Vienna to Budapest: Travel by Train to Indulge in Local Cuisine

Railjet high-speed train in Austria
Railjet high-speed train in Austria. © ÖBB | Christian Auerweck

If you need some travel inspiration for your trip from Vienna to Budapest (aside from traveling by train), we’ve got one piece of advice: EAT. One of the best ways to experience a new culture is to taste it. You don’t have to be a “foodie” to appreciate a really delicious meal, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to indulge in the local cuisine when you’re traveling.

The food isn’t even the most important part of the dining experience in some instances — eating in a foreign restaurant gives you the chance to see locals starting their day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper or ending the evening with a hearty meal after a long day at work. It gives you the chance to listen to conversations between friends and laugh along with the boisterous family celebrating a birthday in the corner. You can practice your language skills when ordering from the menu and try a new dish if you accidentally order something you didn’t mean to.

The sounds, smells, and tastes of a foreign restaurant are like a little bubble of culture all in one place, and spending an hour or two in a little local eatery is an easy way to gain insight into the culture you’re visiting.

If you’re traveling from Vienna to Budapest, you can easily soak up the cuisine of both cultures in one day. The train ride between the two cities is only about 2.5 hours on the OBB Railjet trains, making it easy to start off with breakfast in one city and finish with dinner in another.

Apple Strudel in Cafe Leopold Hawelka, Vienna Austria. Photo © fabulousfabs
Apple Strudel in Cafe Leopold Hawelka, Vienna Austria. Photo © fabulousfabs

Breakfast in Vienna

It’s appropriate to begin your culinary tour with breakfast in a city that is famous for its pastries — particularly the apple strudel. Have a bite as you sip your traditional Viennese coffee, and people-watch as you sit in one of Vienna’s famous coffeehouses. Vienna, being a city of artists and musicians, has plenty of coffeehouses to inspire work and creativity.

If you’d prefer dinner to breakfast, you’d have the best luck trying one of Vienna’s “beisls,” or bistros. Characterized by simplicity and warmth, usually with a bar in the corner, the bistro is a place full of mixed characters and traditional, hearty food: schnitzel, goulash, and soup with dumplings, to name a few.

To help make your way from coffeeshop to coffeeshop as efficiently as possible, you could try using the Vienna Card for public transportation. The card allows you to hop on and off of public transportation services as often as you’d like within a 72 hour period.

Hungarian goulash
Hungarian Goulash. Photo © Jessica Spengler

Dinner in Budapest

Budapest is known mostly for hearty, stew-like dishes: paprikas, hot fish soup (Fisherman’s Soup), goulash, and various vegetable stews. Wine is more popular than cocktails, and it will go nicely with the Dobos cake (layered sponge cake) you eat for dessert. Hungarian restaurants often feature live music and are lively places for sharing a meal with friends and family.

Hungarian meals are often served in large portions, and so it’s probably a wise choice to share with friends. These meals always seem to have that warm, comforting feeling that only comes with a really good home-cooked meal.

After all of this delicious (albeit heavy) food, you may feel the urge to walk some of it off. If you’re carrying a Budapest Card, you’ll have access to free walking sightseeing tours, entry into various museums and attractions, and discounts on activities like biking or boating.

How to Travel from Vienna to Budapest by Train

The high-speed Railjet trains have all the characteristics of both Viennese and Hungarian cuisine: somewhat simple in appearance but hearty and comfortable onboard, with plenty of people-watching opportunities no matter which direction you’re headed.

Travel in second class (Economy) and enjoy spacious seats with access to a restaurant or bistro car. These trains are also equipped with digital screens showing the train’s progress along its route. In first class (Comfort) enjoy meals from the Bistro car at your seat and even more room to spread out. Both classes of service include special amenities for travelers with disabilities.

You can either travel with a point to point ticket, or you can travel with a rail pass. These trains do not require a seat reservation, although you can purchase one as a supplement to your rail pass. Your rail pass must include both Hungary and Austria in order for you to use it for this trip.

Since the trip from Vienna to Budapest is such a short one, it’s feasible to wake up and have breakfast in one city, take a train to the other city, wander a little and then have dinner before boarding another train back to where you started. If you are traveling with a rail pass, these two train rides will only use one day on your pass, since they will have occurred in the same 24 hour period.

So what are you waiting for? Treat yourself to a little culinary adventure in two of eastern Europe’s most delicious cities. After all, that goulash isn’t going to eat itself.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Avatar david says:

    For a single day, would one purchase tickets in advance or on the same day. It would be our only train ride, so no railpass would be necessary.

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