Popular Travel Cities: Picturesque Prague 

Why Go To Prague?
 
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For serious history buffs Prague (‘Praha’ in Czech) is a well preserved showcase of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architectural splendor that has spanned ten centuries.  Prague has a rich history in the arts; Mozart, Kafka, Kundera, Mucha, Dvorak and Beethoven have all spent time in the city.  The Charles University is one of Europe’s oldest; established in 1348. Today Prague is home to numerous art galleries, museums, jazz clubs, music and art festivals

 

 

 

Photo courtesy P.Herot

 

The Vibe
 
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Centuries old buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, musicians playing on street corners give this central European city a decidedly romantic aura.  At the same time, its bloody and violent past of religious conflicts, two world wars, Soviet dictatorship and student revolt only add to the city’s eclectic vibe.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy: www.livingprague.com

 

The Night Vibe
 
praha_night_oldtime_square_enThe city now boasts a plethora of cool ultra modern restaurants and bars.  For the more traditionally minded, head on over to Old Town and visit one of the pubs, some of which have been serving beer and pub food for 500 years!  The city doesn’t disappoint once the sun goes down.  There is always some nightclub that stays open into the wee hours.

 

Photo courtesy www.livingprague.com

 

Where to Hang Out
 
prague4_enThe main areas to explore and find accommodation are: Old Town, New Town, Mala Strana, and Hradcany.  Of course you can also find less expensive accommodation outside of these main areas.  Unfortunately since communism’s fall and the country’s entry to the EU fold, prices of hotels have risen accordingly.  Like many other European cities, prices are lower during low season (late fall and winter) rising during the peak spring and early summer.  Expect to pay between 150.00 and 500.00 dollars (US) a night during high season.  During low season rooms can be had for under 100.00     Photo courtesy P.Herot.
 

Must See Attractions
 
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  • Prague Castle
  • Zlata Ulicka (Golden Lane)
  • Orloj (Astronomical Clock)
  • Charles Bridge
  • St.Vitus Cathedral
  • St.Nicholas Church
  • Church of Our Lady before Tyn
  • Municipal House
  • The Dancing Building (Fred and Ginger House)

 

Photo courtesy www.livingprague.com

 

Must Try Food/Drink
 
Since joining the EU, Czech cuisine has expanded beyond the traditional pork and dumplings (‘knedlliky’). Restaurants featuring international cuisine can now be found throughout the city. For those who do want to sample traditional fare, the mainstays are the following: beef or pork goulash (Gulas), sauerbraten (‘Svickova’), pork, dumplings and sauerkraut (‘Knedlo, vepro, zelo’), Wiener schnitzel (‘Rizek’), Eggs and dumplings (‘Knedle z vajcem’), Goulash Soup, fish soup, garlic soup (‘Cesnekova polevka’), grilled sausages, and fried cheese (‘Smazeny Syr’).  Traditional desserts include crepes (‘Palacinky’), fruit filled dumplings (‘Ovocne Knedliky’) or ‘kolace’. As for drinks, beer ('pivo') reigns supreme in the country where the art of beer making goes back to the 9th century. Popular brands are: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (Budweiser), Staropramen, Kozel and Gambrinus.  In addition to these commercial beers, there are several brewpubs in the city; Strahov Monastery Brewpub, Newtown Brewery, At the Black Ox, Pivovarsky Dum, just to name a few. Other typical Czech drinks include fruit wines and the firewater ‘slivovice’ which is a distillate made from plums.  But lest you think slivovice tastes like a yummy plum liqueur, be forewarned that it does not.
 

What do Tourists Shop For
 
While shopping in Prague cannot compare to New York, Paris or London, the quality of merchandise has vastly improved over the past 10 years.  Articles that the country is famous for are crystal, porcelain, folk art and handicrafts. 
 

Prague in a Day or Two
 
prague_karlstejn_enIf you’ve seen all the ‘must have’ attractions and you still have time to spare, there are some very interesting sites to explore outside Prague city limits.  These trips can be done independently or via any reputable city tour operator.  These include:
  • Karlstejn CastleTown of Kutna Hora (a UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Skoda car factory and Museum
  • Pilsner Urquell Brewery
  • Terezin Nazi concentration camp Memorial
  • Konopiste Castle

 The above are all approximately ½ day trips.

Photo courtesy www.livingprague.com

 

 

Recommended Travel Guides
 

There is an abundant variety of tourism information on Prague on the internet, so that you never need to actually purchase a guide. Upon arrival in Prague, one of the first stops should be to a Tourist Information office. These offices offer a multitude of information on transportation, special events, free concerts and festivals. 

Tourist offices can be found at:

  • Old Town Hall
  • Main Railway Station Lobby
  • Rytirska Street #31
  • Prague Airport
  • Lesser Town Bridge Tower

 

 

The Underbelly
 
Unfortunately, as the iron curtain came down, the crime rate went up.  Such is the price of democratization.  While violent crime is not a huge problem here, petty crime is.  Always be on the lookout for pickpockets, especially in busy crowded areas such as town squares or public transportation.  Don’t expose your wallet or expensive camera.  Be careful when taking cabs.  It’s not advised to flag one down on the street.  Either phone for a cab from a registered company, or walk to a hotel and have the hotel staff call one for you.  Write the name of your destination clearly on a piece of paper so that the driver doesn’t take you ‘to the wrong place’.  Beware of the famous ‘fake police’ scam.  A uniformed man or woman will approach you and ask to see your identification.  When you pull out your wallet, the ‘police officer’ will take your wallet, and help him or herself to your money.  The best defense for this scam is simply not to carry large amounts of cash in your wallet.  These scam artists are after cash, not credit cards.
 

Insider Tips
 

Currency - The Czech republic has not yet converted their currency to the Euro.  The currency in use is still the Czech Crown (‘koruna’) or CZK.  Please check currency converter websites or your nearest bank to get the up to date exchange rates

Garnets - The Czech Republic is famous for its deep purplish red Pyrope garnets.  The typical setting consists of many small stones clustered together whether it's in bracelets, necklaces, rings or earrings.  Be sure to buy from reputable dealers/shops to ensure you are not buying glass.  Stores in tourist areas tend to charge higher prices than stores further out.

Mineral Water - Next to beer, mineral/spring water is the Czech drink of choice. Thanks to the favorable geological conditions, the country is blessed with numerous springs and as a result there are literally hundreds of brands of spring water available. Have a tummy ache?  There's a water for that.  Constipated? There's a water for that. Diarrhea? There's a water for that. Czechs swear by the curative qualities of their waters. Each brand of water has its own distinctive taste based on its mineral composition.  Some popular brands include: Mattoni, Vincentka, Saratica, Aquila, Aqua Excelsis.

The Prague Card - Purchasing this multi-day card gives the cardholder free access to a multitude of city attractions including the popular Prague Castle,  discounts for tours, restaurants, museums, galleries and shopping.  Information on how to buy can be found here: www.praguecard.biz