Our brief stop started off with us checking into our airbnb about a 30-40 minutes walk from the centre of town in one of the more residential area. We were picked up from the airport by a taxi company called Prague airport transfers. I would highly recommend them, our driver was very amicable and professional, arriving earlier than our booking time (as our plane landed earlier than expected), as well as providing us with a bottle of water each, an extensive tour-book and a voucher for a free tour guide- all this for the price of €20.80 or 550 czk to the outskirts of the city centre (45 minutes drive from the airport) The price is also confirmed with your booking so you won’t be in for any nasty surprises!
As we’re doing a bit of travelling this summer in a few different countries we’re trying to keep living costs to a minimum so that we have more money set aside for our experiences. Our airbnb was still pretty pricey but it was definitely much less than a hotel at £69 for two nights. We also decided to eat out only one of the two nights and so checked out some ingredients at the local supermarket (Albert) for our first night supper.
Before you let the bill alarm you as we did in the first instance, bear in mind that the currency in Prague is very different to euros or pounds. Consequently, our initial perception of how much we were spending was a bit skewered, as generally dealing with big bills (500+ czk in most instances) it seemed like we were parting with very big amounts of cash. Put in context however we only spent ~£14 for our groceries which last us 48 hours (dinner- desert included, two breakfast, two lunches- sandwiches and snacks) and onto our next stop too: Vienna.
Our first day we decided to scrap our preplanned day and thrust ourselves into the mist of the unknown. We started by catching sight of a church apex and working our way towards it through the vibrant coloured houses and descending roads. We generally did this as a rule of thumb: picking out a building or structure and making our way towards it, until eventually we ended up in the centre.
Along the way we came across many architecturally diverse buildings, all intricate and interesting in their own unique way. The overriding theme however seemed to be the harmonious blend between the old and the new. The regal baroque against the muted grey high-risers, unsurprisingly did not seem jarring or displeasing, but instead suggested a continuity and development from history into the present.
The central square (old town) is most definitely the most breathtaking I have seen in Europe up to date. As I peered round the corner of the cobble roads, so many different elements of the vast array of buildings grabbed my attention. I was not just enthralled by one central piece (such as il duomo in Milan), but rather by the square as a whole. It is so cleverly structured as not to appear imposing and superior in one element or another, yet in its humility still maintains the potency to captivate the onlooker in awe.
We didn’t manage to go into many of the buildings as at this point it was already the late afternoon and the streets were swarming with the bustle of different languages trickling from many tongues . We did decide to have a brief look inside the St Nicholas church in the old town square which was beautifully adorned, yet not overly excessive so as is sometimes the case in other churches. That said, there did not seem to be a clear definitive part from worship and its tourist attraction functionality which did, at least for me, take away from the calm and spirituality.
Our next 24 hours was jammed packed as we attempted to fit in as much as we could before leaving the following afternoon. Our day commenced with us arriving the centre at 8:30 in the morning. The hustle and bustle from the day before and the quietude of the peaceful morning air contrasted sharply: by the time we started roaming the streets venders were still awaking from their slumber. We started our course at the old town square until we ended up coming across the national theatre, crossing over the Mánesův Most bridge, and climbing the steep roads to the castle complex.
The castle complex is different to any castle I have ever visited. It is more of a village complex than anything else, even with its own post office located within the fort’s walls. Due to the fact that the complex was enormous and coupled with the fact that there is (arguably) no one definitive ‘central’ building, it is very easy to forgot you’re in a castle complex.
Petřín hill is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a well-shaded nature hide out for lunch or even as a retreat from the flutters of crowds. Within the area there is the observation tower, which might not be that impressive given that it is 3x smaller that its prototype: the Eiffel Tower. Still, people have testified to beautiful panoramic views from the top. This attraction used to be free if you were walking the steps and not taking the lift, however more recently a general admission fee has been introduced.
Not to fret, if you still went to get a glimpse of Prague in its entirety without having to pay for the signature postcard landscape, we discovered a couple of good places to do just that. The first is Letna gardens. Overlooking the whole stretch of Prague, there you will discover breathtaking views right over from the new part of town with the swanky shopping districts, to the old, historic part. Outside the castle multiple entrances, you will find yourself at a vantage point for also taking in that panoramic scene.
If you’re wanting to get the panoramic experience much closer to the centre of town, I would definitely recommend the Klementium library. The baroque library itself is breathtaking and like nothing I have even seen before. Beautiful frescos embellish the four walls, and both the statues and decors are maintained in a timeless condition. Heading up to the astronomical tower after the visiting the library is the perfect opportunity to once again get that panoramic scene. The ticket prices were reasonable with students’ tickets costing 140 czk (approx £4.50) and adults 220 czk (approx £7.00).
Next we headed for the Jewish quarter, visiting the outside of both the Maisel and Old-New synagogues, again there was an entry fee at both. I regret not stopping off at the Jubilee synagogue, as looking at pictures of the exterior building, it is truly astonishing. I still feel however, that these more humble synagogues are worth a wander if you’re not wanting to deal with crowds.
Crossing the Charles bridge was definitely chaotic at the peak of midday tourists. I would highly recommend that if you’re looking for a more peaceful and enjoyable stroll along the bridge and the castle complex to be an early bird and get there as early as you possibly can. The castle itself opens at 6am so take advantage of it!
Where to eat:
Eating out without any research beforehand can be expensive, especially if you want to dine right in the centre. Originally we had planned to eat out at a restaurant called Mlejnice, which is situated in the old town centre. We had already looked up the restaurant on trip advisor before hand and had a perusal on the restaurant website for the dishes available and their prices. I would say that it you are looking to eat in the centre you should definitely reserve a table either by going in early that day in person or giving the restaurant a call, for as we we’re walking around we noticed a lot of tables had been reserved. In the end, we decided to eat somewhere closer to home as we were both exhausted for a day of exploring. We ended up going to a bar style restaurant called, Kuře v hodinkách. We ordered two typical Czech dishes: beef goulash (190czk approx £6) and roasted duck with sweet and sour cabbage (220 czk approx £7).
I was slightly disappointed with the beef goulash, as it was too salty for my palate and the amount of beef felt very little for the plate. The duck on the other hand was well cooked and very moist and the the tartness from the sweet and sour cabbage definitely complimented it well.
We asked for tap water as a side but we were told that it was not ‘possible’, something which I find strange. In the end we were left with no choice but to pay 120 ckz for a litre bottle of water, so be careful when ordering drinks as many of the wine selections were also very pricey costing on average 450ckz for a 0,75l glass. There are definitely better choices for restaurants and I wouldn’t recommend going to a bar/ restaurant if you’re looking for authentic traditional food, as the focus is more on drinks than on food.
If you’re looking to get a taste of a lighter traditional Czech cuisine, then you might consider trying their sweeter street treats. The trdelník seemed to definitely be a popular one. I know this is not limited to Czech ‘cuisine’, but as with the goulash, many of these dishes have Slovak influences and are shared amongst multiple Eastern European cultures.
You will definitely be able to buy these at any little pop up shop in the centre of town (on average it cost 60czk without fillings, approx £1.90), and they come in a variety of flavours with optional cream or ice-cream as fillings. We decided to stick to a more classical roll with a traditional cinnamon coating.
The texture for me was very similar to a soft pretzel, only shaped differently. You can definitely share this with another individual if you don’t have a strong sweet tooth or would just like to give it a try.
A note on transport: although we didn’t take any form of transport (besides the taxi to our accommodation) Prague has a reputation for having ‘crooked’ taxi drivers who are ready to rip off anyone who looks like a tourist. Make sure you always ask the tariff for your journey and agree in it before you enter, but only pay when you’ve reached your destination. It is always better to book taxis in advance. Public transport is a very affordable alternative, costing 24 czk (adult) for a 30 minute ticket, 32 czk (adult) for a 90 minute ticket; half the price for children 6-15yrs and free for children under 6 yrs. In our case however it was completely feasible for us to walk everywhere by foot as we stayed very much in the central districts of Prague (Praha 1/2/3).
From our own experience, I would say that you can comfortably see a lot of Prague and experience its culture in 48hrs. If you’re more of a fast pasted individual like us then 48 hours is the perfect time for you, otherwise you might want to extend your stay to 3/4 days if you want to take it slower and see the wider parts of Prague or the Czech Republic.
Our total trip cost £214 for two adults ( £80 for plane tickets/ £65 for spending/ £69 for accommodation). Prague is absolutely an affordable destination if you’re looking for a short break on a budget!
Our three must do:
☾ Prague castle complex
☾ Old square town (Staré Město)
☾ Klementium library