To Prague at end of November
I will be traveling to Prague for the first time at the end of November. I'm staying near Hotel Harmony on Biskupska. I will be doing a lot of the touristy things, but want some helpful information about where is good to eat on avg and general cultural things that may be good to know (like asking if a seat is taken at a beer hall). I have read that cabs are not to be trusted and to be careful if you ride Tram 22 and that best forms of transportation are train and foot.
I guess what I'm most interested in is where to have some traditional Czech meals without the rude waiters or the supposedly nefarious padded bills. Where to have a unique and good meal that represents maybe another countries cuisine (I've read about Angel and Noi)? It doesn't have to be super expensive like Le Degustation or Celeste but if any of the places need a reservation.. knowing that would be handy. Where to have a good beer at good prices? Since it's cold I guess I'll be looking for good Hot Chocolate which I believe I saw would be good at Cafe Louvre. Lastly, what is good near where I am staying. I'm not much of a beer drinker but want to see how different the beers of Prague are.
Restaurants aside.. How far is it to walk from say Wenceslas Square to Vyserhad? Is the majority of Prague safe to walk at night (Wenceslas Square aside)? What would be the areas to avoid? Best evening music bets?
I guess I'm just excited to be traveling somewhere vastly different and want to make the most out of the 3-4 days that I have there. I'm not completely sure what my free time will be as I do have some other items to take care of while there, but all insights (and questions) are welcomed.
For music, we went to U Maleho Glena (Little Glen's) in Mala Strana. Stan the Man and His Bohemian Blues Band seems to play there pretty regularly--mid-century electric blues is big there, if you like that sort of thing. There's a restaurant that we liked called Gitanes that's pretty much around the corner from U Maleho Glena--it's billed as Mediterranean, but it's more by way of Croatia than Italy. (Get the sac--grilled lamb and potatoes.) It gets a fair amount of tourists, but when we went there were people who were definitely regulars.
For a quiet pub, check out U Neklana in Vysehrad. It's got all the Czech staples, and is a no-nonsense neighborhoody-type place. Bonus: it's in a cool-looking Cubist building. Beer's are def. cheaper as you get away from the busiest squares, but you'll notice that the prices on the Czech menus are lower than on the translated menus--try not to take offense sense it seems to be the accepted way of doing things (a way of offsetting the inflation that tourism brings in a way that dings local pockets a bit less, I suppose).
As for safety, speaking as a New Yorker and a woman traveling with my fiance, we felt safe the whole time we were there. We spent the bulk of our evenings in and around Mala Strana,Stare Mesto, and Nove Mesto because while probably more touristy, they are fairly concentrated areas that we could walk from restaurant to bar to music, etc. Personally, we loved the trams because with the language issue, it's easy to orient yourself. We had good luck with cabs--even hailing them on the street we didn't seemed to get gouged (maybe once, but not too bad) or taken the roundabout way. If you're used to taking cabs and being friendly but seeming aware of what the route should be it's mostly not a problem (the Vltava's prominence in the city helps you stay aware of directions).
Thanks jennitrixie. I've been in NY enough times to feel alright with someone. I'm not sure I'll have time to make to Vysehrad. I'm trying to figure out how how long it takes to get there on food from the center (Old town or Wenceslas Sq.). I've seen photos of the park itself and it looked like a nice escape. It's just the talk of how bristly the service and people can be. I want to make sure I'm not offending anyone. I've tried to learn some of the more comment phrases (though I have yet to see Where is the bathroom :-) ) but hello, goodbye, thank you, please, and excuse me are pretty short and easy to remember. I've read on a few restaurants. What did you find to be the avg price for a local beer and the best place to exchange monies? I've not really found a site that shows this is how much an avg type of meal should be. Now do I get the pig leg or the roast beef in sauce? Thank you again. I'm full of questions.
I found the city to be very compact and walkable--but I was there in late summer. =)
I didn't find people to be too cranky, just more or less getting down to business. To that end, as soon you say anything in Czech, people tend to look at you like you're an adorable but slightly dumb dog, and ask if you'd prefer to continue in German or English. So over a week it was hard to pick up much beyond the rudimentary stuff ("Where's the bathroom?" is something like: Prosim, kde je toaleta? [Apologies to Czech speakers.] Lonely Planet has good, compact phrasebooks--including lists of menu items.)
There's no need to go to exchange money, really. I just used ATMs (Prosim, kde je bankomat?), which didn't charge much more than my local deli ATM would to give me cash in koruna at that day's rate. (If you go this route, call your bank/card company first, so they don't freeze your account for unusual activity!)
ANYWAY, food and drink! Beers tend to be around 2 bucks, glasses of wine 4 or 5. Definitely do a brewery tour if you like beer. I went to Staropramen (in Smichov). We threw back a few glasses of beer at the end of it, getting to try a couple beers that they don't distribute worldwide. There's also tons of smaller brewpubs if you want to look those up. I can't remember meal prices, only that the last night for our most expensive dinner we had full-on steak frites/moules frites at a Belgian place with a couple beers/glasses of wine and it was maybe $60 (I know, right? And the staff sounded heavily French & Belgian...fun change of pace... Les Moules, nearish Old Town Sq.)
Since you're going in winter, def. keep an eye out for game meats. I had wild boar tenderloin in some sort of creamy/buttery berry sauce, venison meatballs, seared duck breast, Prague ham, sausages, etc. And pastries! We had various Berliners each morning at the hotel, kolache, sponge cake.
THank you for your suggestions and near estimates on prices (hear they are constantly changing). I am helping chaperone a group of students for part of the time there and so I'm not sure what my free time will be like or what I'll be able to do with it. THought about a jazz concert or black light. I'd love to walk around at night but don't know how bearable that will be. I've decided that I have to get a good thick cup of hot chocolate.. sounds like Cafe Louvre and Savoy do that well. In the guidebooks that I've read two places that keep coming up are Karkovna and U Medvickvu (sp?) as local grub and beer places. I've seen Luka Lu as a good place some where and a place called The Little Whale. And lots of places that are U Something (At the ...) like U Flecku as place to stop by.
Thanks dave I"m not a beer expert, but if things are better than what they serve in the States I want to taste the difference even if it's just a Pilsner vs. Bud... There was one called U Vedjovu or something like that initially attracted me with the large pork shank photo.. maybe not the best place. The thing is since I'm there for such a short time and not sure when or if I'll be back I want to hit the highlights as far as food/entertainment. Doesn't necessarily have to be traditional Czech food.
Hi, if you want to compare beers, you have to try U Fleku and U Medvidku (Pilsner & Budweiser respectively). Also, a famous beer pub is U Zlateho tygra (By the Golden Tiger). Another iconic pub is U vystreleneho oka (By the shot-out eye), which has fantastic athmosphere and tolerable Staropramen beer (at least I hope I got the brand right, anyway, this is the Prague brand). You can eat a "drowned man" with your beer - this is a brined sausage with some pickles. This pub is in Zizkov - you need to go to Florenc metro and take a bus from there, or take a cab - it's a short way from the center.
Traditional Czech bar food and decent Staropramen can be had at the bistro chain U potrefene husy. You want to try the pork knee (very fatty and for 2 at least) or other things they suggest with beer. Decent food can be had U Medvidku and U vystreleneho oka as well. Very good Czech food is served at Cafe Imperial, but it is not very cheap - you would pay about $15-20 for a main course. However, the food is of very high quality there and worth the price. Although the place is big, you should call ahead at least a couple of hours, otherwise you risk that it will be full.
Prague is a safe city. You can use trams, metro, buses and cabs without problems. Just beware of pickpockets, as in any other big city. Reliable cab companies are AAA radio taxi (tel 14014) and City Taxi (tel 257 257 257). Call them to pick you up (this is free and the rate is cheaper than if you catch one on the street). You can also recognise these cabs on the streets - they always have the phone number written in big letters on their backs or sides.
It is quite safe to walk in Prague after dark. On Wenceslas square, there might be drug dealers and hookers, but they wont give you any problems. There might be pickpockets anywhere. Most of them are gypsies. But they are not violent and if you keep your bag with you and your wallet hidden, you will be ok. The only area where my husband does not feel safe is Zizkov and Nusle. However, I have lived there for a few years and I like it there and think it is quite safe. There may be just some drunk people on the streets, maybe some loud gypsies yelling one to another, but unless you engage in their arguments, they dont even notice you are there.
By the way - it is pretty far and through uninspiring neighbourhoods from Wenceslas Square to Vysehrad. Depending on where you are going exactly, it might be better to take the metro - only two or three stops and / or a tram from the top of Wenceslas Square. Or a cab :-) It is true that its best to walk through the old town and new town, as everyting is quite close. But if you buy a three-day ticket for the public transportation, you can take short rides by tram through the center, which may make your siteseeing more enjoyable and comfortable.
Dont worry too much and enjoy Prague, it is a wonderful city!
Do you know where I can just buy a piece of Medovnik without having to stop in a restaurant. I hear it's definitely something to try. Here are the lists of places I've looked into.. (it is long!) I've heard the servers at U Flecku and U Vejvodu are not the best.
Kava Kava Kava
U Zeleneho Cafe
Osteria de Clara
Cream and Dream
U zavesenyho kafe
Mysak Sweet Shop
Ambiante Pizza Nuova (and Pasta Fresca)
U Cerneho Vola
Zahrada v Opere
Cafe Savoy vs. Cafe Louvre (heard Savoy has some service issues)
U Male Velryby
Where are good sandwich (pick up and go) type places?
Patisserie St. Tropez