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Rick Steves Prague & the Czech Republic
By Rick Steves
By Honza Vihan
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- Trade Paperback $21.99 $27.99 CAD
- ebook $15.99 $20.99 CAD
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- Comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Prague and the Czech Republic
- Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
- Top sights and hidden gems, from the city's stunning Old Town Square and Prague Castle to charming neighborhood bars and restaurants
- How to connect with local culture: Take a dip in freshwater peat spas, explore the medieval villages of Bohemia, or enjoy a wine-cellar serenade with friendly vintners
- Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
- The best places to eat, sleep, and relax with a pint of local Pilsner
- Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and thought-provoking museums
- Detailed maps and directions, including a fold-out map for exploring on the go
- Useful resources including a packing list, a Czech phrase book, a historical overview, and recommended reading
- Over 500 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
- Complete, up-to-date information on Prague, Kutna Hora, Terezin Memorial, Litomerice, Konopiste Castle, Karlstejn Castle, Krivoklat Castle, Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov, Trebon, Telc, Trebic, Slavonice, Olomouc, Kromeriz, Wallachia, Mikulov, Pavlov and the Palava Hills, Lednice and Valtice, and more
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Prague & the Czech Republic.
Spending a week or less in the city? Check out Rick Steves Pocket Prague
The Czech Republic at a Glance
Map: Top Destinations in the Czech Republic
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Map: Map Legend
WHEN TO GO
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Traveling as a Temporary Local
Wedged between Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic is the first stop for many visitors’ foray into Eastern Europe. After the fall of communism, the Czech capital, Prague, quickly became one of Europe’s most popular destinations. Come see what all the fuss is about...but don’t overlook the rest of the country. Even in a quick visit, you can enjoy a fine introduction to the entire Czech Republic.
This book focuses on Prague, but also includes my favorite small-town and back-to-nature destinations in the countryside. If you want to experience the best two weeks that the Czech Republic has to offer, this book has all the information you’ll need.
Experiencing Czech culture, people, and natural wonders economically and hassle-free has been my life-long goal as a traveler, tour guide, and writer. This book is selective, including only the top destinations and sights. For example, the Czech Republic has dozens of historic countryside castles, but I take you to only the best (that’s Konopiště, Karlštejn, Křivoklát, and Lednice).
The best is, of course, only my opinion. But after spending much of my life researching Europe, I’ve developed a sixth sense for what travelers enjoy.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Rick Steves Prague & the Czech Republic is a personal tour guide in your pocket. Better yet, it’s actually two tour guides in your pocket: The co-author and researcher of this guidebook is Honza Vihan, a Prague native who leads Prague and Eastern Europe tours for my company, Rick Steves’ Europe. Together, Honza and I keep this book up-to-date and accurate. For simplicity we’ve shed our respective egos to become “I” in this book—though at times, you’ll know from the intimacy of some of the comments that Honza is sharing his own uniquely Czech perspective.
Use this legend to help you navigate the maps in this book.
The first half of this book focuses on Prague, following this format:
Orientation to Prague includes specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information. The “Planning Your Time” section suggests a schedule for how to best use your limited time.
Sights in Prague describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.
The Self-Guided Walks cover the Old Town, the New Town’s Wenceslas Square, and the peaceful, view-filled Vyšehrad park.
The Self-Guided Tours lead you through Prague’s most fascinating museums and sights: the Jewish Quarter, Museum of Medieval Art, Mucha Museum, Prague Castle, and Alfons Mucha’s must-see Slav Epic masterpiece.
Sleeping in Prague describes my favorite hotels, from good-value deals to cushy splurges.
Eating in Prague serves up a range of options, from inexpensive eateries to fancy restaurants.
Shopping in Prague gives you tips for shopping painlessly and enjoyably, without letting it overwhelm your vacation or ruin your budget.
Entertainment in Prague is your guide to fun, including a wide array of concerts and nightclubs—as well as other Czech entertainment options, from the unique Black Light Theater to hockey and soccer games.
Prague Connections outlines your options for traveling to destinations by train, bus, plane, or with a private driver.
The second half of the book, Beyond Prague, is devoted to the rest of the Czech Republic. For easy day trips from Prague, consider the towns of Kutná Hora (with bone church) and Karlovy Vary (with famous spa), the Terezín Memorial (concentration camp), and three castles. Farther-flung destinations are each covered as a mini-vacation: the pretty town of Český Krumlov; a cluster of distinctly different Southern Czech towns (Třeboň, Telč, Třebíč, and Slavonice); the youthful town of Olomouc; and the scenic Mikulov Wine Region.
Near the end of the book, you’ll find these chapters:
Czech History explains the complicated, tumultuous, and ultimately uplifting background of this country.
Practicalities is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best travel tips and advice about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation (trains, buses, car rentals, driving, and flights). There’s also a list of recommended books and films.
The appendix has nuts-and-bolts information, including useful phone numbers and websites, a festival list, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and Czech survival phrases.
Browse through this book, choose your favorite destinations, and link them up. Then have a great trip! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. As you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting some of my favorite Czech people.
This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.
Your trip to the Czech Republic is like a complex play—it’s easier to follow and to really appreciate on a second viewing. While no one does the same trip twice to gain that advantage, reading this book in its entirety before your trip accomplishes much the same thing.
Design an itinerary that enables you to visit sights at the best possible times. Note holidays, festivals, colorful market days, and days when sights are closed (all covered in this book).
If you have only a few days for Prague, remember that the impressive sights of the Jewish Quarter are closed every Saturday, and other museums (particularly in the Old Town) are closed on Monday. Monday can also be a problem day outside of Prague, as many Czech museums and castles are closed.
To get between destinations smoothly, read the tips in Practicalities on taking trains and buses, or renting a car and driving. A smart trip is a puzzle—a fun, doable, and worthwhile challenge.
When you’re plotting your itinerary, strive for a mix of intense and relaxed stretches. To maximize rootedness, minimize one-night stands. It’s worth taking a long drive after dinner to get settled in a town for two nights. Every trip—and every traveler—needs slack time (laundry, picnics, people-watching, and so on). Pace yourself. Assume you will return.
Reread this book as you travel, and visit local tourist information offices (abbreviated as TI in this book). Upon arrival in a new town, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; get the schedule for the train or bus that you’ll take when you depart. Drivers can figure out the best route to their next destination.
Update your plans as you travel. You can carry a small mobile device (phone, tablet, laptop) to find out tourist information, learn the latest on sights (special events, tour schedules, etc.), book tickets and tours, make reservations, reconfirm hotels, research transportation connections, and keep in touch with your loved ones. If you don’t want to bring a pricey device, you can use guest computers at hotels and make phone calls from landlines.
Enjoy the friendliness of the Czech people. Connect with the culture. Set up your own quest for the ultimate characteristically Czech pub. (Anything with an English menu doesn’t count.) Once inside, ask the locals to recommend the best beer, and make it your goal to get the most interesting story you possibly can out of them.
Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences. Ask questions—most locals are eager to point you in their idea of the right direction. Keep a notepad in your pocket for noting directions, organizing your thoughts, and confirming prices. Wear your money belt, learn the currency, and figure out how to estimate prices in dollars. Those who expect to travel smart, do.
There are two price tiers in the Czech Republic: Prague, and everywhere else. Outside of Prague, you’ll be amazed at the low prices for accommodations, food, transportation, and sightseeing. In Prague, you’ll find prices closer to the Western European range. Prague hotels are particularly expensive, often surpassing Western prices. But even in Prague, things that natives pay for—such as transportation and food (in local-style, rather than tourist-oriented, restaurants)—are very affordable. Despite the expense of Prague, if you avoid overpriced restaurants on the main tourist drag, and if you use my listings to stay at only the best-value hotels, a trip to the Czech Republic can still be substantially less expensive than a trip to Western European destinations.
Five components make up your trip costs: airfare, surface transportation, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.
Airfare: A basic round-trip flight from the US to Prague can cost, on average, about $1,000-2,000, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). If Prague is part of a longer trip, consider saving time and money in Europe by flying into one city and out of another (for example, into Prague and out of Vienna). Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.
Surface Transportation: Point-to-point train and bus tickets within the Czech Republic are inexpensive—a second-class train ticket from Prague to the farthest reaches of the country won’t run you more than about $40. Renting a car is convenient for exploring the Czech countryside, but doing so is much more expensive than public transportation (allow $200 per week, not including tolls, gas, and supplemental insurance). If you’ll be keeping the car for three weeks or more, look into leasing, which can save you money on insurance and taxes for trips of this length. Car rentals are cheapest if arranged from the US. Those with more money than time can consider hiring a car with a private driver (a full-day, round-trip excursion from Prague to Český Krumlov runs about $200; see here). Train passes normally must be purchased outside Europe but aren’t necessarily your best option—you may save money by simply buying tickets as you go. Don’t hesitate to consider flying, as budget airlines can be cheaper than taking the train (check www.skyscanner.com for intra-European flights). For more on public transportation and car rental, see “Transportation” in Practicalities.
Room and Board: You can manage comfortably in Prague on $130 a day per person for room and board. This allows $10 for lunch, $20 for dinner, and $100 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $200 double room that includes breakfast). Outside Prague, hotel rates plummet to $70 or less for a decent double, and food prices also drop—making $50 a day per person a reasonable budget in the Czech countryside. Even in Prague, students and tightwads can eat and sleep for as little as $40 a day ($25 for a bed, $15 for meals and snacks).
Sightseeing and Entertainment: Sightseeing is inexpensive here. Most sights generally cost about $5-10. A few biggies cost more (such as Prague Castle—$13) or much more (the Jewish Quarter—$24), but that’s rare. Most sights offer senior and student discounts; always ask. Figure $25-35 for concerts, Black Light Theater performances, and other splurge experiences. You can hire a private guide for as little as $120 for four hours. An overall average of $30 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience the Czech Republic.
Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $1-2 per stamped postcard, coffee, beer, or ice-cream cone. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong and wonderful memories.
WHEN TO GO
In Prague and the Czech Republic, the “tourist season” runs roughly from Easter through October. July and August have their advantages, with the best weather, longer days (daylight until after 21:00), fewer tourists in Prague than in the peak months of May, June, and September, and busy festivals held in small towns around the country. In spring and fall (May, June, Sept, and early Oct), the weather is milder, and the colors and scents are more powerful.
Winter travelers find the concert season in full swing, with remarkably fewer tourists—but outside of Prague, many sights are either closed or open on a limited schedule. In December, you’ll find Christmas markets on main squares around the country, fragrant with the scent of hot wine with cloves. After a quiet Christmas season, Prague explodes with fun on New Year’s Eve, teeming with thousands of Germans and other Europeans. In January and early February, when few tourists come, chances are you will wake up to a Prague silenced by the wistful glimmer of snow, which quickly melts in the Old Town but stays on the ground at Prague Castle and on top of Petřín Hill. Seeing the Charles Bridge blanketed by fresh snow makes the hours spent out in the cold worthwhile. Frequent pub stops, with lots of plum brandy and hot wine, are essential at this time of year—and they bring you closer to local life. Winter can linger, but Prague usually turns green with spring around mid-April. Use the climate chart in the appendix as your Prague weather guide.
So much to see, so little time. How to choose? Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, the following are my recommended priorities:
|4-5 days, add:||Your choice of nearby day trips (Kutná Hora, Terezín Memorial, Karlovy Vary, and three castles: Konopiště, Karlštejn, or Křivoklát)|
|5 days, add:||Český Krumlov (and skip day trips)|
|7 days, add:||Olomouc|
|8-9 days, add:||Třeboň, Telč, and Třebíč|
|More:||Your choice among Šumava, Wallachia, Slavonice, or the Mikulov wine region with Lednice-Valtice|
This includes nearly everything on the map on here. If you don’t have time to see it all, prioritize according to your interests. The “Czech Republic at a Glance” sidebar can help you decide where to go (see here). This list assumes you’re primarily interested in the Czech Republic. But note that Prague also splices neatly into a wider-ranging trip that can include such nearby destinations as Vienna (4-6 hours by train), Budapest (7-8.5 hours), Kraków (7.5-8.25 hours), Munich (6.25 hours), and Berlin (4.5-5 hours).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Your trip is more likely to go smoothly if you plan ahead. Check this list of things to arrange while you’re still at home.
You need a passport—but no visa or shots—to travel in the Czech Republic. You may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. It can take up to six weeks to get or renew a passport (for more on passports, see www.travel.state.gov). Pack a photocopy of your passport in your luggage in case the original is lost or stolen.
- "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
- "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
- “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
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- "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
- "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
- "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
- "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
- “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
- "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."—The New York Times
- "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
- "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News
- On Sale
- Oct 24, 2023
- Page Count
- 496 pages
- Rick Steves