European city breaks are awesome for lots and lots of different reasons. Vienna vs Prague, among the lovely cities to book a trip and stay in Europe.
If you’re already based in Europe, these urban trips offer you the privilege of immersing yourself in an entirely new environment in a matter of hours.
And if you’re from another continent, European travel is probably on your personal bucket list.
Whatever European city you pick to travel to next, you are almost guaranteed to be able to explore exciting modern art museums and soak in centuries-old architectural landmarks.
Get a kick out of trying to speak a new language badly, indulge in rich cuisine with a fascinating history, and have fun choosing from among countless cultural offerings.
You’ll be able to enjoy the unique geography of the city you choose as your destination no matter where you end up, and in many cases, famous European cities can easily be explored by public transport — or even better, mostly on foot.
The fact that you really can’t go wrong when you’re deciding where to head for your next European urban vacation or quick getaway (yes, even if you’ve been to the city you’re thinking of before) almost makes it harder to choose, though!
So, let’s see you’ve narrowed your European city break options down to Vienna or Prague, but you’re having some trouble crossing either of them off your list. These two cities have plenty in common.
Based in the neighboring countries of Austria and Czechia (the Czech Republic), Vienna and Prague are separated by only about 250 kilometers (though you’ll have a higher mileage if you make the trip by car, of course).
Vienna and Prague both feature:
- Stunning, history-filled architecture that you can experience as quaint or “wow”, depending on who you are.
- Museums and other offerings that will fill history buffs’ hearts with joy.
- Fun nightlife.
- Rivers and beautiful gardens.
What sets these two grand European capital cities apart, though? What is the difference between Vienna and Prague, and which city is ultimately better to visit?
(Spoiler alert: There’s no one universal answer to that question, but one of the two will appeal more to you personally, and that’s the one you should go for!)
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Table of Contents
Where Is Vienna? Where Is Prague?
Vienna, which lies in the North East of Austria near the Alps, is both the country’s capital city and (unsurprisingly) it’s most populous urban center.
Over two million people live there. In addition, it’s one of the nine states of Austria a swell.
Vienna hugs the Danube river on both banks, and the city’s highest elevation reaches 542 meters.
Prague has a more central location within Czechia, and while it’s also the Czech capital and largest city in the country.
It’s slightly smaller at 1.3 million inhabitants. Prague is the historical capital of the medieval kingdom of Bohemia, and the Vltava river runs through the city.
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Vienna vs Prague: Great Architectural Landmarks
Where should you go — Vienna or Prague?
As you’re asking yourself this question, the famous architectural landmarks you will be able to marvel at in both of these old European cities is bound to determine your choice.
The beauty of these cities where among the reason why tourist book a trip in Europe.
Unfortunately for you, neither Vienna nor Prague has any shortage of epic buildings and cathedrals, making it decidedly harder to make your final pick. Let’s take a look.
- The stunning baroque-style Schönbrunn Palace, where tourists can soak in the shameless decadence of Franch Joseph and Sisi ― over 1,000 rooms worth of it, as well as awe-inspiring gardens and even a zoo.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral, an impressive feat of architectural accomplishments that marries Roman and Gothic styles, and the construction of which dates back to the 12th century. If you’ve got the physical stamina, you can make your way to the top of the tower!
- Belvedere Palace, which could easily match anyone’s idea of a stereotypical palace, and which is now home to an impressive collection of Baroque art.
- Vienna’s City Hall (also called the Rathaus Building) is another “can’t miss” when you’re in the city. The neo-Gothic towers are sure to wow, and the meticulously-maintained garden is a testament to the Austrian love of orderliness.
- The Vienna State Opera, not only a wonderful example of Austro-Hungarian architecture, but also a great place to see a show or two.
In Prague, meanwhile, the top architectural delights include the following mentioned below. Before we do that, let’s take a walk through Prague so you can see what the city is like from a first-person perspective.
- St. Vitus Cathedral, an intricately stunning place to visit and of worship that was constructed over the course of hundreds of years and reaches nearly 100 meters tall! There’s so much to see at this cathedral (including the tomb of St. Wenceslaus) that tourists should definitely opt for the guided tour.
- The so-called Dancing House, designed by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic in 1989, showcases that Prague isn’t just a prime destination for lovers of all things medieval. This stunning building, now a luxury hotel, is a sight to see.
- The Old Town Hall, partly damaged in the Prague Uprising (adding yet another bit of history), might lack the “wow” factor at first sight, but don’t let that stop you. The Old Town Hall features an astronomical clock that show the 12 Apostles every hour, as well as masterfully-constructed underground areas — which yes, you can tour.
- The Zizkov Television tower is another more modern piece of architecture visitors to Prague will want to see in person. Not only can you marvel at the surprisingly sci-fi essence of this socialist-area building, you can also go to the top and get a good look at the entire city.
- Strahov Monastery is the place to be if you’d love the frescoes you might have seen in pictures come to life and relish the opportunity to have a look through one of the most famous libraries in Europe.
No — just in case you were wondering — of course those aren’t the only famous buildings in these cities that are worthwhile seeing!
These short lists do offer you a quick glance into Vienna culture and Prague culture, allowing you to begin to decide whether to pick Vienna vs Prague.
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Vienna vs Prague: Museums
Whether you’re a true art and culture lover or simply want to tick museums off your list because, hey, seeing some art, history, and science is the kind of thing you do on a city trip.
This is something you’ll undoubtedly consider as you pick your next destination. Vienna has a higher abundance of museums, but you will definitely find interesting things to look at in both cities.
If you pick Vienna, you can go to:
- Kunsthistorisches Museum, often described as “Vienna’s answer to the Louvre”. Thanks to the city’s imperial history, you’ll have no shortage of things to look at, including the building itself. In the picture gallery, you’ll find works by famous artists like Klimt, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Durer, Caravaggio, and Raphael.
- The Belvedere (yes, we’re listing it twice), a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see for anyone who loves Klimt.
- The Leopold Museum, which is home to over 6,000 Art Nouveau and Expressionist pieces, many of which are extremely famous.
- The Beethoven Museum. The great composer spent much of his life in Vienna, including in this very building, where he composed some of his best works. Of course, you can listen to his music here, but you can also see a lock of his hair.
- Albertina Modern is the place to go if you’re into modern art, including Picasso and Monet!
Vienna culture doesn’t stop here, and among your (almost way too many) other museum choices are the Albertina Museum (nope, not the same as Albertina Modern), and the Museum of Applied Arts
As well as, the Sigmund Freud Museum (he, too, lived in Vienna), the Vienna Secession Museum, the Wein Museum, and the Sisi Museum.
Seriously. In Vienna, you can spend over a year exploring art, music, and architecture, and still be nowhere close to done.
Should you instead decide to head for Prague, you may like to drop in to see:
- The Franz Kafka Museum, a must-see if you’re in the city and need a good dose of surrealism.
- The Mucha Museum, offering over 100 delightful exhibits in a beautiful Baroque building.
- The Museum of Communism, an ideology that greatly shaped Czechia’s development, is not only fascinating but also of high educational value.
- The Karel Zeman Museum, dedicated to the famous director.
- The Jewish Museum is another museum you cannot skip if you are in Prague. While offering a sobering look at a very dark time in history, as it relates to Prague and Czechia, it also houses an incredibly impressive collection of Judaica.
Besides that, you’ve got the National Gallery, National Technical Museum, and Czech Beer Museum, among other Prague culture offerings.
The types of museums tourists and locals alike go to visit in Prague immediately tells you that Prague is much more eclectic in nature than Vienna.
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Vienna vs Prague: Day Trip Options
As you decide what is better to visit, Vienna or Prague, you may also, if you’re planning to stay more than a few days, want to know what types of day trips you can take.
If you’re visiting Vienna, Hallstatt village, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a great day trip, especially for Sound of Music fans.
You could also head for Melk Abbey and Danube Valley and score some epic pictures of castles and… wait for it… many people who visit Vienna even do Prague as a day trip.
You won’t see everything you would if your main trip was to Prague, but it can be done.
Those people who choose to take an urban trip to Prague will want to consider the Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland National Park as a day trip.
Since a picture says more than 1,000 words, we’ll leave you to head for your local search engine. If you love nature, you won’t want to miss it.
If castles are your thing, the haunted castle (Houska and Kokorin castle) trip is a popular one, for good reason, but other candidates would be Cesky Sternberk and Konopiste.
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Vienna vs Prague: Culinary Experiences
Depending on the depth of your love of food, or on special dietary requirements, the local cuisine will also play a great role in your decision of visiting Vienna vs Prague.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Vienna will oblige you with Mozart balls, Sacher cakes, baked yeast buns, apricot dumplings, and a whole bunch more.
Meat-wise, you’ve got your Wiener Schnitzel and your Tafelspitz (boiled beef with sweet and spicy touches).
Mind you, as a modern European city, Vienna won’t force its traditional cuisine on you if you don’t want it, as you’ll be able to pick from almost any type of cuisine you crave.
Prague’s famous dishes include potato soup, goulash, deep-fried cheese, and knedliky dumplings.
Czechia is also, of course, notorious for its beer. If you want to dip in, you’ll be met with an abundance of rowdy but friendly beer gardens. Skip the tourist traps and head straight for local joints if you want the true Czech experience.
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Vienna vs Prague: Which Is Cheaper?
There’s no question that that depends on your travel and holiday lifestyle — one particularly spendy person can absolutely find more Euros flying out of their wallets in Prague than a thrifty one might in Vienna. Overall, however, Prague is cheaper.
Not only will you find lots of budget airline options for Prague.
As the city has been a popular urban break destination for ages already, accommodation, food, and museums are also less pricey here. It ultimately comes down to the choices you make, however.
The bottom line? Prague and Vienna are both wonderful cities to visit. You’ll choose Vienna if you want to see a center of true grandeur with a modern European twist (meaning, overall, more businesslike).
You’ll choose Vienna if you want to explore the varied cultural heritage to be found there. Prague feels, on the other hand, a bit more homely. Some even describe it as having fairy-tale magic vibes.
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