What is the best time to visit Prague?
If you want to avoid the crowd of tourists and the cold, I recommend visiting Prague in May. The bonus is that the Prague Spring Music Festival starts on the 12th of May each year, though this makes accommodations slightly trickier and you might have to book well in advance. The imminence of the music festival gives an amazing ambience to the city, with makeshift stages being set up in the Old Town Marketplace and free concerts playing in the square, leading up to the days of the festival. Check out the dates of the Prague Marathon as well to make accommodations easier.
Where should I stay?
Prague is very neatly divided into the old town with its medieval buildings and the rich history and the modern downtown. When booking, make sure you are within walking distance of the Old Town Square. This should ensure that you are situated somewhere in the heart of the old city and can walk to all the attractions, including the castle on the hill.
How many days do I need?
Ideally, you will need a minimum of 3 days; two to soak in the history of Prague’s old city and one to explore the countryside. We chose our out of town excursion to Castle Cesky Krumlov, where one of the families of Czech nobility had a winding castle and beautiful gardens. The trip was made special by an amazing tour guide, so if you plan on visiting this castle, make it in time for the English tour. If your tour guide’s name is Rose, trust me, you are in luck.
Plan to arrive on a Wednesday and leave on a Sunday, since the town’s nightlife is dead Sunday nights through Tuesday.
Are those historically dressed guys distributing concert pamphlets for real?
Prague is filled with churches (it is called the “City of a thousand spires) and the city has had the brilliant idea of turning each and every one of them into a concert venue. Each evening, the churches feature classical music concerts with pieces by the best known composers of the region. Walking about the old city, you are sure to end your day holding a fistful of pamphlets advertising concerts around the town. Be sure to attend one – the acoustics of a church make for a soaring musical experience.
Should I be concerned about a dress code?
Any American traveling to Europe will find that jeans and t-shirts will set them apart immediately. Even the city employees sweeping the street are dressed well, so pack some of your better things to blend in. Though the music festival attracts the young and hip crowd who a re a little more careless about what they wear, in general this is a sartorially
What should I shop for?
Prague is intensely touristy when it comes to shopping and the old city is dotted with shops selling the Czech specialties of garnet jewelry and handmade crystal. Beware, original and unique crystal ware can only be found at some ateliers..most of the stuff is for tourists. Check your guidebook for the couple of jewelry places certified by the government so you can be sure of the quality of the garnets. Don’t expect to bargain a lot; despite their recent freedom from communism, the Czech have not yet figured out the art of the deal.
What if I am a vegetarian?
Not to worry; every restaurant in Prague (even the holes in the wall) features some vegetarian food in addition to the local favorite, pork knees! Our party was mostly vegetarian and we never had a problem, dining on pasta, pizza and a variety of soups. Try really hard and you’ll even find the odd vegetarian restaurant, though the best known among them, an Indian restaurant named Govinda, is only open till 5 p.m.
We even found a pure vegetarian restaurant called Laibon in the small town of Cesky Krumlov, and dined on “Sabdzhi” and rice made by a Ukranian chef.
Should I take my kids along?
Not unless your kids have a real passion for history. Otherwise, I anticipate the young ones being heartily bored in half a day by the preponderance of churches and medieval relics and the necessity of walking everywhere. The presence of kids might also put a damper on your ability to enjoy the Prague nightlife, with its smoky restaurants featuring jazz bands and local singers.
And finally, is beer really cheaper than water?