A beginner’s guide to Prague

Following our trip to Prague last week, I decided to write a post, A beginner’s guide to Prague, that would provide additional information to all those considering traveling to Prague and want to get some first hand impressions. This post covers what we did and saw, how we traveled, what cultural activities we went to, etc. If you have specific questions, feel free to comment below (or email privately) and I’ll respond. Our photos from the trip are available on facebook (friends only, sorry).

General information
We had 6 full days in Prague, Mon-Sat (April 6-11), landing at 10am and departing at 11pm.
We bought the full package from Israel, including flight, pickup from/to airport and hotel voucher (BB). I strongly recommend to cross-reference your hotel location with Metro linesour hotel was 1min from a metro station, and 2 stops from City Center – saved us a lot of time and money on transportation. Also remember that the Metro/Trams run from 5am till midnight, after that it’s only taxis, and those are expensive (and have designated stops to pick passengers). We used the 18CZ tickets, good for 20km or 30min (Metro/Tram – 5 stops max). Note that Police are doing random inspections and can also question tourists – the fine for NOT having a valid ticket is 700CZ (35 US$). Prague is relatively flat (except Prague Castle area) and covering it walking is easy.

Before arrival
Check the weather of course, but be prepared for anything. Weather was excellent, 7c-20c most of the week we were there, sunny, although it was only the beginning of the Spring and people told us to pack warm clothes. I walked with a t-shirt and jeans every day, Dina had a long shirt and jacket in the bag. We had 2 short periods (30min) of rain, afternoon of day 2 and 3, so remember to bring a mini-umbrella with you.
Prepare what you want to see, and check online for city resources, either the official site or other travel guides. A map of the city and public transportation are also important, but you can get those at Prague. While you’re online, verify what holidays, local vacations, renovation work, etc are planned. If you’re into Opera, Drama or Ballet, check Narodni Divadlo (National Theater) to see what’s showing the days you’re there. There are 3 theaters at Prague, beautiful buildings – worth the visit even if you’re not into the performance itself.
If you’re students, bring your card with you. Most sites have a discounted rate for student, which can save you 50% on the ticket – we paid 15 US$ for 2 tickets to see Don Giovanni on the last day.
We had 2 books with us: Michelin Green Guide to Prague and an Hebrew version of Globetrotter travel guide to Prague. Most of the time we used the Hebrew book, sorted by quarters (unlike Michelin which was alphabetically) and easier to follow.

Day 1 (arrival)
Although we arrived early (10am), we were tired from not sleeping the night before – 2 hours sleep on the place don’t count. So only in the afternoon we head to Stare Mesto (old town), walking the streets towards the Old Town Sqaure. We found this cute cafe at Na Prikope st., towards Mustek station, inside an inner patio of some sort – very American and they had free wi-fi, one of the few places I noticed.

Day 2
Day 2 was all about Hradcany and the amazing Prague Castle. Had to change metro lines to get there, but the 18 CZ ticket (20km or 30min) still sufficed. Spent more than half a day at the castle and its surroundings, but you can easily spend a full day, even more. There are several types of tickets – we got the semi-full that grants access to the Cathedral and Basilica, The Story of Prague Castle (which was closed for renovation) and The Golden Lane (don’t miss it) including The Black Tower (Daliborka) which served as a prison. Second half of the day we walked down towards Mala Strana (lesser quarter), checked out the gardens and headed east to Charles Bridge and Stare Mesto again. Before crossing the bridge, make sure you visit Kampa Island, a small piece of land south of the bridge – beautiful and peaceably neighborhood with a great view of the other side.

Day 3
Since it was Pesach Eve we decided to visit Josefov (Jewish quarter), the Old-New Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery and other attractions in the area. The Old-New Synagogue was built at 1270 (!) and is still being used by the local community. The tombstones at the old cemetery are very crowded, the result of multi-layered burial, right until the end of the 18th century. That evening we went to St. Nicholas Church in Stare Mesto, and bought tickets to its Easter Festival, hosting Praga Sinfonietta Orchestra that played Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart.

Day 4
Since it was my birthday, we decided to stay close to our hotel, and unlike other days, do an afternoon break/nap at the hotel. So, we walked 15min and arrived to Vysehrad (which means ‘castle in the mountains’), the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul and the old (and very prestigious) cemetery, the resting place to some of Czech’s most famous citizens. Make sure you head down to the streets (Neklanova and Vratislavova) below the castle – 3 examples of Cubism architecture awaits your eyes.
Vysehrad gardens are also the place I proposed to my girlfriend :-)) She agreed. In the evening we had dinner at Mlynec – an excellent Asian fusion restaurant (huge thanks to Ariela!).

Day 5
The 5th day was dedicated to Nove Mesto (new town) and its sights: Fred and Ginger, National Theater, The Botanical Garden, Slav (Sofin) Island and others. We stayed away from the Wenceslas Square which we walked in all week, and focused on the eastern and southern portions of the new town, closer to the Vltava River. At that evening we reached Nardoni Divadlo and bought tickets to Causa Carmen, student of course, 10 US$ each.

Day 6
Last day at Prague was spent at Stare Mesto and was dedicated (mostly) to shopping and relaxation. We were under no pressure to see any sights and even got to see Don Giovani at the 2pm performance.

Final thoughts
Walking the streets of Prague, seeing the massive castles and basilicas, you can understand why Prague is considered one of the beautiful cities in the world. It’s a classical European capital that actually lets you touch and feel its past. All you need to do is close your eyes and imagine yourself in the 13th or 15th century, walking the same streets, in an entirely different attire. Too bad the Holodeck is still reserved to Star Trek fleet only. Although we had the option, we decided not to go on tours outside of Prague. We came to see the city, a true classical European capital, and we left with a strong desire to return.

6 Responses to “A beginner’s guide to Prague”

  1. 1 prague lodging August 3, 2009 at 04:39

    I've read your blog very interesting…Thanks for sharing those information..Very good posting…

  2. 2 Dvir Reznik August 3, 2009 at 16:55

    Thanks for the comment.
    And sure – beautiful city, we had a great time :-))

  3. 3 Prague Hotels October 27, 2009 at 15:45

    Thank you for interesting and positive comments:-). Best regards from Prague :-).

  4. 4 Dvir Reznik October 27, 2009 at 15:52

    Had a great time, hope to return soon… Beautiful city! Still have lots to see, we took our time..

  1. 1 Ph.D Dissertation Submitted – Vacation Time | Dvir Reznik Trackback on March 27, 2010 at 02:23
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