Famous for its spectacular architecture, Prague isn’t known as the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’ for nothing, but it’s also got 30 bridges as well as castles, palaces, parks and gardens to explore – and not to mention Europe’s cheapest beer. No wonder it’s surged in popularity as a city break destination. But although Eastern Europe is known for its good value, Prague’s popularity has pushed prices up for visitors, especially in the historic heart of the city. So here are my top tips for making the most of Prague on a budget (NB. 100 Czech koruna = £3.35/€4/US$4.35).
Read more: Visiting Berlin on a budget
Things to do in Prague on a budget
A walk through Prague’s Old Town is like a taking free architectural tour, with a procession of impressive Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Head to the Old Town Square for street performers in summer and the Christmas markets in winter, and watch the procession of the Twelve Apostles when the world’s oldest Astronomical Clock strikes the hour (9am to 11pm).
The 14th-century Charles Bridge (Karlův Most) is one of Prague’s most famous sights, with 30 statues lining its walls and imposing towers protecting each end. But it’s probably the city’s busiest spot too, so you need to be there at dawn if you want to see it without the crowds. Other free sights include the colourful graffiti-covered John Lennon Wall, the quirky Dancing House and sculptor David Cerny’s giant bronze baby statues on display outside Museum Kampa.
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world. It’s free to take a look from the outside, but if you want to go in you need to buy a ticket. There are a few different versions available, but best-value is Circuit B which includes St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica, Golden Lane and the Daliborka Tower. Tickets costs CZK 250 adults/125 concessions and are valid for two days. The neighbouring Lobkowicz Palace is privately owned so it’ll cost you an extra CZK 295 adults/220 concessions to visit.
Prague’s Jewish Quarter (Josefov) was Europe’s largest Jewish ghetto, and today it’s an atmospheric district with some of the best-preserved Jewish historic monuments in Europe. You can find out more about its history at the Jewish Museum in Prague – entry costs CZK 350 adults/250 concessions and includes the Maisel, Pinkas and Klausen Synagogues as well as the 15th-century Old Jewish Cemetery with its 12,000 tightly-packed gravestones.
For a budget introduction to the city, take a free walking tour where you just tip your guide. There are several companies offering them in Prague. Sandemans New Europe have a 3-hour city history tour at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 2pm daily (plus 4pm in summer), leaving from in front of the Czech tourism office in the Old Town Square. Free Tours By Foot have a similar Old Town Prague tour leaving from the Powder Tower at 10.30am and 2pm each day.
Discover Prague Tours run a Royal Walk tour of the Old Town, New Town and Jewish Quarter (10am, 11am, 12pm and 2pm) and a Prague Castle tour (10.30am and 2pm), both departing from the Discover Prague office (Celetná 12). Or Prague Extravaganza run 2-hour tours of the Old Town and Jewish Quarter, leaving the Powder Tower at 11am and 3.30pm, and a Charles Bridge and Castle tour starting at the statue of King Charles IV at 1pm (and 5pm in summer).
Money-saving museums and galleries
Some of Prague’s major museums have free entry days – the National Museum on the first Monday of each month, the National Gallery on certain dates throughout the year, and many others on International Museums Day (18 May 2020). There’s also the annual Prague Museum Night (13 June 2020), with museums open 7pm–1am, special shows and free transport.
If you’re planning to visit a few museums, you can get a 9 museums in 5 days museum pass for CZK 200 adults/130 concessions. It covers the National Museum and museums dedicated to music, folk culture, Asian, African and American cultures, and the composer Dvořák.
There are also a couple of more other general city passes available. The Prague Card gives free entry to 60 attractions and costs €62 for two days, €72 for three days and €84 for four days, with discounts for children and students. Or the Prague City Pass is valid for 30 days so is better for longer stays. It covers 15 attractions and costs CZK 1390 adults/990 children. Both include a free sightseeing bus tour and boat trip, as well as lots of other discounts.
And if you’re travelling with kids, Prague Zoo runs a weekly ‘Happy Mondays’ event, with discounted entry for children under 15, students and seniors – meaning tickets cost CZK 50 instead of CZK 200 every Monday, excluding July, August and public holidays.
Top city views
With its red rooftops, church spires and castle towers, this city’s a beauty from above, and there’s a good selection of spots to get a panoramic view of Prague on a budget. Right in the historic heart, the 70-metre-high Old Town Tower is a great vantage point to watch the Astronomical Clock or look down on the Christmas markets in winter. Entry costs CZK 250 adults/150 concessions, and it’s wheelchair accessible with lifts to the viewing platform.
You can also climb the towers at each end of the Charles Bridge – the Old Town Bridge Tower on the east side of the bridge and the Lesser Town Bridge Tower on the west side towards the castle. The entrance to the towers is tucked away and it’s not that obvious you can climb them, so they aren’t as busy as you’d expect. Entry costs CZK 100 adults/70 concessions for each.
If you want to get up higher, there are great views of Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral from Petřín Hill. It’s a 30-minute climb to the top of the hill, or you can take the funicular railway for the same price as a regular transport ticket (see below). Once you reach the top you can go even higher by climbing the Petřín Tower, a mini lookalike Eiffel Tower standing 60 metres tall (entry CZK 150 adults/80 concessions) – though beware it can get busy around sunset.
You can also get a free city view from the castle fortifications – although you have to pay to go inside the castle it’s free to wander around the grounds. Or you can enjoy a beer with a view at the T-Anker Sun Terrace on the rooftop of the Kotva Department Store or in the beer garden at Letná Park. The park is set up on a high plateau overlooking the city, with the best views from the giant metronome statue and the Art Nouveau Hanavsky Pavilion restaurant.
Budget food and drink
Traditional Czech food is hearty, filling and usually pretty meaty, with dishes like goulash, schnitzel, roast pork, dumplings, potato soup and fried cheese on the menu. You can save money by eating your main meal at lunchtime, with many restaurants offering a lunch special. This is limited menu, targeted at local workers who would be given food vouchers for discounted lunches, but you’ll find them on offer in some of the city’s top restaurants too.
Prague has a large Vietnamese community and you can find cheap and tasty pho and banh mi sandwiches around the city. Another Prague budget option is chlebicek, traditional Czech open-faced sandwiches. And leave room for something sweet, like fruit dumplings (ovocné knedlíky), sweet yeast dough buns (buchty) or chimney cakes (trdelnik), which are made from pastry which is wrapped around a spit, grilled and covered with syrup and walnuts.
If you’re self-catering, Prague’s main supermarkets are Albert, Billa and Tesco. Or you can pick up fresh local produce like fruit, vegetables and cheese from one of the city’s farmers’ markets. The Náplavka Farmers’ Market (nearest metro Karlovo Náměstí) takes place along the riverfront on Saturdays from 8am–2pm. Or there’s the Jiřák Farmers’ Market from 8am–6pm on Wednesday to Friday and 8am–2pm Saturdays (nearest metro Jiřího z Poděbrad) and the Dejvice Farmers’ Market on Saturdays 8am–2pm from March to November (nearest metro Dejvická).
Prague has been rated one of the cheapest places in Europe to drink beer, with a half-litre of local draught beer setting you back around CZK 35, making it cheaper than water. Famous local brews include Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar, Staropramen and Lobkowicz, but you’ll also find plenty of smaller microbreweries. Prague Beer Garden has a good list of pubs by area.
Low-cost Prague transport
Prague’s airport is nine miles outside of the city, and the cheapest way to get there is by bus. A single ticket costs CZK 32 per person, and you can buy them from the Public Transport Information booth in the airport. Bus 119 takes around 15 minutes to reach Nádraží Veleslavín metro station, where you can use the same ticket to take the metro into the city centre. There’s also an airport bus direct to Prague’s main train station which costs CZK 60.
The centre of Prague is easy to get around on foot, but if you’re travelling further afield there are trams, buses and three metro lines. All use the same tickets which are for specified period of time. They cost CZK 24 for a 30-minute ticket, CZK 32 for a 90-minute ticket, CZK 110 for a 24-hour ticket or CZK 310 for a 72-hour ticket. Tickets for children under 15/seniors are half price. Make sure to validate your ticket by punching it before you travel to avoid a fine.
There are lots of reports of visitors being ripped-off by taxi drivers, so it’s best to avoid hailing taxis on the street. Instead use an app like Uber or Liftago, or ask your hotel to call a taxi for you, and always make sure the driver uses the meter and gives you a receipt.
So those are my tips for seeing Prague on a budget – do you know of any more Prague bargains or have any money-saving tips?
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