It has been a little over three months since I made the big move to Prague. I am still discovering new things everyday but this city definitely feels like home. You hear a lot of things about places from your friends and family who have been to that particular place “I love Prague!”. Oddly enough you will hear things from those who have never been to that particular place, “I heard they aren’t very nice.” You hear a lot from the expats who have lived here in this city already “You will quickly learn beer is the cheapest thing to drink”. There seems to be more street cred with them since they have been on the front lines for more than a few days of vacation. I am here as a semi professional traveler and expat to give my two cents on a few things that I have learned so far.
1. super easy transportation
Getting around a city is extremely important. You came to experience everything this place has to offer, not spend your money on taxi or uber rides. Thankfully Prague has one of the best transportation I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. There is the Metro and the tram system that travel extensively throughout the city. You can easily take any form to all of the major tourist spots and of course the off the beaten track spots as well. The metro has three lines: red, yellow and green where each stop has clearly marked which side to take for wherever you want to go. It runs till about a little after midnight.
The tram is my favorite just because I hate having to descend into the depths of Prague to take the metro. The tram is above ground with stops clearly noticeable as bright, red metal rectangles. Posted on the Tram stops are the trams that come to the stop, which direction they go, and timetables for Monday through Sunday. Another great thing about the trams is that they have night service. So after those late nights out sight seeing or drinking or clubbing, there will always be a night tram with other night people to get you home. They run less frequently but they are a life saver. Trust me.
The best thing is if you miss the metro or tram there is another one coming in five minutes or under, no biggie!However, I must say the one annoying thing is buying a transportation pass. One usually buys these passes from any metro stop. Its a yellow ticket machine that unfortunately ONLY takes coins!!! I remember my first day here I was trying to break the large bills given to me by the ATM so that I could buy a transportation ticket. I have found out that you can sometimes buy tickets from the tram conductors or from a potraviny (which is like Prague’s 7-11). You can risk not buying a ticket but I am a better safe than sorry persona and will tell you: make sure you buy a ticket and get it validated because I have heard many stories about having to pay a pretty fine when the transportation ticket checkers catch you.
2. condensed city
Not only is the city easy to get around but all the popular, top rated sights are condensed within the city. You could basically walk to most of them if you wanted. If you look at a map of Prague you will see that there is stuff to see on both sides of the river and it may seem daunting. But I let you in on a little secret: Prague is an hands down one of the most walkable cities. Real talk. In old town alone there are at least five sights to knock off your list. I will encourage those of you who can to get started early. Did she just say early? I’m not a morning person. I even own a shirt that says so. I am aware that early is not possible for most people. But I promise it is worth it! There is nothing like having the Charles Bridge all to yourself before the masses flood it later in the day. That tip goes for most places but especially the Charges Bridge and Old Town. You have been warned.
3. the famous astronomical clock
While we are on the top of Old Town I would like to draw your attention to the astronomical clock. It is a symbol of Prague. Tourists gather around it all day, every day to watch the clock “show”. I will tell you right now, you would be wasting your time. I happened to pass by the clock tower on the hour when it does its thing. I thought sure I’ll stop for a minute and see what all the fuss is about. Come to find, its about not a damn thing. The clock strikes on the hour 1 of the 4 figures that decorates the clocks does a little twist and then it ding dongs the time. Big whoop. And people gather here and wait here forever for this “performance” that I think is a waste of time.
I still think you should see the clock tower, but for many other reasons:
- it is beautiful, no doubt.
- I highly suggest you hear the story behind the clock and how one would read the clock. Its pretty incredible.
- you can climb the clock tower for a great view (obviously its not free, & possibly a tourist trap. I haven’t done it but I am a sucker for views and if you don’t want to pay for it there are many other options around Prague)
- I also think the story about the building next to the clock is more impressive. If you look at the red building you will see it looks like the rest of it just broke off. A result of one of the World Wars.
4. the Czech stare is real!
Upon entering this beautiful city, my TEFL course mentors told us about The Czech Stare. Being from America I know staring happens for sure; I did it all the time. But if you get caught you look away or play it off. However, in the Czech Republic everyone stares at you from the young to the old. And they do NOT look away. So don’t be offended it is just what they do here. If anything it is an invitation to blatantly stare at people yourself with no shame. This somewhat leads me to my next point…
5. no need to courtesy smile ever again.
We have all been there before. Walking down the street and someone is about to pass you. Do I smile and try and spread some joy? Or do I keep my head down and act like I don’t see them? I wrestled with this thought occasionally back in California. Most of the time I opted to just keep my resting b***h face on and look at the ground. And then when I did decide to try and spread some joy through a smile, the other person didn’t reciprocate! Rude. But here in the lovely land of the Czech Republic, you never have to worry about that again. It is not a thing here. You can pass people freely here without smiling. Buy groceries without smiling. Take the tram/metro without smiling. Pass hundreds of people on the escalators and not a smile. It is oddly kind of freeing in a way.
Don’t get me wrong this isn’t an excuse to be a grump or an asshole. And I have smiled at people when to mood is right and good vibes are flowing. It is jus something that doesn’t need to be forced. Of course if you are the smiley type, by all means keep grinning as much as you’d like!
6. side streets are Prague’s hidden secrets
Like I said it is easy to walk around this city and see all the major sights and streets. But wandering down those side roads and seeing what is tucked in the back of a archway is one of the most exciting things. As you walk down Na Perstyne toward Old Town, look to the left and right of you. I guarantee you will discover exciting and less touristy shops. This constantly happens to me and I LOVE it! I have found short cuts, connections, cute cafes, quiet streets and interesting art this way. I will always encourage going off the beaten path, there is always something to be found and a story that can be told.
- Watch your step! Czech people love their dogs. And so do I. They are cute of course and extremely well trained. However they aren’t always picked up after, especially in Zizkov. So sometimes as much as I want to look up at the amazing buildings, I need to look down.
- Hold your breath! Sometimes the people in Prague are ripe! The smell seems to worsen with age. I don’t know if it is cultural or based on how they grew up in that time but its always a buzz kill when BO shocks your system. I have also only been here during the summer so I understand the lack of AC around the city doesn’t help. But we will see how the winter goes!
- a little bit of courtesy Czech goes a long way. I just think it is respectful to try and use some basic phrases wherever you are in the world.
- I believe this goes without saying BUT I’m going to say it anyway, the touristy areas are always more expensive. Try to find local places away from he crowds. Ask locals, google search, etc. Taste of Prague has really great suggestions of where to eat for all types of cuisines. Their instagram page is top notch! I have a long list of places to eat thanks to them!
- there is a stereotype that Czechs aren’t nice people. I heard that one before I left. But honestly I haven’t experienced any extra rudeness or assholeyness. Just like everywhere, people are people. Most are good people and some aren’t. But that is anywhere around the world. That is why you gotta get out there and experience it for yourself! Make your own opinions based on your experiences.
I could list a million things to tell you about Prague but I think the best thing is to have you come and see for yourself! It’s worth it!