Prague - A birthday treat on a tight budget
August 2, 2016 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest a great thing to do on your birthday in Prague in the middle of next week? My girlfriend and I are about to go to Prague for 4 days, staying near the Old Town (Prague 1). We have the same birthday so I'm trying to find something special for us to do on Wednesday.

The budget is unfortunately pretty tight. We're seriously short on money so this little trip will be our only holiday for a very long time, but I want to do everything I can to make it memorable for her.

We're both big animals lovers so I'm planning a trip to Prague zoo on one day. Are there any other good animal attractions near Prague 1 (don't want to spend too much of our time/money travelling, and we won't have a car)? Anything cat related would be a huge bonus!

Neither of us are big drinkers or clubbers, and would rather do something during the day than late evening as we're both early 40s and honestly just prefer an early night :)

She loves a fancy afternoon tea as a treat at home (England), and I've read a little about Prague's tea houses so thought we'd try one of those at some point for an alternative take with some baklava and honey cake instead of scones and tiny sandwiches. Does anyone know a good outsider-friendly one, preferably where there won't be lots of hookah smoke?

Also, we're staying at an apartment with basic cooking facilities so does anyone have any recommendations for easy-prep meals that we could get in the local stores? Eating out for every meal might be too expensive for us. And do you know any good modestly-priced restaurants that would be welcoming to non-locals in this neighbourhood? Great Czech dishes to try? I'll eat absolutely anything, but my GF doesn't eat lamb, seafood or anything spicy so need to avoid those.

Any tips and ideas hugely appreciated!
posted by boosh to Travel & Transportation around Prague, Czech Republic (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cafe Louvre not far from where you are staying has the best chocolate cake I've ever had. It's fancy-seeming without being expensive (I went there on a very tight student budget). The cafe was also an historical meeting place for intellectuals and writers. Great place for a birthday dessert.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take the metro up to the castle district and walk around St. Vitus Cathedral. You can pay to go inside and see the crown jewels, or just walk around outside. It's breaktaking!

I was in Prague with family four years ago, and stayed on the opposite side of the city from Old Town, so I can't speak to any special couples-y restaurants or fancy tea place, unfortunately. The menu will be largely pork- and dumpling-based. Pork with dumplings and cabbage - "vepřo-knedlo-zelo" - is the national dish, so try that at least once! Very flavorful sauce while not being spicy.

Awesome casual snacks include Smažený sýr (fried cheese - like the texture of fresh mozzarella, breaded and deep fried, mmmmmm) and Langoš (fried bread, with optional garlic powder, cheese, or other toppings - usually sold by dudes at carts outside train stations and stuff).

Yelp seems to like Cafe Savoy near Old Town for pastries and breakfast. And there is a Cat Cafe that you should probably visit!

posted by wintersonata9 at 8:01 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have any interest in Kafka at all the museum is very good.

Eat a trdelnik filled with soft ice cream, available from street vendors.

The Charles Bridge is kind of the centre of the old city and is amazing but is packed to insane levels with people during the day, I walked around on it nearly alone a couple mornings around 5:30am and it was majestic.

You have to do Prague Castle, the largest castle in the world.

Do you have any interest in the Soviet occupation of Prague? I did a couple Communism tours including into an underground fallout shelter, loved it.

There are several really great farmers markets around the city.
posted by Cosine at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I ate breakfast at the Savoy every morning, wonderful, was also a hangout for Kafka and Freud.
posted by Cosine at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cafe Arkitektu was fantastic last time I was there, though this was many years ago:

I enjoyed the hill (I can't recall the name, but it has a funicular railroad.) The train ride to Kutna Hora (for the silver mine and old city) and Sedlec (for the ossuary) was a good day trip.

Otherwise, I just enjoyed walking around Prague. The Jewish quarter is cool, and the marionette show of Don Giovanni was actually pretty great.
posted by JMOZ at 11:53 AM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: I'll tell you, some of the best experiences I had in Prague were just in walking and getting lost in the footstreets! They are so very, very pretty, with all kinds of historical buildings from various eras literally right next to each other. Cobblestoned streets-- the cacophany and the quiet-- I found all of it to be rejuvenating and frankly just amazing. The preservation of the city is incredible, it being one of the few capitals in Europe that didn't have bombs dropped on it or much damage otherwise incurred during World War II. The most beautiful thing for me was soaking up the culture of the place. Just the feel of it really takes me back.

Definitely visit your museums at some point. I found the Kafka museum to be a total trip, if not a little bit of a thoughtful downer, so do take that into consideration; then Alphonse Mucha museum was also worthwhile, especially especially so if you're a fan of his style. I think there was a thing where I could buy a ticket for both at the same time, and that made a lot of sense since I was on a pretty tight budget too. Letná Park has one of the best views of the city, and is totally walkable from Old Town. They have vendors - you can buy a simple sandwich and a tall-boy of beer - watch the day go by - see the sunset. You'll almost be sure to want to stray out of the historical area for a while, as it can be kind of jam-packed with tourists. Segways etc.

I'd go and visit this monastery near the castle for a birthday dinner for both you guys! They have this great blueberry beer and delicious, delicious food, if not just a little expensive. Still, though, we're talking under-$20 for a three or four star meal? You can't really go wrong with the exchange rate. Make a reservation - we didn't, but then it was about four PM when we got in. Wandering around the rose gardens just above on the hill beforehand was a total treat. It's called the Strahov Monastery.

I did see that they had concerts very cheaply there! About $10 relative would have had me listening to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." The tours might be nice, but I also found that if you were to get some headphones and take one earpiece out you could walk around together and listen to Rick Steves' podcasts, that that scratched the itch about as well. Usually they have neat scholars. Download maps to your phone before you go out of WiFi! Trust me, trust me, you'll need it.

As you can tell, I have great, great memories there. I didn't get out and enjoy enough of the local fare, either, and that's the one thing that I wished I had done: I think it's worth spending just a little extra beyond money on nights out, if it's possible to do so. Feel free to go for the traditional staples of cooking up some red beans and rice, tomatoes, bread and cheese, a bottle of wine if you're looking to stay in, unless you're particularly looking for some local dishes to make. Can't help you there :)

Aside from that, you'll find yourself enjoying so very, very much being over there, I should think, and I wish you well on the trip!
posted by a good beginning at 12:53 PM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: Also! The next time I go, I fully intend to go and see the Slav Epic by Mucha, the works of art and beautiful rooms of the Lobkowicz Palace, the Vrtba Gardens, and the Dancing Building. Had heard very good things from friends w/r/t each.
posted by a good beginning at 1:14 PM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: Prague is so nice this time of year and it's totally possible to do it on the cheap. It's very walkable and Old Town was a good choice since you'll be very accessible and in a safe (for the most part - biggest worry is to watch your bag) area, even late into the night.

If you're willing to travel a bit (on a tram - Prague has excellent public transport), there is a cat cafe (Kockafe Freya) that could be a funny experience. I haven't been, but I do know several people who have and said the cakes were good and it was a cool experience.

As for tea houses, I can recommend Cajovna Bily Jerab, which is close to Old Town with rice paper booths in the back and no seesha. Just off of Wenclas's Square is one of the best known (and also very nice) tea houses, Dobra Cajovna . It has a neat atmosphere and I don't remember it being smokey either.

For cheap eats, there are plenty of grocery stores - big Tesco in Narodni Trida and an Albert down almost in the metro station Mustek A spring to mind as ones that will be convenient for you. Czechs make really good bread and baked goods, so I'd suggest buying several rolls, spreadable cheese, cut meats etc and making your own picnic. Kolacy - sweet bread with jam in the middle- are very good too and are easy to buy at the grocery store. The Czech market prefers creamy yogurts and they make some delicious ones, which are tasty for breakfast (Florian brand is my personal preference). The Czechs also make delicious crepes, which are relatively inexpensive from street vendors and most of the main metro stations have pizza-by-the-slice for around 30KC per slice, which can make a decent, cheap lunch.

There are lots of little corner shops, where you can pick up beer/wine pre chilled as well as other snacks and drinks. It is generally allowed to have open containers of alcohol, so you could have a romantic glass of wine by the river to finish off your day in a nicely romantic style.
posted by brambory at 1:27 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also should add that soft serve ice cream is generally done much better in the Czech Republic than in the UK, so I'd highly recommend grabbing a cone. Or, for even cheaper, the corner shops will have lots of options and I'd recommend any of the Mraz or Misa brand ones. They are kind of like frozen yogurt covered in chocolate, Czech childhood favourites and very delicious on a hot day.
posted by brambory at 1:31 PM on August 2, 2016

Best answer: I was just in Prague. Seconding Cafe Louvre. Very fancy feeling, with totally reasonable prices and staff very friendly about translating to English.

Another good spot to eat in/near Old Town is Lokal Dlohaa. Nice Czech food, pretty reasonable prices, very a la carte so you can try different things. It's a busy pub style atmosphere, though, so while the food was really good I wouldn't suggest it for a special birthday meal.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:41 PM on August 2, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for the fantastic tips and recommendations, you've given me so much useful information. I'm going to be checking out as many of these as possible - and the cat cafe is right at the top of the list, perfect idea!
posted by boosh at 9:40 AM on August 3, 2016

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