Czech it out: Exploring Prague in a Week

The eleventh stop on our nine week, fourteen city summer vacation across Europe brought us to Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic.

20 years ago Prague was an up and coming budget tourism destination full of culture and history where one could escape the higher prices of western Europe. Today, it still has the charm of the good old days but with slightly higher price tags compared to much of the rest of low-cost central and eastern Europe.

While in Prague, we visited the usual mix of castles, churches, and historic town squares.  I was surprised at how many tourists were jam-packed into the center of the historic center of town. Maybe it was due to our visit falling in the middle of the peak summer tourist season? Fortunately we found a quiet escape just a mile south of the historic Old Town section of Prague at the Vysehrad Fort.

Here’s a summary of our trip in Europe so far.  We started our journey in Lisbon, Portugal, then flew to Malaga in southern Spain before taking a bus to Granada, Spain.  After Granada we visited Seville, Spain.  From Seville, we flew to Milan on a super cheap two hour Ryanair flight. After a two hour train ride from Milan, we arrived in Venice.

Then we took a four hour bus ride to Ljubljana where we spent a week exploring the city and the nearby caves before we headed an hour north to the edge of Slovenia to Podkoren to explore the Soča Valley and river and the Julian Alps.  After Podkoren we visited Salzburg, Austria with a side trip to Hallstatt and the Dachstein ice caves.  Leaving Salzburg, we drove two hours west to Munich, Germany. From Munich, we took a four hour bus to the northeast and crossed the border into the Czech Republic where we soon entered Prague (where our story picks up today).


Old Town Prague

We spent several days exploring the areas in and around “Old Town” Prague.  There’s so much to see and do down here for people of all ages. The Prague Castle is just across the river from Old Town along the Charles Bridge.  The Jewish Quarter lies just to the north. To the south is the expansive Wenceslas Square and the “New Town” of Prague.


Typical street scene


Town square. Great place to take in the soul of Prague. Street performers, crowds, food stalls, and old buildings all around.


But watch out for the Prague Ham Scam. It’s sold by the 100 gram portion. A plate might cost USD$15-20 for what looks like the same $0.77 per pound ham we buy around Easter time here in the US (in other words, nothing special!).


Anyone fancy a carriage ride?


Oldest functioning astronomical clock in the world.


Crossing the Charles Bridge. Note the thick crowds all around.


Klaus Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter


Old Jewish Cemetery


View of Charles Bridge and Old Town from across the river (and yes, those are yellow plastic penguins).


Naked giant babies at the Kampa Contemporary Art Museum


We found this gem of a playground in the Franciscan Gardens nestled in a quiet courtyard between rows of buildings in the heart of the city.


Charles Bridge and Prague Castle at night


Prague Castle

The main attraction in town is the Prague Castle. It’s free to enter the castle grounds however there are various admission charges if you want to tour the churches, palaces, and museums within the castle complex.  We chose not to tour the interior buildings after seeing very similar places earlier during our trip.

If you only had a week in Europe and wanted to “do Europe”, this one castle complex could just about do the job for you since it has a little bit of everything.


The “wrestling titans” guard the entrance to Prague Castle


St. Vitus Cathedral at the center of the castle. The kings and queens of Prague were coronated here.


St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle as seen from the river (Charles Bridge in foreground).


View from the Prague Castle overlook.

Vysehrad Fort

Near the end of our week in Prague we discovered this wonderful retreat. It’s only a mile from the busy tourist core of Prague but it feels like it’s out in the countryside.  The subway stop for Vysehrad Fort is only five minutes from the entrance gate, so you know you’re still in the city.

The expansive grounds of the fort complex measure almost a half mile across.  Exploring the entire site would require several miles of walking and at least a half day.  After spending most of our time walking the crowded streets around Old Town and the Prague Castle, the Vysehrad fort’s relative tranquility was a welcome relief.

Like Prague Castle, admission to the fort grounds is free with additional admission fees to enter the various buildings within the complex.

We followed a path along the top of the 50 foot tall walls around the perimeter of the fortress to begin our exploration.

Within the fort complex, we found a church, a cemetery, a fort-themed playground, a vineyard, and several other interesting buildings.  We also found a beer garden with very reasonable food and drink prices and free bathrooms (both of which were rarities in the tourist core of Prague).  If we make it back to Prague in the future, I’d definitely like to spend more time exploring and relaxing in the Vysehrad fort.


View from Vysehrad looking south along the river. Notice how tall the walls are on the left of the picture.


View looking north from Vysehrad along the river Vltava toward Prague Castle on the hill.


A marina in the river next to Vysehrad


Crazy playground at Vysehrad fort. Nice place to relax and unwind for the kids!


Vysehrad Cemetery. Famed composer Antonin Dvorak is buried in this cemetery.


Lodging for a week in Prague with Airbnb

At $50 per night, we found an amazing deal through Airbnb for our one week stay in Prague.  This was by far the best value for accommodations while in Europe. The apartment had three bedrooms and could have slept eight people comfortably (ten with the fold out couch).

The apartment was about two miles from the tourist district of Prague but directly on a tram line and a short walk from the subway (either of which would take us directly into the tourist section of town).

Our Airbnb host went out of her way to make us feel at home.  She picked us up from the train station in her tiny Skoda compact car (with four people riding in the back seat).  Once we arrived at her apartment, she offered us plenty of food and drink in the form of a fresh baked cake, a bottle of wine, a bottle of fruit juice for the kids, and a six pack of local Czech beer.  A previous Airbnb tenant left a bottle of absinthe and a bottle of marijuana-infused vodka in the fridge which we sampled more than once during the remainder of our stay.

We even received an authentic cultural experience while staying in her apartment. She notified us ahead of time that the hot water would be out of service for the first 24 hours of our stay due to the annual boiler/hot water heater maintenance.  We would definitely have hot water by the evening of day two, she said.  Cool, no problem, just skip the shower on day one, right?

This outage stretched on for a few more days as the boiler-workers hammered and chiseled away in the building’s innards.  Our Airbnb host was kind enough to bring a large wash basin for us to bathe in using stove-heated water.  Our Airbnb host was heartbroken, but I reassured her that we would persevere. I joked that “it’s just like old Communist days, huh?”.  She nervously laughed in response that yes, this is exactly what it was like. They promise one thing and many days (weeks, months, years) later nothing has happened with no explanation other than “we are working on it”.

The building was obviously a relic from the Communist era with ample modern capitalistic upgrades, yet the maintenance regimen remained stolidly Eastern Bloc.

By the end of day three the hot water returned for a while before another brief outage. By day four the water was nice and hot non-stop and we thawed out after that.  In the end all was good, but there were a couple of very uncomfortable showers mixed in to the first few days of our stay in Prague.

In brighter news, the neighborhood where we stayed was great for families. The apartment building fronted a courtyard with a small playground that was popular with other families. One minute away was a much larger city park where we let our kids explore on their own for an hour or two. Within two blocks we had an ATM, a wide selection of restaurants and bars, and a small grocery store.

After seeing the crowds and higher prices in downtown Prague, I’m glad we stayed a short distance away from all the action!  It was a nice break (cold showers notwithstanding).


Spacious living room. We dined at the table in here some days.


The master bedroom with plenty of storage and a couch.


Dining room and kitchen. Small but functional. Love the dishwasher in here!


Kids’ bedroom with three beds.  Two kids slept in here; the third kid slept in the third bedroom.


Small balcony. We dried clothes out here and kept an eye on the kids when they were playing on the playground in the courtyard.


If you want to enjoy the personal connection that comes with Airbnb rentals while saving a lot of money, click here to take $40 off your stay.


Food in Prague

We ate out in Prague more than any other city during our nine week trip. Part of that was price. Restaurants were rather cheap where we stayed.  For USD$4-5 per plate we were able to get a full meal including sides at a local Czech restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host.  We also visited a Chinese restaurant and found prices to be about the same at $4-5 per plate.

Our typical daily routine was to wake up late and make some coffee in our Airbnb.  Then head out at 11 am as soon as the restaurant opened to pick up four take out plates full of different dishes that always included some version of potatoes as a side.  We would eat those goodies for an early lunch, then pack a small sandwich for a late afternoon snack or meal while we explored downtown Prague all afternoon.  Restaurant prices were significantly lower near our apartment two miles out from the center of town. In the middle of the tourist district, prices at local restaurants doubled or tripled.

The food from the local Czech place was very different from the cuisine we experienced everywhere else in Europe. So much flavor and a distinct influence of spices and seasonings from elsewhere. Turkey? The middle east? India? Hearty and filling food from wherever it drew its influences. We returned to the same local Czech place again and again for their varying specials of the day.

Local Czech food totaling about USD$18. Stewed beef, spicy cream sauce on pork, potato pancakes, cream on chicken, and a curry-like chicken dish


Spicy pork “Krakonos’s Fire”, roasted chicken, creamed spinach with stewed pork, sausages


Fried stuffed chicken; pork stewed in a spicy cream sauce

How did we know what to order at the local Czech restaurant? Google Translate was our friend.

Each day the “Svejk” restaurant a block away from our apartment offered a long list of daily specials.  Unfortunately for us, the specials menu was only in Czech.  Each morning we would screen cap the Czech version of the menu and paste it into Google Keep (a cloud based Evernote type app available on desktop and phone).  Then view the web page through Google Translate and screen cap the English translation.

We pored over the English version of the menu we created to identify the 4-5 dishes we wanted to try that day.  I highlighted the Czech names of those dishes in Google Keep.

After figuring out what we would order, I grabbed my phone and headed to the Svejk restaurant with USD$20 worth of Czech Koruna in hand.  I showed the waiter the highlighted Czech version of the menu items we wanted on my phone as I struggled to pronounce them in Czech.  The waitstaff spoke some English but probably not enough to order the dishes in English.


Our high tech method of ordering with Google Translate


For groceries, a Tesco Express was within walking distance.  It was rather small and offered a variety of groceries somewhere between a convenience store and a regular grocery store.  Fortunately the Tesco had milk, yogurt, some meats, and plenty of fresh produce plus a fresh bakery.  We made do with groceries from that store most of the week.

Further away was a full-sized Lidl grocery store.  At the beginning of our week in Prague, I made the short trek on the tram down to the Lidl with my two daughters tagging along to help carry the food back home.


Letting the kids make spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner.


How to get kids to go to the grocery store with you: promise them fresh baked pastries! This whole bag of goodies was about USD$1.


Getting Around Prague

Since we weren’t planning on leaving Prague during our stay in the Czech Republic, we chose to skip a rental car and rely on transit.  It’s incredibly easy to get around Prague by public transit.  Three subway lines connect most of the city, and tram routes criss-cross the remaining areas. The outskirts of Prague are served by city buses but those city buses do not go into the center of the most tourist-oriented parts of town due to congestion.

From our apartment, the subway was about seven minutes away while the tram was about three minutes.

Prices for a single 30 minute ride were about USD$1 for adults and $0.50 for kids with age five and under riding free.  In total, we paid $6 for a round trip downtown and back for the whole family.  In general, we would head downtown then explore on foot for several hours before heading back home.

The transit system sells all day passes for $5.00 per person (half off for kid’s passes).

We probably would have opted for a rental car if we planned on visiting destinations outside Prague. However a rental car is completely unnecessary (and more of a hindrance) when visiting Prague proper.


Thoughts on Prague and the Czech Republic

We loved Prague. It’s no longer a “hidden gem” given how many tourists we encountered in the tourist center of town.  In fact, the hectic crowds were a bit of a downer.  We visited in the middle of summer so I suppose we have to accept crowds in such a beautiful and historic city during peak season.

Toward the end of our stay in Prague we discovered the Vysehrad fort and enjoyed the relative lack of crowds and quieter scene just a mile outside the core tourist area.  I kept thinking what a shame it was that we didn’t visit Vysehrad at the beginning of our week in Prague so we could spend more time there.

As I write this, it’s been about nine months since we were in Prague and I have since discovered tons of places in the city that we zoomed past or missed completely while in town.  However, we still managed to get a great feel for the place during our one week in town.

I would recommend four days at a minimum to catch a glimpse of what Prague has to offer. A week would be better.  With two weeks, you could see most of the highlights in Prague and take several day trips to some amazing places in the surrounding countryside.

Other than the crowds in the center of town, we didn’t have any complaints. The food was great. Beer was delicious. Prices were low to moderate. Transit was easy. Summertime weather was awesome. The people were very nice.  I would definitely visit again and hope to spend more than a week in Prague next time around.


Have you ever been to Prague or the Czech Republic?  What was the highlight of your trip?


Check out the fourteen part summary of our nine week European family vacation:


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  1. Awesome pics Justin and looks like an amazing time. I’ve been all over Europe but never did get to Prague yet. It’s one of the major cities that the Nazis didn’t wreak havoc on when they took it over, so much of the architecture from before WW2 still stands. Those pics show that it is indeed impressive!

    1. That would explain all the impressive architecture! We visited several places in Germany that were basically leveled during WW2 and you could see bullet or shrapnel marks on many remaining surfaces.

  2. My wife and I have visited Prague and I think we’re the only ones in on the planet that don’t absolutely love it. It may have been when we were there there were a couple of incidents. We were on a tour when a homeless man came out and tried to assault our tour guide. On top of that it was rainy and cold everyday with a gray overcast. So we don’t have super fond memories but I’m guessing if we went when it was sunny and warm that it might change our minds 🙂

    1. I didn’t really love it the first few days. It was cold, drizzly, and overcast too (like in the 60’s in middle of July!!). Much colder and it would have been unpleasant. And the crowds in the center of town were disappointing. Still very beautiful overall and once we got out of the tourist area, the crowds disappeared. Next time we go back, I think we’ll focus more time and attention on places outside the tourist center of town.

  3. This entire series makes me want to do geoarbitrage/slow travel even more :D. Can’t wait until I FIRE!

    That ham scam is terrible! Didn’t know Google translate could do pictures, that’s pretty useful.

    Definitely beautiful architecture in that city.

    1. Prague (a mile or two outside the center of town) would be a good spot for Geoarbitrage I think. The unlimited ride transit pass is $25 for a month from what I remember. Food+beer is cheap whether you do restaurant or groceries. Also great proximity and transport links to the rest of Europe.

  4. My wife and a friend and I spent time in Prague back in 2016, and we really enjoyed it. I wholly agree about getting OUT of the tourist center — the Charles Bridge is the only place I’ve ever felt legit concerned about the location of my wallet. Everywhere else is still quite a gem. We enjoyed the views and cheap beer and great weather at Letná Park, and while it’s only a few blocks south of the bridge, Atmosphere Pub had great food & drink (three mains and six drinks set us back $35 or so).

    A tip: seek out Becherovka Lemond and bring a liter back home. It’s like an herbal limoncello and it is DELICIOUS. Haven’t found it outside of Prague.

    1. Letna Park was one of those places I had bookmarked but we never made it to. Next time! I almost dismissed Prague as an overrun tourist destination till we went to Vysehrad just outside the tourist area. Where we stayed 2 miles out, it was really quiet and very reasonable prices. Also quiet even though we were on a main street.

  5. Those playgrounds look so fun. A town a few hours from us has a really neat pirate ship playground and our son now knows the town whenever we visit because of that one spot.

    I love your positive attitude about the hot water problem – it wasn’t the host’s fault, but it would have been easy to want to take it out on her. Instead, it sounds like you all took it in stride as part of the adventure.

    1. We’re always on the lookout for cool playgrounds for the kids. Where we stayed in Berlin (the next destination after Prague) had 2 cool playgrounds within one block and each had some cool things to climb on or play on (one of which was super creepy but fun).

      The lack of hot water was a bummer but you make do. If we let that ruin our vacation or force us out of the Airbnb we would have had a worse time overall I think. So you make do!

  6. Loving your family travelogue, Justin. Not making me any less interested in pulling the FIRE trigger.

    The menu trick with Google translate is a clever one. I would be standing there, typing every foreign letter into my phone. I’ll store that one in my memory bank for future use.


    1. I felt pretty clever with that google translate trick. I’ve always heard to avoid restaurants with English menus because it’s probably not authentic. Worked well in this case!

  7. Great trip report RoG! Loved all the photos. It looks like a very charming “old world” city.

    This trip was all last summer, right? Where are you guys planning to head this summer?

    1. Yes, July of 2017. This summer we’re headed to the Bahamas for a month. Oceanfront condo where we walk out directly onto the 1/2 mile of undeveloped beach. It’s coming up in under 2 months!

  8. I had some of that ham last November. It was delicious, very juicy. I don’t remember it being anywhere near the price you said, but work was paying for it anyway, so I didn’t care!

    1. I can’t remember the exact price, but I remember it would have been very expensive for a large serving and it really looked just like the stuff we get on sale at Easter and Christmas. Which is delicious and juicy of course because it’s made out of pork 🙂 But I couldn’t part with any real money for “just” roasted ham when there’s so much better to eat (like prosciutto sandwiches 🙂 ).

    1. I think it’s still a bargain vs Germany and western Europe outside the tourist core of Prague. But in the center it seemed more expensive or the same as big city Germany. From what I gather it used to be a huge budget destination and I think that’s no longer true unless you get a couple miles out like we did.

  9. Very timely post – my husband and I are heading there in early October. I’ve tried to learn a few basic Czech phrases but I think Google translate will be my friend.

    1. I got please and thank you down pretty well and tried to learn how to count to 10. One of the lower numbers (4 I think) is impossible for native English speakers. Good luck and have fun!

  10. I loved my visit there a few years ago. My tip for the Charles Bridge is go at dawn if you’re there in the summer. The bridge was empty, except for a handful of people who were doing the same thing, which made it all the more beautiful.

    1. Good idea! I’m curious how many people were day trippers or only there for a few days from elsewhere in Europe. One family I talked to on the subway were only in town for 36 hour during a long layover on their way back to a Scandinavian country.

      1. I once booked myself a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam, flying from Bordeaux back home to the U.S. It was a great way to see another city. Also, easy to do frugally because you’re not there long enough to spend money on ridiculous stuff.

        1. Sounds awesome! We booked 3 nights in Amsterdam and bought return tickets from there because it offered the lowest cost departure taxes of anywhere in Europe. We saved several hundred dollars which almost paid for our ridiculously expensive Amsterdam Airbnb. So we basically got a 3 day trip to Amsterdam at a steep discount due to tax savings!

  11. Glad to hear you liked Prague! My wife studied there for a semester in college and then later came back to teach english for half a year, although this has been over ten years ago now. We also enjoyed visiting Vysehrad and loved it. It’s great you were able to find a local restaurant off the beaten path that had standard Czech food at non-tourist prices. I don’t know if it’s there anymore, but there used to be a restaurant called U Homeru (at the Homer) not too far from Namesty Miru that had a Simpson’s cartoon theme. It was all pretty hilarious and it was just a standard Czech place frequented by locals.
    Of course the beer in the Czech Republic is great, and after returning back home I found that some Czech beers are available in our local grocery store, such as Pilsner Urquell, Budjejovicke Budvar, and even Staropramen sometimes. But I was sorely disappointed to find they don’t taste nearly as good. I think it’s the freshness thing, beer is not going to be as fresh after traveling that far. So I don’t buy them here. Another reason to go back!
    When you go back, you should go to the countryside and see some of the small towns and other castles. It’s all beautiful. Also I recommend going to eastern Czech Republic (Moravia) which also has a lot of quaint small towns and castles, and is known for its wine. I spent some time in Olomouc (pronounced Oh-loh-moats) which has an old town which looks very similar to Prague, except the city is only 100,000 people instead of 1 million, and there are hardly any tourists. It was a great place to stay for a while.

    1. I’ll have to refer back to your comment when we return! Since we only had a week we decided to take it easy and stick with Prague. If we had more time we would definitely take more trips into the countryside. That town of 100,000 similar to Prague sounds awesome. We stumbled into some places like that while in rural western Germany where we stayed about 15 minutes outside of a mid-size town in what was a tiny farming village more or less.

  12. We absolutely loved Prague. You missed one thing, I think, the beer! Prague has some awesomely wonderful CHEAP beer. And the Mendovina Mead is also a favorite. But the beer. Wahoo.

  13. What a beautiful trip! I haven’t been to Prague yet, but we did visit Budapest in January. I love the old world feel and history of these kinds of places. It looks like you guys got some good weather. We had to deal with rain and cold most of our visit, which is to be expected that time of year. It was still a great experience though.

    1. It was a little chilly and rained some while we were there but overall it was perfect since the first few weeks of our trip it was 90F or hotter most days. I’ll take 60’s and overcast over 90F+ any day of the week.

  14. Prague is definitely a favorite city for me. And affordable (well at least 10 years ago anyway.

    My favorite recommendation if you ever go the Czech Republic again is Český Krumlov. UNESCO Heritage site with a wonderful castle.

    Under 3-hour train ride from Prague

    1. It’s losing the “budget” destination status as it grows more popular but I imagine it’s still an incredible value vs Paris or London (which we didn’t visit on this trip). And Český Krumlov was on our list to visit if we got bored with Prague and wanted to do an excursion. It looks pretty amazing!

  15. Ohhhhhh loved your article and pix. Spent nearly two weeks in Prague last summer.. and saw everything you mentioned plus some.

    Loved Kampa and Vysehrad and the CASTLE complex. The price of admission for the castle cover’s two days and we spent so much time inside and outside the complex in the gardens and museums. And the concerts were wonderful too.

    You have me dreaming of goulash and beer.

    Oh take me back.

    1. I remember the castle admission being a good deal since it got you in several different attractions for under USD$30 or so I think. Didn’t realize it was valid for 2 days – even better value!

  16. At first glance I thought…oooh, I’ve been there! The common place red-topped buildings of Eastern Europe through me off. We didn’t make it quite that far north… I think the farthest we got was Bratislava. Do they have Kerfola in Prague?

  17. I went to Prague for a few days in May last year and really enjoyed it. It’s such a beautiful city, at least the parts that I went to. We also had an Air BnB which worked out really well.

    Maybe difficult because of the differences, but I’d be interested to hear what were your favourite places from all the cities/countries on your trip.

  18. My wife and I did the same places in Portugal and Spain last year on a road trip after we finished hiking the Camino do Santiago, but we look forward to returning to Europe in the near future to check out the other countries. Your travel articles are very entertaining reading and I really enjoy that your blog includes more than finances (although I enjoy those too).

    On more thing, I’ve been reading your net worth updates for quite some time and don’t believe it’s been mentioned who you are using to get high speed internet for $15 a month. Share if you get a chance.

  19. Ahh the good ol’ Prague Ham scam. Can’t believe they expect people to fall for it when there are so many good food deals all around. We ended up eating out all most every meal in Prague and places in Poland because it’s almost as cheap as cooking. And some of the best Asian food I ever ate in Europe.

    I’ve never seen the Charles Bridge that crowded! Or the castle. Wow, either summer is really crazy or Prague is no longer a hidden gem. Oh well. Looks like you guys still had a good time though. Shame about the hot water in the Airbnb. I love those little European apartments that are dirt cheap and conveniently located. Always miss that when we go back to North America.

    1. I think you were the ones to tip us off to the Prague Ham Scam initially. Funny to see it in person 🙂 All the food from street vendors and tourist restaurants around the center of town seemed really expensive vs prices if you go 1-2 miles out.

      And re: crowds – definitely not a hidden gem, but still a gem. Off season it’s probably a lot more desolate than the middle of July when we were there. I think all the European school kids are out July/August and you know lucky the Europeans are with being able to take extended summer vacations (in contrast to our 2-3 weeks/yr in North America).

        1. All the touristy stuff in the center of town for sure. The Castle, the Charles Bridge. If you have time I’d definitely go to Vysehrad fortress just to the south of downtown (it’s a long walk or a short subway ride or probably a short tram ride).

  20. Excellent information, Justin – thanks. I’m with Olivia in not having known Google translate could do that – that is some serious creativity!

    Will have to come back to this for sure as my trip gets closer. 🙂

    1. Yeah, it was a clever little hack to eat like a local. I just pulled the highlighted menu up on my phone and pointed to what I wanted as I horribly butchered the pronunciation in Czech and the waiter smiled at me.

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