Traveling is an exciting way to experience the world around us, to broaden our horizons, and to learn from other cultures. In fact, travel should be exciting. One of the more unfortunate possibilities is approaching travel unprepared, or afraid simply because you do not know what you ought to prior to visiting a new place.
One of the more beautiful, unique, and exciting cities to visit in the western world—or even the world in general—is Prague. Prague is a beautiful city in the Czech Republic that balances remnants of the ancient world with modern comforts, full of history and natural beauty. However, like most European cities, Prague has a number of unique traits that are important to know if you are traveling there. Here are seven things to know before visiting Prague.
How to Pay for Things
There are a few notable mistakes that particularly Americans make when traveling, typically surrounding currency and payment methods. So let’s talk about ways to pay for things while in Prague.
First and foremost, the currency in Czech Republic is the Czech koruna, or Czech crown. If you prepare for your journey by stocking up on Euros, you will find yourself with the wrong currency for your location. This leads to an important aspect regarding your travels: currency exchange.
If you are planning to utilize cash in your visit, it is best to do most of your currency exchange prior to your arrival. There are a number of places that may try to process your exchange at inflated rates. You can count on government agencies to do this accurately, as well as any currency exchange machines. However, especially in this age, cash is not the best way to travel.
Many places in Europe—independent markets exempt—actually prefer contactless payments. This means debit and credit cards with a tap function, or services like Apple Pay. Most credit or debit services, such as Visa, Discover, and American Express, will automatically convert payments in other currencies. Some have a small fee, some don’t, and some simply need you to let the bank know that you are internationally traveling in order to avoid the fee. Regardless, make sure that you inform your bank that you are making international purchases so that your card does not get locked due to your purchases.
Another bonus of contactless payments is that you can have a card that is active on both your smartphone and in a physical card. If you have a card stolen, you can easily cancel it and have a new one set up on your Apple Pay or other service so that you are not left high and dry.
Many public transportation systems also use contactless payments for entry throughout Europe.
This leads us to public transportation. Prague, like most big cities throughout Europe, has a fantastic public transportation system consisting of taxis, trains, and buses. Depending on the length of your stay, it may be worthwhile to get a pass for the bus or train system that makes travel a little bit easier, and a little bit cheaper. If you have a shorter stay, however, you can typically buy a bus pass or train ticket when you board.
As someone from the United States, taxis in Europe, and in Prague especially can be confusing, and can also leave you spending more money than intended. Some taxis in Prague may inflate your rates because you are from the far west, or say they only accept cash. Additionally, taxis become quite expensive for medium to long distances. If you just need to get over a few blocks, getting a taxi can be great, otherwise, it is usually most financially beneficial to take an Uber or Lyft.
Where to Walk
If you are near important landmarks or historical locations, most others are within walking distance. In fact, much of everything is within walking distance in Prague. You can always take a bus or Uber, but you may find that walking is one of the best ways to see and explore the city. So be prepared to walk.
Bring a comfortable pair of shoes that you know can hold up, and wear clothes that retain their comfort over long walking distances. If you have luggage, look for luggage storage in Prague to avoid carrying your things with you over long distances. Being prepared and ready to walk around comfortably can make your stay in Prague vastly more enjoyable. Enjoy seeing plenty of museums and galleries, national monuments, pieces of history, and enjoy delicious foods and culture by foot, it’s one of the best ways to enjoy eastern Europe.
Shopping in Prague
Prague is the most popular shopping destination in the Czech Republic. It’s full of unique souvenir stores and boutiques, but also has some of the best department stores in Europe. The city offers something for every taste and budget, from high-end luxury brands to local handicrafts.
Shopping in Prague is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant culture. There are many shopping areas and many different types of stores. The best place to start your shopping adventure is on Wenceslas Square, which is full of shops and markets selling everything from traditional Czech products to souvenirs from around the world.
If you’re looking for something more unique, go down to Old Town Square and explore the many little shops there. There’s also a large outdoor market on weekends that boasts local goods like handmade jewelry and crafts.
Another popular area for shopping is near Charles Bridge, where you’ll find plenty of souvenir shops selling Czech crystal as well as street performers who will delight you with their acrobatic feats while they try to sell you something too.
Prague also has several flea markets. Here, you can find everything from antiques to vintage clothing. Most of these flea markets are open every weekend or every other week depending on the season. They only stay open until early afternoon so if you’re visiting them, plan accordingly.
Dining and Enjoying the Best Food Prague Has to Offer
Prague is a city with a rich history, and that means its food is just as diverse and interesting.
The Czech Republic has been influenced by many different cultures over the years, including the Middle East, Austria, France, and Germany. This gives Prague a lot of options for authentic cuisine that you can’t find anywhere else in Europe.
One of the most famous Czech dishes is goulash, which is made from beef stewed with vegetables and served over dumplings. It’s usually topped with paprika powder to add color and flavor to the dish.
Another popular dish is svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin covered in cream sauce), which can be found at any restaurant that serves Czech food. If you’re looking for something simpler but still delicious, try bramboráky which is basically potato pancakes made from shredded potatoes and fried in oil until they are crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.
Prague also has a wide range of restaurants serving international cuisine. Italian restaurants are especially popular because they offer great deals on pasta dishes during lunchtime hours. The local restaurants are just as amazing as well.
Cerna Ruze (Black Rose) is a great place for traditional Czech food. They have very good beer, lots of options for vegetarians and vegans, and an incredible selection of desserts. The menu changes frequently, but it’s always delicious.
U Bulinu (At the Bull) has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan options and some really tasty meats as well. They also have a good beer selection and a large variety of desserts. This place is especially great if you’re looking for someplace with more traditional Czech food.
Then there’s U Zlateho Tygra (At the Golden Tiger) which has one of the most exquisite brunch menus in Prague. They do an amazing job with eggs benedict and have a great lunch menu with sandwiches and wraps perfect for taking on your travels around town.
Places to Visit
Prague is a city of many nooks and crannies, each with its own unique history. The city’s architecture is a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles. You can find the ornate Charles Bridge and the colorful Old Town Square, which is home to the famous Astronomical Clock.
You can also explore Prague Castle, which dates back to the 10th century. The castle has been home to many kings and queens over time, including Charles IV (who commissioned the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral), Rudolph II (who invited Italian architect Andrea Palladio to design his castle), and Ferdinand II (who commissioned the construction of Prague’s oldest bridge).
The Czech Republic is also known for its beer culture. Thus, if you’re in Prague on vacation or business trip make sure you visit one of the breweries like Pilsner Urquell Brewery & Restaurant (U Fleků), Staropramen Brewery Tour & Restaurant (Staropramen), or Budweiser Budvar Brewery (Budějovický Budvar).
You can also check out Letna Park during your free time. This park is especially beautiful because it overlooks the river Vltava and has some amazing views of Prague Castle from above. This park also hosts outdoor concerts during summertime festivals.
Go Fast to Go Slow
A last piece of advice in your travel to Prague is to take your time. You may see a lot of rushing as far as bus and train schedules, but will notice that most people are fairly relaxed. Buses, trains, and car transportation is frequent and almost constantly accessible. If you miss a bus, there is another one in 15 minutes. Don’t rush it! Just enjoy your time.