You might expect a travel company’s blog to only talk up the positives of our destinations. But we’re realists. We recognise that there are some things best avoided, or at least approached with healthy caution. So, in no particular order, here are 10 things to avoid in Prague:
Wasting Time Waiting for the Cuckoo
The famous Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall in Old Town Square is a thing of beauty. The cuckoo is an impressive feat of engineering, considering its age. The size of crowds that gather on the hour, every hour till 10 pm, to watch it 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. You’re not missing anything, and in case you do, you could watch this video.
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. Decorated with statues, Charles Bridge 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. Detour south and cross at Strelecky Ostrov (Shooter’s Bridge). That way you’ll have the chance to snap some picture postcard photos of Charles Bridge itself with the Castle behind. Go in the morning to catch the best light. Kampa park on the Mala Strana side is a delight to walk through as well.
Classical Concerts Designed for Tourists
There are plenty of organizers taking advantage of the desire of visitors to Prague to attend a classical concert. Usually the concert will be a “greatest hits of classical.” The musicians are all trained artists but they’re not the symphony orchestra players you’ll hear at a proper concert. The venues, while historic, are not usually purpose-built concert halls.
Getting Pickpocketed on the 22 Tram
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. Pickpockets take full advantage of this, operating in gangs. They create 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 or an app like Bolt or Liftago but if you must take a cab off the street, read this blog post.
Shopping and money
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. Read our What to bring back from Prague post for souvenir shopping ideas.
Rip-off Exchange Offices
Most money exchange offices proclaim 0% commission and post very attractive rates. But an asterisk will tell you these only apply for “VIP customers,” or to those changing over €1000. 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. 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. It could be anything from forged notes to out-dated currency to currency from another country.
Food & Drink
U Fleku’s Pushy Waiters
At U Fleku the brewed-on-the-premises dark beer’s good. But the accordion music and pushy waiters trying to sell you overpriced shots of Becherovka detract from the appeal. For the price of 3 shots you could buy a half-liter bottle in a supermarket. 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 center. Don’t feel pressured into taking overpriced shots of absinthe, Becherovka or slivovice.
Wenceslas Square Sausages
Wenceslas Square is far from Prague’s loveliest 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 without a short stop at the top of the square. Here you can admire the National Museum building. You should also take the obligatory photo of the King Wenceslas on a horse statue. Or see the subersive version by controversial Czech artist David Cerny in Lucerna Pasaz, just off the square. The main thing to avoid here are the fast food klobasa stands. The sausages might seem like a good idea but they’re not as appetizing as they look. Want to try this classic of Czech cuisine? Do so at one of the many 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 while sitting on the square then by all means do. But realize you’re paying 2-3x more than you should be. One notable exception being Mincovna, though there are only a few benches outside. Want to eat where the locals do? Head to Karlin, a gentrifying neighborhood that’s a couple of tram stops from the center.
Cheap Czech Red Wine
Locals are known to mix red wine with cola. That might sound barbaric but there’s a reason. Czech wine comes in two varieties: cheap and largely not worth drinking, or quite expensive. 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. The climate just isn’t right for wines like those in Spain, Italy or California.
Try the white instead
On the other hand Czech whites can be perfectly drinkable. They have a character very similar to Austrian and German wines. 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.
Just because we’ve told you 10 things to avoid in Prague doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! We love Prague to bits and we’d love to help you plan a fabulous Central Europe vacation. Just get in touch and we’ll create a tour package tailored to your interests!