TL;DR – SCROLL TO BOTTOM FOR RECAP, I get a bit postwench-like in this one.
A friend recently recommend I start posting reviews on cities I have visited. Although it would have been much smarter (and easier) for me to start this blog while I was actually in the heart of my journeys, I will do my best to rely on memory and photos until the next opportunity for travel presents itself.
Throughout the last few years I’ve found a lot of joy in recommending everything from cities and locations, to eateries and bars, to friends all over the world. It’s amazing connecting with other travelers and swapping stories and tid-bits about new places. I’m always up for a challenge and enjoy trying new things.
I’ll start with the most recent, and biggest adventure. I spent seven months living in Prague. While I was working very long days and was a home-body during the week, I took advantage of my temporary home and did a lot of exploring on the weekends. Prague is a wonderful, picturesque, tourist friendly city and as an added perk, is the perfect city to visit on a budget.
Located in Central Europe, the Czech Republic is extremely accessible by plane, train, bus. Within Prague travel by using the easy to navigate underground system or the trams – buses are a bit more tricky to figure out but when you do they will quickly become your best friend. If you plan to travel outside of Prague to other Czech destinations or even nearby cities, look into taking a Student Agency bus. They’re very affordable, easy to catch, have individual TVs for each seat, AND they serve free hot chocolate! I took Student Agency three times to Vienna, once to Berlin, and a couple other times to small Czech destinations. I’m telling ya, they’re one of the best options I’ve seen throughout Europe!
The Czech Republic uses the Czech Crown (koruna) and the exchange rate is quite nice for an American tourist. While I write this post, it is sitting at about 1 CZK is equivalent to 0.042 USD. The country overall is inexpensive and extremely accessible. I could spend an entire night out, including a hearty dinner, transportation, and many pivos (beers) and never spend more than $10. Oftentimes I would never pay more than $1 for a beer.
Room and Board
If you plan on staying long term, renting a flat or a room is the way to go. There are some great resources out there for finding a spot. Flatshare in Prague is a great place to start. People are always advertising rooms or looking for flatmates.
I lived in a two-bedroom flat, East of Old Town, deep in the city area known as Žižkov. Žižkov is full of expats always looking for roommates. To give you an idea of what to expect in terms of pricing, my home, including water, heat, trash and maintenance was never more than $300 USD per person. It fluctuated monthly because I was there over the winter months.
If you are just planning on stopping through, there are many hostels worth looking into. I would suggest staying in or near Old Town just because on a short trip you will want to be near the excitement and tourist options. For a free lodging option, look into using a site like couchsurfing.com, where you can sign up to sleep at someone’s home free of charge. It’s a great way to meet a local and get some city insight.
Food and Drink
Czech food is absolutely delicious, hearty and heavy, but flavorful and enticing. Similar to German food, the Czech’s have a lot of meat and starches. Dumplings are a common side dish. Goulash, roast pork, and river rat (yum), sauerkraut and different types of strudels are also common Czech cuisine. Beer with every meal is the must, the Czech beer culture is an epidemic in itself. They really pride themselves on their beer and no one can blame them, it truly is some of the best.
My favorite restaurant for Czech food was called Lokal, located on Dlouhá street near Old Town Square. Upon first glance, Lokal appears to be a small hole in the wall beer hall filled with smoke. I was surprised to find that the place stretches back through almost a full city block. Might I suggest the potato dumplings and sausage sampler, with mustard. My favorite. Maybe plan for wearing pants with a bit of stretch that evening. 😉
A great friend and travel companion from London came for a long weekend and treated my roommate and me to a delicious meal at La Degustation. An incredible 12 course meal served in the most visually appealing way. Incredible menu filled will all sorts of delicacies turned tasty with a Bohemian twist.
There are bars on every single corner. I found that my favorite adventures stemmed from wandering into any one and sharing beers and cheers with new friends. Many bars and clubs on Dlouhá street will provide for a fun filled night in Prague. The Beer Museum, across from Lokal is the perfect place to start the night.
As a side note, the best burgers in Prague are at The Tavern, near Riegrovy Sady
In terms of sightseeing and activities in the golden city, the opportunities are endless. Of course you must satisfy the tourist mission by visiting the famous Prague locations; Old Town Square, Prague Castle, Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, etc but for a bit more of a local experience might I suggest the following:
For a casual Saturday visit Žižkov Tower, the tallest (and possibly ugliest) building in Prague. You’ll notice that there are foreign structures that scale the side of the TV tower, upon closer inspection you will see that they are large, alien-like babies. These babies, along with many other vulgar and controversial artworks in the city are done by local Praguer, David Černý. After viewing the tower, mosey on over to the square at Jiřího z Poděbrad (JZP), on Metro Line A, where you will find a lovely Saturday market, full of locally grown veggies, food vendors, pottery, and live music; the JZP market is sure to please any visitor. If for some reason you can’t find a snack you desire, hit the West corner of the square for some incredible Vietnamese takeaway… quite possibly the best in Prague. Get your food and head a few blocks over to Riegrovy Sady, the massive mid city park, to enjoy some great views and people watching. Oh, and some pivos.
A few more city recommendations:
Cat Cafe (Kočkafé) – sip on wine and read a book while friendly cats weave in an out of your legs, and try to share your wine.
There are daily, free walking tours that start in Old Town Square, look for large colorful umbrellas.
David Černý art, scattered all throughout the city, is sure to make an impact. My favorite piece is called Brown Nosers. Hard to find but worth the hunt, these humanlike rear ends stand propped up against the back of an art museum West of the Vltava River. Ladders lead to the hole of the butt where you can peek in to see a video of the Czech president, Václav Klaus, being fed baby food. Černý has been known for having strong objections to the president.
EXIT GAMES! A new craze throughout Europe, these games use logic and basic skills to escape from a room in a specific amount of time. I participated in one involving sneaking into the flat of a Soviet spy, we were locked in and had to find a key to get out in 60 minutes. Using clues it was necessary to break free of the apartment before the man got home and. There are many companies that offer these games but I did mine through Trap. An absolute must try!
TL;DR Prague is awesome, inexpensive, and beautiful. Good food, better beer. The only city that didn’t get bombed during WWII. You should visit.