Welcome to Prague
A true fairytale carries the promise of darkness within its golden palaces and ancient streets- and Prague’s turbulent history is woven into every brick of its beautiful buildings, soaring towers and grand boulevards.
From its Medieval signs showing animals to indicate who lived in the colourful houses, to the statues staring unseeing from the Charles Bridge and the cobbles of Wenceslas Square, everywhere has a story buried in its beauty.
The Old Town’s Gothic towers and Renaissance churches sit beside Cubist and Art Nouveau cafes and bars, as if all the great architectural styles have collided at once, and finally reached a truce. Old fashioned trams rattle through the city, and in Summer, hordes of tourists pour across the bridge, like a biblical painting, as the sun gilds the old town’s vermilion roofs and the surrounding forest glows green.
But in Winter, the city is softened by snow, the statues wear white caps and the sounds of the horse drawn carriages and clanging church bells are muffled. There is no bad time to visit Prague, with its wonderful museums, cafes and cathedrals, but whatever time of year it is, get up at dawn and stand on the Charles Bridge as the sun rises and turns this strange and ancient city to gold.
The Old Town & Charles Bridge
The Astronomical Clock
American Bar (Americky Bar)
Grand Cafe Orient
Art Deco Imperial Hotel
Hire a guide. In just a few hours they can give excellent insider information on the best bars and cafes, as well as providing a wonderful tour of the city. We used Eva at CAT guided tours.
The traditional drink, Czech herbal liqueur sounds exotic and exciting- but it can taste very much like cough mixture. Besides, the beer is so good, it’s a shame to miss out.
Prague is famous for its jazz- check free paper the Prague Post, available in hotels and bars, for listings.
It’s also a magnet for stag parties- there are seedier areas, a sex museum and various lapdancing establishments- but big groups of lads are easily avoided if you don’t drink in the Old Town Square in the evening.
For a wonderful sunset view, take the lift 93 metres up the TV Tower, which was erected by the communists and now provides a platform for artists.
For a souvenir, invest in Bohemian crystal. If you’re worried about authenticity, try Celetna, (Celetna 596/15, Prague) which will offer certificates of authenticity.
Don’t assume that every restaurant or bar will take cards- many will only take cash, so ask in advance.
Prague is at its most beautiful in May and June- but there will be plenty of tourists too, so book your train and hotels well in advance.
Prague is packed with museums- there are museums dedicated to Kafka, the KGB, toys, Dali, theatre, chocolate, sex, and more-but stick to just one a day, to avoid sight-seeing fatigue.
Be wary at night in crowded areas- bag thefts and pick pocketing can happen around the station and in busy restaurants - it’s unwise to wander off the beaten track alone.
Prague has a very expensive designer shopping street, Pariska known as 'Little Bond Street'- its glittering stores include Hermes, Just Cavalli, Gucci, Fendi, Rolex, Bulgari…
Never wear heels for sightseeing. Everywhere is cobbled, and you will almost certainly sprain your ankle whilst looking up at some stunning bit of architecture. Dress in restaurants, however, is generally smart- so avoid tracksuits or trainers for eating out.
Restaurants in the tourist areas can be very expensive- there is often a big mark up on drinks.
A useful tip is to ask for a separate wine list, rather than relying on the English menu prices- many places have separate menus for locals and tourists.
Prague is a fairly compact city, and the best way to get around is on foot or by tram.
There are taxi ranks, including one outside Central Station, but be warned, you are very likely to be seriously ripped off if you don’t speak Czech. It’s much better to book via your hotel in advance- and any journeys during your stay can be booked by the concierge, who will agree a price before the journey begins.
The Prague Metro runs between 5 am and midnight, and is safe and speedy on the whole. There are three lines, A, B and C- Line A connects the main tourist sights. Tickets are bought at the underground station, and must be validated by machine.
There are 25 tram lines, the trams are beautifully old fashioned, and very frequent. You can purchase your tickets at a newsagent- the best option is a 24 hour pass (around 110 CZK) or a three day pass for 310 CZK. They are valid for all public transport in the city, but it’s essential to validate the ticket in the machine which will be at the top of the escalator, or on the tram.
You can also purchase single tickets, a 30 minute pass costs 24 CZK. At peak times trams run every 4 minutes- after midnight, they run every half hour. Tram 9 and Tram 22 cross the key sightseeing areas of the city.
Although there are cycle paths by the river, Prague is not a cycling-friendly city. There are steep hills, alarming driving, and congestion in the narrow streets- so while it is possible to hire bikes, it is not recommended to ride them in the city centre.
Driving in Prague can be tricky and frustrating, due to traffic jams, flocks of tourists, and narrow streets. Parking in the city centre is very expensive, so if you are driving, look for a hotel which offers parking, such as the Castle Residence Praha, or the Design Hotel Jewel Prague.
Buses run in the city centre, but the trams are faster and more efficient. Like the Metro, tickets are sold at kiosks, Metro stations and Public transport information points, where you can also get a route map. Again, remember to validate your ticket.
Boat trips down the river are available, and offer a sedate and lovely view of the city from the Vlatava river. There is a boat dock near the entrance to the Charles Bridge.