Last August I visited Prague with two good friends in tow. The city is one of the most beautiful in Europe, made all the better by the local custom of drinking beer heavily all day, every day. Finding your way around Prague can be overwhelming and confusing, but the following 10 suggestions will help make your trip easier and a lot more fun!
- Get a guidebook!
I am a person that likes to know what I’m looking at and why it’s important. This can be tricky in Prague where historic sights don’t offer much information. My friends and I spent hours at the castle, but we found very little to read about its history. There weren’t even pamphlets on sale in the ticket office! Carrying a guidebook will ensure you’ll always have facts at your fingertips.
This is the perfect way to know about what all to expect while travelling as it is a common practice to have some backup especially in a city like Prague which is why I and my friend didn’t have any difficulty in finding the locations, which is similar to what we had done when we were deciphering on how to spend a day in Atlanta during that trip.
Another reason for purchasing a helpful book is that historic buildings, streets, and signs are labeled in Czech with no English translations. If you are trying to go to Old Town, but don’t know the Czech name for it, you won’t know to follow the arrows labeled “Stare Mesto”!
- Beware tourist mayhem!
On a Saturday and Sunday in August, the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and castle were uncomfortably packed with people. On Monday, it was significanly less cramped. The crowds were still healthy, but at least I was able to have a few inches of personal space (I’m only slightly kidding!) So, if possible, try to go to Prague during the weekdays or off-season!
- Eat dumplings.
Dumplings are a typical Czech food that can be found on most menus. They are like doughy bread with the crust removed. Some kinds are flavored with bacon fat or herbs. Dumplings are very cheap and even the pickiest eaters will enjoy them.
- Drink beer at every meal. Even breakfast.
You will see locals downing pints at all times of the day. Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar (different from American Budweiser, mind you), and Krucovice are the most popular Czech beers and each is excellent.
For the more adventurous beer guzzlers, the brew of Prague’s oldest beer hall, U Fleku, is a must-taste. The strong, pungent, dark beer, may put more of a grimace than a smile on your face, but the opposite is true of the accordion players and festive drinkers who fill the tables and sing along with the catchy tunes.
- Don’t give your money to “thieves”.
If you catch a cab, be careful. The driver may rack up your fare by making circles around the city before arriving at your destination. If possible, have you hotel or pension receptionist recommend a good driver. Get the driver’s number and call him directly when you need a ride.
- Go to the market.
There are a few markets surrounding the Old Town Square that feature souvenirs, pashminas, fruits, candies, jewelry, t-shirts, and other crafts. It’s fun to browse and then barter for a good price when you find something that catches your eye!
- See the astronomical clock…it’s out of this world!
This clock, located on the side of the Town Hall, is amazing feat of 15th Century art and science. Not only does the clock tell time, but it indicates the season, location of the sun and moon, plus puts on a show of moving figurines every hour, on the hour. Make sure you arrive 15 minutes early because there is always a crowd when the bell chimes. Read your guidebook before watching the clock come to life so you’ll know what each figure and action symbolizes.
I am inclined to spill a juicy legend about this amazing sight. It is rumored that, upon completion of the masterpiece, the luckless clock designer had his eyes gouged out so he could not recreate it in another city. Such an extreme measure may explain why this clock is one of a kind.
- Catch a show at the Estate Theater.
When I learned that scenes from one of my favorite movies, ‘Amadeus’, were shot in Prague’s Estate Theater, I had to go there! No tours are available of the theater during the day, but that’s just fine because the best way to experience the Estate is a live performance at night. If you have the option, ‘Don Giovanni’ is the show to see. Mozart composed this opera for his beloved Prague and the premiere was performed in the Estate Theater in 1787.
- Enjoy Prague Castle aglow.
One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen is the illuminated Prague Castle at night. A great viewing point is the east side of the river, near the Charles Bridge.
- Czech out the discotec.
After you view the bridge, you may be in the mood to dance. If you are, the nearby Karlovy Lï¿½znï¿½ is your next destination. The largest club in Prague is just under the Charles Bridge. It boasts 5 dance floors, a game room, and computers for surfing the web or emailing when you need a break from dancing. Every floor has a different musical theme including hip-hop, techno, oldies, pop, and house. The ages range from young teenagers to middle age, and the nationalities are all but Czech. Cover is about $6 (125 Kï¿½.)