A few months back, British Airways had a massive sale, and the Hubby and I managed to bag ourselves an excellent deal – a mini city break to Prague in the Czech Republic. A first time for both of us, we decided it would be a lovely way of spending some of our hard earned summer holiday. It turned out that many people we knew who had been to Prague were full of positive things to say.
So we headed to Heathrow, thronged with masses of excitable families travelling to sunshine destinations the world over. We instead headed on a plane destined for somewhere only trumped by Moscow as far as ‘European capital cities furthest from the sea’ go!
On arrival in Prague, we were met by a member of the ‘Prague Airport Transfer’ team. This company have hit the nail on the head with regards to meeting the needs of the typical Prague tourist- here for a few days, in need of some useful, trustworthy guidance to get the most out of their stay- and so offer a lot more than just shuttling from airport to hotel.
The Hubby and I had made the decision not to stay right in the heart of Prague, but just outside of the city, and this worked very well for us. Our very friendly and professional driver gave us a small guide book, plus a voucher for a free walking tour of the city. Another excellent gesture from the company! We decided that we would take up the offer of the tour, which would last about four hours, including a break for lunch.
Luckily we did not have to worry about the language barrier when it came to our tour; the lady who showed us the sights spoke good English and was able to give lots of detail about Prague’s long and intricate history. Shamefully, the Hubby and I noted how most of our group were actually of non-English speaking nationalities but could still follow what was going on. At one point, we witnessed Finnish and German people chatting, in English, about the differences in language between the three! It emphasises how lucky we are that English is so universal, although challenging us not to be complacent. Wherever we go, the Hubby insists on always buying a phrasebook. His barely-used Czech version is now resident on our bookshelf, perhaps to never be used again.
The walking tour, we found, was the perfect way in to a short stay in a small city like Prague. Within the few hours we had covered all the main areas, with a little taster of each (we took this literally when attempting the monstrous doughnut treat ‘trdelnik’). We could then follow this trip up the next day by visiting the most interesting places to us in more detail.
Another major plus point for Prague is its transport system, in particular the safe, efficient Metro. We bought one ticket each day which works in the same way as the Travel Card- as long as you validated the ticket by slotting it into the machine to be stamped with the date and time, you were good to go. The simple Metro system has three main lines: A, B and C. Each one a different colour. Each line meets each other line at an interchange station, otherwise you’re simply heading along and back; no fussy branch lines or eastbound/westbound confusion here!
It was so incredibly simple to understand – two directions and easy to read maps with clear station names. The Metro stations were clean and large, normally with the platform in the middle of the station and the trains running either side. Although there were a couple of escalators (I think the line B was slightly deeper underground than C) it was no where near the depths of the London Underground. The stations and trains felt safe, and were so punctual that the station clocks would count down to the next arrival in seconds!
Prague itself was a colourful mix of beautiful architecture, history and culture, with swarms of tourists from all areas of the globe. Much of the city works in squares and rectangles; very easy to navigate around on foot or public transport. Driving in the city centre is hard, with very little room to move or park. It really is a place to see more by foot – it definitely saves time! Lots of lovely places to stop and eat; friendly service with decent prices.
The Hubby, a World War II buff, noted that Prague was one of the few big cities in central/western Europe to avoid major destruction in the conflict, since Czechoslovakia (as it was then) had been held by Germany since 1938. What this means is that large parts of the old town still survive intact, dating back many centuries. There were many “puzzle” sights- by which I mean that the Hubby expresses a keenness to turn the scene into a jigsaw puzzle for his own enjoyment!
Obviously, and guide books will tell you the same thing about visiting major cities, you do have to have your wits about you and be sensible. There were no major issues during our visit, and we stayed sensible with where we went, where we ate and how we looked after our belongings. The taxis in Prague don’t have the best of reputations, more to do with being ripped-off than anything else, so all of our transfers/journeys were organised through the Prague Airport Transfer company – another reason why the company does so well for the visitors to Prague is the complete peace of mind they offer.
On our last evening, the Hubby and I decided to treat ourselves to the Dinner River Cruise also booked through the Prague Airport Transfers company. The River Vltava flows directly through Prague and boasts wonderful views of the historic sights. A rather romantic way to spend the evening, which also included a hot and cold buffet dinner with live music.
We spent a total of three nights and four days in Prague; for us it was the perfect amount of time. We didn’t go there for a rest and to relax, we were sight seeing right from the beginning, and because of this we got to see and do a lot. And all for the same cost as a few nights in a Bed and Breakfast back home.
A well worth it trip for those of you that have never been. Just make sure you take the right currency with you and don’t assume that because it is Europe that you need Euros. Nearly made that mistake! It is the Czech Crown or czk for short, although a few hotels here and there may take Euros.
Where have you visited on a city break and would recommend to others?