Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Prague would be late spring or early fall, i.e., the months of May or September and October. The weather is pleasant and the clouds are clear with longer days and fewer tourists. The summer months of July and August can get quite warm and crowded with tourists (though not as crowded as the cities of western Europe). If you prefer fewer tourists and do not mind the cold weather, you could visit Prague during winter – December, January and February. You can hardly see tourists during these months but the days are much shorter (the sun sets around 4:30 PM) which means you won’t be able to see around much and you also need to dress appropriately.
Travel to Prague:
A single return air ticket from Chennai, India to Prague in the month of May will cost you roughly around Rs. 43,000 if you book them 2 months earlier. Prague being a less frequented city, it’s not surprising that the ticket prices are quite high. But like any other city in Eastern Europe, this would be your only major expense when travelling to Prague because everything else in the city is much cheaper when compared to the other cities of Europe. The cost of living is very less and one Czech ‘Koruna’ (Crown) is around 2.6 Indian Rupees.
An alternative lower cost travel is – to travel to Vienna, Austria and then take a bus to Prague (4 hours by Eurolines). A return air ticket to Vienna would be around Rs. 34,000 and a return bus ticket from Vienna to Prague would be around 45 Euros (Rs. 3200). So, the whole journey cost works out to Rs. 37,200 which is close to Rs. 6000 cheaper than flying directly to Prague! You can board the bus to Prague from the Vienna airport or from Vienna Erdberg.
You can get a room to stay from as low as Rs. 2500 per night if you book via Airbnb.
It’s best to stay in the Old Town quarter of Prague. Most of the tourist spots are in the Old Town and are of walking distance from each other plus, you get a beautiful view of the city and Charles Bridge.
Places to visit:
Charles Bridge: One of the most visited sites in Prague. It is a stunning Gothic bridge that crosses the river Vlatava connecting the old town to the lesser town. It is made entirely of sandstone blocks with fortified towers at each end.
Astronomical Clock: A medieval clock that adorns the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall in the Old Town. It is one of the cities greatest treasures.
Prague Castle: Originally, the Prague castle served as a seat of the Czech princes and kings, currently, it is the official residence of the President of Czech Republic. You can either opt for a long/short tour of the castle or simply admire the beauty of the castle from the outside. An interesting tip – According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the largest coherent castle complex in the world.
Old Town Square: A historic square located at the Old Town, Prague that has been witness to several historical events. Some tourist spots near the square – Old Town Hall, Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Baroque Church of St Nicholas, the Rococo Kinský Palace, the Gothic House at the Stone Bell and the monument to Jan Hus.
St. Vitus Cathedral: A gothic cathedral that bore witness to the coronation of Czech kings and queens.
Clementinum: A historic complex of buildings that houses one of the world’s most beautiful and majestic libraries. Houses over 20,000 books in halls adorned with Frescoes and historical globes.
St. Cyril and St. Methodius Church: The crypt of this church was the hiding location of the Czech and Slovak soldiers who conducted the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Operation Anthropoid. Another resistance member betrayed them to the Nazis, who tried to shoot their way into the crypt, then to flush the men out with water. When nothing worked and when the soldiers realized there was no way out, they committed suicide.
(Read the novel HhHH by Laurent Binet).
Petrin Tower: Resembles the Eiffel tower in structure though not in height. It is often called as Prague’s Eiffel tower.
Peschek Palace: Headquarters of Gestapo for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. It was here that the Czech resistance members were interrogated and tortured. Reinhard Heydrich established a court-martial here sending most prisoners to death/concentration camps. Don’t forget to see the plaque commemorating the Czech resistance.
Things to do:
Walk across the Charles bridge during sunset.
Day Trips from Prague:
Terezin Concentration Camp Memorial: Originally a prison built on the orders of the Austrian Emperor Josef II, the Fortress of Terezin was later converted into a Jewish Concentration Camp by the SS during WW II. It is located at a distance of around 60 kms from Prague and can be reached within just under an hour by bus from the Florenc bus station at Prague. A couple of buses run every morning to Terezin and likewise from Terezin back to Prague in the evening until 5 PM. Alternatively, you could also take a bus from Prague’s Holesovice bus station located in the North of the city. The buses back to Prague become less frequent after 5 PM. You could also visit the small Bohemian town Litomerice which is just about 5 minutes by bus from Terezin. You could then return by the late afternoon buses from Litomerice to Prague.
Cesky Raj: Popularly known as the Bohemian paradise, the Cesky Raj is located roughly around 100 kms away from Prague and makes an ideal day trip for hikers looking to take a break from history and immerse into nature and beauty. You can see a few castle ruins on your hike – Trosky, Hrubá Skála and Valdštejn castle – and also admire the ‘rock towns’ from several vantage points. To get there, you need to take a train from Prague central station to Turnov (leaves at 7:25 AM or 9:25 AM from Prague) and then board another train to Ktová. The hiking trail starts from the train station at Ktova and leads straight up to Trosky castle. Then follow the red-marked trail to Hrubá Skála and then into the rock city area on the yellow trail to reach Valdštejn. From there it’s an easy downhill walk into Turnov, where you can get a train back to Prague.
Kost Castle: Located on a hike trail from Sobotka, an impressive castle also in the Cesky Raj region. The best way to get to Sobotka is by bus from outside Prague’s Cerny Most metro station, it takes about an hour and ten minutes. A trail from Sobotka leads to Kost castle along a picturesque river valley. It’s also worth making a detour to the nearby village of Vesec u Sobotky which has some beautiful wooden folk cottages.
Tabor: A direct bus connects Prague to Tábor that takes around an hour and a half. There are many daily buses that connect the two cities. In Prague, the bus leaves from the Florenc bus station, and in Tábor you will get off the city bus station, which is located within a 15-minute walk from the Old Town. To get back, you need to board the bus from the city station at Tabor to the Florenc station back in Prague.
Dresden, Germany: Located 150 kms away from Prague, it takes roughly around 2.5 hours to reach Dresden. It is the capital city of the Eastern State of Saxony in Germany. It is a city that rose from the flames after it was wiped out during WW II by the Allied bombings. To reach Dresden, you can either take a bus or a train from Prague. A one-way bus ticket could cost you around 15 EUR (if you book them earlier) and a one-way train ticket to Dresden HBF (Main station) could cost you 20 EUR.
Lidice Memorial: A village around 22 kms away from Prague and site of the most gruesome mass assassinations. Almost the entire village of Lidice paid the price of Heydrich’s assassination with their lives.
Vienna: A 4-hour trip from Prague. There is a direct bus (Euroline) that leaves Prague from the main bus station and reaches Erdberg (Vienna). You can leave in the morning and return either late in the night or the next day. An additional tip, if you choose to go to Vienna and come back on the same day, you get a 50% discount on you ticket!
Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants to eat in:
There are plenty of Vegan/Vegetarian restaurant options in Prague. If you are a vegetarian, you will have absolutely no problem eating in Prague.
Krmelec Vrsky: For some vegan ‘Czech’ food
Plevel: For some vegan Pan-European and Czech food
Moment Cafe: For some vegan European and Czech food
Lehka Hlava: International, Western cuisine (Vegan)
Etnosvet: Awarded the ‘Best Vegetarian Restaurant of 2016’. European, Fusion and Czech cuisine
Apart from the above, there are plenty of Indian Restaurants in Prague (The Pind, Indian Jewel) where you can find some delicious Indian vegetarian food.
Traditional Czech Food to try – The Vegan way:
Vegetarian Czech dishes (Make sure no eggs are added if you happen to be a vegan/vegetarian who does not eat eggs)
Bramboraky – Traditional Czech Potato Pancakes
Bryndzove Halusky – Potato dumplings with Sheep’s milk
Kuba – Barley with Mushrooms
Smazeny Syr – English Fried Cheese. Usually served with potato or fries
Ovocne knedliky – English fruit dumplings (Sweet)
Apart from the above, there are loads of meat based Czech dishes that could be made vegan at the vegan restaurants listed above.
Souvenirs to get:
Marionettes and Wooden Toys at the Havelský Market
Czech crystal and Bohemian garnets (sometimes you could be tricked in to buying fake garnets. So beware). Ask for a certificate of authenticity before purchasing. Authentic gems could be available at Dlouhá 28 and Panská 1
A book written by a Czech author at Luxor (A bookstore with a wide collection of English books)
Prague’s spa wafers (Lázeňské oplatky) – A traditional and popular snack made in spa towns of Czech Republic and Slovakia. They come in several flavours. You can either buy them from local vendors or from grocery shops.
Czech. Don’t forget to install the offline version of Czech in you google translate app before you head to Prague!
Budget for one for a stay of 6 days & 5 nights:
Air ticket: Rs. 45,000
Accommodation: Rs. 2500*5 (If you take a private room)
Food & Beverages: Rs. 10,000
Miscellaneous: Rs. 10,000
Total: ~Rs. 75,000/person for an amazing holiday in Prague & Vienna! (This does not include the day trips. However, the day trips won’t cost you much if you use public transport. It can be covered under miscellaneous) You can easily cover at least 4 European cities in a span of 10 days.
P.S. Please read the novel ‘HhHH’ by Laurent Binet before travelling to Prague. A wonderful story set in Prague during WWII.