Prague is such a trendy sounding city and a hugely popular tourist destination that you almost forget it’s in Czech Republic. You almost forget to learn some Czech language. And you almost forget that they don’t use Euros there.
I was a little tentative about arriving in this foreign country Czech Republic, having no idea how to pronounce anything, with a mission to find an exchange office and swap a wad of cash for an even bigger wad of cash.
But as I arrived in Prague, I understood the civility of it. There was nothing to worry about; it was geared up for visitors meaning lots of people spoke a bit of English and were expecting wearied, confused faces.
As I checked into my hostel (more on this later) and went on a hunt for some lunch, I realised that I had imagined ‘Eastern Europe’ to be this desolate landscape of desert, and really Prague was another modern, advanced city with a rich and fascinating history like the one I just came from (Dresden).
I sat in the Old Town Square and ate a sandwich, contemplating how I would spend the next 3 days with my 2300 koruns (NZD$152). It went a little something like this.
Walking Tour - tip-based
Usually when I get to a new city, I check out the free walking tours and try do one the same day or the next day (before I do too much exploring on my own)! These are usually 2-3 hours long and you learn a bunch of history, get your bearings, make some friends and meet the guide who can answer pretty much any question you might have at the end (like what's a good price for a beer). You tip the guide at the end of the tour based on how valuable you think it was. I did a great one with Paya from Generation Tours.
Trdelnik – 120 CZK ($NZD8)
This is a traditional Czech dessert, also called 'chimney cake'. It's dough rolled around a stick, grilled and topped with sugar and walnuts - this one filled with ice cream and topped with Nutella! A bit of a touristy thing to do with a touristy price tag, but doesn’t break the bank nonetheless and is well worth trying. A plain one would be about 60 CZK (NZD$4).
John Lennon Wall - FREE
A crazily decorated wall hidden in the back streets, full of art relating to the Beatles' music and John Lennon and his time. The art began appearing in the 1980s when young Czechs wrote their grievances on the wall in opposition to the Communist regime and their collective movements gained momentum and were then labelled 'Lennonism'. Now it's a big symbol of peace and love; forever changing as new layers are painted.
Pub Lunch - 140 CZK (NZD$9)
Try some Pilsner Urquell, the 'original' from a Czech town called Pilsner not far from Prague, paired with a traditional dish like onion soup. If you back off the main streets a little you might find this for quite cheap, and include a tip.
Prague Castle & South Tower - 400 CZK all up (NZD$26)
The Castle complex is free to wander around but if you want to explore inside, you have a few different options of how to buy a ticket. I bought one for Circuit B (250 CZK / NZD$16) and then the South Tower (which I thought was included but wasn't, and I really wanted to go up...) for 150 CZK / NZD$10. The panoramic view across the whole city was stunning, and no time limit meant you could take time to absorb it all.
Spot the rats - FREE
On the Eastern river bank, to the left of Charles Bridge as you face it, there's a sheltered corner of the river. If you peek over the railings and down into the water, you might see a rodent swimming or walking along a ledge. This is worth seeing... some of them are about 3 times the size of a cat...! It's entertaining for a little while.
Beer Cheese & Pilsner dinner - 100 CZK (NZD$6.60)
This is a Czech speciality and a dinner like no other...! The deconstructed plate comes with a shot of foamy beer. I was told to mash everything up together, pour on the beer, keep mashing, and wipe it up with bread. The cheese is stinky with an intense flavour and it's very rich by the end of the plate - you'll need a Pilsner to wash it down with! Watch me pour on the shot of beer here.
Run at 7am - FREE
This is obviously not everyone's cup of tea but a walk at this hour will do the same! Seeing the city before the tourists wake up is pretty special; the only other people around are keen runners, photographers, and the odd bin-emptying truck. It turns out I did this on a Czech public holiday so it was probably quieter than usual, but you might still get most of the Charles' Bridge to yourself... and it's worth the alarm to see the water that calm.
Supermarket Supplies - 400CZK (NZD$26.50)
I travel from supermarket to supermarket because eating is a lot cheaper, healthier, and you can prepare it yourself. Plus you can't sustain eating out for 5 months so nailing good supermarket habits is a must: when you're not trying local delicacies, get your veggie intake, and do all your breakfasts yourself. This salad was incredibly inexpensive i.e. 100gram pack of Norwegian smoked salmon for NZD$1.72 and a mozzarella ball for NZD$0.43, topped with some chilli tofu. Hard to go past, right? Also refreshing after an afternoon trdelnik sits heavy on you...
Ice cream x 2 - 30 CZK each (NZD$2)
A one scoop ice cream anywhere around the Old Town centre is 30 CZK and you can pick from many flavours! I recommend chocolate (of course) and coconut...
Accommodation x 3 nights - 869 CZK (NZD$57 or $19 per night)
I stayed in New Hostel in Prague which I really enjoyed! It had a sunny outdoor area, a fully equipped kitchen, clean bedrooms and bathrooms, the most comfortable hostel mattress I've slept on in a while (even on a top bunk!) and a good social vibe. It was on the East side of the city, a 10 minute walk from the main train/bus station and out of the town bustle at night. I do recommend this: take a look at the pictures in the link if you're wanting to see a bit more!
I loved Prague so much that I wanted to explore more of Czech and headed to Brno afterwards, the second biggest city. This was incredible in its own way, but very different to Prague.
If you're wanting to visit Prague on the cheap - check out some of the things described here and remember #outsideisfree. You can generally afford more here than in other European cities and even if you have to stick to a budget (like NZD$50 a day including accommodation) you'll be able to have a blast.
Are you heading to Prague soon? Share this with a travel buddy and be sure to read it again before you arrive!