are an essential part of Hungarian culture. I never went to one, but SzĂ©chenyi is the most famous. Rudas and Király Baths were originally built by the Ottomans, and Gellert is also popular.

  • See the Holy Right at St. Steven’s Basilica.

  • Tour the Parliament Building if you can. Then meander around the surrounding Kossuth Lajos Park, walk along the river, and see the nearby Shoes on the Danube Memorial.

  • Head to the city’s Old Jewish Quarter and tour the Dohány Street Synagogue, which is now part-Holocaust museum. The synagogue, like the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, was built in the Moorish Revival Style.

  • Also in the Old Jewish Quarter are several “Ruin Pubs.” Budapest’s Ruin Pubs originally started as squatting partiers in ruined and abandoned buildings; now, they’re well-established gathering places. The most famous is likely Szimpla Kert.

  • The House of Terror is definitely worth seeing.

  • Heroes’ Square is also one of those things that every guidebook will recommend, but I will, too. There are also several art museums in the vicinity.

  • Memento Park is a little ways outside the city, but you can get there and back easily by bus.

  • I actually visited Budapest for a class trip in undergrad, and my assignment was to create a walking tour of the city on any subject, and I chose the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. If you’re interested in this piece of Hungarian history, I would be more than happy to recommend places related to the revolution, or even give you a copy of the itinerary!

I hope this helps, and that you have the loveliest trip! All the best!!!