5 mins

Berlin vs Prague: Which winter city break destination is right for you?

How do you choose between Germany's cooler-than-cool capital and the magical Old Town of Prague? We put them head to head on history, culture, Christmas markets and walks within the city limits...

Berlin vs Prague (Shutterstock)

Berlin

Population: 3.7 million

Area: 892 sq km

Famous for: An art scene, Christmas cheer and world-famous iconic landmarks

Prague

Population: 1.13 million

Area: 496 sq km

Famous for: Beautiful Baroque architecture, lots of beer, and the 14th-century Charles Bridge

History

German History Museum (Shutterstock)

German History Museum (Shutterstock)

Berlin, the German capital, may now be a thriving, über-cool metropolis, but its troubled past is imbedded on its streets and walls.

Visitors can keep an eye out for bullet holes from its fall at the end of the Second World War, or trace the embodiment of the Cold War in Europe by walking a section of the 155km Berlin Wall Trail.

Much of the Czech Republic’s capital Prague's Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture survived the two World Wars, to tell a story that dates back to when Prague was the centre of the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 14th century.

The Old Town is a fascinating stroll; its Jewish Quarter shines a light on Europe’s blackest pages.

Culture

Berlin is famous for its art scene (Shutterstock)

Berlin is famous for its art scene (Shutterstock)

Explore the city’s dense history through its monuments, and countless museums.

Start at the German History Museum, then explore Berlin’s art history in the five galleries on the UNESCO-listed Museum Island.

Its hipper side is justly celebrated: a maze of underground music, vegan food and cafés beckon.

You could easily while away a day crisscrossing the Charles Bridge in search of the city’s breathtaking basilicas, churches and cathedrals. But there’s a fun side to Prague, too.

Home to Pilsner, Budweiser and many other fabled beers, expect pubs galore. Warning: pints and filling staples – goulash, dumplings – are dangerously well-priced.

Did you know? There's just four and a half hours between Berlin and Prague by train.

Expect comfy, modern trains, reasonably-priced tickets and gorgeous views of the Vltava and Elbe rivers. Better still? You can stop over in Dresden at no extra cost.

Christmas markets

Wenceslas Square, Prague at Christmas time (Dreamstime)

Wenceslas Square, Prague at Christmas time (Dreamstime)

Berlin is a winter wonderland in the snow, and in the freezing run-up to Christmas there are upwards of eight festive markets in the city (most starting in November).

Classic fare – mulled wine, chestnuts and trinkets – fill stalls at Charlottenburg Palace, while Gendarmenmarkt offers seasonal performances and a light display.

The Old Town Square and the festively-named Wenceslas Square (pictured) are the best places to park yourself for the Czech take on the Christmas market (from December) – expect small stalls and jolly decorations.  

Temperatures can dip low, but Prague looks great dressed in white, especially from the city’s viewing spots.

Walks

Gardens near Prague Castle (Shutterstock)

Gardens near Prague Castle (Shutterstock)

Countless walking tours offer a route through the city to suit your interest.

For a hint of nature, stroll along the river Spree, Treptow Park (pictured) or the tranquil gardens of Körnerpark.

To get a real feel for Berlin’s green side, stretch your legs on a hike through the 30 sq km Grunewald Forest.

The compact capital is very walkable, with the ninth-century Prague Castle (pictured) the focal point for those hoping to combine fairytale views with history.

For a more strenuous stroll, spend a day trekking Divoká Šárka nature reserve. It’s a tough terrain: steep, rocky and unpaved trails – sturdy walking boots are not optional.

Verdict

Berlin Dom in winter (Shutterstock)

Berlin Dom in winter (Shutterstock)

Berlin and Prague are both captivating city-break destinations, and each has its own fascinating history and culture.

Berlin’s the clear winner for festive markets, but for a picturesque winter getaway with an old town feel Prague may be your best bet…

Discover more European winter city breaks:

10 epic (and unexpected) European winter breaks

5 reasons to visit Levi in Finnish Lapland

The best things to do in Riga, Latvia

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