When I went to Prague I was on a seriously tight budget. I did my research and knew that it would be a fairly inexpensive city break but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to stick to a small budget and not feel like I was missing out.
Besides finding Prague to be a very romantic city, I discovered lots, and most of it for free. Below are my highlights of the trip and options for keeping to budget if you find yourself in Prague and want to make it an inexpensive stay.
Here are my recommendations on enjoying the city:
Admire the details
The architecture is so stunning here I got caught up with the colours, design, and style of work on display. There is a lot of baroque, gothic, and art nouveau everywhere. This building fits the typical art nouveau colour scheme of green and yellow. Surrounding this building however were 5 other architecture styles giving that one corner an odd look.
Watch the 2nd most disappointing tourist attraction in the world
The Astronomical Clock is located in the old town square. It looms large and imposing over the inevitable crowd that gathers at the bottom to see the hourly performance. Jen and I saw the performance on our first day there and didn’t know about it being the 2nd most disappointing attraction at the time. The first is the Mona Lisa if you are wondering.
The performance lasts for roughly 15-20 seconds. Before people used to be confused and thought that surely that couldn’t be all. These days after the clock does its thing a man appears at the very top with a trumpet. He plays a song then waves to the crown to indicate that it is over. This has apparently made this attraction less disappointing.
Become a certified Czechspert
There were a few free tours on offer but we chose to go with Sandemans. Jen and I went on their free tour in Berlin. Our American guide who had been living in Berlin for many years and knew German was amazing so we had high hopes for this one. We were not disappointed. Our 23 year old Czech guide had a good mix of humour and knowledge. At one point during the tour after detailing over 2000 years of Czech history in about 10-15 minutes he declared us all to be Czechperts. It’s official then, anything I say about the Czech Republic is true.
Find the dancing house
The Dancing House or Dancing Building or Ginger & Fred or Drunk House is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague. It was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry in co-operation with Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić on a vacant riverfront plot (where the previous building had been destroyed during the Bombing of Prague in 1945). The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996.
The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time. Czech president Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had supported it, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.
Originally named Fred and Ginger (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the house resembles a pair of dancers) the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous. (Thanks wiki)
Eat and Drink Local Fare
It always boggles my mind that someone (usually North Americans) will travel half way around the world and still want Western food. No matter where I travel to I want to eat or at least try the cuisine. Check out this recent post on a blog I read often here which talks about exploring culinary delights.
I think eating locally is part of the travel experience and you miss out if you don’t attempt to have what locals have. This dish, while you may notice is lacking in portion size when it comes to the meat (which is to the left under cranberry sauce) was very filling. The bread is actually bread dumplings so quite heavy. This was my first foray into Czech food and I must say I like it. I will have to find a restaurant in London. Price wise this clocked in at 169 czk = £5.24. Beer is super cheap.
Visit Prague ‘Castle’
The castle is not exactly a castle in the traditional sense of the word. It is a cluster of buildings forming a complex and there are royal gardens as well. From across the river the most prominent of the buildings is St Vitus Cathedral. The president lives in the castle so it is guarded. There are parts which are ticketed and we debated but in the ended decided against it. You can walk around most of the grounds for free and so we opted for that choice.
Take a tram anywhere
These trams actually reminded me of Toronto street cars. They are cheap and efficient. We took the #22 tram to the castle. I recommend is because it is a nice way to see more of the city. We only took public transportation 3 times during our 4 days there. A bus in and back out to the airport and the one way journey on the tram up to the castle. We thanked ourselves for taking the tram up to the castle as we walked non stop that day so our legs would have been done had we not taken this option.
Find an albino peacock
After visiting Prague castle Jen and I glimpsed something from afar that we wanted to see up close. On the walk tracing back the way we came by tram we stumbled upon a garden and outdoor theatre. In the garden was a peacock. Further in this garden we found an albino peacock. It let us, and everyone else get pretty close. When I turned to walk away it yelled out and I heard the weirdest noise ever emitted from an animal. It was loud and sounded a bit like a hurt child yelling out. It is a bit weird and unsettling. Besides that an interesting find.
Find the Memorial to the Victims of Communism
A plaque to the left of this photo details: The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims, not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism. On our way to the castle this was what we glimpsed from afar. They are a little unsettling up close but an interesting memorial.
Take a stroll along the Vltava river
This is the view of the castle from across the river. Strolling along you will also encounter the Jewish quarter, old town, the Charles bride, the dancing house and much more. Sitting at one of the many benches along the way also gives ample opportunity for people watching.
So that ended up being a tidy list of 10. Prague is a destination that lends itself to short and longer stays. Our stay was 4 days/3 nights. We didn’t have time but some people we met there went out to Kutna Hora to see the Bone church. I initially wanted to explore Brno as well, which is the second largest city in CR. Sometimes it is nice to go to smaller cities and avoid the crowds. While there were a lot of people in Prague it is very easy to lose the crowds and discover something special around the corner.
Flight – £65 return
Hotel – Approx £60 pp for 3 nights