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The Best of Central Europe: A 2-Week Summer Travel Guide

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

What is Central Europe?

Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland are the main countries classified under this region. Planning a trip to Central Europe is a great way to explore some of the best cities the continent has to offer while still keeping to a reasonable budget. While 2 weeks isn't enough to cover all the aforementioned countries, it is possible to hit a lot of the main cities, especially if it is your first trip to the region.

One of the great benefits of this itinerary is that it is possible to get around without spending too much time travelling between places (and it's definitely easier on your wallet too). We didn't want to spend more than 5 hours getting from one city to another and hence, we chose a route that mainly offered direct connections by train or bus between stops.

Our journey began in Budapest, Hungary, and ended in Zagreb, Croatia. It is possible that some cities are more convenient to start your journey from than others. The great thing about this itinerary is that it is a CIRCLE, which means you can effectively start your trip at any of these cities. In the rest of this article, we will share a little bit about each city we visited along the way, and the best ways to get around.

Illustration of map showing the aforementioned countries that were part of the central europe itinerary
Our route around Central Europe

Cities We Visited

Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Parliament building at night
The Hungarian Parliament Building

Nestled on the banks of the Danube River, the Hungarian capital is a must-do in your Central European adventure. With jaw-dropping architecture, rich history, and food that'll make your taste buds do the happy dance, Budapest is pure bliss. We spent a day each wandering the Buda and Pest sides, and then spent another day exploring the charming town of Szentendre which is just a short train ride away from the main city.

Recommended duration: 4 nights

Bratislava, Slovakia

St. Michael's Gate
St. Michael's Gate

Budapest and Prague are probably the two most common cities that will appear on a Central European itinerary. However, a direct train ride between the two takes almost 7 hours. If you want to avoid a long train ride and break the journey, Slovakia’s capital city is the perfect pit stop. Located just two-and-a-half hours from Budapest, its medieval Old Town, picturesque Castle, and all-around delightful vibes make it perfect for an overnight stay.

Recommended duration: 1 night

Prague, Czech Republic

St. Nicholas' Church
St. Nicholas' Church

No Central European itinerary is complete without a trip to Prague, the capital of the newly renamed Czechia (formerly Czech Republic). The city’s ancient architecture, cobblestone streets, and lively pub culture will make you want to extend your stay. Our inner historian, beer connoisseur, and food enthusiast united in glorious harmony as we had our fair share of Pilsner Urquells and fried cheese while soaking in the city’s amazing sights.

Recommended duration: 4 nights

Cesky Krumlov, Czechia

View of Cesky Krumlov from a height
Town of Cesky Krumlov

A UNESCO World Heritage site with a fairytale-like charm and laid-back vibe, this tiny Czech town is a hidden treasure. Whether you want to explore the main castle and its gardens or simply have a beer by the Vltava River, you’ll find yourself falling in love with this town with every passing minute. Recommended duration: 1 night

Salzburg, Austria

View of the city of Salzburg
City of Salzburg

Salzburg is a culturally rich city with a unique charm and breathtaking views of the Austrian Alps, making it one of our most memorable destinations of the trip. If you are a fan of the classic 60s film “The Sound of Music”, walking through some of the iconic movie locations is sure to make you nostalgic. It is a perfect stop en route to major cities in Slovenia, Germany or Czechia.

Recommended duration: 2 nights

Bled, Slovenia

Lake bled, with a canoe on the water
Lake Bled

A three-and-a-half-hour train journey from Salzburg, Bled is a small town in the Julian Alps, famous for its emerald-green lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Beyond rowing on the tranquil waters and relishing the mouthwatering Slovenian cuisine, the stunning Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj are definitely worth a visit.

Recommended duration: 2 nights

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Buildings in Ljubljana Main Square in the evening
Ljubljana Main Square

A beautiful capital city with a picturesque riverside. Unfortunately, we were so tired after our outdoor activities in Bled that we decided to make Ljubljana a rest stop instead. As a result, we did not spend much time exploring this beautiful capital city. However, we would definitely recommend you to!

Recommended duration: 1 night

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb Main Square
Zagreb Main Square

This Central European itinerary ends in Croatia’s capital. While the country itself deserves its own 2-week holiday, spending a couple of nights in Zagreb is a great introduction to Croatian culture and cuisine. Plitvice Lakes National Park is located a short 2-hour bus ride away and is the perfect way to cap off a great holiday in style.

Recommended duration: 2 nights

Travelling Around Central Europe

The cities in this itinerary are incredibly accessible by the region’s vast train and bus network. Knowing which websites offer the cheapest tickets can potentially save you tons of money. Lucky for you, this section is dedicated to just that. We’ll show you how we managed to keep our travel costs to under US$150 (or €135) for the entire trip!

You may have heard people telling you about the Eurail Pass and how it makes travelling around Europe a breeze. While the Eurail pass does afford one a greater degree of flexibility to choose when one wants to head to one's next destination, it does come with a much higher price tag. If you know your travel dates and how many days you want to spend in each city, we would definitely recommend booking your tickets individually. A Eurail pass with 7 travel days would set you back US$384 (or US$288 if you are under 27 years). Booking your tickets individually would save you more than half that amount and if you follow the steps below, you'll realize how easy it is!

Budapest to Bratislava

Rail ninja train timings screenshot

Train: EuroCity

Booking platform: Rail Ninja (

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: €22

Remarks: There are multiple trains per day connecting the cities so you can choose a departure time that is comfortable for you. Given that we had already spent three-and-a-half days in Budapest, we took a morning train so that we would get the whole day to explore Bratislava.

Bratislava to Prague

Screenshot of rejiojet train timings

Train: RegioJet

Booking platform: RegioJet (

Time: 4.5 hours

Cost: €18

Remarks: Again, there are multiple trains throughout the day from 1:45 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. We decided to take a midday train so we would get the morning in Bratislava as we only spent a night here.

Prague to Cesky Krumlov

Screenshot of flixbus timings

Bus: Flixbus

Booking platform: Flixbus (

Time: 3 hours

Cost: €7

Remarks: There are no trains to Cesky Krumlov so you have to get there by bus. We recommend Flixbus as they are very comfortable, and have many options throughout the day from 7 in the morning to 6 in the evening.

Cesky Krumlov to Salzburg

Screenshot of flixbus timings

Bus + Train: Flixbus + WESTbahn

Booking platform: Flixbus (

Time: 3 hours

Cost: €37

Remarks: Getting to Salzburg is a bit tricky. There are 2 options. The first is a direct bus that takes you to Salzburg South Station. However, this station is further away from the city centre and would require a public bus or tram to get there. The second (better) option is to take a bus to Linz Wissensturm station (Austria) and then take a WESTbahn train to Salzburg Central Station, conveniently located in the main city.

The second option is a lot more expensive but we preferred it as you reach the central station in the same amount of time. Note that both the bus and train are booked in a single booking via Flixbus.

Salzburg to Bled

Screenshot of OBB train timings

Train: OBB

Booking platform: OBB (

Time: 3.5 hours

Cost: €39

Remarks (Important): There is only 1 direct train from Salzburg to Lesce-Bled. If you book early enough you can get a €20 fare. However, a word of caution is that seating isn't guaranteed on this train. At Villach station (about 2.5 hours in), the train splits into 2 with one part going to Klagenfurt, Austria and the other part going on to Zagreb via Bled. You have to make sure you’re in the right section before the split happens.

The section of the train going to Zagreb was packed and didn't have seats for us when we got on. So we sat at a café section a few cabins down where we got a table to ourselves, and returned to the correct section when the train reached Villach (it stops for 15-20 mins here). Anyone is allowed in the café; all we ordered was 1 coffee the entire time we were there. The views were amazing and the seats were very comfortable. At Villach, we were lucky to find spare seats in a compartment (6 pax capacity) with other travellers.

After getting off at the station, Lesce-Bled, you have to take a public bus (Arriva) to the Bled bus station, which only costs around €1, and tickets for this are purchased on the bus.

Bled to Ljubljana

Bus: Arriva (local bus)

Booking platform: on the bus itself

Time: 1 hour

Cost: €6

Remarks: There are many buses throughout the day going to Ljubljana. You can check the schedule at the bus station however, do note that the buses are frequently late or delayed so the timings are not very accurate. The buses do have a luggage compartment where you can keep your backpacks or suitcases.

Ljubljana to Zagreb

Screenshot of Flixbus timings

Bus: Flixbus

Booking platform: Flixbus (

Time: 2.5 hours

Cost: €15

Remarks: There are more than 15 buses every day going to Zagreb. There is a tram station right outside the Zagreb bus station that takes you into the city centre.

Other Possible Routes

Five Capital Cities

Berlin - Prague - Vienna - Bratislava - Budapest

Time: 2 - 2.5 weeks weeks

Google maps screenshots showing 5 cities mentioned in itinerary

This is a common route that many backpackers take when visiting Central Europe. The capital cities of Germany, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary and conveniently located on a line and there are direct trains running every day that can take you from one to the next. You can start the trip either in Berlin or Budapest and work your way to the other end!

Czechia and Poland Loop

Prague - Wroclaw - Warsaw - Lublin - Krakow - Brno - Cesky Krumlov - Prague

Time: 2.5 - 3 weeks

Google maps screenshot showing mentioned cities

This itinerary takes you to the main cities in Czechia and Poland. There is a direct train or bus connecting each of the adjacent cities in the loop (Rail Ninja / Flixbus). Since this is a circular itinerary, you can start the trip from any of the cities.

Germany, Czechia and Austria Loop

Frankfurt - Stuttgart - Munich - Salzburg - Cesky Krumlov - Prague - Dresden - Berlin

Time: 2.5 - 3 weeks

Google maps screenshot showing main cities mentioned

This route covers a lot of the best German and Czech cities while also giving you a taste of Austria. There is a direct train or bus connecting each of the adjacent cities in the loop (Rail Ninja / Flixbus).

Final Thoughts

Do note that these tips and recommendations are purely based on our own experiences on this trip and we hope they are helpful for your own planning. So now you have everything you need to plan your Central Europe trip. We are in the process of releasing detailed blogs about each city visited, so do subscribe to us to be the first to hear about new uploads!

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1 Comment

Hi. Very informative. Have you ever thought about filming and talking about these places in the format of blogs or individual videos? I can recommend you a good video editor that allows you to make high-quality and good videos for free!

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