This was the only thing I saw in Prague that I was a bit disappointed by. Golden Lane is part of the Castle area, and there are queues to get in - and it's incredibly crowded inside (not helped by the crowds of people huddling around their tour guides). The buildings are mediaeval and very well-preserved, but to me it all felt a bit Disney-esque.
Unique Suggestions: The blue house in the photo was once lived in by Kafka. By all means don't miss out on seeing the street - the Disney thing may just be a quirk of mine.
Restaurants & Cafes on the Tourist Trail
Although you'll rarely have trouble, do be vigilant when eating and drinking in 'touristy' areas of the city. Many places in these areas have little to recommend them. The prices are marked up and their sole purpose is to make as much money as possible from tourists, without offering niceties such as atmosphere, service and good value. The main areas to be wary of are -
The area of Hradcany directly surrounding the castle and leading up to the Loretta.
Mostecka, the strip leading off Charles Bridge castle-side, and around Malostranke Namesti.
Karlova, the strip leading from Charles Bridge towards the Old Town Square.
Old Town in general, mainly along heavily trafficked routes.
They make the general assumption that tourists are wealthy, are not too concerned about how much they pay, and that tourists are unfamiliar with the currency and pay little attention to the bill. These are generalisations, but they are points on which tourist traps operate.
Unique Suggestions: Usually nothing worse will happen than picking up an extortionate tab for mediocre food and shocking service. But here are two examples that you should be wary of -
Example One: Check what you've ordered. On ordering a couple of glasses of wine, priced at 59kc each (still about double what you'd pay in a local wine bar), the wine arrives, accompanied by a jug of wine that the glasses have apparently been poured out of. There is enough wine in the jug for easily four more glasses. On asking for the bill, they charge you for the next wine up, priced at 99kc, claiming they're out of the cheaper wine. On top of that, if you're mug enough to top your glass up from the jug, you'll get charged for each additional glass, totting up to a potentially hefty bill.
Example Two: Check measurements and prices. Wine is usually served in 2dl glasses. The menus, however, sometimes show the price for only 1dl, so potentially you could get charged double for each glass you drink.
Always confirm prices and always check your bill. If you feel you've been cheated, argue the toss and don't be afraid to stand your ground. It'll get nasty, but only up to a point, and if they are ripping you off, they'll invariably back down.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative is simple. Although sometimes in Prague it feels like you can't have a shower without a coach load of tourists in there with you, it is still relatively easy to get away from them. They generally have a herd mentality and will follow the flow of the crowd, so ducking down side streets will often result in you finding far more charming, locally priced restaurants, bars and cafes.
- Budget Travel
~ Bureau De Change: Commission Charges ~
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.
Unkindly hotel staff
Every hotel, even if peak of the season, always has available rooms and it is the reason why I never book hotel room in advance. It is a trick that I learned from one old hotelier. Before traveling to Prague I was browsing hotels in Mala Strana and found this hotel "Atos" which has very good location.
There was available room in the hotel but not for the price of 42 euros, as written on the hotel's page, the real price of the hotel is 62 euros. Despite such a big difference in price I decided to take a room in the hotel.
First surprise for me was when young lady receptions was asking to pay for the room immediately. After I paid it she told me that the very next day I have to leave the room because she is expecting huge group of tourists and that room is already sold. Then I asked her to check for the room in some other hotel nearby, but she refused it telling arrogantly that have no time for it.
Unique Suggestions: No need to tell how bad I felt about it. I left my bag in the room and soon went out. Luckily, next to the hotel Atos is located hotel Mala Strana, so I went there and secured the room for the next day....
A 3 day card for Prague's main attraction can be bought but you really will be a tourist if you manage to see all these, mainly museums and galleries in 3 days. You really don't need to pay the extra fee to have transport pass for this time either. Prague is so compact and single journeys are ridiculously cheap anyway. Note too it doesn't include all the things that tourists would want to do anyway - for example the astronomical clock tower and town hall vist or Jewish quarter attractions.
Cost in 2004 was 490CZK plus an extra 200 CZK with transport - remmber single journeys are only 12CZK!
Check the website to see what the card DOES cover first.
best hot dogs
Prague(Praha) had some of the best hot dogs i've ever had.. and only about a buck (25 cz).. you buy them at the big hot dog stands in the town center.. but beware.... everytime i bought a dog they failed to give me correct change.. the workers would play dumb and give me less change.... this happened 5 times at least.... but the dogs are really good.. just be careful
Unique Suggestions: ya gotta get a hot dog... prague is full of tourist.. but i was one of them and had a lot of fun....
Fun Alternatives: the prague castle was one of my favorite places to visit int europe... must see...
- Study Abroad
- Castles and Palaces
Nepomuck Statue - Charles Bridge
Of all the statues on the Charles Bridge there willl also be a cluster of tourists around the one in the middle . This is a bronze of St John Nepomuk. You willl notice part of the bronze is rubbed shiny clean by th myriad of hands rubbing it for supposed good fortune.
Fun Alternatives: Its woth remembering that these statues ae copies anyway - 6 originals can be seen in the dungeon casemates of Vysehrad.
- Arts and Culture
Taxi = scam, but not always
SEE BELOW PLEASE
Unique Suggestions: When you have a heavy bag and do not know where your hotel is located, then you are forced to look for a taxi. Upon exciting the train station I noticed two taxi cars, both available, and I felt lucky. At the railway station I have changed my 100 euros and got a little over 1.900 crowns. The car was yellow and had a proper indication that it is a taxi. When I told the driver the name of the hotel, he pulled out a printed price list and showed to me the destination tariff to Lesser Town (Mala Strana). The price was 680 crowns. I had no reason to put that price in question because all looked very official.
In less than ten minutes taxi came to my hotel and only then I suspect that the price is excessive (it was more then 30 euros). I asked the driver to give me the bill for a ride but he said that he can not give bill to me and therefore I should pay 500 crowns only.
So what is a tourist trap? In Prague there exist a "wild" taxi service which brutally steal money from foreign tourists.
Fun Alternatives: Alternative is quite simple:
1. before arriving to Prague you should first learn what the exchange rate of the crown against the dollar or the euro is,
2. if the driver did not turn on the taxi-meter, or he doesn't have it at all, stop the car and get out.
Later on I did it twice and it works good!
Price Rises Imminent
Prague at the moment is relatively inexpensive but I expect this will change once the Euro is in place here shortly.
Another thing I noticed in the Prague Post on the airplane on the way home is that restaurant prices will most likely rise in May 2004 due to a new restaurant tax - something like 19% I think was mentioned. With that I'm glad I've been now!
Unique Suggestions: A nice touch in the restaurants when you get the bill is that often a leaflet about the restaurant is included for you to keep - very handy when you come to build those restaurant tips!
It can get pretty crowded up around the castle...
Unique Suggestions: Getting up really early and going out to beat the crowds is a worthwhile experience in Prague. Be on the street by 8am and head up to the castle district and enjoy the space and the uncluttered views. (You might even be able to slip into Golden Lane without being charged to see it)
The Astronomical Clock
I know that many people will not agree with me listing the Astronomical Clock as a tourist trap. The clock itself is beautiful and an amazing timepiece. But when the hour strikes the crowds get terribly large to watch the display. As you can see from this picture the crowds start gathering about twently mintes before the hour. As the crowd grows the excitement grows before the hour strikes. Then it happens. The little doors at the top open. The skeleton starts pulling his rope. And Jesus and the Apostle start appearing in the opened doors. Well in reality you have to look real close to see the skeleton moving. And its impossible to tell one apostles head from the other as they rotate throught the windows. In my opinion it was not very impressive.
Unique Suggestions: I do want to say that I encourge any tourist to go and see the clock. Like I said earlier, its beautiful and a real marvel to see. But if you have other things you want to see and your time is limited I would not bother waiting for the hourly show. If you really want to see it I suggest taking a table at one of the restaurants in the square and have a drink while you are waiting. At least you will not have wasted your time waiting.
Be prepared for a tourist city
Let's face it, If you are expecting anything but lost of tourists in the short break capital of Europe then you are being over ambitious. Just be prepared for the crowds and be sensible. Avoid the main tourist areas in the middle of the day and just take care of you belongings. We saw no evidence of the pick pockets but then again we took care. Prague is a capital city when all is said and done with all the characterisics of any city with over a million inhabitants.
Prague in General
I found Prague to be a huge tourist trap overall and rather disappointing. If you want to see a somewhat similar but really beautiful, authentic city with much more grandeur and just as much to do (if not more), go to Budapest - Prague is just sort of cute in comparison. Budapest is much more impressive and less touristy (in this respect some say it is like Prague was 10 years ago) and also easy to navigate.
I was really surprised at how touristy Prague was - everywhere you went in the touristic areas it was nothing but tons of overpriced restaurants, money changers waiting to rip you off and shops selling either crystal, marionettes, stacking dolls or assorted souvenier crap. Yes, the buildings were nice, but the whole thing felt really artificial. Capitalism has hit Prague big time and its era of magic is gone. It sold its soul to tourism and it seems that everyone is out to nickle-and-dime you.
I'd go back to Budapest repeatedly, but never again to Prague. I've read that others who have been to Budapest first, then to Prague, often feel the same way. Hungarian food is much, much better than Czech food too. I also felt that Budapest was more "romantic."
For a less touristy Prague experience, get out of the centre. On our shopping day we went to the largest shopping mall in Prague, right around the corner from the Andel metro station in Prague 5 - not too far away from the centre. We had a great day shopping (same stores as in Wenceslas Square, minus the tourist crap, and a big Tesco) and saw a movie at the fantastic cinema on the third floor of the mall, and didn't see a single tourist (this was in November, though). There were restaurants and cafes in and around the mall with normal prices. Very quick to get there on the metro, saw trams as well.
The hour at Astronomical Clock
Huge crowds gather some minutes before the hour to witness this unique moment. So many people looking up to notice every detail, that pickpocket are in paradise. Also, I've read a few testimonials about how disappointed people were: such a fuss about the clock and the hour, and then all is so quick that people comment "Was it all?”.
Fun Alternatives: So, we choose to follow the advice of a few and did the opposite. We planned our visit so that we were on top of the Tower at the hour. If you're in to photography forget the clock and go up the tower! Some of my favourite shoots of my Prague visit were made while up there.
The Golden Lane
There was really only one place that I did not care for in Prague--the Golden Lane (supposedly named for alchemists who resided in this lane in the 1500s). As far as I can tell the modern Golden Lane is merely a cluster of small tourist shops in tiny ancient buildings. And you have to pay admission for the priviledge of shopping at these cluttered and annoying shops.
At 50 crowns, the price of admission is not going to lighten your wallet significantly, but I don't like the idea of paying to shop.
Supposedly, Franz Kafka spent time in the Golden Lane and indeed there is a Franz Kafka Cafe. But there is very little to hold one's interest along this lane except for the knick-knack shopping.
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