My previous write-up on Prague touched on my top five spots to visit, but this piece focuses on the Prague Castle itself, because when you’re a first-timer looking at web sites, then being accosted by people on the street hustling tours, it’s a bit overwhelming.
On that note, in the last two years, the number of folks trying to get you to buy a tour has skyrocketed. The potential of being scammed has grown accordingly, getting so bad it warranted coverage on the Netflix show Scam City. If you want to be really unnerved, watch the episode covering Prague. Because of this, I feel it’s my moral obligation to give you the street view of the American tourist.
Left: the view walking across the St. Charles bridge up to the Castle, Right: turning around, looking back towards town as you keep going
Be informed and be vigilant
Two things right up front.
1). Don’t purchase a tour from someone on the street, and this doesn’t apply to just Prague. It pretty much holds true for any city, from Cancun to Rome. Street tour sellers invariably promise a personal meeting with the Pope (I kid you not) to seeing the inside private rooms of the castle. Be smart. Buy your ticket the office at the castle entrance and learn more on the main web site. Saving the potential $10 Euros just isn’t worth it.
2) The cab fairs are set and standard in the city. It’s max of 40 CZ plus 28 CZ per kilometer per the laws. Some cabs are honest, others are not. (This aspect was profiled/caught on tape on Scam City as well). Do yourself a favor and print out the law so you can contend with the cab driver as required, as some will tell you the law is wrong. Tip: the wise traveler will get in, ask about, and confirm the fair, then get in.
On the other hand, you can walk. As I mentioned in my other blog, you’ll see Starbucks, pay for the entrance to the castle and you are on your way.
Upper left: When you reach the top of the walk, take a breather (note the Starbuck’s Coffee. I think that’s morally wrong, but hey, they gotta earn rent somehow right? Turn around and snap some photos from whence you came (upper right) and then Bottom: the city
The must-sees and the official Prague Castle Website
St. Vitus Cathedral is a great picture taking environment. Beautiful sunlight, lots of color and few crowds depending on the time of day (we prefer twilight). It’s impossible to miss is one can just stand in front and take a breath. The girls were impressed.
Tours are offered of most of the top spots at the Castle, but we missed the last tours, and a few we wanted to go on were booked, but that was OK, since we did Golden Lane (below).
Golden Lane is another must do. Originally created for the goldsmiths and servants, these colorful, small homes are like a miniature town. It’s seriously like a Lilliputian experience, and the kids absolutely loved wandering through the streets, taking pictures then finding hobbit-hole sized corridors leading to and from other points in the castle. (Actually, in hindsight, maybe Rog enjoyed it the most. He’s def transported back to his 14-year old self whenever I took out the camera).
Golden Lane is exactly what it looks like in the pictures! We were thrilled.
Three different towers exist, but I don’t have any pictures as it got too dark. The black, new white and Daliborka Tower. The Black Tower was used for prisoners (and got it’s nickname from a fire that blackened the outside), the White Tower was used to imprison nobleman, and the Daliborka Tower was a jail for noblemen and later for other members of the upper echelon of society. I still haven’t figured out the difference between a jail and a prison, and I’m struck that even back then, the class system (rich vs poor) was entrenched.
One of the back/hidden passage ways leading to the castle from Golden Lane (workers) area.
As you can see, the “crowds” were practically non existent. Either the cloudy-cool weather turned them off or we got lucky, or both.
After visiting the Castle, we bowed to the demonic pleas of our children and made a b-line to the gerbil balls on the Vltava River, which I’ve mentioned several times already. For roughly 4 dollars, 15 minutes of exhaustive pleasure is worth it.