You might expect a travel company’s blog to only talk up the positives of our destinations, but we’re realists and just like anywhere we recognise that there are some things best avoided, or at least approached with healthy caution. In no particular order:
Wasting time waiting for the cuckoo
The famous Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall in Old Town Square is a thing of beauty and the cuckoo an impressive feat of engineering, considering its age. The size of crowds that gather on the hour, every hour till 10pm, to watch it do its thing would make you think it’s worth hanging around for. If you don’t happen to be in the Square in time to catch it, don’t worry about it, you’re not really missing anything, and in case you do, you could always watch this video of it.
Charles Bridge in the middle of the day
For most of the day from late spring to early autumn, Charles Bridge is heaving with crowds. It’s easy to see why, its decorated with statues and just drips history. It’s also the quickest route from Old Town to Mala Strana. However it’s one of those things that is far better when you have it (almost) to yourself. Go early in the morning, or later at night and you can truly appreciate it.
Classical Concerts designed for tourists
There are plenty of organisers taking advantage of the desire of visitors to the city to attend a classical concert. Usually the concert will be a ‘greatest hits of Classical’ from a few composers. The musicians are all trained, skilled artists but they’re not the symphony orchestra players you’ll hear at a ‘proper’ concert and the venues, while historic, are not usually purpose-built concert halls with immaculate acoustics. Read this article about classical, opera and ballet in Prague for more detailed advice on where to see the real thing.
Getting pickpocketed on the 22 tram
Whilst it’s not the only place pickpockets operate (such as other trams in the city centre when it’s busy or in crowds on Melantrichova and Karlova streets, Charles Bridge or Old Town Square) the 22’s route, particularly the stretch from Karlovo Namesti to past Prague Castle makes it a great way to see a lot of the city in one go, and the pickpockets take full advantage of this, operating in gangs, creating a distraction while one of them swipes your phone, wallet or purse.
Getting ripped off by taxis
Even Prague’s mayor was overcharged when he went undercover as an English-speaking tourist a few years ago. We recommend Taxi AAA but if you must take a cab off the street, read this blog post.
Tacky souvenir shops
Russian Matrioshka dolls aren’t Czech, neither are Ushankas or knock-off Champions League football team shirts. Better to visit the shops selling genuine handmade Czech wooden toys as well as the good crystal shops. Read our What to bring back from Prague post for some souvenir shopping ideas.
Rip-off exchange offices
Most money exchange offices proclaim 0% commission and post very attractive rates, which an asterisk will tell you only apply for ‘VIP customers’, or to changing over €1000 worth of cash. The real rates that apply to your transaction probably are a lot worse. Play it safe and go to a bank or one of a couple of places we’ve tested ourselves and found to offer good rates, particularly if go to their websites and print out the coupon that entitles you to the VIP rates for any amount. Those companies are: Alfa Prague and Broadway Change. And NEVER exchange money on the street, you don’t know what you’re going to get – anything from forged notes, to out-dated currency to currency from another country, like Hungary – there are approximately 10 Forints to the Czech crown, so what might look like a high value note, really isn’t!
Food & Drink
U Fleku’s pushy waiters
At U Fleku the brewed-on-the-premises dark beer’s good and the tour might be worth a look but the accordion music and pushy waiters trying to sell you overpriced shots of Becherovka (for the price of 3 shots you could buy a half-litre bottle in a supermarket) detract from the appeal. If trying different beers is what you’re after, you’ll pay less in Prague Beer Museum or go to another microbrewery such as Pivovarsky Dum. You’ll find a few suggestions in this post about Czech breweries. The warning about pushy waiters applies throughout the centre, don’t feel pressured into taking overpriced shots of absinthe, Becherovka or slivovice (or any of the other -ovices).
Wenceslas Square Sausages
Wenceslas Square itself is far from Prague’s loveliest square (it’s also very long, for a square!) but as the scene of pivotal moments in the Velvet Revolution there are a few things to recommend it. A visit to Prague isn’t quite complete with a short stop at the top of the square to admire the National Museum building (currently closed for renovation and no re-opening date set, so possibly another year to go) and take the obligatory photo of the King Wenceslas on a horse statue (there’s a ‘subverted’ version of this by controversial Czech artist David Cerny in Lucerna Pasaz, just off the square). The main thing to avoid here is the fast food klobasa stands – the sausages might seem like a good idea but experience tells us they’re not as appetising as they look. If you want to try this classic of Czech cuisine far better to do so at one of the seasonal or farmers’ markets.
Restaurants on Old Town Square
The majority are tourist traps with overpriced beer – no Czech would eat here. If you want to watch the world go by whilst sitting on the square then by all means do, but realise you’re paying 2-3x more than you should be.
Cheap Czech red wine
The locals are known to mix red wine with cola. That might sound barbaric but there’s a reason for this. Czech wine comes in two varieties – cheap and largely not worth drinking or quite expensive – priced similarly to a bottle of decent imported wine. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to splash out on a Czech red, bear in mind it won’t be as full-bodied as what you might be used to, particularly from Californian, Spanish or Italian wines – the climate just isn’t right for that. On the other hand Czech whites can be perfectly drinkable, with a character very similar to Austrian and German wines, and recent efforts by Czech wine producers to improve the quality of their wines is paying off. The wines are usually indicated with a grape variety; Rulandské šedé is Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Veltlínské zelené is Gruner Veltliner (a German variety), Ryzlink Rýnský and Ryzlink Vlašský are varieties of Reisling. Other varieties are named the same or similar to the varietal names you will recognise: Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Tramin (Traminer) and Muškát. If you get to choose, always pick a bottle that shows a year, ones without are more of the table-wine level.