Most everyone knows that Prague has the Charles Bridge, excellent opera and those adorable horse-and-carriage rides that follow the cobblestone roads into the sunset. But come on, don’t you want to live it up and live like a local, not just a skimming-the-surface tourist? Uncover the beating heart of Prague when you try out some of these insider suggestions at very non-touristy prices.
1) Rare films on the silver screen.
For 150 Kc (currently, $1 = 18 Kc) and a passport-sized photo, you can obtain a one-year membership to the National Film Archive of the Czech Republic which allows you to see its fascinating and diverse cinematic treasury. Once you have a membership, you can attend films from all over the world, dating back as far as 1906, for only 60 Kc. Though films are usually played in their original language with Czech subtitles, you may never have a chance to see these unique flicks anywhere else, and many have little or no dialogue anyways. Some silent films are screened with live piano accompaniment. Grab an Orion chocolate bar (or three) at a nearby street kiosk, say “Dobree vecher” (good evening) to the nice owners and their little dog as they take your ticket, and settle into one of the deep plush seats of this reconstructed 14th century building (Antonin Dvorak used to study in this very hall!) for an experience of a lifetime. Program and other information available at www.nfa.cz/en
2) ‘Tis the season for burcak!
If you visit Prague in September, you’ll be just in time for the first grape harvest of the season. Wine harvest festivals (a big one takes place annually right off the green line metro stop, Jiriho z Podebrad, right on the front lawn of a church, in fact!) will offer you a taste of the pear-juice-looking beverage, known as burcak (pronounced “boor chak”), derived from this first crop of grapes. And vinotekas (wine shops) and many little kiosks on the street will fill up your 1 or 1.5 liter water bottles with burcak for about 40 Kc (that’s about $2!).
3) Cheap train travel.
At any train station, you can ask for a ‘kilometricka banka’, a small booklet that gives up to six passengers a total of 2,000 km of train travel anywhere within the Czech Republic, for 1,400 Kc. You will need to write in your station of departure and station of arrival, as this will serve as your ticket. This is by far the cheapest method of buying tickets, especially if you plan to travel the country by train.
These “antique shops” are not just for collectors of antiques. Often times, you will find that the shop is mostly full of older, used books, magazines, paintings and records being sold at deeply discounted prices. Many have a dedicated English-language section, or a foreign-language section, including the one by the Staromestska metro station (green line) at Valentinska 8. Antikvariats are probably THE best places for discovering the most unique and inexpensive souvenirs in Prague. Another mind-blowing outdoor antikvariat of sorts (more of a communist relic bazaar) is located right down the street from the yellow line metro station, Kolbenova. This place is only open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., but is absolutely worth it. It costs 10 Kc to get in.
5) From Russia with love.
If you think that Prague is as close as you might ever get to Russia, not to worry. As you can still fill up on imported, high-quality Russian treats, including: chocolates, beer, vodka, caviar, as well as books, music, and films. Two such shops offering these items are located almost next to each other in the so-called Russian neighborhood by the Hradcanska metro (green line) station on Bubenecka street.
6) When in Prague, eat like the Praguers.
If you want to eat on the cheap, follow the local Czechs. They definitely love their breads on the go, and dreamy scented little bakeries are often conveniently located in metro stations, among other places, so you can grab a pastry or small ham and cheese sandwich or poppy seed roll and run for your train. You can get a basic, fresh rohlik (roll) with a nice crunch of poppy seeds and salt crystals for as little as 2 Kc, or splurge on a heavenly piece of medovnik (honey layer cake) for about 25 Kc. One famous hot spot, especially for the late night crowd, is Pizza Roma, right across the street from the I.P. Pavlova metro station (red line). This place stays open till 4 a.m., at which time you will likely come to believe that their 35 Kc-a-slice pizza is pure ambrosia.
Written by Suchi Rudra for EuropeUpClose.com