There aren’t many places in the world where you can visit four national capitals in a day by road or rail. Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Czech Republic are all huddled together for warmth at the heart of Europe, so why not do them all justice and put their greatest cities together for a two-week holiday?
You can start off in Budapest where an early dip in one of the city’s natural thermal spas will fortify you for the trip ahead. These are no quiet indoor affairs – they are huge, lively places constructed in majestic nineteenth century architecture. And the finest of all is Gellert Furdo where you can soak away in the open air while half of the city splashes about you.
Then, when you arrive in Vienna, you will hear the sound of cakes calling you. The city is splendid with wide boulevards and big-block imperial architecture, but turn your back on it all and ensconce yourself in a coffee house with big windows to see everyone strolling past. For the real Viennese experience, it has to be sachertorte, a local chocolate cake so special to the city it has its own official day: (5 December, if you want to stop by).
Form there, it’s just a few miles to Bratislava, a charming little place that always seems surprised when people visit. There’s something delightfully unassuming about the Slovak capital and that is probably one reason it has remained intact and unspoiled by hoards of tourists. You can walk little cobbled streets and drop into old bookshops and antiques stores for souvenirs.
And finally, it’s Prague with the jaw-dropping architecture of Wenceslas Square. But the city isn’t all about the past – Prague is the hottest spot east of Rome and if you have any energy left at the end of your trip, the little music bars and big nightclubs will wring the last drops from you.