Hoards of Tourists Attract Touristy Stuff on the Charles Bridge
Perhaps the first thing to know is that Prague, Czech Republic, is known throughout the world as Praha. So when you are traveling in this region, don’t look for Prague because you won’t find that word used. Only Americans know it by that name!
Prague is an intriguing place, especially if you are a newbie to travel. On its surface it appears to be something special, but I find that its attractions are nothing special as they exist in other destinations in better iterations. Nevertheless, Prague is usually a cheaper destination for air travelers from the U.S., so it is a good place for travelers.
Prague promotes itself as a major beer capital, and the beer is, in fact, quite good. The Czech national beers are excellent, and the local brews give them a good run for their money, too. Some people will enjoy coming to Prague just for the pub crawls. There are many organized tours doing them, but you can easily go from one pub to another on your own. One interesting variation of the bar hopping tour is the beer bath, widely advertised to tourists. For a price you can sit in a bathtub of beer and drink beer at the same time. The drinking beer comes from a different container, so it’s all sanitary. Beer in Prague costs a little less than a cola, about 45 crowns, under $2.
The coffee culture, too, is quite big in Prague. You’ll find coffee shops everywhere, including the obligatory Starbucks in the tourist areas. You’re better off going to one of the many local coffee shops. A typical cup of straight coffee costs 50 Czech crowns, about $2.20. So, as far as coffee is concerned, the price isn’t too much different than in the U.S.
The Czech diet is heavily tilted toward meat, with mostly beef, pork and some chicken dishes. These dishes are usually accompanied by a starch, like potato, bread dumpling, or rice. The most common vegetable is sauerkraut which serves as a good digestive when fresh fruits and vegetables are generally absent from the diet. Czechs also love their ice cream in the hot months. Of course, Prague being an international city, you can find almost any cuisine here, from Indian to Thai.
One Prague specialty food is quite surprising and very reasonably priced: open faced sandwiches, adopted from Denmark. I didn’t see these elsewhere in the Czech Republic, but in Prague locals queue for them at exquisite looking streetside shops. Usually sold in shops alongside baked goods, which, in accordance with Czech taste for less sugar, aren’t as sweet as in the U.S., but they are nonetheless delicious. You will see a lot of “trdelnik”—a sweet, spiral of dough covered in sugar, spice, or filled with ice cream—being sold around Prague tourist areas. This made-for-tourist dessert is delicious, but not indigenous to Prague.
The shopping streets are generally set up so that there are entrances to inner courtyards somewhere along the street. Definitely explore them. That’s where you’ll find the real surprises…the best ice cream places, restaurants, and shops.
Of course, Prague is known for its old architecture in its “Old Town,” its Castle with the changing of the guard, Jewish town (Josefov), click here for more information, and the famous Charles Bridge. Prague also has a quirky graffiti wall devoted to the Beatles, a tourist attraction that speaks for itself about the dearth of things to see in the city.
All these standard tourist sites are well documented in tourist brochures, so I only note a few tips. The bridge has some remarkable sculptures, but avoid the shmaltzy sketch artists and snake handlers. The entire tourist area is walkable, but if you have time, see areas outside of Prague. Hiking and green spots around the city are very attractive.
Prague only scratches the surface of what there is throughout the Czech Republic and surrounding countries, all of which are accessible by excellent public transport. Don’t limit your visit just to Prague. For example, nearby Ostrava, click here for more information, is a great find. A fellow travel blogger loves Kutna Hora, click here for more information, just an hour away. For things to do outside Prague, check out this link, click here for more information .