On The Road: A Weekend in Prague
WITH my ten months in the Czech Republic quickly coming to an end I’ve decided to try and salvage some of the information I have picked up along the way. This country is beautiful but the capital, Prague, is nothing short of a fairytale. When you’re here for just a short time it’s important to know the best places to see and what to do. Of course this will differ slightly depending on personal interests but there is plenty on offer in this gem of a city.
St Vitus Cathedral and the castle – This is possibly one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. You simply cannot avoid seeing this beautiful sight as it overlooks Prague in its entirety. The architecture is amazing and it’s undoubtedly somewhere I’ve never gotten sick of looking at. It’s free to enter the cathedral and to wander the grounds of the castle itself but there are some areas which are restricted for paying tours. When it comes to finding your way there, simply jump on the metro line A and head for Malostranska and from there, walk up the hill. Yes, beware..it’s quite the hill, it’s certainly worth it though!
Charles Bridge – This is another must-see tourist spot. Located just five/six minutes from Old Town Square, Charles Bridge is always buzzing with activity. To catch it on a quiet moment is something which is very rare although if you can it makes the experience much more pleasant. There are plenty of musicians and artists along the bridge as well as some good luck charms which you can touch if you’re of the superstitious nature. Its beauty is remarkable, particularly at night. You can also reach the castle by crossing the bridge and again heading through Malostranska Namesti and then up the hill.
John Lennon Wall – On the other side of the bridge, take your first left off to a side street and follow the path. This will lead you to the famous John Lennon wall. Originally used by students to protest and voice opinions against Communism the wall now contains inspirational messages from those who have visited.
Letna Park – Letna Park, once the holding ground for a statue of Stalin overlooking the city, is one of the best viewing points to be found. There are several different locations within this park where you can see a fantastic view of Prague. The Metronome, which now stands where the former statue of Stalin did, is one of the best. Many sit there and take in the view for hours on end. On a sunny day it’s bliss. To get here you can take the metro line A to Hradcanska and it’s just a three/four minute walk from here.
Old Town Square – Old Town Square is again one of the most popular tourist points. It has the most beautiful church – The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn – which overlooks the square itself. This particular church is breathtaking by night as the lights make it look even more magical. Again, after living here on two separate occasions it’s something that still amazes away every time I walk into Old Town. The astronomical clock is also located here which by the droves of people standing by to see it chime you won’t be able to miss.
Prague is known for the nightlife and the many stag parties that pour in every weekend. Yes, there are a few spots which are geared towards the male audience but there is also plenty other venues to suit every occasion. Old Town is probably the most central area to find bars and clubs. There are plenty of places to socialise scattered throughout the city but you certainly need to know your way and what night trams to get for these to be an option. Taxis aren’t trustworthy here but I’ll mention more on that later. Behind Old Town there are an array of bars which are lively spots whether you’re looking for cocktail bars or Irish bars you won’t have to look too hard. Keep in mind that bars in Old Town itself are extremely expensive although it may seem reasonable compared to Irish prices. The average cost of a beer here is about 30 crowns which is the equivalent of €1.09 so just think of this when you’re choosing where to go. ‘The Pub’ is a chain of bars where each table can pull their own pints which is good fun but don’t get carried away as you will know all about it when the bill arrives. Some of my favourite places are Potrefena Husa, Bombay, Jazz Republic, Chapeau Rouge and Atmosphere. This is just the tip of the iceberg but if I can give one piece of advice – stay away from Lazne, the club with five floors that you’ve probably heard so many great things about. Just don’t go. Over-rated.
New Town, which is about five minutes from the historical Old Town, is the main shopping area. Wenceslas Square has most of the main high street retailers that we’re used to at home plus a few extras that I will certainly miss but my bank account won’t. H&M, Reserved, Mojito, C&A and Promod are just a few. Just at the end of Wenceslas if you take a left on to Na Prikope you will find Mango, Zara, Bershka and plenty more. Of course, if that doesn’t quench your thirst for retail therapy, just keep heading straight down to the Palladium shopping centre in Namesti Republiky – five floors of heaven. If you’re looking for something a little more unique there are some fantastic boutiques tucked away in corners you’d never think of looking. I love the Fashion Museum behind the church in Old Town. Not only does it have beautiful unique vintage pieces but also gives you a guide on the most influential fashion trends of each decade.
I couldn’t possibly say enough good things about the transport system in this city. There really is no need to use taxis. You have the option of using buses, trams or the metro and between the three, there isn’t anywhere in the city you can’t venture too. The metro operates from about 5am to midnight and night trams operate through the whole night although they don’t run as frequently. By this I mean you could be waiting about 30 minutes which is fairly acceptable, especially if we compare it to some of our transport systems in Ireland. All you need to do is purchase a ticket from the yellow machines in the metro station. For about €4 you can get a ticket which is valid for 24 hours and it allows you to use any bus, tram or metro line. Just be sure to validate it and keep it as you can be checked quite frequently and you will be fined if it’s invalid. Inspectors can smell tourists a mile off so be careful. Taxis – more often than not – will overcharge you massively. If you absolutely need to get one then make sure the meter is on. My advice is avoid them as much as possible. Getting to and from the airport is easy also. Just get the 119 bus from Dejvice and you’ll be there in 15-20 minutes.
Beer gardens/Beer Museums
There are some excellent beer gardens tucked away in various parts of Prague. Riegrovy Sady is within walking distance from Wenceslas Square and is fantastic on a sunny day. It’s well equipped for any sports fans too as they have a huge screen directly in the middle. Beer in the Czech Republic is not only cheaper, it tastes better, is stronger and you don’t get a toxic hangover as a result of how it’s brewed. Why am I coming home again? There are also many beer museums scattered throughout the city also where you can sample just a few.
There is an endless list of hostels in this city and the standard is quite good. Depending on what location you choose you will pay a little more but having stayed at quite a few in the first few weeks while looking for an apartment, here are my recommendations: Little Quarter hostel, Hostel Tyn, Hostel Orange and Arpacay Backpackers Hostel. You should be able to get a decent hostel for between €13-€20 and always compare the prices with HostelBookers versus the hostel’s own website as sometimes there can be a substantial difference.
Things to Remember
Prague is divided into different zones – Prague 1 is the city centre so this is where most tourist spots are.
It’s still legal to smoke indoors here.
They don’t use Euro – only Czech crowns! Don’t use the exchange offices here, you will get exploited. Bring it with you or else withdraw from your Irish account but with this you will have to pay a small fee.
Find some of the art work of David Cerny – strange sculptures scattered throughout the city including giant babies crawling around.
Watch out for scams and pickpockets in all major tourist spots.
It was Communist up until 1989 so there can be a touch of hostility towards foreigners from time to time.
Some restaurants will add in a service charge.
Enjoy! It’s a wonderful city!
Photos c/o pragueproteinspring.org, timeout.com, flywise.nl