We’ve all heard about the romantic backdrop of Paris, the chic style of Milan, and the posh ambiance of London. However, how much have we really heard about Prague? If you are like me, then not much at all. It wasn’t until the winter of 2015 that I began to really learn about this fairy-tale city and all it has to offer. I was in my senior year of college and looking to expand my horizons a bit post-graduation. For a while, I wanted to break free of my New Jersey bubble and travel the world. Cliche?
Okay, maybe many have the same dream to hop around the globe for several months, but how many of us actually do it or are able to? Instagram may make it seem like everyone and their mother are living the nomadic lifestyle these days, but trust me, that’s not always the case. Truth is, many millennials are so far into student loan debt that splurging for them is buying from the whole value menu at Taco Bell. (Been there and done that MANY times)
Why I Chose Prague
After researching for what seemed like an eternity, I decided to include Prague into my travels for the fall of 2016. I had chosen Prague because of their teaching abroad programs and the positive remarks I found about the city all over the inter-webs. It seemed that this place in the Czech Republic was beginning to get some hype. What really sold me were the photos. Once I found images of the Charles Bridge, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I involved my best friend on taking the journey with me and we soon booked an apartment on Airbnb.
When it finally came time to go to Prague, we were already in Scotland for ten days visiting a friend. How could we leave Scotland after falling in love with its people, food, and fantasy-like landscapes? We both went in knowing nothing of the Czech language, little about Prague itself other than what people on YouTube videos kept saying, and also oddly calm about it all. What we thought would be a place that we wouldn’t feel at home in, turned out to be the one place in our entire Europe trip that we felt the most like ourselves. It was a place, that for almost two months, would test us as travelers emotionally, all the while leading us onto a path that would change our lives forever.
That’s the magic of Prague. You go in not knowing what to expect and come out knowing more about yourself than ever before. Its elusive reputation is what sells it. When you fly to Paris you know what you will get in terms of romance and the city of lights. However, with Prague you arrive with an open heart and an excitement to find out what its really about. Sort of like relationships.
There’s the famous “F” boy in which you know if you follow through with pursuing him, it will lead you down to a path of nothing but eventual pain. Then, there’s the mystery boy. He doesn’t reveal too much of himself and his reputation isn’t as filled up. However, he is an enigma that ends up pleasantly surprising you. Let’s just say, for once, I didn’t choose the “F” boy. Hallelujah!
Here are 5 things about Prague, that make it a true hidden gem and made my experience living there quite the awesome one!
Hear me out. I went to Italy and ate the best food of my entire trip while in Milan. In fact, that food was so good in Italy that I actually cried a bit, during lunch, with tears falling into my Chianti. With that said, I have to give Prague a major shout-out for serving the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life. We ate their traditional dishes including duck with dumplings and tried their famous dessert trdelnik, a dough wrapped/cooked over a fire pit and filled with your choice of ice-cream or even Nutella. These were all interesting to try-out, but not as mouth watering as their pizza was in terms of taste.
We ate different kinds of pies in several restaurants testing out a theory to see if it was just one place that was really good at making this Italian treasure, or, if secretly, Prague was in fact the place to go for a yummy slice. Turn’s out, if you have a craving for some pizza, Prague is truly a perfect city to fill that need. Mostly served thinly sliced, the pizza in town is usually cooked in a brick oven with a mix of not just cheese for a topping but heavy cream as well, giving it a distinct taste and texture. Not to mention, it’s an affordable meal. My travel buddy and I would order two large pies, one for each of us, a soda, and two beers, and the price would come out to $12. Yup. That’s not a typo.
Like my friend and I, many arrive in Prague afraid of the language barrier. Knowing Czech as a second language is not always a common thing. However, language was never an issue. Prague is not only diverse in cultures, much like New York City, but most that live there speak multiple languages with English being their second fluent one. This was such a gift!
Everywhere we went, no matter what district of the city, or how old the citizen, odds were they knew how to speak English and well at that. My friend and I always tried to be courteous and greet them in Czech, but immediately they knew that we were American. I never said our greeting was perfectly fluent.
We tried our best. Which by the way, even the Czech men on Tinder in Prague knew how to write and speak fluently. So if you decide you want to flirt a little while visiting there, go for it. There is also a large population of English and Spanish speaking civilians residing there to teach a language. Every nationality from Australian, to Spaniard, and Thai were working and living in Prague. So when you do go, don’t fear of a major language barrier. Odds are they’ll know how to speak your language before you know their’s.
PRAGUE IS CHEAP! When I say cheap, I really mean cheap. This is one of the biggest reasons its considered a hidden gem for travel. Not only is the exchange rate 1 Czech Koruna for 0.039 in USD, but the city in general is very affordable to not only explore but to also live in. Keep in mind, I am from New Jersey, one of the most expensive states to live in the U.S. Rent for a one bedroom apartment, utilities included, and in a decent area can start at a price of $2,100 per month, at times.
When my friend and I considered living in Prague, we shopped around and found two bedroom apartments near the beautiful Old Town Square, including everything for only $500 a month. Not to mention food and transportation are also very low in price. We once took an Uber from the other side of town, about a 15 minute drive, and it cost us $4. The only thing that can be costly at times is clothing.
Point is, if you want to visit Europe but don’t think you can afford the cost of such a trip, look into Prague. Flying there only cost us $500 in total and that was with a stop in Scotland for several days. Plus, once you’re in Europe, inter-continental flights are very cheap. So you can hop around to different countries for sometimes less than $30. Use companies like Skyscanner or even Ryanair. When booking flights to Italy and France while in Europe, that’s who we used and it saved us a lot of money. Remember: Student loans have to continue being paid off. So saving many when you can is a majorly helpful trait to have as your trek around the world.
Visually, Prague is breathtaking. Whether it was walking the Charles Bridge at sunrise or standing in Old Town Square at Sunset, there is never a dull view in this grand city. It is considered a fairy-tale land for a reason. Each building is as unique and traditional to its period as the last. For a city that is much older than most and rich in history, you’d never think its aged. They keep all the buildings in prime shape, never taking their medieval essence away, but instead improving upon it.
During the day, the colors are vibrant and aesthetically gorgeous. At night, the lights highlight the craftsmanship that went into so many of the details that make Prague unique at every corner. Many times, my friend and I caught ourselves simply standing and wondering, how so many years ago, they were able to build such epic masterpieces? One being their famous clock tower. In fact, Prague has the oldest clock in Europe sitting in the middle of the town square. When you see Prague you will think it’s beautiful, but what it really is, is distinct. Not one place there is ever the same as the last. Instead, like it’s people, each building, park, bridge, and square are as individually special as the rest.
I party a lot. I say this because it is important to know that as someone who likes to go to bars and even clubs, it was vital for me, that when I traveled, I went to places that fed into this fun habit of mine. Not to say that Prague isn’t also very calm because it is. At night, Prague becomes a city for everyone seeking some thrills. The best part, no judgment. I have attended many clubs and bars in my twenties so far and what I have always noticed was the amount of judgment that comes from others pertaining to what people are wearing, their age, and how they act when they’ve had a few too many martinis. My thoughts on this were always who cares? I’m there to have fun and dance like most people. That’s exactly the nightlife that Prague has. Many people have their stag weekend in Prague since it’s so amazing!
Not only do they have a never ending amount of pubs and clubs, but the people who go to them are there to just enjoy themselves. No one is looking around to judge another person’s dress for being too short or worrying about the older crowd dancing like it’s the 70’s again. We are all there for one thing…to party and boy do they party in Prague! One thing that helps this is the music. The tunes played at most places fed into everyone’s tastes. There were nights where one minute you’d have rap blasting and then the next the theme song to Friends would come on.
There was never any judgement, but just a feeling of free expression and wild times. Just stick together because crowds are big there and you could turn around and lose your entire group. Not so great unless by some miracle you find Ryan Gosling and talk to him while they look for you. Ain’t that the dream? Now, that’s the type of la la land I’d be all about.