I’m very enthusiastic about the impromptu holiday planning. Mention a city I’ve never been to and I’m instantly up for the adventure; provided it’s not going to break the bank. When my friend Lizzie left for her Erasmus in the Czechia capital of Prague (I was told off on Twitter for calling it Czech Republic), I instantly knew I’d have to go visit; Whats an adventure if you can’t make it with friends? Soon enough, it was November and Laura and I hopped into her car towards Dublin airport (my mother wailing about not driving like boyracers somewhere in the near distance) Praha; here we come!
We flew Ryanair; as usual the cheapest and most uncomfortable option for students and tall people alike. Flights came in at under €130 each (though I had to book another flight home when work commitments arose) I’m one of the lucky ones that have never had major issues with Ryanair. Other then the blood circulation in my legs being cut off by the proximity of the chair in front of me and the 40 minute delay, the experience was pretty seamless.
Prague boasts one of the greatest transportation systems I’ve ever seen. With buses, trams and a metro system that costs mere pennies to use, you are never too far from the next adventure.
We stayed in a student digs/hotel type set up called Masarykova Kolej. Located in Prague 6; a mere metro ride away from the center of the city and costing just €150 each for 7 nights; it was idea. The entire building was toasty warm, the rooms were very clean and tidy and the included breakfast satisfied our need for a morning piece of fruit and yogurt. If you’re visiting Prague and don’t need to be staying in the high of luxury, definitely consider this place!
The Food (and Drink)
Relatively speaking, Prague was probably the cheapest European City I’ve ever been to and the majority of my spending was on food (we walked so much, I was hungry 24/7) I’ve turned to the dark side (vegetarianism) a few months ago and thus worried about having few and little options when it came to dinner time but I was strongly surprised by what was available to me. We ate in the food-court of the Palladum twice; Uno’s Italian restaurant offered delicious pasta and a hide away from the rain and the pay-by-weight buffet was a great way of sampling lots of different types of cuisine (my whole meal including drinks cost about €6; a steal!) We also ate at an Italian off Wenceslas Square which had amazing pasta!
Don’t leave Prague until you try Trdelník, a sweat pastry usually filled with apples or chocolate and rolled in sugar. It changed my life, seriously. We had ours on Na Můstku (just across the street from the tourist information office) If you are budgeting, splurge this once on one of these guys because they are that incredible.
For cheaper again food options supermarkets like Billa offer cheap and ready to eat solutions (and tonnes of fresh fruit, yogurt and pastries)
Czech beer is famous the world over as being very tasty and very cheap but alas I can’t stomach the golden yeasty stuff. I do however love a good fruity drink and Nebe cocktail bar was a perfect spot to relax and have a good girlie night. Cocktails are just 69czk (less than €4) before 9 and they are deliciously strong! One caveat about Czeck bars and clubs however is that smoking indoors is still legal here! The Nebe on Václavské nám was quite well ventilated and my hair only smelled like stale smoke for half the night after I washed it.
The to do List
Visit Kunta Hora (But just for an hour or two)
Kunta Hora is a small town a short and cheap train ride away from Prague. We spent about €8 on return tickets and the train trip was a relaxing way of seeing rural Czech. The main reason you should visit Kunta Hora is the Sedlec Ossary (or the Church of Bones). Resting place to more than 40,000 remains, the interiors of this odd and strangely peaceful Catholic Church are made entire out of human remains. I don’t think I’ve ever visited anywhere as different and while I hate using the word, vibey probably gives the best illustration of the feel of the ossary. Don’t bother paying for a day trip though, there’s nothing else worthwhile to see in the town.
A Walking Tour
I love a good walking tour and that’s just what Extravaganza Tours provide. Our guide, Zed was enthusiastic, funny and adventurous; the traits of a great local guide and I had no issues handing over a few extra crowns at the end of the tour because of his passion and honesty (Extravanganza Tours run on a tipping basis!). The best way to see Prague is by foot though please wear comfortable flats. The cobbled streets are killers!
Ice Bar Prague
I though this was going to be a cop out, I really did. As we walked down the somewhat dodgy alley way lined with tourist trap shops and knock off Channel goodies, I feared murder (or worse, wasting my money!) I’m happy to admit I was wrong. Costing about €8 for 30 minutes (any longer, it gets dangerous and it includes a free drink and the banter of a really, really cool bartender intent on learning na cupla focail) it’s worth the visit. We left feeling like giddy kids (though if that was the Absolut or the freezing temperatures, I’ve yet to tell)
Okay, so this one is a bit of a cop-out if you’re used to the British Institution that is Hamleys but I’m only a little bit British so I’m allowed to be filled with wonder and awe. I could have stayed here all day; if only I were a child again.
Prague’s Venice Boat Tours
Confusing the words Vienna and Venice is easy. Confusing the small canals of Prague and the famous Italian city, not so much. Never the less, seeing Prague by boat is a great experience (and the complimentary gingerbread and hot wine are a nice touch too) A bit steeper in price than other adventures in Prague, I think it was money well spent to marvel at the beautiful city at night.
A Czech police man barked at me here as I went through an airport like security screening at the entrance. (I’ve also never been to a castle with a Starbucks outside the gate….. )anyhow, I didn’t manage to get inside the actual building but the grounds are pretty great. There’s a garden to stroll around I’m told (though again I didn’t see this) and the views of all over Prague are spectacular. Prague Castle is also the largest ancient castle in the world my best friend Google has just informed me. I adored St Vitnus’ Cathedral (I went inside this one, I promise!) and the stained glass was spectacular. The stories behind each window is one of the main reasons you need a guide. Prague castle’s grounds are free to visit (through prepare for the scary security men) but the interior tour costs.
Take a Stroll off the Beaten Track
Some of the most amazing places and sights we found where by sheer luck. We tried to visit lots of different areas and streets (okay, sometimes it was by sheer accident. Prague isn’t exactly linear in its layout). My favorite streets were in the Jewish quarter where we stumbled upon the most beautiful Synagogue I’ve ever laid eyes on.
While not off the beaten track; visiting Charles Bridge at night is a great experience (and less full of tourists) Many of the historic buildings are illuminated at night for the viewing pleasure but beware of personal safety and your belongings at all times!
- Don’t change money in the streets. Seriously; there are at lease a trillion exchange centers around the city. Find one with a good rate and don’t be fooled by the promise of no commission.
- Don’t visit Wenceslas Square alone after dark; the place is creepy as hell and thronged with pickpockets and dealers
- Margot Chocolate – it’s vile. I had a Raisin Bar that was 98% rum. I’m still recovering.
- Beware of phantom pastries. I’m serious. Czech people eat a lot of strange yeasty pastries including Kolach which I literally poisoned my insides with one morning thinking it was chocolate. You have been warned.
- Be aware of holy days/holidays. We visited smack bang in the middle of November 17th demonstrations and witnessed first hand a kettling by police as well as several marches and political rally type events. It was interesting to be in the midst of this, having just learned the significance but public holidays also mean closures of attractions and shops.
Prague is one of the most beautiful and historic cities I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. As a student destination, it’s ideal. It’s relatively cheap, full of cool places to visit and definitely worth the trip for anyone considering a mini break or a longer exploration.
(All photos are mine and taken on my lovely Nikon P530 or my HTC MBs that hates me. For more of my travels, see my instagram!)