Oh Prague how you charmed me. I have no idea how to pinpoint what it was about Prague that I liked so much. Maybe it was the fact that the Historic Center of Prague is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The historic area of Prague consists of the Old Town, the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and the New Town areas. Each zone has lots to offer to every type of traveler. I could have easily spent days in each area, but we only had three days total to explore.
The more I think of Prague, the more I think it could have simply been the feel of the city that captured my heart. There is a bustle and excitement that encompasses the city. Prague (Praha as it is referred to by the locals) is a lively town with lots of, grand, colorful architecture. The Czech’s have been through a lot and are jubilant to be independent; they also love their food. The high season for tourists is Easter through October, but if you have to travel in summer shoot for July or August. As Prague is much more expensive and popular than the rest of the Czech Republic, it is strongly recommended that you book your hotel as soon as possible.
With just three days in Prague, we needed to make the most of every waking minute. Our concentration focused on the two most popular districts: the Old Town and Castle Quarter. We walked everywhere.
Day 1 –
Our train arrived in the late afternoon and we headed straight to our hotel to drop off our bags. We decided to head down to the Charles Bridge to see it in all its night time glory. I recommend visiting the Charles Bridge at night and during the day. The experiences are completely different. During the day, the bridge is vibrant and full of life and activities. At night, it is quieter, majestic and the twinkle of the town lights and skies above make for a romantic stroll.
The bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It is adorned with 30 different statues of historically significant people. The most famous figure is St. John of Nepomuk whose tomb of pure silver is located inside the St. Vitus Cathedral. If you are in need of some positive energy, rub his foot it is rumored to bring good luck. The foot rubbing lines are shorter at night. I am not sure if it is year round but at night, there is a bug issue on the bridge. Bring a scarf and bug repellent with you, just in case.
The bridge connects Old Town and Lesser Town. If it is late afternoon or evening, there are much more options for restaurants and things to do on the Old Town side. We ate at Klasterni Pivovar (The Strahov Monastic Brewery) where I had homemade sausage smothered in au gratin potatoes, and Matt had pork schnitzel (one of Matt’s other obsessions). Of course, we tried their local brews and were quite close to a food coma by the time we left. The food and ambiance were fabulous; I recommend this place to everyone.
Day 2 –
We made the entire day about Castle Quarters (Castle District). The area is located on a hill and can be seen from almost anywhere in Prague. The most recognized part of the skyline is the beautiful gothic St. Vitus Cathedral. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is a must see when in Prague. The details and intricacies both inside and out are breathtaking. If you are looking for the best view in Prague, climb the almost 300 steps to the top of the Great South Tower. The view is spectacular.
While in the tower look for the largest bell in the entire country. Be warned it is a narrow spiral staircase, and both the climb and descent can be quite tight. Check the website for current prices and hours for both the tower and the cathedral. I believe the website will also outline the changing of the guards dates and times. To view the changing of the guards get to the castle gates early.
The Castle Quarters is an area with lots of different buildings. Lobkowicz Palace and the Strahov Monastery and Library are also in this area. We did not visit either of these places, but they come highly recommended by many travel books and online sites. After visiting the cathedral, the tower, having lunch and the palace we simply weren’t able to make it inside either before the closing times.
At this point, most attractions were closed for the day. So we made our way over to the famous Dancing House (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers building) in the New Town area. The building was originally designed by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry in 1992. Celeste, a French restaurant, located on the top floors is fancy, authentic and expensive – reservations are highly recommended.
We grabbed dinner at Restaurace u Pinkasu. It was a lovely place. Perfect for a dinner date. Guess what Matt ate? Schnitzel, I think they may have called it something else, but it was essentially schnitzel. I had a delicious soup and side of fried potatoes and cheese. After dinner we hit two clubs; I couldn’t tell you the names. I guess that is a good sign.
Our last day was full of the Old Town Square area and the Jewish Quarter. The Old Town Square was packed with tourist. It is an area filled with restaurants, shops, horse carriages and the Astrological Clock. Be careful of the crowds in front of the Clock. We were told by several people this is where the pickpockets like to strike. There are several street vendors in the area. I recommend trying the food at the vendors located on the outer edge of the square. It was cheap and delicious, and you can’t beat the people-watching while you eat. The National Gallery, 27 Crosses, Old Town Hall and several religious buildings are located in this area.
After lunch, we headed over to the Jewish Quarter. I liked this area, and It’s only a few blocks from Old Town Square. We visited the Old-New Synagogue, the Old Cemetery, and the Pinkas Synagogue. This area is full of history. The best place to start is the Old-New Synagogue. When entering any of the buildings in this area, make note of the photography situation. We noticed a few of the locations did not allow photography.
- Hello – Ahoj (uh-hoy)
- Goodbye – Na Shledanou (nuh skhle-duh-noh)
- Please or You’re Welcome – Prosim (pro-seem)
- Thank you – Dekuji (dye-ku-yi)
- Where’s the toilet? – Kde Jsou Toalety? (gde ysoh to-uh-le-ti)
We stayed at the Pension Atelier Art 12. Alex was so helpful and pleasant. He made us feel right at home. Pension Atelier Art 12 has more of a bed and breakfast feel than a mini hotel. Breakfast was included and consisted of bread, meats, cheeses, fruits and yogurt. Another great feature, the Old Town and Castle Quarters were walking distance from the hotel. Alex gave us great recommendations for places to visit and to eat.
Plane – Arriving at Vaclav Havel Airport (PRG) leaves you a couple of options to get into the city. First if you don’t have any local currency hit one of the many ATMs located in the airport. 1) If you are looking for the cheapest way to get into the city, catch bus #119 to the Dejvicka Metro stop or bus #100 to the Zlicin Metro stop and then proceed to take the metro to your final destination. Get your bus ticket from the Info desk in the airport arrivals hall. 2) Take the Cedaz minibus shuttle to Namesti Republiky, located at the entrance to Old Town. Get your ticket from the driver. 3) Grab a Taxi. Note this will cost you!, Confirm your price before entering the cab; it should be a fixed price.
Train – Chances are you will arrive at the main train station Hlavni Nadrazi if you happen to come in at Nadrazi Holesovice my advice stays the same. Use one of the ATMs, if needed, to get local currency and then take the metro to where you need to go. If you are at the central train station, be particularly careful with the taxis. I would even suggest leaving the train station and catching a cab at a nearby hotel.
Walking is by far the best way to get around when in Prague, most sites are in two districts that are not all that spread out. If for whatever reason you need other options, both the metro and the trams are excellent options. The metro closes at midnight and if you should need transport after that trams with white numbers on a blue background will run all night.
While the Czech Republic is in the EU and does primarily use the Euro, it also still uses its currency the Czech Crown. You can expect to use both while you are there. As with most countries, it is best to do your currency exchange at the ATM and avoid currency exchanges. The local rates are ridiculous. Like always, you are going to want to notify your bank of travel and find out what fees they charge for foreign conversion. Also, it is a good idea to find out your daily withdrawal limit.
Tipping- When you get takeaway food tipping is not required. When dining in it is common to give 5-10%. The Czech Republic is one of those places where if you put in even the slightest bit of effort on the language you can expect significant returns in both attitude and experience. That being said if you only use English the waiter is going to be expecting a 15% tip. Get how that works? Make an effort! Taxis are going to be looking for at least 5%.
Most places are going to give you the big “No” when it comes to flash; particularly any place with oil paintings. Also, be aware that some sites will charge you a fee to take pictures inside. Otherwise, it is a mixed bag, Prague is a big city and has a little bit of everything. Bring your favorite camera and you will get lots of practice.
Prague is not known for violent crimes or anything along those lines, but you should be advised to be aware of your transactions. Some people will be looking for green tourist with cash to help lighten your load. For example, some vendors might have a sign saying 120Kc, but then when you go to pay, he might say 240Kc just to see if you’re paying attention. Another might be a pause when counting back your change where he again sees if you are paying attention, and if not might short change you. It’s not everywhere, but the best advice is just to pay attention. *Also if a plain clothes police officer comes up to you demanding to see your money to check if it is counterfeit this is a scam.
Recommendable: Yes. Prague is a great city for any traveler.