New ways to experience Prague, one of my favourite cities, and save money while doing it!
Due to affordable prices, Prague is one of the most popular backpacker destinations in Europe, however, like all major cities, it is also quickly becoming a tourist trap. I’ve compiled some of my experiences and hacks to make your visit to Prague cheaper and more enjoyable.
#1: Book your accommodation a bit outside the city centre
Prague has a very well organised inexpensive public transport, with trams and metros running quite frequently, which means you can comfortably stay outside the centre and save some money on accommodation.
#2: Visit the Church of Our Lady before Týn
That’s the beautiful black gothic church at the Old town square, with the twin towers. The entrance is free and a bit tricky, as you need to pass under the Art gallery building in front of it to get into the church, which is why a lot of people miss it. There is a corridor-ish path leading directly to the church from the main square, but it looks like it is part of the gallery and there are no signs, so it’s easy to miss. Just head straight towards the church as you see it from the main square, keep going until you come out of the gallery arcade and you should see the church door.
#3: Look for food several blocks away from the Old town square
It goes without saying, that food or coffee is the most expensive right on any city’s main square, however people I know still seem to partake in it. So, look for smaller traditional restaurants a few blocks away and enjoy a delicious Czech meal for a bargain. The further away from the Old town you go, the less you will pay for your beer as well – the cheapest we’ve managed in 2012 was 0.2 €.
#4: Avoid the Prague ham tourist trap
This deserves a separate bullet point due to the sheer impressiveness of the scam. There are several stalls at the Old town square offering the Prague ham (a not-that-special smoked roasted ham) and the prices written on the labels are per weight, usually per 100 g. However, when you order the ham, you do not get the portion advertised. Instead you get a usually humongous chunk of ham meant for a family of 20 and they are very insistent that you pay for it. Some friends of mine paid as much as 60 € for the ham out of sheer awkwardness of the situation, while I managed to get away with 12 € in 2012 (still about twice too much).
#5: See the old Jewish cemetery for free
In the Jewish quarter you can find the old Jewish cemetery, which is a very intriguing sight, as the Jews were allowed to bury their dead only within the small walled area for decades. The result is a crumbling cemetery, full of overlapping layers of gravestones of all ages and the ground is significantly higher than the street, with interesting piles of irregular heights. Now, I have never actually entered the cemetery, as the entrance fee is exorbitant for seeing a cemetery, but the last time I went, it was still possible to look inside through the gaps in the fence a bit to the right off the official entrance. I could see quite a lot of it and since there are usually so many tourists around, no one bothered to chase me off.
#6: Feed the swans at Mánes bridge
There are plenty of swans on the shores of the Vltava river and I’ve never seen larger ones than at the Mánes bridge. Feeding or even just observing them is a fun, free activity with spectacular views at the castle and Charles bridge.
#7: Arrive early
Since most of Prague’s main attractions, such as the Prague castle and the Charles bridge, have become incredibly overrun by tourists, it is almost impossible to enjoy the experience, unless you arrive early. The first time I visited Prague we arrived by train at 4 am and got to watch the sunrise on Charles bridge, which was completely empty, and it was beyond amazing. However, do avoid the little island parks on Vltava after dark when it’s warm out, as we learned the hard way that plenty of homeless people sleep there (read here).
#8: Treat yourself!
Most of the visitors from any remotely well-off Western country will find the price of beer incredibly cheap, which is why I usually use the Czech republic as an opportunity to treat myself to fancy cocktails, which would otherwise cost me my firstborn child. The same goes for food, as I’ve found both traditional and quite fancy meals for very reasonable prices in Prague and even cheaper outside of it, such as in Brno or Kutna hora. So, treat yourself and try something new and unusual! And, while you are at it, discover all the interesting cafes that Prague has to offer (you can find some of them at the end of my Prague photo impressions post here).
Let me know in the comments, if you’ve found any of these ideas useful! 🙂
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