When I first went to Prague in 2001, I had to apply for a visa at the Czech Embassy, as the country had not yet joined the EU. Even the second time I went to Prague in 2002, I had to apply again. But I didn’t mind.
Prague was officially my favourite city. Even in Winter, the fogginess added to the “Prague-effect”. Also, the city had practically no tourists. I couldn’t believe that most tourists didn’t know about it. The city of 100 spires was romantic and stunning, with a highly-cultured and passionate Czech community at its core.
I was thrilled to visit more often when Czech joined the EU in 2004, and I visited 6 times with my last visit was around 2005. I could see other tourists discovering Prague and I was glad not to be the only one to fall in love with its charm.
Fast forward to 2016
Woah. Prague is so popular now, it attracts the worst kind of tourists to Europe… the “locust tourists”. Those cattle tourists with blinders on. You know the ones I mean.
They come to Prague in their zombie tour groups, or they just come for the cheap beer, or I just heard of a new definition for them from my new favourite blogger – Blanca. She calls them “The selfie stick mafia”. But I prefer “The selfie stick maniacs”.
The selfie-stick maniacs seem to be building a portfolio of evidence that they have been somewhere. I’m not sure who they are impressing, but they never seem to travel beyond the famous hotspots. They drive me crazy.
Well, Prague has heaps of these tourists now, and if you want to see the famous sites before they descend, then GO EARLY! The closer to sunrise the better.
How do you think I managed to see (practically empty!)…
The Old Castle Steps
The Old Castle Steps (also the Old Castle Stairs) lead out of the Lesser Quarter’s Street Pod Bruskou up to the eastern gate of Prague Castle.
Prague Castle was most likely founded in around 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty (Přemyslovci). According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m². A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles, from the remains of Romanesque-style buildings from the 10th century through Gothic modifications of the 14th century. The famous Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik was responsible for extensive renovations in the time of the First Republic (1918-1938). Since the Velvet Revolution, Prague Castle has undergone significant and ongoing repairs and reconstructions.
John Lennon Wall
A symbolic “peace wall” for young, creative and rebellious Czechs during Communism in the 1980s, it has been painted over (cleaned up) many times, but then is quickly filled with more colour, images of John Lennon, Beatles lyrics and messages of peace and hope. Kinda cool…
Saint Charles Bridge
Also known as the centre of tourists in Prague. Completed in 1402, it is a stunning bridge. Baroque statue sculptures were added between 1683 and 1714 that tell the stories of the popular saints at the time.
But if you are not an early bird, you can still find great spots in Prague. And if you really want to see the Astronomical Clock, and it’s “tourist time”, just suck it up.
Same for the…
Construction started in 1868, with the grand opening in 1881. Can you imagine a building taking that long to construct now? It’s funny how times have changed.
Only 2 months after the opening in 1881 was a devastating fire. The residents of Prague started a collection to have the theatre repaired, and in 6 weeks 1 million guldens were collected, which would be about EUR10mil+ in todays money.
The theatre was then repaired and re-opened in 1883. Awesome.
A huge commercial centre of Prague, which was laid out in 1348 by Charles IV. It has been the scene of many historical events, but after sundown, it gets a bit seedy these days, so go during the day.
But first coffee…
Coffee in Prague
The coffee culture has well-and-truly arrived in Prague. Little roasteries and beaneries have popped up everywhere.
Next to a techie shopping paradise in Prague 7 – Holešovice, is one of the best coffees you will find on this side of the river.
Tip: Cappuccino = 1 shot, Flat White = 2 shots.
A short walk from the Old Town, in Prague 5, is a great little cafe. They serve meals too, but I didn’t try one, only the coffee, which was excellent.
But please note, I did try to go back and get a takeaway coffee on my last day, but they said they were too busy to make it, and I should try another coffee place down the street. I bit of a kick in the guts.
Not if, but when you go to Vysehrad, in Prague 2, and you decide you would like a coffee, I strongly recommend you get one here.
Amazing friendly staff, and if the weather is good, sit in the courtyard out the back. Great coffee and a great experience.
Other coffees I was going to try but were closed…Mamacoffee and Original Coffee (both in Prague 1).
A fortified settlement since the 900s, Vysehrad may be home to the very first settlement in Prague. It was the seat of the first Bohemian king Vratislav I whose successors of ruled from Vyšehrad until 1140.
The fort has undergone many transformations and renovations, and is a magical spot to visit, mostly due to the lack of tourists.
- St Martin’s Rotunda
St Martin’s Rotunda is considered by some to be the oldest surviving building in Prague.
- View from the wall
If you have seen my Instagram, you will know this is my favourite spot in Prague – great views from the castle wall…
- Saint Peter and Paul Basilica
- Vysehrad Cemetery – a stunning cemetery hosting Czech greats like Smetana and Dvorak…
- And heaps of benches and gardens
And again THAT view…
Formerly one of King Charles’ vineyards, Petrin Park is another spot where you can escape and chill in the centre of Prague, not too far from Prague Castle and the Saint Charles Bridge.
It hosts walking paths, a funicular to the top, fountains and so many fruit trees.
Or Letenské Sady, is another great spot in Prague, right next to Prague 7, just a short walk over the bridge from the Old Town.
It has great views during the day and night.
Food in Prague
Eating out in Prague is affordable but can be hit and miss. If you are a vegetarian you will definitely struggle to eat-like-a-local and enjoy some Czech cuisine as the Czechs definitely enjoy a lot of meat.
But I did find one nice veggie place…
Prague 3 – Karlin
Slightly out of the Old Town, in Karlin, was this tiny little vegetarian place. The service was very poor, but the food was affordable and tasty!
Prague 1, Old Town
If you are craving some fresh pasta, this is a good little option. The portions are not very big, but the pasta is tasty and the atmosphere is relaxing.
Although, it would be better if the staff offered fresh Parmesan or pepper when serving.
Sorry no pic. was too hungry to take one!
Prague 1, New Town
Stumbled onto this little “fast food” joint in Prague 1 and was pleasantly surprised with their vegetarian option. Just overlook the fact that it is presented like prison-food.
Pho u Letne
It is hard to find good Asian food in Europe. Many places tend to combine ALL Asian food together and sell it in one shop…. very scary.
This is one place that is definitely Vietnamese only, and they do it extremely well!
Their pho is excellent! Nearly as good as the one I had in Hamburg, and was only CZK90.
Transport in Prague
Getting around Prague is very easy whether you grab a metro train, tram or bus. Tickets were CZK24 for 30 minutes of travel for a short trip, or if you are going out for coffee and coming back again they are CZK32 for 90 minutes of travel.
They are efficient and easy to navigate.
Uber in Prague
Sometimes…. you just want an Uber. If traveling alone, the Uber can cost quite a bit, but if you are 3 or 4 people, then the Uber can be cheaper than public transport.
A ten minute journey cost me around CZK75 to CZK95, which was great for the convenience and friendliness of the drivers.
The drivers were pleasant and the cars were extremely clean. I think taxis could learn something just from the customer service provided by some Uber drivers.
Final Prague Tip
Have a great pair of walking shoes and get lost! Go exploring! And you will see the very best of Prague.
Also published on Medium.