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Budapest versus Berlin: Which is the better destination to visit?

Budapest versus Berlin will certainly be a topic for discussion if you’re planning a trip to Central or Western Europe. Both the cities are charming in their own way. But if you’re short on time, you surely will have to choose one over the other.

In my current blog, I will try to objectively bring out the good and not so good aspects in this whole Budapest versus Berlin discussion. No matter which city you choose to visit, both of these European capitals are going to take you on a mind boggling journey of their own.

Stupendous architecture, century-old thermal baths and countless ruin bars is what makes Budapest a unique destination to visit. The city will impress you with sights that you might have never seen before.

Berlin on the other hand is all about history, freedom and its lively nightlife. The expat community of the city forms almost about a third of its population, heavily influencing its culture and livelihood. Berlin takes freedom of expression in its literal senses. The open mindedness of the diverse community is what makes the city vibrant and inviting.

Also useful:

Traveling to Budapest on a budget: A backpacker’s 3 day itinerary

Budapest versus Berlin – Which is the Better Destination to Visit?

We’re talking about the two sought after but incomparable capital cities here – Budapest versus Berlin. Each of these two comes with rich, yet starkly distinct cultures.

If you have to make a pick, let it be a wise one. Good thing is that neither of these destinations will disappoint you as a traveler.

Comparing Budapest versus Berlin on 10 Parameters

I have listed down the ten critical parameters that will help you in making the right choice. Between Budapest versus Berlin – see which city suits you better as a traveler.

City Life

Explore the quintessential European town of Budapest, or larger than life city of Berlin.

History

Learn about rule of Soviet Union in Budapest, or the dark past of Berlin.

Local Transportation

Ride the vintage style trams of Budapest, or experience the city hustle through metro of Berlin.

Places to Visit

Admire the monuments with mixed architectural styles in Budapest, or memorials and museums based on German history in Berlin.

Things to Do

Go for a dip in the thermal bath houses of Budapest, or a stroll around the graffiti filled walls in Berlin.

Food

Try the traditional Hungarian Goulash in Budapest, or the street-side Bratwurst in Berlin.

Drinking Culture

Appreciate the locally produced Hungarian Wine, or the world-famous German Beer.

Nightlife

Let yourself loose at quirky ruin bars in Budapest, or dance your way out at nightclubs in Berlin.

Shopping

Shop at the boutique outlets and local markets in Budapest, or global high-end brands in Berlin malls.

Budget

Travel on a shoestring budget in Budapest, or splurge a little extra while in Berlin




I will elaborate on each of the above points separately now to give you a detailed understanding about Budapest versus Berlin.

City Life in Budapest versus Berlin

Budapest was formed by merging three neighbourhood towns just a little over a century ago. Modern day Budapest is bisected by the river Danube into Buda – the quiet and relaxed side, and Pest – the happening and touristy side.

The city has garnered popularity over the recent years, with a heavy influx of tourists. A classic European city with no-car zones, grand architectural marvels and picturesque views await you.

Meanwhile, Berlin has been a major metropolis for centuries now. It currently is the second largest city in the European Union, next to London.

Your experience in Berlin would be nothing short of enriching – bustling city, heart-warming people, historic sights, touching stories from the past and much more.

History of Budapest versus Berlin

Budapest had been liberated and reoccupied multiple times in the past before unification. After the towns came together in 1873, it flourished like it never had before.

This however was temporary since the city was almost down to bits, post the world wars. The rule of Soviet Union ended in 1991 and the country has seen massive development ever since.

You’d witness how beautifully the varied influences on Budapest have blended together to create a magical city.

Berlin is known for its turbulent history. One must have unquestionably heard or read about the atrocities that Berlin folks have faced through the years.

Destruction of the city through air-raids and erection of the Berlin Wall to prevent the residents to flee to the West are just two of the many appalling events that the city has seen.

After decades now, the city is reconstructed and free of unrest. Though, the dark truth will always remain in the hearts, there is much in store for you as a visitor. However, you will feel the pain while touring the place.

Budapest versus Berlin Over a hundred paintings colour the remnants of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi

 

Budapest versus Berlin This is the Pest side of Budapest along the river Danube. The Hungarian Parliament is the icon here. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi

Local Transportation in Budapest versus Berlin

Walking around a city teaches you the nitty gritties of the place. Budapest is one of the perfect subjects to experiment this, as the city can be explored on foot by virtue of not being a huge one.

Moreover, every nook and corner of the city is connected by 4 metro and over 40 trams lines, making travel hassle-free for tourists. Tram line 2 running parallel to the Danube offers spectacular views. It is one of the best public transport rides you’ll ever come across.

Berlin on the contrary is spread over a large area and hopping from one place to another would seem like a task. The super-efficient train network with 26 lines is the saviour – 10 routes on the U-Bahn and 16 routes on the S-Bahn. Berlin also has around 20 tram lines, though rail would turn out to be the fastest way to get around.

Places to Visit in Budapest versus Berlin

Every monument that you visit in Budapest will make you fall in love with it. A walk in the cobblestone streets of the Castle Hill in the Buda side of the town is an impressive one. Be it the Matthias Church with magnificent interiors or the picturesque views from the fairy tale towers of Fisherman’s Bastion.

The Pest side of the city is no less beautiful – neo-gothic architecture of the Hungarian Parliament Building, panoramic views of the city from atop the St. Stephens’s Basilica or the beautifully lit Szechenyi Chain Bridge in the night.

If you are a history buff, Berlin will entice you with treasures from over six thousand years ago at the Museum Island. The group of five museums on the Museum Island are a UNESCO world heritage site.

The famous Brandenburg Gate – a symbol of peace and unity, Checkpoint Charlie – the crossing between West and East Berlin, and Holocaust Memorial – labyrinth of stone blocks dedicated to the departed Jews are some sights of important significance.

Budapest versus Berlin Buda Castle in the Castle District on the Buda side of the city. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi

Budapest versus Berlin The iconic Brandenburg Gate was considered to be an entry gate to the city in the 18th century. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi

Things to Do in Budapest versus Berlin

First things first, join a free walking tour in Budapest. It’ll take you around the most important spots of the city and help you learn a lot about Budapest and Hungarians.

A visit to the thermal bath houses is one of the most unique experiences that you’ll come across. A dip in the natural spring waters will relieve you after a tiresome day.

Berlin is an epicenter of an underground and alternative culture. The best way to experience it is joining a walking tour. Soak in the art, culture and creativity of diverse neighbourhoods in Berlin.

The town is painted colourful with graffiti walls all around. Enjoy an evening at the Tiergarten in Berlin, popular for the Berlin zoo, open lawns and a beer garden.

Food Options in Budapest versus Berlin

Hungarian cuisine is heavily spiced with paprika, which is the local produce of the country. Goulash is a traditional Hungarian dish with vegetables and meat, usually beef. Langos is common in the street-side stalls, and made with deep-fried bread topped with garlic and cheese.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll drool over sponge cake and chimney cake. Local dishes of Hungary are quite unique and a must try while in Budapest.

Berlin is brimming with Bratwurst (or Currywurst) stalls. It is a pork sausage seasoned with ketchup and curry powder, and is the most popular local dish.

Pork knuckles are also a classic to city. You’d find cuisines from across the globe in Berlin as a result of the diversity of population.

Drinking Culture of Budapest versus Berlin

With 22 wine regions, Hungary produces a wide variety of quality wine. If you are a wine connoisseur, you must go on a Wine Tasting and Winery Tour in Budapest.

If you are just looking at trying out something local, go for a glass of the famous Tokaji – a mildly sweet dessert white wine.

If you are a beer enthusiast instead, Berlin is the place to be. German beer is popular world-wide, and what better that having an opportunity to try it out in their home ground.

Be it craft beers or draught beers, you wouldn’t be disappointed by the drinking scene in Berlin. Especially when you are allowed to carry your favourite drink on the roads while wandering around.


Nightlife in Budapest versus Berlin

Ruin bars in Budapest have taken the world by a storm. Hungarians are the first to have introduced ruin bars to the world, and they were a hit instantly.

Dilapidated rooms modified with second-hand furniture is all what ruin bars are about. Cheap drinks and laid-back atmosphere are a highlight. Most of these ruin bars also have a courtyard outside with open-air seating.

Nightlife in Budapest versus Berlin is contrasting, but both have their own charm. Berliners are high on energy and would party hard all night long. The city is host to numerous night clubs and bars with some great music.

Parties in Berlin go on until the wee hours of the morning. There are special night buses on the routes of popular nightclubs that help party-goes get back to their homes safely. One night in Berlin dancing till you drop would be an experience to remember.

Shopping in Budapest versus Berlin

Treat yourself with souvenirs, porcelain goods, embroidered clothes or paprika – all that Hungary is famous for as  a travel destination. Budapest has several boutique shops selling a variety of things.

The most popular shopping areas in Budapest are Vaci Street, Andrassy Avenue and Fashion Street. If you’re fond of local produce, you must visit the Central Market Hall. It is the biggest and oldest market hall of the city. You are in for a surprise with fresh fruits, vegetables and Hungarian fast food.

Your shopping experience in Berlin wouldn’t be very different than a day at your local shopping mall. Except, you’d get to pick stuff from brands that you might not have heard of from round the world.

The most popular shopping malls in Berlin are KaDeWe, Alexa and Mall of Berlin. If you are a fan of flea markets, you must make it to the Mauerpark Flea Market every Sunday and the shops outside Hackescher Market on Saturdays.

Budget for a trip to Budapest versus Berlin

Probably the most important and decision-making factor that will favour Budapest is the budget that you allocate for your trip. As the capital of a country that has its own currency, Budapest is one of the most inexpensive places you can visit.

Three days in Budapest wouldn’t cost you more than 58,500 HUF (15,000 INR or $210 or 185 EUR). You can read my blog on traveling to Budapest on a budget:A backpacker’s 3 day itinerary to know more about the breakdown on budget.

Alternately, Berlin is a city where you’d end up spending more than in Budapest. It is an expensive place to stay and tour. Thus, your budget has to be a little flexible if you pick the latter from Budapest versus Berlin. An ideal three day itinerary in Berlin will cost you anywhere between 78000 HUF – 97000 HUF (i.e 20,000 INR to 25,000 INR or $280 to $350 or 246 EUR to 305 EUR).

What not to Miss in Budapest versus Berlin?

There is no dearth of attractions in Budapest versus Berlin. But each of the two cities has a list of must-do things that would enhance your vacation.

Here are the things that you must not miss out on while choosing Budapest versus Berlin.

Budapest

Hungarian Parliament Building

A guided tour within the third largest Parliament building of the world will stun visitors with its amazing structure and design.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath

The largest of all bath houses in Budapest, choose from a wide array of indoor and outdoor temperature-controlled pools to go for a swim.

Budapest by Night

Popular landmarks of Budapest like the Buda Castle, Hungarian Parliament Building, Szechenyi Bridge are lit up in yellow post sunset and are a treat to the eyes.

Szimpla Kert

Considered as the mecca of ruin bars, it is the first and the most frequented bar in the city.

 

Budapest versus Berlin The illuminated Hungarian Parliament Building post sunset every evening. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi.

Berlin

East Side Gallery

Adore the graffiti on the walls of the East Side Gallery, an open-air 1.3 km long fragment of the Berlin Wall.

Reichstag Building

The glass dome and terrace on the rooftop of the Parliament building are accessible to visitors with guided tours for the public and breath-taking views of the city.

Pub Crawl

Bar-hop with like-minded people and experience the crazy party scene of Berlin.

 

Budapest versus Berlin The Reichstag Building is built in neo-renaissance style. Its beautiful. Picture credits: Shreya Doshi

Budapest versus Berlin – A Guide to Key Information

Planning a trip is an exciting but challenging task. The decision of which destination makes it to the list usually depends on the attractions and activities that would keep you engaged. But what’s also important is when and how you get there, and where to stay!

Here is a guide to the travel information that’ll help you pick between Budapest versus Berlin. As a traveler, I would recommend having this basic information handy.

Location and Connectivity in Budapest versus Berlin

The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is just about three hours away from other European capitals such as Vienna, Bratislava, Zagreb and Belgrade. Budapest is well connected by rail with the popular central European cities. If you are to fly in to Budapest, most of the European airlines land at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport.

Prague is almost midway between Budapest and Berlin. A well-executed itinerary covering Berlin – Prague – Budapest is a great way to uncover the highlights of Central Europe.

The German capital’s location could be a point of contention. While most believe that Germany (and hence Berlin) are a part of Western Europe, some are of the opinion that it geographically falls in Central Europe.

Berlin has two major airports – Berlin Tegel, which caters to most of the international airlines, and Berlin Schoenefeld, for local European flights. The capital city is extremely well connected to all German cities as well as neighbouring countries by Eurail.

Climate and Ideal Time to Visit Budapest versus Berlin

Budapest and Berlin are both dominated by European Continental climate, with summers from June to August and winters from December to February.

Winters in Budapest versus Berlin

Winters in Budapest are not very cold, and the temperature rarely drops below freezing point. However, the temperature in Berlin can drop to as low as -10 degrees Celsius in winters. January and February are the coldest months, when you’d find the city covered in a thick white blanket of snow.

Summers in Budapest versus Berlin

Summers in Budapest can sometimes be harsh with high temperatures of about 30 degree Celsius and direct overhead sun. Temperature in Berlin during summers averages at about 25 degree Celsius. Moderate rainfall can be expected in Berlin round the year.

The perfect time for your Budapest versus Berlin getaway would be from late March to May or October – November. The weather is pleasant during these months. The added advantage is that you beat the crowd as the tourist season is not at its peak.

Budapest versus Berlin Berlin turned white during winter season. Picture credits: Charly

Budapest versus Berlin Sheets of ice spread over a lake in Budapest during winters. Picture credits: Irenne

Official and Commonly Spoken Languages in Budapest versus Berlin

You can easily thrive in both Budapest and Berlin without any knowledge of their official language. The locals in Budapest would prefer to communicate in Hungarian.

However, English is also prevalent owing to the increasing tourist population in the city. Similarly, in Berlin, although German is the principal spoken language, English in widely spoken as well owing to the large number or immigrants.

It would not be difficult for a traveler conversing in English to find their way around either of the two cities.

Currency and Exchange in Budapest versus Berlin

Hungary is not a part of the euro-zone, meaning their official currency is not euros. Their currency is called Hungarian Forints (HUF), which is one of the weakest currencies in the world.

You can exchange US Dollars or Euros into Hungarian Forints at any of the many available legitimate currency exchange outlets.

However, be careful with the conversion rate as some places might quote a higher rate than the rest.

Approximate conversion rate at the time of my visit. This is subject to change (so kindly check the current exchange rates as well).

1 EUR = 316 HUF

1 US $ = 276 HUF

1 INR = 3.91 HUF

Berlin (Germany) uses Euros as their official currency as do the eighteen other countries of the European Union. Procuring euros in your home country before your trip is the most convenient option.

You would need your tickets and passport copy for the same. Once you have euros when you arrive in Berlin, all you need to worry about is spending them wisely.

1 EUR = 1.14 $

1 EUR = 80 INR

Again, these are the approximate conversion ratea at the time of my visit.

Accommodation Types and Budget in Budapest versus Berlin

You’d find a whole lot of backpackers in Budapest and hence the city offers plenty of affordable accommodation options. The finest hostels in Budapest are available for as low as 1000 INR ($14 or 12.35 EUR) per bed per night. Budget stays, hotels as well as apartments are extremely convenient, and wouldn’t hurt your pockets. If you are looking forward to a luxurious holiday, you’re in for some luck. The best properties in Budapest wouldn’t cost you beyond 10,000 INR (or $ 141 or 123.5 EUR ) for a room for two per night.

Berlin on the other hand proves to be slightly more expensive when it comes to accommodation. Staying in the city centre certainly means spending a few extra bucks.

A decent hotel room in the popular area of Mitte would cost you around between 8000 INR ($113.5  or 99 EUR). You can choose to stay in a hotel that suits your budget, but I’d recommend you look at B&Bs (Bed-and-Breakfast) before you make the choice.

Some great deals are available on apartments in the city centre. If you are traveling solo, hostels are the go-to option without a doubt.

Safety in Budapest versus Berlin

Budapest is one of the few places in Europe where one needs to be careful while traveling. Cases of pick-pocketing are not unheard of here. You should take care of your belongings in crowded areas like tourist spots and metros while traveling.

Safety in Budapest versus Berlin is a precarious point of discussion.While you might have to be alert at most times in Budapest, Berlin is generally safe. However, you must be careful of being mugged and scams in Berlin.

Do not get involved in anything that looks suspicious, or someone trying to grab your attention. Avoid loitering in specific areas in the night that are deceptive and make you uncomfortable. Overall, you must just be more aware of your surroundings while traveling to either of the cities.

Though safety in Budapest versus Berlin might not be rated the best in the world, there is absolutely no threat to your life. Women travelers are more than safe in both of these cities.

Which one from Budapest versus Berlin emerges as the winner?

It’s a tough one, but it’s a choice that you have to make. Two European capital cities, so different from each other and yet so captivating. Weigh your odds and make your pick. Or even better, plan to visit both together on an epic,culturally-driven, unforgettable journey.

I hope my blog helps you with your queries and you’re more confident of your choice now.

Happy wayfaring.

About the Author

Shreya Doshi

Shreya Doshi

Shreya Doshi is a Mumbaikar at heart but her soul takes her globe trotting. She has traveled over a hundred cities, from bustling metropolitan places to quaint countryside towns, but it’s at the beaches that she finds true solace. Shreya holds an entrepreneurial spirit and aims to be a travel counselor some-day. She strongly believes in travel therapy, and that solo-travel is the best teacher.

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