Czech Out Prague: A 3 Day Itinerary
Prague wasn’t a city I had been expecting to see so soon. You see, the flights aren’t the cheapest from London generally. I do my last minute booking research as always. And if by Czech magic, the flights came up reasonable. Every other option felt overpriced so the thought of Prague was perfect. I’ve heard it’s historical, scenic, affordable, and worth checking out with my time in Europe. The capital of the Czech Republic boasts one of the most beautiful city landscapes. And of all the places I’ve been to, it also provides the most vantage points to take it all in.
I flew Easyjet from Gatwick and the first leg was fuss-free. The return flight was more unfortunate, there was a 45 minutes delay. This was due to trafficking at Gatwick. This was a pain, particularly as it meant missing my last Gatwick Express ride home. I made do with an alternate train service but it added another forty minutes or so which isn’t so fun.
On the other side of the fence I didn’t rank Václav Havel Airport Prague, but it did what it needed to do. It was more that the eating options were dire (the food court feels prison cafeteria). There’s also not much seating available, not that I mind the floor these days. There was no way to top up water before the flight (due to the security check being at the gate). The vending machines weren’t working.
The flight to and from London is under two hours, so nice and quick on that end. Transferring into the city of Prague was easy. There’s a bus service that takes you to a train station (Nádraží Veleslavín) and then you swap onto a metro line there.
I stayed at the Artharmony Pension Hostel. It’s my first themed hostel! Initially I was a bit wary of the decor, but it’s not too offensive once you get used to it. The location of the accommodation was perfect. I stayed in the mega dorm for ten which was quite spacious.
Some of the hostels in Prague look clinical with beds packed like sardines. My only real qualm was a very, very loud snorer in another corner of the room. Definitely the loudest I’ve encountered to date and we had most of the guests up in the middle of the night. I was okay with power outlets, though the room wasn’t always locked (not that I have anything of value anyway!).
The train/ Metro system is super easy to navigate, there’s only three (colour-coded) train lines. For 110czk you can get a full day pass (or 310czk for three days) for unlimited transport. This gets you across everything, including things like the funicular at Petrin. For single rides it’s 32zck (or 40czk if you buy via the driver). Ticket machines seem cash-only so handy to have some coins along.
The system seems quite casual, no one checked out my tickets during my three days there. I bought my tickets at the metro station, since I wasn’t sure when you could buy them on buses or trams. Public transport in Prague is the better option to get up to places like Petrin Hill and the Zoo. Most of the Old Town/ centrum is manageable on foot.
My time in Prague started in old town and it doesn’t take too long to tick off all the city’s landmarks. There’s a few malls around which are handy for the aircon and the shopping isn’t too bad either. I took the metro to Arkády Pankrác, this is one of the youngest and largest shopping centres in Prague. It also a welcome exchange in being less congested than the city centre malls. The stores are roughly the same across the board.
On my visit the astronomical clock was undergoing renovations so I didn’t get the full grandeur of it. There are plenty of markets nearby, as well as Wencelas Square which you’ll no doubt see a lot of. Common sights include: chimney cake sellers, souvenir stands and kids peddling pub crawls.
The city has a few notable points of interest, such as the “dancing house” and the Kafka memorial. The latter is right next to one of the malls, so hard to miss. Kafka pops up here and there in Prague, his house, museum and memorial are all attractions. One thing you might miss if you don’t look for it is the Seven Foot Sigmund Freud. At first glance you might think it’s your run-of-the-mill man hanging off his rooftop. Then breathe a sigh of relief when you figure it it’s a statue.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was checking out the Vyšehrad. This is a historic fort located South of the main city centre. I did it on foot, but there are handy public transport connections around as well. Over the years Vyšehrad has been a royal castle, city, a fortress to now a national symbol and cemetery. It’s worth going for the breath-taking views of the city. This encompasses the river and a number of major monuments in Prague.
The walk back to town along the river is fantastic. As well as the river views, you’ll also pass by the farmer’s market, as well as a chunk of hip bars and eateries.
I didn’t change out too many museums during my time in Prague, but thought it’s worthwhile mentioning a few. Some of the smaller museums (most seem quite small, mind you) are a little cheeky, in that they charge extra if you want to take photos (which of course, everyone would want to, no?). Some examples are the Lego Muzeum and the Strahov Monastery. I’m told the beer at the latter is quite superb. At the Apple Museum there’s no photography allowed at all. That one’s not official but reviews say it’s fine for enthusiasts. There’s two wax museums here in Prague.
Lets be Royals
My final day saw me taking to the city heights at Prague Castle, which was one of my must dos. It’s quite a different castle to the ones I had been to before, it was more of a settlement with various areas to check out. There’s at least three different types of tours you can buy depending on what you want to see, I did the route B myself. These cost 250-350czk, but there’s supplemental charges for some of the exhibits.
The route I did covered off the four main things I had wanted to see. These were the: Old Royal Palace, Golden Lane, St George’s Basilica and St. Vitrus Cathedral. The castle is a bit more historic than it is impressive. This is compared to the in-use ones I’ve seen in the UK and other parts of Europe. The castle area is nice in itself – very touristy and very crowded though. It’s also possible to skip a ticket and just view things from the outside. I wouldn’t say you’d be missing out too much.
If you want all the history, join the masses and go on a guided tour for that. Due to the timing of my trip I couldn’t make it out to Wallenstein Palace – that’s only open weekends. For some nature, there’s a free part of the University Botanical Gardens that you can do (that’s everything but the Greenhouse). Otherwise try go a bit further north for the full Prague Botanical Gardens.
A few things to see on the way back eastwards is the John Lennon Wall, and the walk through Charles Bridge. Lennon was a hero to the pacifist youth of Central and Eastern Europe back in the day. The graffitied wall was a way for them to express their feelings. Bring a pen and add your own legacy!
Charles Bridge is one of the most popular (and crowded) ways to get across the Vltava. At any time of the day you’ll find scores of tourists making their way for the scenic backdrop selfie. There’s also the usual plethora of souvenir sellers, artists and buskers.
I was finding myself feeling like I had a bit of time on my hands so I headed to Prague Zoo for my second day. My e-research suggested I should avoid the Sea World aquarium (apparently, small). Conversely, the zoo had rave reviews. And I’d concur. It’s a huge place and the diversity of animals and exhibits is impressive. And it’s very cheap to get in too. Bring good walking shoes as you will be covering out a lot of steps during your day here.
There’s a few surprises to the zoo, but I won’t spoil that here! Side note: you can also take your dog to the zoo here, which I thought was quirky. Extra side note: wasps/ bees (?) are also weird here. They were all over the doughnut shop (or any chimney cake shop) and love to sit on the food. It’s a little freaky being chased by the buggers whilst trying to down a sweet treat. I utilise the Crash Bandicoot spin manoeuvre myself and that worked.
From Up Above
As I mentioned above (get it?), the city of Prague offers plenty of vantage points to take in the views of the city. I made my way to the Zizkov Tower, it’s the most furtherest away from the city but offers the highest views. As a plus, it’s also voted the second ugliest tower in the world! I agree with that. It costs 230czk to get up which isn’t much but I didn’t find it the most exciting experience. My timing might be off but looking towards the city was too bright and the other side wasn’t as scenic. I would have liked to read a little more about the tower’s history, etc.
For less at 150czk you can get up the Petrin Tower (Petřínská rozhledna) and I quite enjoyed this climb. It’s another 60czk for using the elevator but the walk was quite fine. Due to the open structure of the tower it is only mildly terrifying climbing up (or down). I enjoyed these views a little more, though I’d recommend taking more snaps on the way down which can be better.
Whilst you’re in Petrin do a wander around the gardens as it’s a nice place on its own. I’d avoid the very small mirror maze which was a bit lacklustre. The full hike to the top of Petrin is a little intense, so make good use of the funicular to get you up there.
For more traditional Czech picks I’d recommend Cafe Imperial (fancy). They have immaculate service and immaculate food. I highly rated my dinner, they do breakfast as well. Mincova had decent fare. Otherwise I would suggest Meet & Greet burgerhouse or Marina (Italian, by the river). For desserts the gelato/ ice-cream options are the best bet, there’s Angelato or Cacao.
The coffee and brunch at Eska, was incredible. That one’s is in Karlin, so a bit more further out than most. Something more central was Cafe IF, the French-styled patisseries were divine. Extra note: make sure to tip about 10% on the bill. I didn’t realise the custom until my first meal where I had a frosty reception and wasn’t sure why.
For a cheap meal, I was satisfied with my experience at Mamy, for a Japanese/ Korean fix. I should also recommend checking out a Billa or DM. The groceries at the supermarket were cheap and a good option for stocking on snacks and rinks. It’s worth your while if you’re passing by, you can also marvel at the range of groceries on offer. Spoiler alert: lots of meat, cheese and baking.
The cinema is cheap. It was 189czk to check out a 2D film at Cinema City. The theatre was very empty as well. Prague is famous for it’s beer and much of the city is still alive in the late hours at the bars and clubs. Thai massages are quite big here. I eavesdropped on one stag party group (ugh, they are everywhere in Europe) going on about coming to Prague for a Thai massage. Please don’t. Music and opera is a big facet of the Czech way of life. If you can be well-organised enough, do get some tickets to check out the Opera Hall or music in some form or another.
Was the city of Prague worth checking out? Absolutely. As with a few places I’ve been (or is that all of them?) I’ve noticed there’s a huge influx and influence of tourists in some city corners. The best parts are always outside these. For Prague I would be happy to forego time in the Old Town to make it out the spots like Vyšehrad. I was quite impressed with Prague Zoo, that was beyond my expectations and one of my favourite zoos to date. And the best parts of the city is when you can take it all in. Whether that’s the views at Petrin, Vyšehrad, Zizkov or even just at your dinner table.