The Estates Theatre was built in 1783 and is one of the most beautiful theaters in Europe. This is where Mozart personally conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787.
The theater itself is very beautiful (it is difficult to see from the photo) and in a very good shape. That alone is worth a visit, if you are willing to pay a quite expensive ticket (not only for Czech standards) . We paid 1390CZK (almost 50 Eur each) and these were not the cheapest tickets
My first concern was the fact that the WHOLE attendance were foreigners. This is usually not a good sign. I guess I should have expected this, but still...
The problem was the actual opera. The acting was terrible, to the point where the actors were booed several times! The rythm was extremely slow and the whole experience was boring. Please note that I really like music and I was looking forward to seeing this opera.
Well, I would expect the acting to be good, after all this was were the opera premiered. I do not think they were having a bad night, they were just bad.
Note: If you are Italian or Italian-speaking you will find it insulting that they cannot get one whole sentence right...
Unique Suggestions: Go for the cheaper tickets...
Although a VITAVA RIVER BOAT CRUISE may sound like a great idea, be aware that it's not such a big deal. One would think you would be going all along the Vitava River and travel under the 18 bridges, making it a very lovely boat trip. In fact they just go a short distance and go under just three or four bridges. Since there is a little waterfall in the river, it restricts how far they can go. Hans and I watched in amazement as the boats just went around in circles and said "Is that it?" and were glad we decided not to bother. The boat trips are often part of the Prague City Tours.
First I should say I live in Prague and I also work as a tourist guide so I know what I am talking about. The Main Station (Hlavni nadrazi, abbreviation: hl. n.) in Prague is a place you should avoid or you should shrink the time you have to spend there to the minimum. It's dirty and above all, there are too many possibilities to swindle/rook you and in front of the main entrance there is a park with some food stands where homeless and drunk people are gathering.
Unique Suggestions: Here an example of my conversation with a person who was supposed to offer accomodation to the tourists (and tour operators like me). Me: "May I take a prospect of the hotel..." Him: "Why??? We make reservations." Me: "I see - reservations of hotels one has chosen on account of a prospect, right?" Him: "No, we offer accomodation, we don't give prospects of hotels." Me: "Well, then I'm going anywhere else." Him: "F*** you!"
There is nothing wrong with buying a bottle of water or a well packed baguette, but be careful if you want to take a taxi, make a hotel reservation, exchange money, simply: be careful if you have to trust to those people which are offering services there.
Fun Alternatives: Go out of the train, go through the terrific corridor to the hall, walk through the hall, take care of your documents, money, hand bag (hold the bag, not the strap belt), buy a subway ticket (18 CZK for five stations and no step over, 26 CZK for 75 minutes - January 2009), go down to the subway and with the subway to your hotel. DON'T MAKE THE PEOPLE THERE EARN MONEY AT THE EXPENSE OF YOU.
Please note that the Prague castel and the church is a prime tourist sight. Every single tourist who visits Prague always goes to the castle and also visit the cathedral and castle grounds.
However please read my tips so that you can minimuze from getting ripped off..
Unique Suggestions: 1. Only Buy the Short tour ticket... the long trip is almost no value with nothing worthwile in addition.
2. Even though they claim they do not accept credit cards... just say you have no cash and they will accept your credit card ( don't pay cash).
3. Hide your camera as they will try to sell you additional ticket for photography.. say no I will not photograph.... everyone shoots photos and they never check if you have a photography slip.
4. Do not fall for the audio guide.... its costs more that the entry ticket... just print detaild from the web and you don't have to folk more money out.
5. Go in the evening if you just want a view and its free to roam the grounds.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative... just follow the above tips and the Prague castle is a must see.
This part of Prague is essentially only for tourists, local Czechs do not frequent any of the businesses in these areas. The areas I am talking about in particular are Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti), Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti), Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) and the streets that wind in between connecting the three areas. The restaurants here are extremely overpriced, as is the crystal and almost all of the other tourist items. You will be accosted to go to black light shows (a rip off - essentially a puppet show or soft-core pron show under a black light) and various cultural concerts in churches around the city (this are nice if you like the music and you can book all of these things through the tourist agency one block south of the bottom of Wenceslas Square but often if you just show up at the show it is much cheaper or even free). Also watch your pockets in these areas because even though Prague is not known for crime, pickpockets have started to show up in these areas.
Unique Suggestions: If you go to Prague you have to see these areas, but try to go during an off season, during the summer they are absolutely packed and really unpleasent. If you have to be there in the summer, try to go early in the morning or later in the evening, avoid the afternoon and early evening rush. If you want to eat while you are there, just walk 2 or 3 blocks off either side of Wenceslas square and watch the prices drop. If you want to buy crystal I highly recommend buying it at Karlstjen castle about 35 minutes outside the city by train, but if you cannot get there, try to avoid the shops on the direct route from Wenceslas to Old Town Square.
When you are there, walk up and down Wenceslas Square, and take the winding streets between it and Old Town Square and then farther to Charles Bridge. Try to be in Old Town square at the hour to see the clock, check out the church of Tyn and the Old Town Hall (where the is) and when you cross the Charles Bridge rub the Statue of Jan Nepomuk for luck and you will be sure to have a great trip.
Always CHECK YOUR RESTAURANT BILL. Tourists sometimes get cheated. It is customary to charge for that basket of bread and butter they casually place on your table. We paid 60 CZK or $3.00 CDN or $2.50 US extra most of the time. If you know about it, it's not such a big deal, but if you're not aware, it's a little annoying.
Sometimes, not always, they automatically include service - usually 10%, which is acceptable, but again check your bill.
And don't forget, 19% VAT is also included in your bill. No wonder we didn't find Prague restaurants that much of a bargain.
Unique Suggestions: The accompanying picture shows a Restaurant with a clearly written Menu Board, which we really appreciated and often were attracted to, especially for lunch. The different menus of the day specified what you received and what you had to pay. There were usually three or four options. Again these small but cozy little restaurants, were usually in side streets away from the touristy areas.
The restaurants with open-air seating on the Old Town Square tend to be overcrowded and overpriced. Just walk a few metres away from the square and you'll get much better value and have a more relaxing meal and drink.
Better still, cross the Charles Bridge, as the restaurants on the other side of the river are generally even better value.
The open-air restaurants on the Old Town Square were very overcrowded and by looking at their menus, also very overpriced. If you like to people watch while you eat or drink, this is the place for you but prepare to pay. Better yet, you can just head for the little streets that lead away from the Old Town Square and find little restaurants that I think are much cozier and better value.
We found the average price for a coffee/soda/beer to be 50CZK or $2.50 CDN or $2.00 US.
If you need to change any money whilst in Prague watch out for Bureau De Change's in the Old Town, we didn't realise but Gaz changed some money and we got an awful rate along with a huge commission charge.
Unique Suggestions: Shop around the town and find somewhere which offers commission free currency exchange and also better exchange rates. We found one on the outskirts of the town and got a much better rate with 0% commission too.
Fun Alternatives: The best thing to do to avoid having to shop around is to change your currency back at home before you travel. I changed mine at work... i work for Thomson and its commission free along with excellent rates too.
Generally in Prague, there are a few restaurants (used to be much more) that have different prices for the English menu vs the Czech menu. Some still try to take advantage of the "rich westerners' that come to town.
Unique Suggestions: Generally the ones that aren't ripping you off have both Czech and English on the same menu. Either that, or you can ask for both menus, the Czech and the English.
Fun Alternatives: If you find this happening to you, just leave and go to another place. Generally those types of places don't have the quality of food other places have anyways.
There are several competing companies from different areas of the river in the town center = where you board the boat can have a significant effect on the price you pay for the same cruise. We fell prey to individuals dressed as sailors as depicted at the Old Town entrance to the Charles Bridge and paid at least 30% more than for a similar trip from Kampa, reached from stairs at the Little Quarter side of the bridge. This is a great little outing (see Travelogue #1 and tip), and offers a much needed rest from walking and walking, but I guess we should have walked a little further than we did.
many of the restaurants in the tourist areas of prague try the appetizer trick on unsuspecting tourists. thanks to VT i was aware of this scam. a friend of mine and i visited a restaurant in the little quarter and there was a small bowl of peanuts on the table. when we sat down. my friend reached for a peanut, i told her that we would have to pay for them. i asked the waiter to remove them. he came back with two small plates of cheese and tomatoes which i waved away. i could tell he was annoyed with my refusal. i checked the menu and peanuts were 50 crowns and the cheese and tomatoes were 75 crowns. what a ripoff ! if you want free appetizers go to milan italy, bars there basically throw appetizers at you and don't charge you a penny !
Wenceslas Square was a place that I had always associated with the people of the country making a stand against oppresiveness. I've seen the pictures of the late 60s and the images on tv of '89 have stayed with me as somewhere I must see. Having spent a few days in and around the old town and castle area we decided that we must take the opportunity to visit the square. It must be somewhere in a capital city I suppose but the large open quadrangle edged with characterless hotels and chain stores that can be seen in any town centre was unexpected. Needless to say the operation involved 1. in to square 2. take one picture and 3. get out again. I suppose the shopping arcades are more attractive than most towns but I'm not really a shopper I'm afraid.
Unique Suggestions: I never made it to the top end where the museum is, seen here in the picture. If you have to spend time here take this in and the statue in front.
Fun Alternatives: if you are stuck for time don't bother at all just stick with the old town.
OK, not ALL the taxi drivers are out to fleece you, but just assume they are and you won't be far wrong. They will seriously inflate their prices at the mere whiff of a foreigner.
A taxi from the airport into town can cost between 600-650 koruna, which is over 50 times what the locals pay going by bus. A taxi to your hotel door is naturally much more convenient and to most people I suspect it's worth the price.
Fun Alternatives: Budget travellersmight like to know that a bus ticket of a mere 12 CZK - a paltry 0.4 Euro - will get you a bus to the closest metro station, from where you can take the metro into the town centre or to the stop nearest your hotel, all on the same ticket (they're valid for an hour). Just remember to stamp your ticket on the bus as soon as you get on - inspections happen frequently and it's so cheap to get around, fare-dodging is insane.
oh yes... you're meant to buy a ticket for your luggage too, although I forgot that at the time.
See my Transportation Tip for more info on buses etc.
In old town square, there are lots of people trying to get you to go on boat cruises. Most are terrible sounding.. but not Jazz Boat. It seemed cool, so we signed up for like $25USD and went. It tuned out to be one of the best nights we had in Prague, and we met some crazy girls and had a lot of fun taking pictures of prague' by sunset, drinking pitchers of beer, cheep chanmpagne and doing shots.
The boat leaves from the north pier on the Charles (right before it bends East), goes down the river, then back up, live jazz the whole way.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure you sit up on the top deck - where the table clothes come off and the pitchers and rowdies flow freely.
Bring lots of film - i took some of the most beutiful photos of my trip there.