When it comes to city breaks, Europe has so much to offer. You may be drawn to the romance of Paris, the pizzas of Naples, or the cobblestone streets of Riga. You could pass away a day in the pungent haze of one of Amsterdam’s coffee shops, or visit the café where JK Rowling first started writing the Harry Potter books in Edinburgh. But if you’re heading to Central Europe, the toss up between Berlin or Prague is always one worth thinking about…
Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, attracts architecture buffs, beer lovers, and stag-do revelers alike. Sometimes thought of as Paris without the price tag, Prague is a great destination for a scenic getaway spent observing fine architecture and drinking quality hops brews in hearty underground tap houses. Berlin, on the other hand, is a sprawling metropolis famous for its gritty feel, artistic flair, and fascinating modern history. There are a great variety of things to do here, from dancing the night away in riverside clubs to learning about life behind the Iron Curtain.
If you’re wondering which Central European city is the destination for you, look no further. We’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know to make your decision – from the cost of visiting each city to their nature and nightlife. Let’s dive right in…
Table of Contents
Prague or Berlin: Vibe
With its brutalist architecture, thriving art scene, and infamous underground nightlife, Berlin has gained a reputation as one of the coolest cities in Europe. It’s a city of great depth, with the scars of its complicated history visible in monuments such as The Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin of today stands in stark contrast from the repressive, authoritarian regimes of its past, though. The city is now a hub of international cultures, progressive values, and outrageous parties. Whether you’re keen to learn more about Germany’s fascinating yet checkered story, explore the delights of hipster neighborhoods, or try your luck at getting in Berghain (Europe’s most infamous club), Berlin always makes for a colorful holiday.
Prague’s cobblestone streets and Olde-Worlde architecture area bit different to Berlin’s more modern core. Nicknamed the City of a Hundred Spires, Prague is a bit of a sea of churches. It’s famous for its colorful baroque buildings, Gothic chapels, and the medieval Astronomical Clock that’s attached to the old Town Hall in the city’s historic center. While much smaller in size than Berlin, Prague is a brilliant destination for a weekend visit. The city is a popular tourist hotspot, with people from all over the world flocking here to take in its architectural beauty, peruse its many different art galleries, and sample some of the world’s best beer.
Winner: Draw. It all depends on what you want from the vibe. It’s got to be Berlin for big city living but Prague for walkability and historic charm.
Prague or Berlin: Ease of travel
It’s not really too much of a chore to get to either Berlin or Prague these days. For it’s part, the Czech capital has its own airport, which is now a bit of a hub for low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. You can whizz straight over there direct from lots of EU cities, plus London. Prague’s location close to the heart of Europe also makes it a something of a changeover point for trains and buses within the continent. There are direct rail links from here to Berlin (maybe two cities in one?), Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna – the list goes on. They aren’t expensive, either. Book bargain SPAR reduced tickets before you travel and you’re looking at under $30 for the longest trips.
Berlin is probably just a touch more accessible than Prague overall. It used to be home to a whopping four separate airports. Thankfully, all of those have now been combined into one at the Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which hosts all of the traffic for the city. It’s got loads of connections, too, including long-haul links to Asia and the US, along with low-cost links across the region. Be warned: It’s big. There are five terminals, so check beforehand where you need to go. Trains also connect up Berlin with virtually every major town in Germany, along with a host of international destinations in France, Poland, Austria, and others.
Winner: Probably Berlin for the huge new airport and its long-haul international flight connections.
Prague or Berlin: Things to do
Prague is a city of architectural wonders, art, stunning views, and world-famous beer. The historic Old Town Square is one of the city’s top attractions. This beautiful and lively square dates back to the 12th century and has borne witness to Prague’s rich and varied history. Head in to view beautiful buildings and monuments, including the Astronomical Clock, the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Baroque Church of St Nicholas, the Rococo Kinský Palace, the Gothic House at the Stone Bell, and the monument to Jan Hus – there’s loads!
Prague Castle is also a must. That’s a 9th-century fortification that has been a seat of power for Czech emperors, kings, and presidents alike. Afterwards, drop into the Rudolfinum Gallery, where you can view a varied collection of classic and contemporary art. Finally, round off your day in one of the city’s many bars, where you can sample the fruits of Prague’’’s world-leading brewery scene.
Then comes Berlin. Sights such as the remains of the Berlin Wall at the Eastside Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate all offer an insight into the city’s complicated past. The DDR Museum – an interactive museum that gives visitors an understanding of life in East Berlin during USSR rule – is a particular highlight for those interested in life in Berlin during the second half of the 20th century.
Besides delving into the history of this unique part of Germany, visitors to the German capital can enjoy a great range of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and cool shops in hipster neighborhoods such as Neukölln and Kreuzberg. And of course, no list of things to do in Berlin is complete without a reference to the city’s world-famous club scene. Late-night revelers will find plenty of totally off-the-hook parties to visit in Berlin, but more on that later.
Winner: It’s got to be Berlin overall. But there’s no shortage of activities in Prague, it’s just that the German capital is much, much bigger.
Prague or Berlin: Nature
Prague is surrounded on all sides by nature reserves, forests, and stunning valleys. For example, Castle Park Pruhonice is a beautiful place to visit during your stay in Prague. It’s situated in the city’s West District, spans an area of 240 hectares, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Situated within the grounds of this park you’ll find a neo-renaissance chateau, a botanic garden, meandering streams, and pretty flowerbeds.
Another area of outstanding natural beauty in Prague is Divoká Šárka. This rocky valley is located on the north-western outskirts of Prague 6, a short drive from the Dejvicka metro station. Head to this uncrowded nature reserve to enjoy some of the best of the Czech Republic’s flora and fauna in peace. Divoká Šárka has a varied landscape, with a forest, a gorge, lush green meadows, steep cliffs, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. In the summer months, it’s a great spot for swimming, offering visitors the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of Prague’s tourist center and cool off in its clear waters.
But you don’t have to leave Prague’s inner city area to marvel in its natural wonders. The Vltava River flows through the center of Prague. Strolling down the river banks on a balmy summer’s evening is a joy in itself.
While Berlin is generally thought of as a concrete metropolis with a distinctly industrial feel, the city also has its fair share of natural beauty. In fact, natural landscapes account for one-third of Berlin’s city area, with over 2,000 gardens and parks to discover. Mauer Park, for instance, is a great place to spend a Sunday. Previously a disused strip of land between the concrete barriers that once divided Berlin, the park has become a cultural hub since the falling of the Berlin Wall. Nowadays, this park is famous for its pretty flowers, street art scene, and weekly flea market, where Sunday shoppers can peruse vintage clothes, vinyl, and delicious-smelling street food. There’s also the massive Tiergarten, the largest park in Berlin that sits only a stone’s throw from the Brandenburg Gate.
Further outside of the city, there are a good number of lakes and forested areas which become particularly attractive as swimming spots in the hot summer months. For example, Grunewald is a forest located in the western side of Berlin. People often head here to escape the hurried pace of inner-city life, taking advantage of the forest’s many walking routes, cycling paths, and lakes.
Winner: Prague, simply because it’s way easier to break out of the big city. Berlin has loads of parks, though.
Prague or Berlin: Nightlife
When it comes to nightlife, there’’’s nowhere quite like Berlin. The city has become famous for it’s colossal parties, hosted in labyrinthine clubs where anything goes. Countless artists have been inspired by the city’s thriving underground music scene, which has been fundamental to the development of genres such as techno, EDM, and house music. By far the most famous venue is Berghain, whose notoriously strict door policy sees people queue up several times over in the hopes of getting in. (Insider’s tip: Dress like a Berliner – think all black, grungy get-ups, the more piercings the better).
Another highlight is Watergate, a riverside club with floor-to-ceiling windows, where those who stay until dawn have the unique experience of watching the sunrise over the river to the sound of thumping beats. But Berlin’s nightlife offers more than just electronic music. The city also has a great jazz scene, with many quirky late-night spots, as well as a great variety of classical and opera music performances, taking place in churches, cathedrals, outdoor spaces, and grand concert halls. Fans of metal will get their fill in many of the city’’’s metal venues, while there’s a growing appreciation for folk music in midweek bars and clubs. In short, Berlin is a party-goer’s paradise, catering to the full gamut of tastes.
Prague’s nightlife pales a little in comparison to that of Berlin. But only a little. For one, the city has become a notorious destination for stag dos, and with good reason – there are bars and clubs aplenty of those looking to let off some steam after a long day of sightseeing. Cultural venues such as MeetFactory offer guests the opportunity to take in art exhibitions, theater productions, live music, and parties, with an eclectic schedule for all tastes. Meanwhile, Strahov 007, one of the longest-tenured clubs in Prague, is a must-visit for fans of metal, hardcore, punk, and indie music. If you’re after a more chill vibe, simply set up shop in one of the city’s many bars and restaurants for an evening spent getting merry on the city’s famously cheap beer.
Winner: Prague or Berlin? This one is easy: there’s nowhere quite like Berlin when it comes to partying.
Prague or Berlin: Price
Both Prague and Berlin are known as relatively affordable destinations to visit. But which city is cheaper? Analysis by Numbeo finds that Prague is the cheaper of the two. You can expect to pay $40 USD for a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant in Prague, compared to $55 in Berlin. You’d be hard-pressed to find a much cheaper European destination to drink beer than in Prague, where 0.5 liters comes in at around just $2! Compare that to Berlin’s $4.40. It’s also significantly cheaper to get around by public transport in Prague, where a one-way ticket on local transport usually costs $1.34, compared to $3.30 in Berlin.
Hotels are always going to be the highest cost of a trip to both places. Most pretty standard hotel rooms in Old Town Prague cost around $65-80 per night, whereas you can expect to pay an average of around $114 in Berlin. You’ll notice that rates go up in both places during the summer months and around key holidays like Christmas and New Year. That’s to be expected but Prague is still likely to be the cheaper of the two, with stays costing in the region of 20% less than Berlin, no matter the season.
Winner: Prague is certainly the cheaper of the two cities.
Prague or Berlin: Food
Berlin is a bit of an upcoming gastronomic center. Everything from vegan pop-up kitchens to haute cuisine combine here. The Mitte District is an especially hot spot for all that. You can stroll Der Unter Linden, the main boulevard, and find exquisite venues with Michelin-prowess. But it’s the more down-to-earth food that really helps Berlin stand out. Don’t leave without tasting the legendary currywurst (sausage in curry sauce, a top drinking food). Plus, there are German pretzels and hearty German broths to get though.
Prague is all about sampling authentic Slavic cooking. That means dumplings, usually filled with cream cheese and potato. And it means meat – in the form of blood sausage and thick cutlets, not to mention massive pork knuckles that are bigger than most people’s heads. Thankfully, there’s also quite a bit for veggies in Prague these days. That didn’t used to be the case, but there are good bagel joints and Mexican kitchens.
Winner: Berlin steals this one again. It’s a foodie hub with loads of international cooking plus top-class haute cuisine.
Prague or Berlin: The Conclusion
In summary, which city should you visit? Prague or Berlin? While both cities are wonderful destinations to visit, there’s a clear winner. As the larger and more culturally diverse of the two places, Berlin is the front-runner. The German city is truly one-of-a-kind, with a vibe unlike anywhere else. A city of great variety, Berlin really has something to offer to all types of vacationer, whether you’re a history buff, a later-night raver, or a fan of metropolitan delights such as flea markets, edgy bars and trendy restaurants. It’s the one that we’d recommend to first-time travelers for sure.
Of course, this is not to disregard Prague. The sheer beauty of Prague, with its Baroque architecture, ancient castles and expansive river means that it’s certainly worth a visit. Indeed, if you prefer more quaint destinations, you may well prefer Prague to the noise and urban sprawl of Berlin. Similarly, those on a budget will find more bang for their buck in the Czech Republic’s capital. But don’t take our word for it – why not visit both and make up your own mind on which city takes the title? there are now direct trains that take about 4-5 hours running daily between the two!