Exploring Prague

Introduction
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse New York JFK Airport
Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class New York to London
Sheraton Edinburgh Grand Hotel & Spa
Exploring Edinburgh
British Airways Galleries Club Lounge Edinburgh Airport
Sheraton Prague Charles Square Hotel
Exploring Prague
ERSTE Premier Lounge Prague Airport
Czech Airlines Business Class Prague to Rome
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Le Anfore Lounge Rome Airport
Alitalia A330 Magnifica Class (Business Class) Rome to Boston


We spent four days in Prague, and on the whole had good luck with the weather. It never snowed, and temperatures were mostly in the 40s with a bit of rain. So it was similar to the weather in Seattle, and most definitely nicer than the weather that was hitting the East Coast of the US.

So I figured I’d share some thoughts about Prague:

Prague is gorgeous, but has it become too popular?

It seems to me that over the last several years or so Prague has become more and more the “in” place to visit in Eastern Europe. As a result, I think it has become more touristy, more crowded, and ultimately less charming. It has the bones of a great, beautiful city. However the combination of where we stayed, the amount of tourists (perhaps because of the holidays), and the kitschy tourist traps left me with a somewhat less favorable opinion than what I had expected.

Don’t get me wrong, Prague was gorgeous. Really gorgeous. But most of the people I know that have been to Prague were like “OMG IT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE ON EARTH.” And it’s pretty, but I’m not convinced it’s nicer than my other favorite cities in Europe.

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Christmas markets in January

One of the cool things about Prague is that their Christmas markets stay open through mid-January, which was pretty awesome. They were beautiful, delicious (those sugar circular donut things… mmmm), and touristy!

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The most ridiculous tourist trap restaurant tent I’ve ever been to

One afternoon we were at the Christmas market in the Old Town Square and it started raining, so we went into this tent restaurant. We knew going in it would be a tourist trap, but ultimately we were just looking for somewhere to sit for a bit till the rain died down.

So we all ordered drinks and I ordered goulash. Meanwhile my friends weren’t that hungry so decided they just wanted to order sides. But apparently that’s not allowed, per the restaurant rules. You can order only drinks and not eat anything, but you can’t order drinks and sides. So then I tried to order sides, since I was eating something. Nope, they wouldn’t let me order sides either since I was at a table with people that weren’t eating.

It’s one thing if they had a policy of having to at least order a main course, but that wasn’t the rule. So they’d rather you just drink than drink and order sides. Meanwhile even though I ordered something to eat, I couldn’t order a side because I was with people not ordering main courses. What the…?

The people

Maybe I’ve been watching too much… oh, nevermind, my mother reads this blog.

Prague was very reasonably priced

I’m guessing Prague has actually gotten significantly more expensive lately as the amount of tourism has picked up, but it was still really reasonably priced. It was refreshing, because nowadays most of Europe is almost unaffordable as an American due to the exchange rate.

Have you been to Prague? If so, what did you think?

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Comments

  1. Haven’t been back to Prague in a while so thanks for reminding me why I like it so much. Glad you enjoyed your time there and great to see a recap of your visit outside the hotel. I know you think others do it better but we don’t read others. 😉

    “Watching too much…” Really, I meant TV Mom. 😉

  2. Agreed, Prague has become too touristy lately, you should try Zagreb or Ljubljana… as nice as Prague, but with less tourist around or tourist traps…

  3. I was in Prague in November 2012 during a very slow time. We found it charming and inexpensive. We stayed in Old Town and loved being able to retreat to a quiet more residential area. I don’t think we would have liked it as much if we had been in the thick of the tourists.

  4. I remember drinking Budvar in those gigantic beer mugs in Prague 15 years ago. They were no more than a dollar each. I want to go back but I’m afraid it has likely changed A LOT since then.

  5. Prague has become too touristy recently?

    I was reading these same sentiments in travel articles seven years ago when I last went to Prague.

    One of my favorite places anyway.

  6. I studied abroad in Prague in 2005 and left with the same opinion. It was beautiful but too overrun at all times with tourists an it put a damper on the experience for me. When I am lukewarm about my experience to others who have been to Prague they tend to be surprised, which doesn’t really make sense to me. How can you not see how overrun it has become?

  7. I visit Prague fairly often on business. You need to not visit the places where those pictures come from. For example, the jazz clubs in Prague are more authentic places of worship than the old churches.

    Visit U Malého Glena or Reduta to see what a culture of music appreciation does to a 20-something kid whose U.S. counterparts talks and texts during performances.

  8. I went back to Prague last year for the first time in 20 years, and it was a big letdown for me. 20 years ago I really enjoyed it. The restaurant food could vary in quality. The hotel quoted in German marks. But the city was gorgeous and charming.

    This time the setting was just as beautiful as ever, but most of the tourist areas felt like a cheap tourist trap. Gaudy and ugly. I preferred Dresden.

  9. I really like Prague. Lots of beauty and charm. There are tourist traps to avoid, but that is true of a lot of great cities (NY, London, Paris) and for me doesn’t diminish its appeal as an amazing destination.

  10. I’ve been to Prague a couple times over the past 5 years and loved it. Of course I was there both times in mid to late January when the number of tourists in town was minimal (as an aside, I’m the rare tourist who plans most of my European travel during the winter so as to avoid the hordes of tourists who descend during the summer months). With a little bit of research before I departed I was able to avoid the tourist traps and find the best pubs/restaurants in central areas that still offered very good value for money.

    I’d kill right now to be sitting at a table at U Medvidku drinking a half litre of Budvar (for a bit less than $2)…

  11. We were in Prague last week. As first-timers, we did touristy and non-. Had a great time, and didn’t feel crowded out. We’d definitely return, but wouldn’t plan to during the busy summer months, because we prefer a little breathing room. I think experienced travelers can sometimes be too jaded in their characterizations. If someone has never been, they’d be missing out on a potentially wonderful experience if they took every “oh, that place used to be great but not any more” comment to heart.

  12. I just spent 3 days in Prague in late October 2013. It was a perfect time to visit. The weather was in the mid-50s and sunny. I didn’t find it to be overcrowded and after numerous trips to other European cities (Zurich, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, etc. Prague is a bargain. However, if you thought it was too touristy I would recommend Salzburg.

  13. I think Prague was a bit more crowded than normal due to winter holidays but, the super-touristy areas (like around the clock) are always busy. It was that even way in October/November when I visited it. If you want to avoid crowds, go to tourist spots earlier in the morning.

    Based on what my family who lives there told me, what makes Prague very attractive is that it’s an excellent base to explore other countries. Unless you are only spending a couple of days there, I’d definitely recommend venturing to visit some Czech castles and nearby cities/countries.

    A tip coworker shared with me — a cool thing to do in the evening after walking around for hours, is to visit Křižík’s Light Fountain (Google for it).

    P.S. I am not sure I agree with David F. that Salzburg is less touristy than Prague. Visited both within the span of a few days and, while I really loved Salzburg, I think it’s way more tourist town than Prague. A drive from Vienna to Salzburg is gorgeous though.

  14. Totally unimpressed with Prague on all counts. Also had some unpleasant experience at a couple of restaurants as far as where we wanted to sit.
    Did not seem tourist friendly at all considering it is a significant source of income.
    I still prefer Paris, Lisbon, Vienna, Amsterdam or Dublin any day.

  15. I first went to Prague in 1994, then in 2000 and then in May 2013. A very big difference each time-and I must say I was disappointed this last time. Prices were much more mainstream European and the crowds were insane. It was a contrast to Budapest–where we had been just before going to Prague. (But Budapest was also a huge contrast to my previous visit in 1994!)

  16. I find it ironic that people who go to places as tourists complain that there are too many other tourists. Do they never recognise that they, themselves, contribute to the situation about which they’re complaining? Having said that, the pics look great & I’d love to go there if I were younger & it wasn’t so far from where I live.

  17. Do you still hate beer? If not, visit in May for the Prague Beer Festival. It goes on all month. Prague definitely has it’s share of tourist trap restaurants, but there are many very good ones if you get away from the Old Town Square. Try Cafe de Paris in the Mala Strana next to the Swiss embassy for some wonderful entrecote.

  18. @Judge Dee
    I never pretend that I am more than a tourist wherever I go. One of my complains about Prague is how “tourist-unfriendly” they are considering how many tourists they are trying to attract.
    I really like Paris and no matter how much french I speak and how “local” I try to act, I am nothing more than a tourist. I don’t mind it; I respect the people I encounter and I expect the people I interact with to respect me – as a tourist.
    I think “being a tourist” has become a bad word and everybody is trying to have the “local experience” when in reality for 95% of the travelers it doesn’t happen.

  19. The obvious dilemma: Places that are worth visiting as a tourist are “overrun by tourists”. Places without many tourists are either not worth visiting, or too expensive for ordinary people to afford.

    There are those whoever who will go to the Superbowl, and then complain about the lines for beer…. 😉

  20. @Rami
    I agree with your comments. Your original post did not complain about there being ‘too many tourists’, which was the crux of my initial post.

  21. Yeah it’s crowded, just 1) avoid the busiest times and 2) avoid the busiest spots. It’s still beautiful. Anyway at least it’s less crowded than the Sistine Chapel…

  22. @Lucky, Good Trip.
    However as a czech I feel that Prague isn’t eastern european. After all it’s west of Vienna. Also czech republic has throughout history until the cold war been considered western. Lastly today they have a higher gdp per capita than all of eastern europe, greece, spain and portugal, thereby I argue calling it an eastern european country is an insult to history and to it today? “in” place to visit in Eastern Europe?”

    @Miro
    “Agreed, Prague has become too touristy lately, you should try Zagreb or Ljubljana… as nice as Prague, but with less tourist around or tourist traps…”
    Prague however is also more developed.

    @David F
    “the jazz clubs in Prague are more authentic places of worship than the old churches.”
    Authentic Places of Worship? There are nearly no places of worship in used. 95% of the population is irreligious

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