An Amateur’s Guide to Prague
Good afternoon, and welcome to 2018.
Ok, it’s been 2018 for a hot minute now, so instead, welcome to the first Amateur’s Guide of 2018! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and the start of your new year. I’m writing this at the end of April, despite visiting Prague mid-March. It’s fine, this is a long blog post and takes a lot of time so you know what you’re in for when you visit Prague as an amateur too.
Before I dive in, I was very concerned that this would be my first trip that wasn’t with parents, out of Scandinavia. I think Scandinavia is one of the safest places you could visit, hence why I started there first. Now, Prague is pretty high up there on the safe city list too – but you know me! So, I researched the heck out of staying safe during my trip, and I need to say thank you to nobody else except Janek at Honest Guides. Janek (and cameraman Honza) were born and raised in Prague and know it inside out. They have tons of videos on how to stay safe, how to not get scammed, how to use public transport, and what to see (and not see) while you’re there. I watched their videos religiously before I left. If you get anxious like I do about visiting a new place, I would highly recommend their channel!
In & Around
Like most condensed cities, Prague is so walkable that it would be criminal not to. But of course, like so many, walking for such a long length of time is a luxury, and Prague public transport has got you covered. There are buses, trains, metro lines, and trams all at your disposal at no expense. Prague public transport is one of the cheapest in Europe, and despite the private shuttle from the airport straight to hostel only costing £7 each for a 40 minute journey, when I realised using the bus then the metro cost £1.50 each, my stingey heart could not help itself.
But it wasn’t just about the cost, it was also about the experience. I’d like to feel like I am an independent person, or at least growing into that goal I’ve set for myself, but travelling like the locals (despite having a monstrous size bag on my back) is something I want to be able to accomplish – it’s exciting and new and proves to me more about myself than a lot of things I do while I’m travelling.
So, are you gonna try it? Let’s have a go!
Unlike other European cities I’ve visited, the metro lines in Prague do not stretch far enough to the airport, but that certainly isn’t a problem. Of course, from the airport, most people are making their way into the city centre, and so most other forms of transport caters to that large demographic. Now, you can get a coach, a shuttle, or a taxi to wherever you want, however if you wanna be savvy, save some money, and not be scammed by taxi drivers, I would do what I did, and that’s take a short bus ride to the metro line you want to go to.
The buses are right outside of arrivals/departures and go to both terminals. You’ll arrive in terminal 1 if the country you’re flying from isn’t in Schengen, and from terminal 2 if it is. To save a lot of my readers some time; the UK isn’t in Schengen! There’ll be a bus going to either Zlicin, metro line B (yellow) or to Veleslavin, metro line A (green) On Google Maps it says it takes 35 minutes to Vleleslavin, but it really doesn’t. It took…10? Janek has done quite a few videos on the buses and metros in Prague and how to validate tickets, where to buy tickets etc. Once you’re at the metro, it functions like most in Europe, so you’ll recognize how it works!
While I felt like this trip I did a lot of stuff, I infact did not do a lot of stuff that didn’t involve ‘seeing the sights’. We visited Prague during a cheaper, quieter (it didn’t feel quiet!) time, and that meant a lot of places we wanted to visit; museums, art galleries etc were closed. So while it’s great to go ‘off season’ where it’s a little quieter and the flight in is cheaper, it’s still beneficial to go during the summer, where you can count on everything being open.
Luckily, we had the weather on our side, and so outdoor activities were not completely struck off. It was cold, but the sun shone and the sky was clear, which meant a trip up to Prague Castle. I had barely researched what to actually do in Prague, favouring ‘how to stay safe’ and ‘how not to get scammed’ and so when Prague Castle was recommended and only a ten minute walk away from Charles Bridge, we headed to it on our first day.
And it’s goddamn beautiful.
As with most castles, it’s up a big(ish) hill, so again not great for someone who has mobility issues. There might be a tram up to it, and taxis may be able to make it up, but the main access was up some large steps that had an inconveniently placed wall so you couldn’t see the view as you were going up. Thankfully, there are many viewing points once you get to the top, but I’ll talk about that in the next section.
Next up is the Lennon Wall. Nestled down a side street across the water from Olde Town is a whole wall covered in beautiful, artistic graffiti that symbolises peace, the end of war, and looooove. It’s a John Lennon Wall, what did you expect?
This place is absolutely free and easy to get to, but of course it can sometimes be full of tourists who like to just walk straight through your photo taking. You’re at a tourist attraction; it happens. There is also a bagel place, called Bohemia Bagel, pretty nearby and it’s crazily affordable, and the bagels are amazing!
Due to it being off season and an unlucky time to go, it meant that the astronomical clock was covered in scaffolding. I wasn’t too excited about seeing it; I’d seen pictures, I got the gist. So each time my friend and I would walk to a new place that we found was closed or down for repairs, we would find a bookshop. I love visiting bookshops in new cities, especially internationally, where I can find foreign language editions of my favourite books and then talk myself out of buying it every time. However, one bookshop in particular was such a lovely experience that I’m including it in the ‘doing stuff’ part. If you’re even in Prague just for the afternoon, make sure to stop by Globe Bookstore & Cafe. It’s a cute English language bookstore, with one floor and a mezzanine full of books of all kinds. At one point we were the only customers, and it was so nice to read and eat somewhere where we weren’t queuing or constantly shouting over the massive tourist groups. I’m tellin’ ya, they really try and ruin your holiday. DON’T LET THEM, and visit places a little further away.
No matter where you stand in Prague, you’re going to get a fantastic picture to take home. Even if you’re low on the ground or high up on a hill, the city is far too beautiful to not want to take pictures. I was blessed with some beautiful weather, along with some great advice from Janek about where to take pictures – with some having barely any tourists.
The place I recommend the most is on Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge is the most popular tourist spot in Prague, with massive tour groups and stalls and buskers everywhere. It’s very difficult to take a good photo unless you get there super early. Fortunately for me, I stayed in a hostel three seconds from it, so it was a quick stroll along before breakfast at around 8am. Any time after 8am is busy, so if you want a nice one on the bridge with little to no tourists, get up early!
However, the absolute best view you can get is also right on Charles Bridge, with no tourists blocking your way. But how??? Let me show you the picture I took whilst there:
This was taken from one of the towers that stands either end of the bridge. I think you can enter into both, but I knew for a fact that you could on this side, overlooking Prague Castle. It cost about £2 each, and you could stay up there for as long as you wanted. We went up in the middle of the day, so peak tourist time, but it’s as if no one knew about it. There was a couple who were up at the same time as us, but they left after a while and it was just me and my friend. We were in the centre of Prague at peak hour with no tourists around us, pushing to get a good spot for a picture. It was cold, and not at all accessible to people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues (there are a lot of stairs!) but if you can, I would highly recommend this 360′ view of Prague.
As mentioned in the other section, Prague Castle is also a great place to visit if you’re looking for stunning views of the cities. It’s atop one of the highest points in Prague, and, whilst crowded, I was still able to ~get that shot~ on what felt like a beautiful summers day (especially after climbing all those steps).
Where to Stay
This trip was undoubtedly the start of something different for me. While in Stockholm and Copenhagen, I’d stayed in Generator Hostels, a worldwide chain that prides itself on basically being a cool, hip looking hotel for the price of a hostel (and obviously, dorms). They are a safer option, despite still having it’s problems, for newer travellers, especially solo women. However, with no Generator branch in Prague, led to a new experience. My friend and I wanted to stay in a hostel with more character, with more of a feel of where it’s actually situated. Generator did have the feel, because it’s based on Scandinavian decor and we were in Scandinavia at the time. But staying somewhere like that while in Prague didn’t feel quite right.
So, we picked The Charles Bridge Economic Hostel. A very affordable place situated, you guessed it, right next to the Charles Bridge. It also acts as a tourist information centre, so the staff are also incredibly helpful on arrival and throughout your stay. We stayed in a female dorm as usual, and compared to other hostels, the rooms are huge. High ceilings, large windows, with no bunk beds in sight. While I understand that bunk beds are the norm in hostels, it was kinda nice just having a single bed to yourself with enough space to lay your stuff out. Though be mindful, if you do stay in a room without metal bunk beds, the beds are old and made of wood, which meant I fell through the bed frame during the night. It was funny at first, but then a bit rubbish when I couldn’t sleep due to fear of it happening again. I ended up moving beds and a member of staff came in to fix it. Just be careful!
The room had it’s own bathroom, with a spare in the hall which was meant for the other dorm, however we were free to use it and we even let the girls in the other dorm use ours when their’s was busy. Our two dorms acted like a house, fit with a hallway, kitchen and living space. The living space was a bit pointless, and had a tv and a computer monitor with no computer and no aerial to actually watch channels. However, the kitchen was fully functional and there were locks on all dorms and the front door. Some people had trouble closing the front door behind them and it meant anyone from other ‘complexes’ could walk into our kitchen/communal space, but there was a locked gate to get to the front door, and then locked doors to our dorms. So even though leaving the front door open was a pain, it didn’t make us feel any less safe!
I would, without a doubt, visit Prague again, Despite being there for two full days, it really didn’t feel like enough. There are so many monuments, museums, and art galleries that we missed due to the season, despite feeling like the whole world was with us. I’ve heard that Prague in the summer is also incredibly beautiful, and there are plenty of places to grab a beer outdoors in beer gardens and parks. So if that’s something you love about visiting another city, then summer in Prague is perfect for you.
Me? My summer trip will be AMSTERDAM. Get ready for a cute, instagrammable hostel, bike rides in countryside, and so many pictures of canals.