Top tips for visiting Prague on a shoestring budget
As my coach crossed one of the many bridges stretching over the Vltava River in Prague, I knew in an instant that I wouldn’t want to leave again. The panoramic views of the diverse and unique architecture that runs alongside the river is stunning and an appropriate greeting to welcome you into what I found to be a fascinating and beautiful city. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in the charming and historic capital city of the Czech Republic and as a result, would like to share with you some of my top tips to make the most of your visit to Prague.
I arrived there by coach from Nuremberg, which is the nearest city to where I am currently undertaking my year abroad, and this was a really easy and inexpensive option. For accommodation, I would recommend choosing wisely and searching for places in areas like the Jewish Quarter which is a lot safer and visited less for nightlife but rather their historical significance. We stayed in a holiday apartment in the Jewish Quarter and absolutely loved being only a five minute walk away from the Old Town Square (the social hub of Prague) and yet safely tucked away from the noise of the city at night.
Safety and scam-avoidance
Before I start with my huge list of things to do and enjoy in Prague, it is important for you to be well aware of the scams and hazards of the city. From the areas that we drove through on our arrival into the city, it is clear that there are many underprivileged areas, and this seems to fuel the need to take advantage of the tourism in Prague. Therefore you need to be very careful with your money, and not just aware of pick-pocketing which is inevitable in all cities, but of the shops and restaurants that you visit too. We heard from our travel guide as well as numerous travel websites that you must always count your change and check your bill to make sure you’ve been paid correctly and you should only draw out cash from an ATM. There are plenty of Cash Exchange shops boasting excellent rates with no interest but these will charge you at least €10 to exchange a small amount of cash. Finally whilst I’m on the ‘doom and gloom’ part of the article, be extra careful with Taxis, as they have a legendary reputation for overcharging. We used ‘AAA Taxis’ and were also advised so by several tourist guides. They offer very reasonable rates and can be there minutes after you call.
On a plus note, I never once felt uncomfortable or endangered whilst in the city so as long as you keep your money close to you (as most crimes reported in Prague are theft-related) and stay amongst a group, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a wonderful experience!
My top tips for Prague
1. Hotel U Prince
After a tip-off from a local, we discovered that the 5 star Hotel U Prince directly on Old Town Square could offer us the same beautiful skyline views as the the Church tower that charged admission. Therefore we enjoyed Prague at night in the luxurious roof terrace enjoying cocktails and desserts for only around £5 per piece and managed to save some money too! Who said students couldn’t enjoy a 5 star hotel every now and then?
2. A New Europe walking tour.
Now I’ve been on plenty of these in European Cities and have never been disappointed with the engaging, comical tours offered by the guides. Going on a walking tour is a great way to start your trip, as not only does it guarantee ticking-off all the most important sights from your list, but you can also ask questions and navigate yourself in the city. Although Prague isn’t very big (you don’t need to use public transport at all if the weather is nice) it will save you lots of time getting lost down the many pretty sidewalks if you are already familiar with the town. And the best bit is that the New Europe Tours are free, well if you use the term loosely- they are donation based- so you can judge your donation according to the quality of the tour, and last 3 hours.
3. Prague Castle
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world and is certainly worth all the stairs you have to climb to reach it! Situated just across the river from the city, the views are breath-taking as it stretches across the whole of Prague. Within the Castle grounds is also St. Vitus Cathedral, whose gothic appearance is another example of the variety of architecture on offer in the city. So for a free afternoon trip this would be one of my top recommendations!
4. Charles Bridge
On the way back from the Castle you must walk over Charles Bridge. Here you can enjoy the impressive views of the river as you meander along and muse at the artwork and souvenirs scattered across the walkway.
5. The Jewish Quarter
As I mentioned in regards to accommodation, Prague’s Jewish Quarter is a unique display of history as it was untouched during the Second World War. According to our New Europe tour guide (good link there I know…) Hitler wanted to preserve it as a living museum of a race that he managed to wipe out. In memory of it’s tragic history, the Jewish Museum, consisting of the Spanish Synagogue (incredibly beautiful cathedral which also showcases artefacts from WW2 including postcards sent from Terezin concentration camp), the famous and huge Jewish Cemetery, as well as Pinkas Synagogue, where the names of all 80,000 victims can be read on the walls and drawings from the children imprisoned at Terezin are displayed.
6. The Franz Kafka Museum
If you have an interest in literature or would just like to visit a rather quirky museum then I would certainly recommend a visit. About to study Kafka on my return to University, I thought this would be the best place to start and knowing very little about the author, this offered the perfect succinct background information required to awaken my enthusiasm to learn more about him. The museum format is anything but boring and seems to attempt to reflect his somewhat confusing character. Regardless of whether you’re a Kafka expert or not, at roughly €4 entry price for students you can’t go wrong!
7. Karlovy Lazne Club
We were only in Prague for a weekend so managed to only venture into one night club - this was admittedly a bit of a miracle given how much of Prague we’d visited during the day…but we wanted to make the most of our time there, so ploughed on despite our tiredness! Having heard it was the biggest club in central Europe, we were keen to see whether the hype was justified. Karlovy Lazne Club situated in the Old Town just before Charles Bridge was the perfect club to suit all requirements in the group. It offered a different genre of music on every floor, was big enough that you could spend plenty of time exploring, there were stages and plenty of room to dance, and also cost only around €7 for entry with reasonably priced drinks on offer. The only disadvantage, if you’re a non-smoker, is that the non-smoking ban doesn’t seem to exist in Prague and therefore you have to battle a bit with the fog in the club, but if you’ve had enough drinks then you’ll never notice! Overall we had a brilliant night and really enjoyed the experience!
Lastly, Prague are famous for Trdelnik, which are rolled pastries cooked outside in a hot-dog style. They are a very tasty treat and a great way of eating something traditional without taking too much of a risk! You can choose various toppings for your Trdelnek but cinnamon was particularly tasty!
So I really hope that after reading some of my hints and tips you can have a truly wonderful time in Prague! Obviously there is still so much more to explore than what I have mentioned here, but I think this would be a great start and would definitely keep you busy for a weekend. With architecture dating through the ages, there is a resonance of lots of European influences. Prague seems to capture the best aspects of Germany, Paris and Rome which concludes my review of it being a truly beautiful and artistic city, and one which I hope to visit on several more occasions in the future.