Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Budget Traveller's Guide To Prague

Following my Budget Traveller's Guide on Amsterdam, I am now going to share some travel tips on Prague. 

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, and located right in the heart of Europe.
Therefore it is within easy reach from most starting points in Europe. How to get there leaves you a couple of choices: plane, train and bus are all available. The cheapest possibility by far is to go by bus. From Munich, there are daily bus lines available. Expressbus, the one we took, takes you there via Regensburg and Pilsen. The ride takes approximately 5 hours, and on board you get free wifi, plugs, coffee and even a film to watch! Be aware that during the weekend the bus can be very crowded. At the full price, a one way ride is 33€, but if you book in advance it can cost as little as 19€.

Accommodation in Prague is fairly easy to find. There are lots of cheap hostels available, and you can use for your search. We stayed at the Chili Hostel, which is located perfectly central in Praha 1, so everything is in walking distance. In a 8 bed dorm you can sleep for 4-6€ (it's more expensive on the weekend) per night. Unfortunately, our beds were very squeaky and with thin mattresses. It wasn't too bad, but something to keep in mind if you need a good rest. The 2 bathrooms are not ensuite, but have to be shared with 3 other dorms. There is a kitchen at your disposal, as well as wifi, computers and lockers. The staff and atmosphere were alright, even though it could have been a little more personal. All in all, the value for the money is extremely good as it's so inexpensive.

Now, let's talk about what to see and do in Prague!

Prague's main attraction lies within its architecture. Both the Old Town District, and that of the castle have the most beautiful houses to see. Ranging from baroque to art nouveau, the houses all come in different styles and make it very hard to pick the prettiest. To take in this amazing part of the city, all you have to do is walk and look around - free and easy to do!
One special part of Prague's architecture is the Dancing House, or, as it's also called, Ginger & Fred. It was design by Frank O. Gehry and Milunic, and portrays a dancing couple, hence the nickname. Its deconstructivistic appearance makes for an interesting turn in the otherwise rather antique façades. Decide for yourself whether you find it fitting, but you can't deny it's something special!

One of Prague's most famous attractions is the Charles Bridge. It crosses the Vltava and connects the Old Town District with the Castle District. It is by far not the only bridge in Prague, but the prettiest and most famous. It is framed by huge sculptures on both sides that make it very nice and interesting to cross it. Also, you get a great view over the river and the historic town. Lots of people are always on the bridge, so try to go later at night when there aren't as many tourists.

The whole city is located on multiple hills. Prague also has lots of parks, and most of them are situated on said hills. That means you have a bit of climbing to do, but the great overviews you get from up there are well worth it. It really looks great when you can look down on it, so I highly recommend you pay some parks a visit.

The castle grounds and gardens are also free to visit. You can't go inside the castle without paying admission, but you can roam the area and have a look at everything nonetheless. And those castle grounds are really great to look at! They're very pretty, but somewhat classical and spacious. Keep in mind that the gardens aren't open until April, which was why we unfortunately couldn't see them.
If you want to go inside the castle, there are different combination tickets available. Their prices range from 10 to 13€, but if you're a student (or under 26), you can get in for half the price. And the tickets do not only include the castle itself, but two amazing churches on the property, and the Golden Lane, where the most famous little houses of Prague are located.

Museums are located all over the city, with typical ones like the national gallery, and more specific ones such as the Alfons Mucha Museum. Entrance fees at those places are relatively affordable and normally range from 7 to 12€.
A special aspect is the Jewish Museum. It's admission is quite high with 18€, but it includes the admission to all synagogues and the old Jewish cemetery. If you don't want to pay this fee, you can still have a look at all the synagogues from the outside, which is also what we did. And they are definitely worth a view! The Jewish Quarter is located in the heart of the old town.

The Czech currency is the Czech Koruna, or czk. One czk is approximately 0,03€, and 25czk make 1€. That's why their prices might sound extremely high, but really aren't. Paying 150czk for a dinner seems to be a lot, but it's just 6€. There are lots of ATMs at your disposal, which give you a great exchange rate wherever you're from. Also, euros are often accepted and converted at an sometimes even slightly better rate. It is advised, though, not to change at unofficial places.

When it comes to food, there are lots of places for you to try traditional Czech cuisine. Its traditional food consists of - not unlike to that of Bavaria - warm and somewhat heavy dishes such as goulash, pork or dumplings of all kinds. And to accompany the Czech food, beer is always a good choice!It might not be something for everyone, but it's definitely worth a try. The place we went to is called u medvíku. It is not only a restaurant, but a hotel and an old beer brewery. It has a very rustic interior, but also comfortable and the food was great. Prices are generally very low for a good meal, at around 5 to 8€. What is shown in the pictures is potato dumplings filled with pork cubes, served with red cabbage and sauerkraut. It was delicious.
Also important are the trdelníks. They're sweet pastry rolls that are rolled in sugar and cinnamon. You can get them pretty much everywhere all over the city, and they're very tasty!

Prague is also well-known for its great nightlife. From pubs to bars to clubs, everything is available. You can party in one of Europe's biggest clubs with 5 floors, or have a pint a bit off the touristic parts. Going out is especially popular because it's very inexpensive. You can already get a pint of beer for as a little as 1€!

As far as shopping is concerned, Prague offers the same chains other European countries also have. They are mixed with shops from all kinds of countries. You can shop at the British tesco, Costa or Marks&Spencer, the German dm or the Austrian Billa. Groceries are very cheap and therefore a simple meal costs close to nothing if you shop at supermarkets. All these different shops offer a huge variety, but at the same time mean that you're less likely to find typical Czech stores, at least along the main hotspots in the city. In contrast to the cheap supermarket prices, those at clothes chains and the likes are just the same as in any other country.

I can highly recommend to visit Prague. It's an amazing city that has lots to offer, and you can already enjoy it just from walking around. Prague is a very affordable city, which makes it great for all you budget travellers out there. What I would keep in mind is that Prague, or at least its city centre, isn't too big to require a very long stay. Especially if you're mainly looking for free stuff to do, you will run out of things to look at after a couple of days. But that also means that there's no need to hurry to see everything. You can take your time and enjoy your stay!

How do you guys like Prague?

xx, Misch

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