At the end of the day, Prague is a city of magic.
Prague isn’t sterile the way most Western European capitals are, but it’s not a post-communist wreck either—it’s caught in the middle, somewhere in between daily reality and the realm of legends. And we don’t just mean “legend” legends, like the one about the Golem of Prague. We mean the legends of people—these cobblestone streets were once walked upon by Franz Kafka, after all. There’s also the legend of Charles IV, the ambitious Czech king who dreamed up Prague the way it looks today (aside from the fast food restaurants, those came later). And then there’s the far more recent specter of communism, which left the entire country in a hangover that still hasn’t ended. Speaking of hang- overs, we haven’t even told you about the beer which is cheaper than water, about the cafés which teem with easy-going locals, and about the art, which creeps around in all forms, from the subtlest of jazz melodies to the heaviest of modern sculptures. There will be moments in between, when all you see are other tourists breathing at your neck, Western shops turning the city into just another European capital, and the Czechs either not speaking English or speaking it in an offensive way, but it’s the moments of magic for which you came here. For these, the entire trip is worth it.
Just like the skull of some punk who got into a fight with the star of Stand by Me, Prague is split by a river, which, in this case, is the Vltava River rather than the late River Phoenix. Josefov (Jewish Quarter), Stare Mesto (Old Town), and Nove Mesto (New Town) line the east bank of the river, and Mala Strana (Lesser Town) and Hradcany (Castle District), line the West Bank. Numerous bridges connect the two banks, the most famous of which is the Charles. These areas are often populated by hordes of tourists, but you can escape them by heading further inland east to the more local and residential Zizkov and Vinohrady neighborhoods, or crossing the Vltava north of Stare Mesto, where you’ll find the grungy and artsy Holesovice district. What these less-touristy areas lack in sights, they make up for in cafés and dangerously chill vibes. The central bus and train stations are located just east of Stare Mesto in the Florenc District, while the Vaclav Havel Airport is found about an hour to the west.
No direct train or bus lines run from the airport to the city center, but there are buses that connect to metro lines, which will take you into the city. Bus #119 runs from the airport to Veleslavín metro station on the green Line A. Bus #100 runs from the airport to Zličín metro station on the yellow line B. Both these lines will take you into the city center. The total journey is around 40min. Purchase tickets from Public Transport counters in Terminals 1 and 2 from 7am-10pm. Alternatively, use the coin-operated vending machines at the bus stop. Note that drivers usually accept small notes and change. You may need to purchase a half-price ticket (10Kč) for large pieces of luggage. Remember to validate tickets in the yellow machines before boarding any public transport. If you’re arriving by train, you’ll most likely disembark at Praha Hlavní Nádraží, the main railway station, located between Nove Mesto and Zizkov. The railway station is connected to the metro system (red line C). One stop north will connect you to the yellow line B, and one stop south to the green Line C; both will take you to the city center. Trains along the Berlin-Prague-Vienna/Bratislava route may disembark at the Praha Holešovice station, which is located in the north region of Prague. This station also connects to the metro via red line C. Most international buses disembark at Florenc Bus Station, which is just east of the Old Town.
The public transport system is convenient and consists of three metro lines (green line A, yellow line B, red line C), trams, and buses. The same ticket is used for all forms of public transportation. Ticket options include: 30min. (for tram rides only, or metro journeys up to five stops, 24Kč), 90min. (32Kč), 24hr (110Kč), and 72hr (310Kč). Be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machines on buses and trams or at the base of escalators in metro stations. Plainclothes police officers will often inspect tickets. They are notoriously strict and will fine you up to 1000Kč if you have not validated your ticket. The metro runs from 5am-midnight, and buses and trams operate from 4:30am-12:15am. Night buses and trams operate less frequently from 12:15am-4:30am. The central point of nighttime transfers is Lazarska in Nove Mesto. Be wary of potential pickpockets on crowded trains, trams, and buses, especially on trams #22 and 23. The minimum taxi fare is 28Kč/km. It is recommended that you order a taxi though a dispatch office where you can get information on fares in advance. Dispatch services that speak English include AAA radiotaxi (222 333 222; aaataxi.cz), Citytaxi Praha (257 257 257; www.citytaxi.cz) and Modry andel (737 222 333; www.modryandel.cz).
Tourist Offices: Old Town Hall Tourist and Information Center (Staroměstské náměstí 1; open daily 9am-7pm).
Banks/ATMs/Currency Exchange: ATMs can be found in the city center and tourist areas, belonging to local and international banks. Many are located in or around Wenceslas Square and can generally be found in shopping centers and metro stations. In the city, beware of currency exchanges that charge high commission fees. Exchange (Kaprova 14/13; 800 22 55 88; open M-F 9am-10pm, Sa-Su 9am-8pm) is found in Josefov and known as one of the most reliable currency exchanges.
Post Offices: Czech Post (Jindřišská 909/14; 221 131 445; open daily 2am-midnight).
Internet: Free Wi-Fi can be found at nearly every café, hostel, and most restaurants also provide free Wi-Fi.
BGLTQ+ Resources: The Czech Republic is generally considered one of the most liberal Central European nations in terms of BGLTQ+ rights, legalizing same-sex partnerships in 2006. However, while Czech society is accepting and tolerant, BGLTQ+ individuals do not yet have full legal equality. Here are some resources, if needed:
Emergency Number: 112
Police: 156; the police headquarters are located directly at the bottom of Wenceslas Square (Jungmannovo nám. 771/9; 974 851 750, 24hr hotline).
US Embassy: The US Embassy (Tržiště 365/15; 257 022 000; open M-F 8:15am-11:30pm) is located in Mala Strana, near Malostranské náměstí).
Rape Crisis Center: There are two rape crisis centers located in Prague, which provide national crisis helplines.
- Elektra (Chomutovická 1444/2; 603 812 361; www.centrumelektra.cz, email@example.com; open W, F 9am-4pm). p
- roFem o.p.s (Plzeňská 846/66; 608 222 277; www.profem.cz, firstname.lastname@example.org; open Tu 9am-noon, W 5:30-8:30pm).
- The University Hospital in Motol (V Úvalu 84; 224 431 111).
- Nemocnice Na Momolce (Roentgenova 37/2; 257 271 111).
Pharmacies: Pharmacies in Prague are known as “Lékárnas.”
- Lékárna Palackého (Palackého 720/5; 224 946 982; open daily 24hr).
- Lékárna U Svaté Ludmily (Belgicka 37; 222 513 396).