Czech Them Out: My Top Prague Highlights

  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.

Essential costs:

Flight – £65 return

Hotel – Approx £60 pp for 3 nights

30 Comments Add yours

  1. Spinster says:

    Pretty peacock.

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Yeah it is, I was hoping it would open its feathers but that didn’t happen.

      1. ann says:

        haha – that horrible sound they make! i know it well…there were a number of conspicuously wealthy folks in san diego that liked keeping them for pets, and we have a few in the park here in le puy as well. we always said it sounds like an old woman crying, ‘heeelp!’ i’m pretty sure people have even called the police to report a woman or child in distress after hearing them!

        1. ann says:

          oh, and i love what you did with that title…

          1. Wanderlust23 says:

            Thanks, I’m surprised no one said it was cheesy. Yet…

        2. Wanderlust23 says:

          So weird right, it is just so unnatural. I wouldn’t be surprised either if people who had never heard them before did call the police.

  2. Lovely post! I also thought the clock tour was a waste of time. Sure it’s pretty but the throngs of people that surround it is annoying.

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Yeah, it is better to look at then to stand around and wait for the performance. We happened on to the performance our first day and then while waiting for our tour to start the second day the clock struck the hour so we saw the full thing. Nothing to call home about.

  3. Emm says:

    What a fantastic post! I totally agree with you about food. Stephen and I always sample local fare and we have some of our most treasured memories because of it. I’m definitely keen on visiting now, more than ever.

    Your photos are fabulous. I love your eye for colour and form.

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Agreed, different foods can bring me right back to a different country or memory instantly. I look forward to your pictures when you go. Thanks for the comment on my photos! I think you are a great photographer so that is great praise indeed.

  4. OMG, I wanna go there, I wanna go there, I wanna go there! Gotta be less lazy. The picture of the memorial is so poignant… That’s the reason I had mixed feelings about Hamburg. Could I please share the ‘dancing building’ pic on FB? I know some people who will love it.

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      You HAVE to go there! Prague was on my radar for a while and I was so happy that I was able to got this year. Go ahead and share away!

  5. Jen says:

    This is a really useful post, Melissa. There is a clock similar to that in Paris (in the Marais) but i’ve never seen it do its thing. I wonder if it actually DOES anything?

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Glad you find it useful! I don’t know of that clock in Paris. I would like to return again now that I’ve been twice and done the touristy stuff. Would be nice to just kinda lounge around there for a few days and see the smaller things.

      1. Jen says:

        I need to go once more in the next year. I’m over touristy things also – love lounging. Want to join?

        1. Wanderlust23 says:

          Yes! We can plan way ahead and get cheap eurostar return.

  6. Alee says:

    Huh, the first few pictures look like they could’ve been taken in my hometown, which is definitely not the Czech Republic!

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      What?! Where is your home town, I’m thinking San Fran maybe?? Well some American cities are gorgeous and the architecture has been influenced by Europe for a lot of the buildings in Washington and New York so doesn’t surprise me.

      1. Alee says:

        No, other coast — I’m a New Englander all the way (have to keep the location broad…stalkers and all, you know).

        It’s one of the first U.S. states so some of the architecture and transportation is intentionally kept old-looking on the outside to preserve the history. This looks like the downtown area.

        1. Wanderlust23 says:

          Yes of course, always good to be safe on the net. I wasn’t expecting the exact town just state. Well that is cool, I am looking to do a road trip next summer from Toronto to New Orleans. It is all in the idea stages but at some point we have to sit down and see where we want to stop so just nice to know a bit about some places that I may not have thought about before.

          1. Alee says:

            You should definitely stop by New England. It’s absolutely picturesque in many places; a lot of poets and artists live in NE. But of course I’m biased. 🙂

            1. Wanderlust23 says:

              I am going to check it out online but it sounds like it would be right up my alley. Thanks for that!

  7. Cindy Tuisku says:

    I’m a Californian moving to the UK in 3 weeks. I’m thinking of Prague as my first vacation in October, so this was really interesting to me. I’d love any more advice, as I’ll also be traveling on a budget.

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Hi Cindy, I’d be happy to email you further details on how to keep to a tight budget in Prague. It is very easy but again will depend on what are the things you like to do when you travel. LIke museums etc. London is great as most are free but on the continent I believe most are paid. If you click on the contact tab and send an email to that address and give me a few specific questions I can go from there.

  8. zwoavomwoid says:

    Hello Melissa,

    we like your photos from Prague (and all the others of course). Prague is also among our favorite spots, because we live close to this wonderful city.

    Have a nice travel-time and all the best from – the twofromthewoods 😉

    1. Wanderlust23 says:

      Hello and thank you. I had such a great time in Prague and I would love to return. How lucky that you live so close.

  9. As always I enjoyed reading this. I think I’ll skip Spain and go here in November. Can you remember what hotel you stayed at?

    1. Melissa says:

      I don’t recommend the place where we stayed. It was down a dodgy street off of Wenceslas Square. You can do much better! Praha is fantastic you’ll love it.

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