For the third time in as many years, I returned to Czechia. That fact alone is probably going to tell you what I am not-so-subtly trying to convey here: Go there. It’s a great country with friendly people, mostly unspoiled and with plenty of different sceneries and travel experiences to choose from.
One doesn’t have to use too many words to state one obvious fact: Prague is an extremely beautiful city, easily among the top five in Europe. One great thing about the Czech capital is that you can reach all the main attractions which you’ll have to take photos of in one day’s extended walk. Consequently, there’s no need to talk about the Old Town Square here or the Castle or the Charles Bridge – they have all been covered in countless blogs, travel reports and so on. Coming to Prague for the second time gave me the opportunity to re-visit these sights (and be impressed by them once again). It also made me pick up some good advice for first-time visitors which I want to share here and which I hope will be useful for planning ahead if you visit for the first time.
- You don’t need a car. It will cost you if you bring one.
This is an important point particularly for American visitors. European cities, especially the historic ones, haven’t been built with cars in mind and Prague is no exception. If you drive around town, you will spend half of your time looking for a parking lot and the other half shelling out money to pay for it. Also, if you stay at a hotel in the old town area, chances are the driveway to the hotel’s parking lot is so narrow that you can hardly push a bike through.
- Invest in a three-day metro card
Well, only if you stay longer than one day, obviously. The three-day ticket costs approximately 10 Euros and is good not only for the metro, but also for trams and buses. The metro system is easy and very useful and nothing to be scared about, even if you’re not used to urban mass transportation. The stations are clean and there are only three lines, each of which has only two directions, so orientation is really easy. Said 10 Euro ticket greatly expands your opportunities for hotel selection, too, because even if your hotel is far away from the old town area, you can get there in less than ten minutes.
- Dive into the local cuisine
The Bohemian cuisine doesn’t have much of a lobby outside of Central Europe and admittedly, it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite. The food is hearty and heavy on the meaty side and caraway appears to be the main ingredient for everything that leaves the kitchen. Prague has an abundance of restaurants, but it’s not necessarily the fancy ones you should look for. Authentic local cuisine often doesn’t come with much decor and the best foodie experiences are often found outside of the main tourist perimeter. In the winter months, try one of the hearty soups that can be had everywhere. Also, check the visitor bureau’s website for foodie events as the city hosts a number of food festivals all year long. On Saturdays, visit the farmer’s market at the river embankment Rasinovo (near the Dancing House) to find some great ingredients and snacks.
- Be aware of tourist traps
Duh! As if you didn’t know that, right? Right. Still, it can’t hurt to keep it in mind. Prague attracts millions of visitors and those, like everywhere in the world, attracts people who like to rip them off. That probably sounds a bit harsh because really all you need to do is applying common sense. Keep your bags closed when walking around. If someone bumps into you or comes waltzing to you, hold on to your valuables. And don’t do money exchange with people on the street offering you a great deal. I hear especially Asian tourists fall prey to this scheme in which what you get isn’t Czech crowns, but Bulgarian currency or something similar with significantly lower value. Also, if you’re on a European round trip and only have a few hours in Prague, it’s often not even necessary to exchange money as a lot of stores and restaurants accept Euros as well – just ask before you assume they do. But to summarize: It’s really not difficult to stay safe in Prague, so don’t worry.
- Travel Photography in Prague
First off, let me assure you that every photo you’ll take in Prague has been taken dozens of times before (on that same day) and you just aren’t very likely to be the first one with a unique photo taken in Prague’s main tourist areas. Also, eliminate any fantasizing about taking a shot of the Charles Bridge without hundreds of strangers on the picture, it won’t happen. So while you should of course still take photos of the main attractions, this is the place where you should play a bit with editing options. See below for an example: Prague looks great both in sepia colors and when you push the saturation lever all the way up. It’s easy to get creative in this town, so try unusual angles, difficult light or strange motifs here. If you visit the Castle, take a wide-angle hi-res panorama shot of the old town stretching out in front of you, these offer great opportunities to single out certain buildings that you can’t really take photos of when you stand in front of them. If you can plan ahead accordingly, walk back into town at dusk, because Charles Bridge and the river embankment look stunning in this kind of light.
- Prague, Czechia
- Travelled there: February 2018
- Stayed at: Courtyard Marriott, Lucemburska Street