Prague is a maze of cobbled streets and hidden bars selling the best frothy brown stuff. The ancient architecture and unexpected gardens beckon you and draw you that little bit deeper into the city and almost every perspective of the city offers the traveller a glimpse of its elegant and proud beauty. The laid-back attitude of the locals doesn't seem to match the highly thought-out structure of some of the city's aesthetics, but it works - a rich bohemian and artistic city that has moved on from its speckled past is one that is ever-increasing in popularity amongst travellers keen to soak in the culture.
Where should I stay in Prague?
Prague, like any major European city, has a myriad of accommodation to choose from with many options within walking distance of the town centre. Peak season is between April and October, so expect room rates to flex accordingly, and as the increasingly popular celebration-city break holiday market spreads, an influx of tourists for New Year will cause prices to go up too.
There's a movement spreading throughout Prague for the 'boutique hostel', cheaper hostels which can rival local hotels with their cleanliness, décor and amenities. The Charles Bridge Economic Hostel is such a hostel, with beautifully authentic interiors, wide open quarters and rooms equipped with modern comforts such as a kitchen, TV, free Wi-Fi, free coffee, free towel service, free service and free shuttle bus service to the airport and back. Located right next to the Charles Bridge, private rooms go from £44 a night with the opportunity to walk across the historic and picturesque bridge most mornings.
On a street leading up to Prague Castle, Arpacay Hostel is recommended for those after a peaceful night's sleep and a great view. Situated in a beautiful modern, renovated historical building, the hostel offers amazing views over Lesser Town, and has a selection of comfortable private and dorm rooms kitted out with lockers, comfy mattresses, big pillows and individual reading lamps. Rooms are bright with plenty of space and the hostel itself includes a stylish lounge, free WiFi, an all-you-can-eat breakfast for a mere ‚€3, a well-equipped kitchen, common room and a courtyard balcony. A bed in a dorm costs £8 a night, and a private room is around £14.
Alternatively, if a boutique hostel isn't to your taste, or if you just fancy a bit of an experience, why not try a 'botel'? Placed well on the river with incredible cityscapes of Prague itself, it might not take you long to become convinced. Boat Hotel 'Matylda' offers single rooms from around £47 a night, including breakfast.
How do I get around in Prague?
Public transportation in Prague is great and really convenient. Although some of the more historic parts of the city are inaccessible by public bus because of the noise and air pollution they cause, trams and the city's metro system serve these areas well. Prague is a very walkable city, and popular sites are quick and easy to walk between. However, with most of the streets being cobbled, it proves difficult for more elderly or disabled travellers to get around effectively.
It's also worth noting that crossing a pedestrian crossing whilst the light is showing a red man is illegal - if you are caught you will be charged a fine of £30.
Trams in Prague usually take the more unusual routes that aren't otherwise covered by the metro, but they do also cover the city well. Both trams and buses run earlier and later than the Metro making it easy to get around at all times of day or night. It's worth knowing that the ticket system in Prague is based on the time you spend travelling rather than the route travelled. Children get a 50% discount on all tickets. Current ticket prices as of July 2014:
24CZK (70p) - 30 minute ticket
32CZK (94p) - 90 minute ticket
40CZK (£1.17) - 120 minute ticket
110CZK (£3.22) - 24 hour ticket
310CZK (£9.10) - 72 hour ticket
Tickets can be bought at the ticket machines, tobacco shops, convenience stores, Public Transit offices, bus drivers, via SMS.
You can travel down the famous Vltava (Moldau) river which inspired such writers and composes like Smetana and Dvorak. The Prague Steamboat Company offers sight-seeing cruises which give passengers the opportunity to take in all of the cityscape. There are also a few smaller passenger ferries which take people across the river, integrated into Prague's public transport tariff.
Where is the best place to eat?
Czech cuisine is largely based around lunch, with the food-y focus typically being on pork or chicken with starchy side dishes such as dumplings, potatoes or fries. Fish and beef isn't as popular, but these days it does make an appearance on menus. Czech goulash isn't as spicy as its Hungarian counterpart, and is basically a rich beef stew served without vegetables, but with dumplings as the side dish. Another dish is svícková na smetane, a cut of beef tenderloin that has been pot-roasted and is served in a cré¨me sauce that is sweetened using carrots, it is usually topped off with cranberries and a dollop of whipped cré¨me.
For traditional Czech cuisine: U Kroka
Offering dishes for between £2 and £13, U Kroka offer its patrons traditional goulash, tender meat dishes which fall apart upon touching your fork and some famous sauerkraut which usually goes down particularly well with the regulars. For large portions which provide you with an authentic taste of the country for an affordable price, eat here.
For American style food, BBQ, burgers and pub grub: The Tavern Restaurant
The Tavern is often recommended by those who have had 'the best burger of their life' here. Order the Mushroom, Red Onion (caramelised) and Swiss cheese burger with fries, or just a simple pulled pork in a bun. Two burgers and three beers comes to an incredibly cheap £18.
For coffee and cake: Tricafe Restaurant
Located right in the heart of Prague, and near to the Charles Bridge, the coffee this place offers is great beverage selection from frothy coffees to milky coffees to hot chocolates with marshmallows and freshly made lemonades or smoothies. Why not add to your drink with a slice of cake, cupcake, quiche or tart? Tricafe offers gorgeous carrot cupcakes with buttercream, apple pie, West Bohemia onion quiche with wild mushrooms and pumpkin soup with apples and gingerbread, all sourced using local, fresh produce.
Entertainment in Prague
The Czechs love their beer. And Czech beer is often regarded as a national treasure. Take some time out to find some of the hidden little bars down the cobbled streets where there isn't a tourist to be seen and immerse yourself in the laid-back drinking culture that Prague is known for.
The Prague House of Photography plans to mix classic modern Czech photography with works from Josef Sudek and Jan Saudek and more contemporary up-and-coming artists and trends. The Leica gallery aims to exhibit the best local art photographer and photojournalists.
If you pass over the tacky tourist traps and its customers stripping on bars, crumbling interiors and widespread stimulant use, head to the hipper art bar 'Cross Club' which has a relaxed, raw and authentic attitude about it. Filled with artistic types, you'll find live music or a short film festival.
Prague Castle dominates the city's skyline, perfectly illustrating the power the city once had. Dramatic architecture and indoor art mean that even the most jaded of visitors will pause in awe of its grandeur. Jazz at the Castle is a popular cultural event, should you manage to catch it.
Alpha Travel Insurance and alphatravelinsurance.co.uk are trading names of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN306537. tifgroup is trading name of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc registered in England No. 3220410. tifgroup; all rights reserved. Registered Office: 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UY