Prague: Do This, Skip That

Arriving in Prague is like wandering into a fairytale. The cobblestone streets are lined with pastel-colored buildings, their terracotta roofs and iron spires reaching toward the sky. Friendly pubs welcome you with 50 cent beers and comfort food. Happy travelers wander here and there, giant ice cream cones in hand. It’s easy to be wooed by the charm of this city, but it’s just as easy to fall out of love. Between the crowds and tourist traps, dreamy Prague can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Here’s your travel guide for what to do and what to skip in Prague, Czech Republic.

IMG_0143Above: View from the Petrin Observation Tower

Do spend time outdoors

One way to make the most of your time in Prague is to enjoy its scenery. Some cities are best explored on foot, and this one definitely fits the bill. It’s full of green spaces, historical sites, and picturesque buildings, all easily walkable.

Start out by making your way to Petrin Hill & Observation Tower (Petřínská rozhledna). The lookout tower, which is based off of the Eiffel Tower, is situated atop the hill and overlooks the whole city. Built in 1891, it is 63.5 metres high with 299 steps leading to the top. The walk through the park up to the tower is beautiful; the paths are lined with bright green grass and tall trees. Halfway up the tower, you’re met with a wonderful view of the City of a Hundred Spires. However, climbing all the way to the top is not  for the faint of heart. Reaching the tower’s peak requires ascending many stairs in through narrow passageway that creaks a bit from side to side. Whether you dare to climb to the top of the tower or prefer to stroll around its base, the surrounding park and views are lovely and worth the trip.

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Above: View of the Vltava river

Next, make sure to pay a visit to Střelecký Island (Střelecký ostrov). The island is situated in the Vltava river near old town Prague. It has lots of green space, walking paths, and restaurants, plus it’s often a site for local festivals. It’s a wonderful place to grab a pint, sit on the grass, and people watch.

While you’re strolling around town, you’re bound to make your way across the Charles Bridge and up to the Prague Castle (whether or not it’s necessary to go inside is up for debate; make a game time decision based on the length of the lines). These are both quintessential outdoor Prague experiences as well.

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Above: Enjoying a beer on Střelecký Island. Photo by Paxton Swafford.

Do go to the John Lennon Wall

If you’re a Beatles fan and you’ve found yourself in Prague, take a stroll over to the John Lennon wall. The wall itself is a combination of street art and graffiti, and the surrounding area features Beatles-themed businesses and local musicians strumming familiar fab four tunes. It’s conveniently located and worth stopping by and paying tribute.

Do try the cuisine & experience the nightlife

As in any city, perhaps the best thing to do is eat. Prague is no exception. On top of delicious food, it’s also got some great nightlife to explore.

For some traditional Czech food, try Restaurace U Vejvodů v Praze. It’s a large restaurant in old town with lots of hearty meat and potato dishes and beers. For a more modern take on traditional food, go to Klub Architektů. It’s also located in the heart of the city, but it’s tucked away underground in a little square. After all the heavy meats and potatoes, you may find yourself looking for a change of pace. For some great vegetarian food, head over to Lehka Hlava (“Clear Head”). It features lots of creative plant-based dishes that you’ll enjoy whether or not you’re a vegetarian.

Prague is known for its beer and nightlife, so make sure to experience both while you’re there. Stop by microbrewery U Tří růží to sample some brews different from the traditional Pilsner Urquell. It’s conveniently located near the center of the city and has lots of great beers. Next, grab a drink at Vinárna U Sudu; this quirky bar is housed in a series of subterranean caves and tunnels. Finally, for a taste of a typical club experience, head over to Lucerna Music Bar. They have live music and themed nights, like ‘80s, and is a great place for drinks and dancing.

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Above: Prague’s John Lennon Wall. Photo by Paxton Swafford.

Skip some of the super touristy things (like waiting for the clock to chime)

Usually, doing the touristy things in a city can be fun. There’s a reason why some things become tourist attractions: they’re enjoyable! However, in some cities, you’re better off skipping the crowds and the lines. Prague is one of those cities.

For example, don’t organize your whole day around waiting to watch the astrological clock chime. If you happen to be in Old Town Square when it goes, then sure, turn around and watch, but it’s really not worth a bunch of planning.

Basically, play it by ear. If any area feels too crowded or uncomfortably touristy, skip it. Your time is better spent elsewhere.

Skip the National National Gallery at Kinsky Palace

On the outset, this appears to be a conveniently located museum that’s worth a walk through. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case. This museum is in a converted palace, which makes for a very awkward layout, and the collections are sort of random accumulations of things; plus, there are dehumidifiers sitting out everywhere and the whole place smells like cigarette smoke. It’s perhaps the only museum to which this writer would not return.

Watch out for the weird

With its low prices, central location, and beautiful setting, Prague attracts an interesting crowd. You’ll encounter bachelor parties, youth field trips, college kids studying abroad, and all manner of party people. You’ll see them drinking and galavanting; you might even see a naked person walking along the street while being filmed (true story). Just keep your eye out for whatever kind of wild is coming your way in this city.

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Above: City view from Prague Castle

Overall, Prague is a charming city that’s well worth a visit. It’s easy to see anything you’d like within a couple days, and the trains in and out of town are easily accessible. It’s home to beautiful outdoor spaces, lovely city views, good food, and fun nightlife. However, it’s possible to become overwhelmed by crowds and fall into the tourist traps. As long as you stick to the outdoor spaces, avoid the super-touristy areas, have some great meals, and go with the flow, you’ll have a wonderful time. Na zdraví!

prague

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