When choosing a route for a first-time family trip to Europe, think about countries with the similar climate and location. Even though all European countries are pretty close to each other, you don’t want to spend 9 hours on the plane reaching your next destination, especially, when you are traveling with kids.
Several years ago I went on my first trip to Europe, which I will always remember. We traveled to several cities in Poland and then went to Prague. For our next trip we took a little different route and after visiting Poland went to Berlin. All of this later made me think about combining these routes into an 8 day Poland – Czech Republic – Germany vacation.
In my opinion, this combination is a great choice for those, who still want to decide whether they like Europe or not. Even though this small continent has everything any tourist would want: from sunny beaches to snowy mountain peaks, Europe is not for everybody. Tiny countries have an atmosphere of the old times and are perfect for those who are in love with history, architecture and fairy-like views.
Today, I will tell you how to get the most out of your first visit to Europe. Our journey will start in an old city of Krakow in Poland, then continue to the red-rooftops of Prague in the Czech Republic and finish in a modern capital of Germany – Berlin. In addition, I have to mention that all of these cities are perfect for a budget travel.
So, with no further ado let’s start!
Day 1 – Arriving to Krakow
Krakow is the first city I’ve ever visited where I did not have to use any public transportation or a taxi to get around. The old town here is almost completely pedestrian and many sights are close to each other. Moreover, I encourage you to forget about trams or buses and walk along the beautiful streets of Krakow imagining how kings and the members of the royal family used to stroll down these streets too.
There are a lot of hotels located right in the Old Town. A hotel room in the city center for 2 adults and 2 children will cost on average $150 – $180 per night. On the other hand, a 2 bedroom apartment in the Old Town of Krakow can be easily found for up to a $100 per night.
The entire center of Krakow is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Old Town is pretty small, so you can explore it in your first day all around and even several times. Start with Saint Mary’s Church, where a trumpeter appears in one of the windows on the high tower and plays a melody every hour. Then move to the Market Square and take a picture by the Eros Bendato statue, which is a very common meeting place for many Krakow citizens. If you are into the city panoramas Town Hall Tower offers a breathtaking city view.
Day 2 – Visiting Wawel and Jewish neighborhood
The second day in Poland we will dedicate to a Wawel Castle – an architectural ensemble which includes several buildings. On site of the castle, you will also find a Sigismund bell, which, according to the legend, can fulfill one of two wishes: bring money or love. You just need to choose which one of the two.
Another mythical spot in Krakow is the sculpture of the Wawel Dragon, who according to the legend used to live under the castle and frighten local citizens. The Wawel Dragon is especially popular among children who want to touch the statue with their own hands and see the fire erupting from his mouth.
Right beside Wawel, there is an old Jewish neighborhood called Kazimierz. The tragic events of the WWII will forever be remembered here. During the war, most of its residents were sent to the Krakow ghetto and to Auschwitz.
Before you leave, try traditional Polish cuisine (pierogi, Krakow sausage or Zurek) in one of the lovely restaurants located all over the Old Town. Kids will love with Mazurek cake, pretzels with poppy seeds and rolls with nut staffing.
Krakow to Prague
It is time to move on to our next destination, which is the capital of Czech Republic. There are several ways to travel from Krakow to Prague: by car, bus, train or airplane. Bus and train will take about 8 hours and $35 per person. However, Europe has a very developed low-cost airline transport system and if you plan your trip in advance there is always a chance to buy cheap airplane tickets. For instance, you can fly from Krakow to Prague with Ryanair for about $50 per person. Approximate travel time is 1 hour.
Day 3 – Say Hello to Prague
Prague is divided into two parts by the Vltava River. I recommend finding a hotel on the right bank near the city center. A family of 4 can stay in a hotel close to an Old Town for about $150 – $180 per night. Airbnb offers a 2 bedroom apartments in close to the city center from $100 per night.
Our first day of the Czech adventure will start with a walking tour around the Old Town, located on the right bank of the river. You don’t even need to have a particular list of sights here. This part of the city is so beautiful that you can walk around for hours, immersing into the atmosphere of medieval fairy-like architecture.
One of my favorite places is the Old Town Hall, one side of which is decorated with unique Prague astronomical clock. Every hour you have a chance to see a little performance with moving figures. While you’re there don’t forget to get up to the top of the tower to see the stunning view of the city. This place is so magical that you can easily spend an hour taking tons of photos.
In the evening treat yourself to a delicious dinner at one of the traditional Czech restaurants. Taste one of many meat foods (for example pork knee) and try freshly brewed Czech beer.
Day 4 – Prague Castle
Today we will finally step onto the famous Charles Bridge, which is more than 600 years old and a favorite place of the local artists, musicians and souvenir vendors. Standing on the bridge, tourists usually make wishes, which according to the legend, will definitely come true.
Our next stop is Prague Castle. This part of the city can boast numerous interesting places like the famous Golden Lane, St. Vitus Cathedral, Schwarzenberg Palace and the National Gallery. If you like museums this place is a treasure for you. If not, I recommend visiting the Palace Gardens under Prague Castle.
Later in the day make a stop at Petrin Hill where you’ll find a Cathedral of St. Lawrence, a unique mirror maze and an Observation Tower.
Day 5 – a little fun in Prague
Prague is rich with not only historical sights, but also has some fun architecture, which may be interesting to the children. Dancing House is one of those sights. It was built on the site of a building, destroyed during the war. According to the architect’s idea, the building is a metaphor for a dancing couple, although some also call it a “Drunken House”.
Another fun architectural sight is Zizkov television tower. This construction features a unique decoration – giant pig-iron infants (700 kg each) crawling along the tower. The tower is 216 meters in height with a restaurant, bar and observation platforms inside.
If you are ready to get up early, we can squeeze in another attraction, which will be fun for both kids and adults. Prague Zoo considered as one of the largest in the world. Therefore it will take you at least half a day to explore this zoological paradise and all of its unique fauna.
Prague to Berlin
Depending on the price and travel time, there are different ways to get to Berlin from Prague. From my experience, direct flights may be a little overpriced, but bus or a train will be a wonderful option. The standard long-distance train takes about 4h 30 min and $35 to $50 per person to get to Berlin. In addition, buses depart up to ten times a day. Travel time about the same and prices start from $17 per person.
Day 6 – Welcome to Berlin
The capital of Germany is definitely different from the 2 previous cities. This is a modern, innovative city with islands of gothic architecture. Prices for a 3 start hotel room for 2 adults and 2 children start from about $150 per night. An apartment close to the city center or a metro station will cost about $130 – $150 per night for a family of 4.
But if you are like me and love walking, I recommend starting your tour from the biggest and busiest square in Berlin – Alexanderplatz. Then move on to the 368-meter Television Tower, which has an observation deck. To honest, after the Prague city panorama, Berlin does not impress as much. But if you are into tall buildings and city views, this place is for you. Just make sure to purchase your ticket beforehand online, otherwise, you’ll have to spend a decent amount of time standing in line.
Pass the oldest church in Berlin – St. Mary’s Church and move to the Museum Island, which is basically a part of an island with a high concentration of museums and galleries. Right next to the Museum Island you’ll find Berlin Cathedral, which also has an observation deck on the top of its dome.
Reichstag is another well-known landmark in Berlin. This is the place of residence of German Parliament, which is probably the most open parliament in the world. Any tourist can visit it with a prior online registration. Our last stop for today is Brandenburg Gate which nowadays has become a German symbol of unity.
Day 7 – Shopping and Nature
Starting from the major city intersection Potsdamer Platz you can walk to the complex of modern buildings of glass and concrete called Sony Center. According to the architect, the giant oval roof, which covers all the buildings, symbolizes Mount Fujiyama. A large shopping center – Mall of Berlin is also located on Potsdamer Platz and features a variety of stores and food courts.
Not far away located one of the largest parks in the world called Tiergarten. In the center of this magnificent island of nature, there is a 67-meter monument called the Victory Column. During the winter an ice rink is open on site of the park.
Day 8 – Last day in Berlin
On your final day, I recommend visiting Eastside Gallery. This the world’s longest permanent exhibition with 105 paintings on a Berlin Wall. Colorful drawings attract tourist, who are taking pictures with paintings in the background. In fact, nowadays parts of Berlin wall can be found all over the city.
Another popular Berlin attraction is located a little apart from all the major sights, but still worth visiting. Checkpoint Charley is a famous crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War and now just a tourist spot, where you can take a picture with an actor dressed as a policeman.
Approximate budget for an 8-day trip may include:
- The total price for a stay in a 3-star hotel in Krakow, Prague and Berlin for a family of 4 starts from $1200 during the low season. I recommend thinking about renting an apartment, which a lot of times may be cheaper and more comfortable.
- Transportation costs from one country to another depend on the type of transport and time of booking. In general, a trip from Krakow to Prague costs about $50 per person and a trip from Prague to Berlin – $35 per person. Ask for discounts for children, when booking.
- Cooking at the rental apartment will save you money on food. An average dinner for 2 people in Krakow costs about $20, in Prague – $17, in Berlin – $45.
- The expenses on public transportation depend on how much you need it. Walking will save you money. For a day-pass in Krakow you’ll have to pay about $4, in Prague – $5, in Berlin – $7,8.
This is the end of our first-time Europe trip. Hope this article was useful. Travel more! 😉