Berlin, Prague, Vienna -- help and ideas?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by PRlady, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. PRlady

    PRlady Smoking

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    In October, I'm taking grownup daughter to Berlin, Prague and Vienna for 10 days. I've never visited any of these cities and this is sort of a leap of faith, that we can do this in a fun and not extravagant way.

    I'll take any and all suggestions from people who really know these cities. (Tinami, for once I will listen to you ;) you are well-travelled.)

    Hotels, trains in between the cities, fun or interesting things to do that might not be at the top of the typical tourist guidebook, although we will do those things too. We both particularly like music, history museums and excellent food. A trip outside a city is fine to recommend, too, if there's a particularly beautiful place to go that can be done on a day trip.

    Given the dollar-Euro exchange rate :eek: we are also looking for bargains.

    And where else would I start my research other than FSU?
     
  2. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    I've got Berlin covered for you. Just let me know what info you want.
     
  3. Ajax

    Ajax Well-Known Member

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    In Vienna take a guided tour of the Hofburg Palace. The interiors are amazing. If you have any interest in history I recommend this. Also great is the Schonbrunn Palace, especially the gardens. Don't bother eating at the any of the famous pastry houses like Demel, Sacher etc. - they are very touristy and overpriced and you can have the same pastries elsewhere. For good food, a little bit outside the city are tons of vineyards that all have restaurants called "heuriger". All of them have great food - try a goulash!

    ETA: The forums at fodors.com usually have great recommendations for bargains, restaurants etc. You can also read people's trip reports to find tips on hotels and transportation.
     
  4. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

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    BR got to this before I could. :)

    Berlin is the only city out of the three that I could speak about with some authority. ;)
     
  5. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

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    I will suggest a hotel in Berlin. Here is where I stayed the last time I visited. Great location to places like the Zoo, Ku-damm, Tiergarten and about 2 blocks to the U-bahn station, Wittenberg Platz. The hotel included a free continental breakfast which was very good (as most European-style breakfasts tend to be IME). There was also a supermarket not too far away if you need to buy snacks, etc. The price was very reasonable, but I stayed there in March. I just plugged in some dates in October (a Wednesday-Friday) and it shows up as 80 euro a night.
     
  6. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    I can't say I "really know" these cities because I've been to them just once and quite some time ago. However, I've been thinking about a trip to Eastern Europe (Poland and the Baltics, in addition to going back to Prague and maybe Vienna) and started doing a little research, so I can suggest research approaches. I'm going to do the trip only if I can make it cheap enough to be no more expensive than what I'm spending on living at home, so I'm definitely looking very budget. I've found tripadvisor.com to be useful, along with sites (especially the forums) from Frommer's, Fodor's, Rick Steve's, and Lonely Planet. Take their books out of the library for ideas and then buy whichever one seems best to you.

    I don't know what you mean by "bargain." A number of hostels have doubles available, so you and your daughter would not have to share a room with anyone else. Take a look at hostels.com to get an idea of what's available if that's what you're looking at. A Lonely Planet Guide will let you know about affordable hotel options (the other Guides tend to have pricier options), but there are lots of hotel booking places online. You can start by looking at kayak.com, but there are lots more. There also are aparments to rent in some of these cities, which are more affordable than hotels.

    One way to save money (and touristing time) is to take the night trains between cities. Check the Eurail site and see if there are night trains between the cities you are visiting.

    You probably already know to visit the Jewish ghetto, including the cemetary, in Prague. The Charles Bridge and Old Town Square are musts, too. I also liked Prague Castle.

    Catch an opera in Vienna, if only to see the opera house. And the Hofburg Palace is well worth a visit, too.
     
  7. Jenya

    Jenya Well-Known Member

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    There are several previous threads about traveling to these three cities - do a quick search and I think you'll find lots of valuable information, including from Tinami. :) And the Czech Republic isn't on the Euro yet, so at least that might help to ease the pain of the Euro exchange rate a bit...

    I'm sure you'll have a fabulous trip, they are three of my favorite cities. :)
     
  8. ssminnow

    ssminnow Active Member

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    I backpacked in that part of the world recently, staying in hostels that were all very clean and almost as good as hotels, so if you really want bargains, I can give you the list of hostels that we stayed at (all have private rooms, though maybe not private bathrooms).

    Taking the train is no problem. It might be a good idea to spend a few extra euros on seat reservations--when we traveled there were a bunch of kids on school field trips to Dresden (a stop between Berlin and Prague) and I almost had to stand for two hours.

    Speaking of which, Dresden is a great stopover. Very beautifully reconstructed city, full of local charms.

    Other possible day trips: Potsdam (Berlin), Karlstejn Castle (Prague), Bratislava (Vienna), Wachau Valley (Vienna). I think Potsdam is a must.

    See an opera or concert at Vienna, at the Staatoper, Musikverein, or Konzerthaus. Even on a backpacker's budget I was able to afford a concert at Musikverein, and it was an unforgettable experience. No concert hall in the US even compares. But reserve your tickets online a few months in advance.

    If possible, don't stay in Prague over a weekend. Prague is a popular weekend getaway destination for Europeans, so it will be very crowded.

    These are three really great cities! So different, and so exciting in their own ways. Enjoy planning!
     
  9. olympic

    olympic Well-Known Member

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    PRLady, so strange. I took this exact tour [Berlin, Prague, Vienna] back in '07!

    Berlin - I stayed at a chain hotel near Berlin Zoo, but I would recommend staying around Gendarmenmarkt if you can. I would also go to www.booking.com for research on hotels in any of the cities. They come with guest reviews and that's very helpful.

    Stroll along Unter den Linden, visit Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, as well as the Fernsehturm [TV tower ugly as hell - built by the communists in the East in '69] for great views of the city.

    Museuminsel [Museum Island] is a great place to visit in Berlin, with the highlight being the Pergamonmuseum and its antiquities from Mesopatamia, Turkey, Persia, etc., Schloss Charlottenburg on the western side of the city was a summer palace and is also great for a beautiful walk.

    If you are interested in Weimar Berlin ['Cabaret' days], they offer Christopher Isherwood tours: http://www.cabaret-berlin.com/?tag=christopher-isherwood

    Finally, take a trip to Potsdam to see the Schloss Sanssouci. You can take the S-Bahn [local suburban train] there from Zoo Station directly out to Potsdam [30 minutes] and there is more than just the palace.
     
  10. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

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    FWIW, I second this. There is so much to see in Potsdam! And I loved the ride on the S-bahn from Berlin. You get to see so much of the city and other non-touristy neighborhoods you wouldn't normal visit. Potsdam has some nice shops and cafes, too.
     
  11. PRlady

    PRlady Smoking

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    Wow. Thank you all.

    I'm past hostel age. ;) Generally I stay in 3-star hotels when traveling on my own, but I'm willing to experiment further down the ladder as these are three reasonably safe cities.

    We will be in Berlin Friday-Monday, Prague Monday-Thursday, Vienna Thursday-Sunday, and then back to Berlin (I'm hoping to find a cheap flight) overnight for our flight home on Monday. Last one is an airport hotel, obviously. And yes, I thought about doing night trains to save money and touring time....
     
  12. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    My only recommendation would be to choose one of those cities and spend the entire time in the one. :shuffle:
     
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  13. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    I hear you about the hostels. If I weren't going on my own and could afford better places, I probably wouldn't even consider hostels. It's been quite some time since I stayed in one. As a starting place for hotels, I'd suggest going to kayak.com since they cover a lot of them and have reviews. Then take a look at the travel forums I mentioned above and see if there are some recommended boutique hotels or B&Bs. When I was in Prague, I stayed at one of the home apartments and I was really happy I did. My host was one of the rare remaining Jews still in Prague (the entire rest of his family was wiped out in the Holocaust) and he shared his family history with me and gave me some very good information about the city. Also, I don't know if this something you want to explore -- I didn't have the stomach for it after visting the ghetto museums -- but I think that the concentration camp closest to Prague (Terezin camp) is now a museum and there are day trips there from Prague.

    If you haven't already bought your airline tickets, you should check into open jaw flights, flying to Berlin from the U.S., and flying to the U.S. from Vienna. I've found that there's not much of a price difference between open jaw tickets and round trip tickets and it may save you time, hassle, and even money to leave out the flight from Vienna to Berlin.
     
  14. PRlady

    PRlady Smoking

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    I used my saved-up frequent flyer miles for the tickets so the airfare is "free." ("" because taxes come to $300 and United charges $25 to talk to a live person :rolleyes:) But on award miles, you have to fly roundtrip.

    And I was going to lose half those miles come January....over my dead, having-flown-in-coach-internationally, body.

    Anyway, an early cruise through Trip Advisor shows many nice affordable hotels in Berlin. Since my last two Euro jaunts were London and Geneva, which might be the two most expensive cities in Europe, this is a nice surprise. Plenty of places under $200 a night, and I'm figuring Vienna and Prague won't be worse than that.

    And yummy free breakfasts!
     
  15. PRlady

    PRlady Smoking

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    Nope. Based on recommendations from well-travelled friends, 2-4 days in each is enough. Rome needs a week, so does London and Paris, but these are smaller cities.

    And I'm doing this kind of travel before I get too old to take overnight trains, etc.

    Although I admit it drives me crazy when people tell me they're going to Jerusalem for one or two days. Don't ever do that. You need at least four in Jerusalem, and more if you're visiting Bethlehem as well, if you're really interested in history and religion.
     
  16. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    a week!

    I'd say more like a year for each of those cities...
     
  17. PRlady

    PRlady Smoking

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    Of course, if what you want is the living experience. But most of us are tourists with limited time and limited money, so being an expat (which is what a year means) is out of reach.

    I still hope to work in Europe at some point but it's not possible now.
     
  18. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    Well if I only had 10 days, I'd definitely only spend it in one city. Even little itty bitty ones like Berlin or Vienna. :shuffle:

    But then I don't like rushing around all day...
     
  19. Jenya

    Jenya Well-Known Member

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    A quick plug for my favorite place to stay in Vienna - K & T Boardinghouse: http://www.ktboardinghouse.at/ Great, helpful owners who will go out of their way to help you, give you great advice, and make you feel at home. It doesn't include breakfast, but the location is fabulous (right by a metro station and a 10 minute walk from the Westbanhof train station, lots of restaurants and shops around) and the price is right. I've stayed there twice and had great experiences both times - the second time, they remembered me and had a bottle of champagne waiting in my room. :)

    And one small note about Prague - in general, I have found it to be a very safe city, but be careful about taxi drivers and exchanging money. Always agree on a price before using a taxi or have them run the meter - Prague taxi drivers are notorious for trying to rip off tourists. Also, when exchanging money, make sure to do it in a bank - there are lots of places to exchange money, including people on the street but I've heard horror stories about people receiving counterfeit money.

    ETA: PRLady, here are some of the previous threads I mentioned that might be of use:
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/showthread.php?t=23307&highlight=Prague
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/showthread.php?t=55430&highlight=prague travel
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/showthread.php?t=62293&highlight=prague travel
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/showthread.php?t=73915&highlight=prague travel
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  20. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    :lol: That's why I travel alone - nobody slowing me down when I'm running from city to city.

    This is where I stayed in Berlin.
     
  21. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

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    Same here. The two things I don't like about traveling alone, however, are having to eat dinner alone and having to ask people to take your picture. :lol:
     
  22. BelleBway

    BelleBway a monkey stole my title

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    I was going to mention them- even though I didn't personally exactly have the best stay there. :shuffle: They have a great location, nice rooms, good prices, and get great reviews.

    (My problem was because my train from Salzburg was delayed by a lot. I had told them I'd arrive when my train was due in- but because of the delay I barely made it to the show I already had $$$ tickets for after throwing my luggage into a locker at the train station and immediately heading to the theatre. For a variety of very good reasons, I wasn't able to let them know that my arrival was delayed. When I finally arrived after the show, they weren't exactly thrilled with me and they were talking about how they stayed home waiting for me etc. They weren't exactly mean about it, but they were talking strongly enough to make me feel terribly guilty. I understand their POV and in fact was already feeling stressed about not being able to let them know what had happened; it was just bad luck.)

    Also for Berlin, I recommend the Jewish museum and the Neue Synagogue. And I'm not usually all that into seeing Jewish sights, although I admit to an interest in WWII era history.

    I'll look at some of my notes when I get home to see if there's anything else I can add.
     
  23. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    What does the size of the city have to do with the activities and sights? :confused: Berlin might not have the size of London but it's still loaded with historical stuff and museums. As someone mentioned, there's the Museumsinsel which would take 2-3 days alone to explore, I would think. Then there's the Berlin Dom, right next to the Museumsinsel. You can climb to the top. There's the Nikolaiviertel which is one of the oldest quarters in Berlin. You can do a boat ride on the Havel, you could see a so called Bridge tour which is supposed to be really interesting. Then there's the Ku-Damm, also as previously mentioned. The "Gedächtniskirche" is currently under restauration though. You can still go inside but you can't see it from the outside. The zoo, of course, the botanical garden is amazing, walking along "Unter den Linden" I'd recommend as well, as someone else said. There's still a piece of wall left at "Nordbahnhof" which you can reach with the S-Bahn (which isn't a suburban train but a city train. It's sort of like a subway above the ground). Public transportation is generally safe, though I'm more comfortable in the S-Bahn than the U-Bahn and would stay away from the U7, U6 and U8 after 10 p.m.
    Then there's the Fernsehturm, as was previously pointed out, and actually there's the Funkturm as well. Postdamer Platz/Sony Center is nice if you're into architecture. Oh, there's also the "Siegessäule" which was recently renovated. And there's the WWII memorial close to the Brandenburger Gate. There are several more museums scattered throughout the city.
    Schloss Charlottenburg, I second the recommendation. It's worth taking a self-guided tour through and the park is just beautiful.
    You can also take the bus #100, it's a regular bus which basically stops at all the important sights or there are the sightseeing busses which you can get on and off whenever you feel like it.
    As for public transportation tickets, there are some tourist passes I would look in to. If you're looking for great food, there's the Oranienburger Straße which has a lot of restaurants or the Bergmannstraße in Kreuzberg is a pretty well-known place for great restaurants. Restaurants are usually open late.
    You can also visit the Pfaueninsel, very nice, and there's the Reichstag, of course. I think the dome has been re-opened for visitors. Oh, and there's the Gendarmenmarkt, which has the French and German dome and the Schauspielhaus/Konzerthaus, it's a pretty popular and well-liked place.
    (if your friends managed all that in 2-4 days I'm impressed :D)

    I don't think you'll have time for it but Schloss Sancousi in Potsdam is nice and so is Potsdam itself.

    And don't expect great weather in Germany!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  24. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    I don't mind these things. It's kind of a good way to meet people and I get to eat what I want. The main benefit of traveling alone is that I get to see and do what I want. What I don't like is having to cover the full cost of a hotel room on my own.

    BR, I get your point about going to one city. The thing is that, for a lot of Americans, when they travel to a region of Europe, that might be the only time in their lives when they can go and they don't have the time and money for a long trip, so they choose to see the highlights in two or three cities in the time that others might see more of one city. I'm currently trying to figure out how many places I would visit on my trip. I like the idea of visiting Croatia and Slovenia, but I think I would rather spend more time in places like Krakow and Tallinn and don't want to spend a huge chunk of my time on a train or bus, going from place to place. But, right now, it's mostly just fantasy anyway, so I'm looking at all kinds of options.
     
  25. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    I do understand that, but I still can't imagine why someone wouldn't want to pick one of those three cities and spend the entire time PRlady has in the one. But then she and I have slightly (just slightly :lol: ) different temperaments.
     
  26. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    What if the three things you most wanted to see and do in Europe were the Berlin wall, the Vienna opera, and the Prague Castle? I think the difference is seeing sights versus getting to know a city/country. The priorities are different for different people and different people will strike the balance that makes sense to them -- or at least makes sense at the time they book their flight.
     
  27. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

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    Yes that's basically my point. :lol:

    So for me, I can't see not choosing one of the three cities and spending the entire time in it.
     
  28. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    If only BR would go into bars we'd make perfect traveling companions.
     
  29. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Heading for Helsinki

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    I was just in Prague, doing the tourist thing. I found food to be quite inexpensive, but it was hard to find anything authentic. Lots of Chinese and Pizza. We had a great traditional meal at U kostela restaurant next to St Nicholas Church. www.ukostela.com

    From there we walked 2 blocks down the hill to the Charles Bridge, across the bridge to the Astronomical Clock, and then through town to our hotel. It took 2 hours but we saw lots. It was also very crowded, despite being a Monday afternoon. The Charles Bridge is an experience not to be missed.

    We went to the Lobkowicz Palace in the Prague Castle grounds. We rented headsets and took an audio tour narrated by the current owner. There are some amazing items on display, and the history of the area came alive when seen through the eyes of a real person. Afterwards we attended a live concert in the Palace, for an extra fee.

    We were warned about taxis, and told to always chose AAA taxis. We were also warned about pickpockets. With the jostling crowds, it would be easy to lose your wallet or purse.

    Avoid the Hilton hotels, if you were tempted. They cater to tour groups and expense account travelers. They are ridiculously overpriced and the cost of meals is scandalous. Our group was booked in there, but we soon found alternate places to eat.

    We spent a day in Vienna, too. Much more time was needed to see anything in detail . I was disappointed in Schonbrunn Palace. Apart from being crowded, it was very difficult to see anything because most of the displays were behind plastic or closed off. The shopping area around St Stephen's Cathedral equals NY Fifth Avenue. All the high end names are represented.
     
  30. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I do.

    :EVILLE: