Prague, the City of a Hundred Spires is becoming one of Europe's top destinations, with passenger arrivals at Prague's Ruzyne Airport having doubled since 2000, according to official statistics. Those ever-increasing numbers mean that prices are among the highest in the former Eastern bloc, though a few surprising bargains have recently appeared in the Czech capital.
Some of the best new restaurants in Prague are also among the cheapest, especially once you get out of the crowded center. Just off the Vltava river promenade at the south end of New Town, the newly opened Nodle Bar (Plavecka 4; 420-602-370-984; www.noodle.cz) serves good Thai plates, a rarity throughout the region, at very moderate prices. The tangy and sweet phad sen mu is 105 koruna (about $5 at 21 koruna to the dollar), and a marvelous pomelo salad with crispy fried prawns and fragrant cilantro is 155 koruna. The modern, manga-inspired dcor is probably chic enough for a date. Next door, year-old Oliva (Plavecka 4; 420-222-520-288; www.olivarestaurant.cz) alternates between high-end Continental and down-home comfort food: a plate of crispy garlic-lemon chicken with grilled tomatoes, olives and house-baked bread is 265 koruna. The wine list, much of which comes from the Ctes du Rhne and the Languedoc regions, has several bottles priced at "400 to 500 koruna". Yes the Czech Republic has not yet joyed the EURO - (28.025 CZKonuna = 1 EUR)
Czech Cubist, Art Deco and Functionalist design is quickly catching on with antiques collectors. For the cream of the crop, check out the recently opened shop Modernista (Celetna 12; 420-224-241-300; www.modernista.cz) where a walnut display case from 1936 might set you back $4500.00. To score a bargain, try Prague's main blesi trh, or flea market, which runs every Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. To get there, take tram 19 or the Metro B line to the Kolbenova stop and follow the signs. A much larger market, Bustehrad Antik (www.bustehradantik.cz), takes place every two weeks in a village 12 miles northwest of the city, with direct buses leaving from metro stations Dejvicka and Zlicin. For schedules, check www.idos.cz.
Even museums can be budget-busters here: the must-see Jewish Museum (www.jewishmuseum.cz) charges 470 koruna for a full adult ticket to all Jewish sites in Old Town, as much as many locals earn in a day. However, a few great collections have regular free entry. The lovely Museum of Decorative Arts (17 listopadu 2; 420-251-093-111; www.upm.cz) is free every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. The first Thursday of every month, the Museum of the City of Prague(Na Porici 52; 420-224-816-773; www.muzeumprahy.cz) has tickets for a symbolic 1 koruna. And at the National Gallery (Dukelskych hrdinu 47; 420-224-301-024; www.ngprague.cz) visitors can enter for free between 3 and 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month.
I just returned from Prague earlier this week - I was born in Prague and now return often because I'm involved in making a documentary about finding my father, Karel Hasler, who was a we-known songwriter pre-World War II, who died in a camp for defying the Nazis. I dreaded going to Prague in August because of the mobs of tourists, but found that aside from one corner of the Old Town Square and the approaches to the Charles Bridge, the situation wasn't too bad.
I normally stay at a pension in the Jewish Quarter but don't feel I can name it because it is very small and I don't want it to be overwhelmed. However, this time it was full so we stayed at a tiny hotel near the Old Town Square, U Zlate Studny, which dates back to the 16th century and has only 4 doubles and 4 apartments. It seemed expensive at 135 Euros, but they gave us two free nights, so that made it reasonble.
I saw a mention of the restaurant Pravda where we ate last November and it's the first time I've remembered a restaurant primarily for the fantastic service rather than the food. Expensive yes, but that service! This time our splurge was on Kampapark, under the Charles Bridge. Very expensive yes, and the food and service okay, but the location! I generally prefer very reasonable middle-range restaurants.
My girl friend who had been to Prague twice had gotten over basic tourism and started admiring the architectural details on the buildings and said that next time she'd carefully observe the doors.
I happen to like jazz and am somewhat amazed that Prague has at least five venues where you can find jazz every night of the week - where do you find that in the U.S?
When it comes to cabs I agree with the comments about AAA, and have always found them reliable and very reasonable, but you have to call them.
There are many neighborhoods that invite a good walk: my girl friend appreciated Vysehrad; I like Mala Strana.
The people I work with on the documentary disdain going to the center of Prague, finding it too expensive for normal Czechs. And some of the tourists are obnoxious.
The phone number you need to call for AAA is 14014 from your mobile. And yes, they are the best, however if you hail one from the street, it is a little more expensive than if you call them. They can usually pick you up in 5 or 10 minutes.
City Taxi is also pretty good. Do not hail a taxi on the street if it is not marked AAA or City Taxi, you will pay 2 to 3 times as much, especially late at night.
thasler, don't know if you still visit this community or not, I see you haven't posted anything in quite a while. If you do stop by now and then, could you tell us more about the film project? Is it completed? Are you going to take it to festivals or how do you plan to introduce it?