Europe’s three sparkling jewels – Prague, Vienna and Budapest – are rich in culture, magnificent architecture and fascinating history. Here are three of the best cities to visit in Europe.
Best cities to visit in Europe – Vienna
As the capital of the once-powerful Habsburg dynasty, Vienna is a hub of refinement, culture and imperial architecture.
The Habsburg dynasty influenced Europe for over six centuries (from 1276 to 1918) leaving a legacy of aristocratic palaces, imposing cathedrals, art and music.
It was here that the talents of some of the world’s greatest composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss blossomed.
During the 17th century, the influence of the Habsburg dynasty brought museums, Baroque churches and beautiful palaces to the Czech Republic’s capital of Prague.
Often described as ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, ‘Paris of the East’ or ‘The Golden City’, Prague sits on a picturesque bend of the Vltava River and is dominated by Prague Castle, high on a hill. But Prague’s real charm is its quaint cobblestone alleyways where every corner is a picture-book fairytale waiting to be explored.
Until the late 19th century, the capital of Hungary, Budapest, consisted of two rival cities, Buda and Pest, located on opposite banks of the Danube River.
Hungary’s union with the Habsburg Empire enhanced Budapest’s Roman ruins and Ottoman Empire Turkish baths with palatial buildings and baroque churches to create an exotic cultural blend.
Best cities in Europe – Prague
Prague’s Old Town exudes a fairytale ambience complete with horse-drawn carriages, colourful street performers and some of Europe’s most stunning architecture.
I wandered around the maze of cobblestone streets admiring the beautiful architecture, browsing through quaint shops and sampling hearty Czech cuisine. It’s truly an enchanting city.
Sometimes known as Prague’s Venice, the section where the Certovka canal flows under the Charles Bridge is a picturesque part of Prague’s Mala Strana quarter.
The canal is often crowded with boats while cafes along the canal do a roaring summer trade.
Mala Strana’s most famous sight is one of the biggest castles in the world, Prague Castle.
Best cities in Europe – Budapest
My guide recounted fascinating tales of Hungary’s heroes at Heroes’ Square.
In the centre of the square is the imposing Millenary Monument with its 36m-tall pillar and grand colonnades showcasing 14 statues of rulers and statesmen.
From Magyar King Stephen I to revolutionary leader Lajos Kossuth, these Hungarian heroes are immortalised in stone.
Gabriel the angel stands on top of the pillar holding the Hungarian crown and cross.
From Fisherman’s Bastion, I gazed at views across the Danube River.
Fisherman’s Bastion was built in 1905 and named after the guild of fishermen who defended the wall during the Middle Ages.
The ornate neo-Gothic House of Parliament is a classic picture-postcard snapshot and one of Budapest’s most recognisable landmarks.
Vienna and Budapest are renowned for café culture.
Over the centuries, cafes were common meeting places for writers, poets and artists who ordered from special discounted writer’s menus (usually bread, cheese and cold meats).
Many cafes also provided free ink and paper. The chocolates at Café Gerbeaud in Budapest and cakes at Hotel Sacher in Vienna were mouth-watering.
The tentacles of the mighty Habsburg Empire reached as far as Burgundy, Spain, Bohemia, Croatia, Serbia and Hungary.
I soaked in the imperial ambience at the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) where fine furniture, tapestries and crystal chandeliers are on display in the opulent apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth.
Of are 1441 rooms in Schloss Schonbrunn, only 40 are open to the public. The summer residence of the royal family was architecturally inspired by France’s Palace of Versailles.
Empress Maria Theresa threw lavish banquets here, six-year-old Mozart performed in the Hall of Mirrors and Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the palace between 1805 and 1809.
Travelling around Europe by rail allows you to reach your destination relaxed and refreshed. Trains leave and arrive in the heart of each city eliminate travelling time to and from airports and lengthy airport security queues.
A&K’s Concierge Rail Escort makes travelling by train even easier. A concierge will show you to your pre-reserved, first-class seat and provide you with an A&K travel pack of with bottled water, snacks and reading material for the journey. At your destination you will be greeted at the train door and transferred to your hotel.
”A Tale of 3 Cities” is a nine-day journey to three of Europe’s most beautiful cities – Budapest, Vienna and Prague.
The trip includes first class rail travel between each city, private A&K chauffeur-driven vehicle, A&K’s Guardian Angel and Concierge Rail Service, breakfast daily, bottled water in vehicles, site and museum entrance fees and airport porterage.
A&K Insider Access includes a visit to the lavishly decorated auditorium of the Budapest State Opera House and a special private opera recital. In Prague, there’s a private tour of the famous Estates Theatre, which was the venue for the premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1787, followed by a short chamber quintet recital.