Editor's note: Rebeccca Monash is a MBA student enrolled in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI and currently in ISM 7505: Inbound Information Technology
Introduction to Traveling in Prague
On a whim my Fiancée and I decided to check out Prague. We didn’t have a whole lot of time or money, and didn’t really plan ahead, but we went for it and had an amazing trip. Our visit was short but we crammed a lot in. We arrived in the late afternoon, settled in, had dinner and went to bed early to prepare for the next day, we got an early start and saw many sites and indulged in local delights. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure your trip to Prague is filled with fun, food, and local culture, Cheers!
- Wear comfortable shoes! I spent one day walking in Prague and logged over 35,000 steps according to my Fitbit, I was thankful for the exercise, it made me feel less guilty for eating the heavy Bavarian cuisine and indulging in several pints of the tasty dark beers.
- Pack Snacks! Europeans do not have the same ideals for breakfast as Americans do. In true Yankee fashion my Fiancée and I woke up in Prague and tried to find a restaurant to have a big hearty breakfast before our day of adventure, we couldn’t find anything of the sort. So pack a granola bar and some fruit, or even better embrace the culture and grab an espresso and croissant at a local café. Don’t worry- it will be lunchtime before you know it!
- Exchange your money from Crowns. Most places will accept Euros but they are not very happy about it and usually will not give you the best exchange rate. It is a little bit of a hassle to figure out the exchange rate and how much you are paying for everything, but for the most part Prague is very affordable compared to the rest of Europe and tourist destinations.
It sounds strange and looks intimidating, but oh my goodness, is it ever tasty! This dish is traditional in German and Czech cuisine, it is a large portion usually served with a big knife on a board, but do not hesitate to grab it by the bone and dig in cave-man style. The meat is marinated and roasted in herbs and dark beer; the result is a tender, crispy, fatty, flavor sensation. Beware it is a heavy meal, I would suggest splitting it and getting a salad to make sure you still have room for delicious Czech beer!
Another dish whose name may not sound all that appealing to newcomers, but give it a try, you are on vacation, live a little! You will not be disappointed.
This dish is served a variety of ways, the way I had it was sliced thin, accompanied by dumplings and an amazing rich sauce that filled the plate- it was wonderful!
Other notable mentions: Goulash and Beef Stroganoff: My take from this trip is that the Czech chefs are experts in what we would usually call “comfort food” in the United States. If it has meat, potatoes, and sauce, you cannot go wrong. We stuck with traditional meals and were never disappointed. To try to stay somewhat balanced we usually also ordered a salad and they were awesome, super fresh greens dressed with olive oil and vinegar, usually with a few tomatoes and cucumbers on top.
Two Dark Beers, Please! We were obsessed with the dark beer; it is tasty, smooth, and available pretty much everywhere. Keep your eyes open for pubs signs featuring the Kozel Goat. As the pints kept pouring throughout the day we lovingly started calling it “Goat Beer” … he will always have a special place in our hearts.
I highly suggest using Air B n B to find a place to stay in Prague. There are many benefits:
- Live like a local. With Air B n B you get the real cultural experience of the area you are visiting, much more authentic than going to a hotel that is the cookie cutter of what you have back at home.
- Free travel tips! This is not always the case, but often when you room with Air B n B the host will meet you when you arrive, a perfect time to pick their brain for the best local spots! Our host was great, he immediately sat us down with a map and showed us his favorite pubs and cafes, and mapped out our whole next day, letting us know when to walk and when to jump on public transportation, as well as which tourist spots were worth seeing.
- Avoid tourist traps. By listening to our host we were able to eat, drink and get around town inexpensively. I have not always had the same experience with hotel suggestions, which usually is a ploy to have you patronize the restaurants/bars/shops they are in business with.
WHAT TO BUY
Crystal! Bohemian crystal made in the Czech Republic is widely known as the finest in the world, and it is sold at a fraction of the price you would spend in the U.S. Of course this all depends on your luggage situation, how much money you want to spend, etc. We bought two champagne flutes for our upcoming wedding. The selection is impressive, from chandeliers to vases, glass and decanter sets, jewelry, and figurines; there is something for every taste and budget.
Tip: Avoid buying crystal at the boutiques in old town; keep walking to the department stores for great sale prices. This is where we found our champagne flutes and they were half the price of what we saw in the touristy part of old town.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND A CROWN
My advice? Just don’t even try.
1 Czech Crown= .40 USD, which sounds easy enough until you have had several pints and are overwhelmed by the world around you, take in the culture and the atmosphere, stop trying to do math. The Czech Republic is relatively inexpensive, so if a pint is 50 Crowns, it is $1.99 USD. So when buying food, beer, trinkets, don’t sweat it. Do some comparative shopping on big-ticket items like crystal souvenirs.
MUST SEE STOPS
The Prague Castle is ancient and incredible, it would take several days to see the whole thing so buy a limited pass and see a few of the marvels. My suggestion is to see the tomb, a couple chapels, the torture chamber and the massive collection of armor by the golden alley. The golden alley will take you to the corner of the castle, which leads to a trail to the bridge to the old town square. So it is smart to see that last, and head to town.
Tip: Start your day at the castle, it is elevated on a hill, which has many advantages. For starters you get to enjoy the view of the city as your anticipation builds for the day ahead. Also, your walk to town will be downhill, which means you get to see Prague first hand without getting too tired, and then spend the day enjoying the old town charms and easily catch public transportation back to where you are staying at the end of the day.
Who doesn’t love a functional historic landmark? From the Castle make your way to the Charles Bride, a stone gothic bridge that will take you to Old Town. The bridge is incredible; it is lined with meticulously sculpted monuments and statues, the history and beauty is breathtaking.
Old Town Square
After walking across the Charles Bridge you will enter Old Town, cobblestone roads as far as the eye can see, amazing churches, shops and restaurants galore. I let my inner tourist take control at this point, snapping pictures, snacking on pretzels and sausages, and of course stopping in to the pubs for a few pints!
Other sites to see…
The Jewish Quarter and the Jewish Cemetery: This site was unfortunately closed due to holidays the day we visited (a downfall of being a last minute traveler!) We heard it was a very moving historic area that is highly recommended.
New Town: A modern area of town full of museums, shops, bars and restaurants.
From here I will let you explore, there is so much to see in Prague, make the day your own and do what comes natural. Shop, explore, indulge, enjoy!
1. Welcome to the official web portal for Prague: http://www.prague.eu/en
2. What to eat: http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/europe/czech_republic/prague/what_to_eat
3. Rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190+ countries: https://www.airbnb.com
4. Kozel: Pilsner Lager brewed in Czech Republic: http://www.thebeerstore.ca/beers/kozel
5. Bohemia Crystal Glass: http://www.bohemiacrystalglass.cz/
6. Charles Bridge: http://www.myczechrepublic.com/prague/sightseeing/charles_bridge
7. WSU Supply Chain Professor to Travel to Poland on Fulbright Grant: http://ilitchbusiness.wayne.edu/news.php
8. Study Abroad Program Celebrates Fifth Year: http://ilitchbusiness.wayne.edu/news.php
9. Map of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Prague,+Czech+Republic