Here are 10 things not to do in Prague. They’ll make your trip much more enjoyable.
Don’t drink all the beer
Yes the Czech Republic is the home of beer, the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country, and many Prague microbreweries produce excellent ales and lagers, but it doesn’t mean you have to drink your bodyweight in booze. Taxi drivers have been known to take advantage of inebriated fares and the inhabitants of the city are heartily sick of its image as stag capital of Europe. If you are keen to learn about Czech brews, head to Prague Beer Museum at Dlouha 46 to sample their range of Bohemian beers or take a tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen. Another don’t concerning alcohol – don’t take to Absinthe like it’s your new best friend – it has up to 75 per cent alcohol content and will come back to bite you.
Don’t dismiss the crystal
Bohemians have a reputation for being the finest glassmakers in the world and if you shop around off the main tourist drags (ie. away from Karlova, which is lined with mediocre souvenir stores) you’ll find classy vases, decanters, bowls and glasses in all colors and designs. Moser is one of the finest Czech companies and their boutiques can be found at Na Prikope 12 as well as in Old Town Square. Yes their products are expensive but they are beautiful and they beat buying a memento ‘I Love Prague’ baseball cap by several miles. If crystal is out of the price bracket, buy handcrafted puppets or carved wooden toys from the Manufaktura chain of stores.
Ladies, don’t wear high heels when exploring Prague
Although the main visitor haunts in Prague are all within easy walking distance of each other, from Prague Castle to Wenceslas Square, the going is hilly in Malá Strana (Lesser Town) and steep in places, there are uneven steps to navigate and cobbles to trip on in the Staré Město (Old Town). It’s much easier on the ankles to cut your fashion losses and step out in sturdy loafers or walking boots.
Don’t lose sight of your valuables
Prague is fundamentally a safe city but there are areas where pickpockets are known to function. This is particularly the case around Charles Bridge, which gets immensely overcrowded during the day, so keep an eye on wallets and cameras when watching the street theater and fending off the hawkers. Always keep your money hidden and never leave anything unattended on the floor in cafés and bars. Other crowded locations to be wary of include around the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, the steps walking up to Prague Castle and when traveling on the metro during rush hours and at the weekend.
Don’t just stay in Prague
Although there is enough happening in Prague to keep visitors happy for months, it’s not the only city in the Czech Republic with lots to offer. Strike out into the Bohemian countryside to discover the macabre delights of the Ossuary at Kutná Hora – entirely decorated with human bones – the medicinal waters at the spa baths in Karlovy Vary or a tour of Gothic Karlstejn castle and its Roman museum.
Don’t miss out on the smaller museums
After the National Museum, the Jewish Museum and Prague Castle, there are plenty of bijou museums that inform and entertain. Head for the Museum of Communism for a comprehensive history of Prague from 1945 through to the peaceful Velvet Revolution of 1989, or the Mucha Museum to discover the work of Prague’s foremost exponent of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha. The little-heralded Museum of Decorative Arts showcases a lovingly crafted collection of furniture, clothing, crystal and ceramics, all housed in a gorgeous neo-Renaissance town house adorned with stained-glass windows and ornate decoration.
Don’t be one of the crowd
Escape the claustrophobic throngs on Charles Bridge to head down the Vltava River to Legii Bridge for the same great city and castle views with half the people. Instead of taking the funicular up Petřín Hill for city views and crowds, ride the elevator up the rocket-like, eight-story Žižkov Tower for views over the Old Town. Beat the hordes to Prague Castle as it opens at 8am or visit after dark for glorious floodlit views of Prague below.
Don’t waste money – buy a Prague City Card
Providing entry into 40 of Prague’s major attractions, from St Vitus Cathedral to the Old Town Hall and National Museum, the Prague City Card also includes a free two-hour tour of the city, discounted entry for cruises on the Vltava River, discount in stores, bars, and restaurants and a detailed guide book. A two-day Prague Card costs 880.00 Kč (€37), a four-day card 1200.00 Kč (€50); they can be bought online, in tourist offices all over the city and in Terminal 2 Arrivals at the airport. If you’re intending to use public transport, add on an optional travel pass.
Don’t go to Wenceslas Square after dark
Everybody should visit Wenceslas Square once during the day – it played a pivotal part in the peaceful Velvet Revolution and the National Museum (currently closed for restoration) lies at one end of it. However, although stringent efforts are being made to clean the square up, at night it still resembles the Wild West, with pimps hustling gangs of foreign youths into seedy strip clubs, lap-dancing joints, drug pushers, fast-food stands, hawkers selling low-quality tat and prostitutes flogging their wares in the street. Granted many people head to Prague for exactly this sort of entertainment but if it’s not your bag, play safe and steer clear away from Wenceslas Square after dark.
Don’t eat in the restaurants around Old Town Square
Obviously there are exceptions but generally you’ll pay way over the odds for a substandard menu of greasy dumplings and over-cooked pork, plus occasionally watered-down beer. It’s much better to dive into the charming web of cobbled street off Old Town Square in Staré Město to discover cafés and restaurants tucked away from the main drag. Likewise avoid restaurants in the immediate vicinity of Prague Castle and head down into Malá Strana’s quieter lanes for dinner or book ahead at Kampa Park for a delicious but pricey gourmet treat.