If you’ve been tightening your vacation budget and putting off travel for a few months or even years, then “European” and “affordable” might not seem like words that go together. Europe’s centuries of architecture and culture make it an attractive destination, but this ornate history makes it seem extremely expensive too.
For some, trying to pull of a trip to Europe on a conservative budget might seem nearly impossible. However, it only takes a little research to find impressive European travel deals, and with some insider advice from people who have already been there, you can easily save up enough to afford and enjoy the best destinations. Your low-cost trip will still be an extravagant success.
Prague Tourism on a Budget
Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is over a thousand years old, and it’s home to some fantastic tourist experiences, both indoors and outside. Eastern Europe can be a long flight from the United States, but Prague has the attractions that make it worth the trip with family or friends, and you’ll find that your dollar can go very far.
Top 10 Prague Sights and Sounds
1. The Charles Bridge
This beautiful walk will give you a gorgeous view of Prague Castle. Thirty Baroque statues from the 17th century line the bridge, making this destination a must-see, even though most of the statues are replicas and the originals are in museums. With vendors and musicians performing and setting up shop all along the bridge, it’s worth visiting twice. First, walk the bridge early in the day so you can get a first look at artists’ stations with handmade wooden toys, Prague trinkets, and impressive works of art. My watercolor of Prague Castle remains a treasured favorite. Then return around dusk, when you’ll enjoy hearing the musicians play as evening falls.
2. Dikova Sarka
Just thirty minutes from the center of Prague, Dikova Sarka is a natural reserve with a lake, small waterfalls, and areas for biking and walking. You can easily reach Dikova Sarka via public transportation by taking the Metro Green Line A to Dejvická and then riding bus 119.
3. Old Town Square
The square, one of my favorite spots, dates back to the 12th century. Old Town Square is home to two historic churches and the well-known Astronomical Clock, which chimes and comes to life every hour, on the hour. In the square, you’ll find restaurants and sidewalk cafes, as well as crystal shops. Surrounded by history and enjoyable ambiance, it’s a wonderful spot for lunch or a late night beer, but be ready to pay higher tourist prices here.
4. The Jewish Quarter
You’ll find this section of Prague – also known as Josefov and once called the Jewish Ghetto – near Old Town Square and the Vltava River. As early as the 13th century, Prague’s Jewish residents were forced to live in this small area. Within the Jewish Quarter you will find the Old Jewish Cemetery, several synagogues, and the Jewish Town Hall. The cemetery is of particular significance, since Jewish people could be buried within the quarter only, so graves were sometimes placed twelve deep. In addition, a primary reason that this Jewish Cemetery remains is because Hitler wanted to transform it into a museum after the Holocaust.
5. John Lennon Wall
This touching reminder of John Lennon reflects his belief in peace. It became a place for Prague’s youths to express their desire for free speech. Here, they peacefully rebelled against the communist state before 1989. John Lennon and his music were popular with the young people in the Czech Republic. In fact Western music, particularly Lennon’s lyrical expression of freedom, was banned under Communism. To reach this wall memorial of art and graffiti, take a tram (Number 12, 20, 22, 23) from the metro station Malostranská to the Malostranské Námestí or Hellichova tram stop.
6. St. Nicholas Church
One of the oldest churches in the Old Town, St. Nicholas Church has history dating back to 1735. This Baroque church offers musical concerts throughout the year. It’s located within Old Town Square, so it’s a perfect place to stop and explore.
7. Wenceslas Square
Bordering Old Town, this area is a great place for a casual walk to take in the sights. Wenceslas Square was originally used for horse markets during the middle ages, and it now hosts the National Museum as well as shops, restaurants, discos, and hotels.
8. Petrin Tower
Resembling the Eiffel Tower, Petrin Tower offers visitors the best views of Prague, and admission is about $5.60 US. You’ll climb 229 steps to get to the top, or you can opt for the elevator instead.
9. New Prague Beer Challenge Tour
If you’re a beer lover then put this tour on your itinerary. You’ll learn about the history of Czech beer while touring four local pubs and enjoying three half-liter beers. The fees for the New Prague Beer Challenge are about $16.39 US for students and $19.12 US for adults.
10. Free Prague Walking Tours
An exceptional way to tour Prague and learn about it is through the free walking tours. The tours touch on many major historic spots around Prague. Brand name companies like Sandeman’s New Europe offer tours, and you can reserve tour times by booking online.
Prague Castle and Garden
The gorgeous architecture, incredible history and well-maintained grounds of Prague Castle will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped into the Middle Ages. I loved the gargoyles I found at every turn. A short-visit ticket, which includes admission to the Cathedral of St. Vitus, the Old Royal Palace, and the permanent exhibit The Story of Prague Castle, costs $12.52 US, but you can get discounted short-visit tickets for $6.95 US. A family ticket provides admission for two adults and up to five kids ages 16 and under, all for $27.97 US. You’ll also get to tour more of the places available for you to preview on the detailed interactive map, like St. George’s Basilica and Rosenberg Palace, as well as Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower after its reopening in the summer of 2011.
Conveniently located near the Malostranské Námestí tram stop in the center of town, this terraced, Italian, Baroque garden is a wonderful place to enjoy a bit of silence in the middle of the city. The sloped garden provides a beautiful view, and it contains statues of Roman gods and goddesses. Open from April through October from 10 am to 6 pm, family admission is $5.60 US, while adults pay $2.24 US and individual children fees are $1.12 US.
Prague for Kids
Listed as the seventh best zoo in the world by Forbes in 2007, the Prague Zoo has a chair lift, viewing train, petting zoo, and many children’s play areas. The zoo’s hours of operation change by season, and admission is $25.12 US for a family ticket, good for two adults and two kids. The zoo is near the Metro stop Zoologická Zahrada.
Fun for the whole family, boat rides are a great way to complement a trip to the zoo. For $7.80 US for adults and $3.90 US for kids, boat rides last 75 minutes, and the zoo is one of the stops on the route.
At this top-ten destination pick, you’ll find a Mirror Maze, with distorted mirror images that provide plenty of fun for kids. Your children will also enjoy pony rides, which may be an option depending on the season and weather.
Puppet Theatre Jiskra
Kids will love the traditional marionette shows, performed in Czech language. Admission is $1.40 US to $2.80 US.
Eventually, your kids will just want a place to relax and play, and the Franciscan Garden near Wenceslas has a perfect playground. The garden was established in 1348, and the Franciscans acquired it in 1604.
From June through October, take advantage of over-the-edge fun with a bungee jump from a bridge in the historic Czech Republic. For a small group, the cost is $167 US per person.
Are you ready to live life on the wild side in the Czech Republic? Sky diving is offered for $212 US, from June to October.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
These romantic trips last three to four hours for $329 US per person. Available from April through October, hot air balloon rides offer gorgeous views of Prague and the Czech countryside.
Prague Opera and Ballet
Prague has three Opera Houses: The Prague State Opera, the Estates Theatre, and the National Theatre – where great seats can cost up to $61 US. Also, throughout the city – in synagogues, churches, concert halls, and opera houses – you’ll find ticket prices as low as $25 US. While most performances are traditionally in the evening, you can find a few afternoon performances that start at 1 pm.
From April 9 through May 1, you’ll find Prague’s two amazing Easter Markets open. The first market is found in Old Town Square, and the second Easter Market is in Wenceslas Square. Hand-painted Easter eggs are a Czech tradition, and you’ll see them everywhere. A memorable gift of the Czech Republic, you can buy individual eggs or packages as souvenirs.
In the children’s cabin in the Old Town Square Easter market, kids can make Easter decorations, paint flower pots, and hand-paint Easter eggs. As a special treat, folk dancers come from all over the Czech Republic to perform in the Easter Markets.
Czech Beer Festival
The annual Czech Beer Festival runs for two weeks in mid-May. You can enter the festival for free, but you’ll need to purchase special tolar (beer festival tokens) to get food and drinks. In the end, beers will cost roughly $2.22 US. You’ll have the opportunity to try beer from the larger breweries, regional breweries, and local micro-breweries.
From December 3 to January 1, visit the Christmas Markets in Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Havelske Trziste, and Námestí Republiky. You’ll find wooden stalls decorated for Christmas, in which vendors offer traditional Czech products and foods like sausage, corn on the cob, Czech beer and local desserts. The Old Town Square Christmas Market has an incredible nativity scene, where kids can pet the goats, sheep, and donkey. Additionally, there’s a giant Christmas tree lit every evening at 5 pm. Choirs and dance groups will entertain you during Old Town Square’s daily schedule of musical performances.
Affordable Restaurants in Prague
Novomestsky (New Town Brewery)
Housed in a building that dates back to 1903, Novomestsky has been serving beer since 1993. Since it’s located just 400 meters from Wenceslas Square, you won’t be surprised to learn that main courses are expensive at $11 to $16 US, but a half-liter beer costs $2.18 US.
Insider’s Budget Tip: If you are on a tight budget, stray from the main tourist avenues. Prague has many wonderful restaurants and cafes, and just a few blocks away, you’ll find big bargains.
Ceská Hospoda v Krakovské
This inexpensive local pub offers Czech food and great local beer. Menu items include rabbit served with cream and garlicm and a smoked pork dish prepared with potato, red cabbage and bacon. Staff members speak English, German, and Italian, and the menu is offered in several languages, so you can eat comfortably without worrying about your translation dictionary. Take the metro to Muzeum Station to reach the restaurant.
U Sádlu II
A medieval-style pub with very reasonable prices – as low as $8 US – U Sádlu II has a menu of Eastern European favorites like goulash, potato pancakes, and pork. There are two locations, one near metro station Námestí Míru on Metro A and the other near Námestí Republiky on Metro B.
U Fleku Brewery and Restaurant
U Fleku is the only brewery in Central Europe that has been brewing beer for 500 straight years. Its history starts in 1499, and with eight lounges and an outdoor garden, U Fleku seats up to 1,200 people, making it one of the largest beer houses in Prague. For about $3.32 US you’ll get a 0.4L beer, and most of the food selections cost between $7 and $10 US.
Clear Head Vegetarian Restaurant
With Middle Eastern favorites, Mexican selections, and local Czech items, Clear Head has the most diverse menu I found in Prague. Main courses cost about $7 to $9 US. Take Tram 17 or 18 to Karlovy Lazne, and the restaurant is within two blocks.
Cheap Prague Hotels
Little Town Hotel and Hostel
Just steps from the Charles Bridge, Little Town has a few rooms with a view of Prague Castle. This hostel and hotel gets high marks, with its kitchens, laundry facilities, free towels, Internet, and a free city tour included in the rate, but breakfast costs an extra $5.59 US. Private rooms with a bath start at $47.71 US per person. Dorm rooms that fit four people and have private bath are $33.68 US per person. Your children can stay for free, as long as they stay in the same room as you.
Insider’s Budget Tip: Venre.com gave this hostel an award for best service hotel. It also received the top-rated hostel award by Hostel World.
St. Christopher’s at the Mosaic House
Right in the historic district, within walking distance of the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, St. Christopher’s at the Mosaic House has dorm and private rooms available, and it’s handicap accessible. This new hostel is getting excellent ratings, and it comes with Internet, air conditioning, laundry facilities, and linens. There is a restaurant and bar at the hostel. Private rooms with a bath start at $68.78 US. Dorm rooms with a bath and room for four start at $36.12 US per person.
Hostel One Prague
Home of a great kitchen where you prepare your own meals, and with a great atmosphere maintained by excellent staff, Hostel One Prague has a bar and lounge for relaxing, and they provide Internet, laundry facilities, and linens. This hostel is located in an art nouveau area, away from the historic district, so private rooms are more affordable. A dorm room sleeping four, with a bath, goes for $27.50 US per person. A private room with a bath goes for $30.81 per person US.
Apart Hotel Angel Self-Catering Apartments
Just a 15-minute walk from the historic city center, these rooms earn very high marks for comfort, cleanliness, service, and surroundings. The apartments come with a kitchen, WiFi, cable, and daily cleaning service, and they’re a great deal at $67 US per night for two people. Breakfast is available for an extra charge.
Pet Sitter Services in Prague
Traveling with pets requires extra planning. I’ve discovered places where your pet can unwind and make friends while you’re traveling around town.
- Dog Hotel provides boarding and training with a place for your pet to run (email email@example.com or call 00-420-604-513-723).
- Dogs Life offers dog daycare and boarding customized to your pet’s needs (call 00-420-776-134-874).
- Hotel for Cats has home care for cats, as well as boarding and cat transportation options. They’ll take photos of your cat and put them on their Facebook page so you can see that your cat is enjoying the stay (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 00-420-604-849-311).
- Paws and Paws provides personalized dog care, exercise, and grooming (call 00-420-606-661-782).
- Agentura Zoo Service provides care for many types of pets while you are away (email email@example.com or call GSM 776 008 299).
A five-day public transport ticket that includes trains, trams, and buses costs $28.02 US for adults while children’s tickets can only be purchased by the day (no five-day pass available) for $2.80 US. The Prague city train system is divided into two zones: P and O. Separate tickets for outlying areas carry an additional fee.
For $46.44 US, the Prague City Card offers fantastic savings on attractions, transportation, and activities throughout Prague. The card allows you free entry to at least 50 attractions in Prague, and you may also add a transport card, giving you access to the trains, trams, and buses.
Insider’s Transit Tip: Check that your ticket is valid for all areas. If you’re purchasing a ticket at a kiosk in the Underground, read the machine carefully. I once purchased the wrong ticket, and when I was stopped for a random ticket check, I had to pay an on-the-spot fine of about $27 US.
Cheap Prague Flights and Transportation Tips
For greatly discounted flights, check out CheapOair. I found several flights from Chicago O’Hare to Prague. A flight on Scandinavian Airlines on May 12, for example, came in at $617. A Continental Airlines flight for the same day cost $639. I even found a Continental Airlines flight out of Newark Liberty Airport for $411 dollars. Other flights were in the $700 range.
When booking flights, watch out for airline fees. And don’t forget, you’ll probably have to take a flight with a connection, like the stops I saw in Frankfurt, Paris, or Amsterdam. If you’re doing more travel within Europe, try out TUIFly, a popular low-cost European airline, for deals out of Cologne-Bonn and Rotterdam. I selected a date in mid-May out of Cologne-Bonn with a return trip one week later, and it only cost me $61.98 euro.
When in doubt, don’t forget that Prague’s tourist information centers are a great resource. While there are several locations all over the city, the most convenient one is in Old Town Square. It’s called the Old Town Hall, and the tourist information center is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm.
Whether it’s from a friend or a tourism professional, reliable advice is the key to a great trip that you can afford. You don’t want to ignore Europe’s best destinations, but you don’t want to be lost there with a low budget and no plan.
With these low-fee attractions, you’re on your way to a great travel plan, and if you’ve visited Prague, help out some readers by sharing your experiences.
What are your favorite low-cost destinations in Prague? What other insider tips do you have for your fellow travelers to Prague?