Summer Vacation: Prague, Barcelona, or Puerto Rico
June 4, 2007 7:32 PM   Subscribe

VacationFilter: The ladyfriend and I are going on vacation for a week this summer. Most likely in July. Maybe August. The leading options: Puerto Rico, Prague, and Barcelona. Which place rules the most?

We prefer, if possible, to spend less than $150/night on hotels, and enjoy cheap eats as much if not more so than the fanciness. And we don't really rock the late night club scene.
posted by blapst to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where are you?

Prague and Barcelona seem like they'd be nice, but I wonder if they'd be hot and crowded, which might be, I dunno, less than nice for a trip with the ladyfriend.

Barcelona's probably got a lot more going on culinarily than Prague.

Puerto Rico would probably be less crowded because of hurricane season (but do get some travel insurance so if you have to cancel, you'll be OK).
posted by mdonley at 7:40 PM on June 4, 2007

Hmm, a lot is going to depend on the exchange rate at the time. You might want to keep an eye on currency, buy the best rate, and let that be your determining factor. Of course, where Pueto Rico is concerned this won't be the case. I liked Pueto Rico but we were staying on the high end of the spectrum.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:44 PM on June 4, 2007

While once there you could certainly live on that amount, getting to Prague can be both time consuming and expensive. Depending on your origin, it would likely two connections, for a possible 20-ish-hour door-to-door travel time. For only a week, I might consider somewhere easier to access.
posted by ChasFile at 7:45 PM on June 4, 2007

i'm leaving from NYC. sorry for forgetting to mention that. so far none of the airfares have seemed prohibitive.
posted by blapst at 7:58 PM on June 4, 2007

I suggest you check out the "Spanish Virgin Islands", Culebra and Vieques. My parents live on Vieques and I've traveled to Culebra before. Culebra has THE most beautiful beach in the Carribean (Flamingo) and Vieques has one of the few bioluminesent bays in the world. Both are fun and easy to get to (fly to San Juan or Fajardo, then take a small plane or a ferry to either island, ferry between islands). The hotels range wildly in price, but on Culebra I stayed in a small cottage that slept six, complete with a kitchenette, for somewhere around 500 for the week. There is a W hotel going in on Vieques, which would cover the higher end of the spectrum.
posted by nursegracer at 8:02 PM on June 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

Puerto Rico!: hot, cheap delicious food, short direct flights, beautiful natural stuff (love nursegracer's suggetions)
Prague: hot, crowded in July, cheapish when you're there, but no direct flights and they aren't that cheap (ITA says 1K+)
Barcelona: hot, crowded, lots of locals vacationing (i.e. some things closed), terrible exchange rate.
posted by whatzit at 8:32 PM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

i went to prague 9 years ago and really enjoyed it--jetlag will be a problem, i think, but i had a direct flight from newark that was only 7 hours, so travel time shouldn't be too awful. it should be cheaper than barcelona, not sure if it's cheaper than puerto rico.

there are lots of neat museums and great architecture (also lots of tourists, alas). because of the mozart connection, there are plenty of nice outdoor concerts in gorgeous places, but also a nifty avant garde scene. public transit is good--i was there for a month and almost never took a taxi. the food is not great on the low end, but it may have improved by now. definitely worth a visit, i think.

the weather, when i was there (over june and july) ranged from cool and rainy to hot and steamy. what's nice is that it's so far north that you have daylight until 9pm, so you can really pack in a lot of sightseeing.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:41 PM on June 4, 2007

Take the money you save by not flying to Europe, stay in a nice place in San Juan, and split your time between Old San Juan, El Yunque National Forest, and the effing beach.

To see even more of the island, you can rent a car cheaply, of course, take in even more sights, and indulge in your cheap eats, to boot.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:20 PM on June 4, 2007

Barcelona: hot, crowded, lots of locals vacationing (i.e. some things closed), terrible exchange rate.

Also, Gaudi architecture, Picasso and Miro museums, the Ramblas, and street scams.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:26 PM on June 4, 2007

Prague is cheap, beautiful and fascinating. I liked it a lot. On the down side: very, very crowded with tourists (most of them American - this may be a good thing or a bad thing from your perspective); moderately high rate of crime (due to the large number of tourists).

Haven't been to your other two options, but heard nothing but good about Barcelona.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:41 PM on June 4, 2007

Last weekend I took my GalPal down to Barcelona for the holiday; it's great as always, a very nice little city.

August is indeed the month when locals take their holiday and should you travel then you'll find many restaurants, bars and other attractions either closed outright or operating with reduced hours.

August is getting near the peak temperature wise, but The Med helps if you down by the water (i.e, in Barceloneta or at one of the seven city beaches, for example).

Of course the Gaudi buildings will still be there so if you're interested in architecture this still might be the place for you.
posted by Mutant at 10:54 PM on June 4, 2007

Also, what about somewhere in Europe a little smaller and more mellow than Prague and Barcelona, like Dublin, Lisbon or Stockholm?
posted by mdonley at 11:54 PM on June 4, 2007

I have not been to Puerto Rico but if I had to choose between Barcelona and Prague in July I would go for the former. Prague is beautiful but now has a centre which is pretty much given over to many, many tourists - you have to travel a couple of subway stops out to meet Czechs. The best time to visit is winter. Barcelona also has many tourists but they tend to mix with locals more so the experence is less like being in Disneyland. You can also catch a train to the coast, to the mountains or to cities like Girona for interesting side trips.
posted by rongorongo at 3:55 AM on June 5, 2007

For cost issues, you may want to check out this ranking of world cities by cost of living. The rankings are not what I would expect: San Juan is more expensive than Prague, and Prague is more expensive than Barcelona! (This is cost of living for residents, which may be different than for tourists, but it gives you an idea.)

Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in the world. If you go, get a used copy of Barcelonawalks. It's 15 years old and now out of print, so you'll need a more up-to-date book with opening hours, etc--but the historical stuff in Barcelonawalks (obviously) won't change, and it'll take you through a bunch of great neighborhoods and tell you fascinating facts about the buildings you see.

You can definitely eat well and relatively cheaply in Barcelona. Stick with tapas and you'll do fine. Go to a place like Pinotxo and you can stuff yourself cheaply on fantastic and ultra-fresh food. If you want to splurge for a meal or two, there are plenty of great sit-down restaurants. Also, the moderniste architecture is great, so just walking around outside is gorgeous and free.

However... For the reasons that others have mentioned (heat, closed restaurants and museums), August may not be the time to go. If it's too hot to walk around outside, you're missing out on a major part of the city. (I've never been in August, so I don't know firsthand.)

I really enjoyed Prague when I went some years ago. It was beautifuland fascinating. I have been told that it has gotten touristy and more expensive since then. According to the rankings I linked to, Prague is now more expensive than Barcelona! However, I haven't been myself in years, so I can't really comment first-hand. Anyway, if you go, get a copy of Praguewalks. (Same deal as Barcelonawalks--all the practical information will be out of date, but the historical detail is great.)

I should note that I live in the UK and am converting money from pounds to Euros. If I were converting from dollars, I might feel differently.

Of mdonley's suggestions:

I would definitely NOT recommend Dublin. Many parts of Ireland are renowned for the staggering beauty of their landscape. Dublin, by contrast, is renowned as a great place to go drinking. You can hear good Irish music there, but unless you want to spend the week surrounded by a bunch of bachelor/bachelorette parties, there are many better places to go in Ireland. Also, Dublin is the 18th-most expensive city in the world. (In the interest of fairness, I should note that Dublin is a very pretty city, and we enjoyed the weekend we spent there. I just don't think it's worth making it the focus of a European vacation.)

Stockholm is very beautiful, and the long days would make summer a great time to go there. I'm not sure there's quite a week's worth of activity, though--at least not in the conventional tourist sense. You can do all the major tourist sites in a few days. On the other hand, it seems like a very culturally lively city, and I imagine there'd be a lot going on in the long summer days. If you wanted a mellow but enjoyable week, it wouldn't be a bad option.
posted by yankeefog at 4:05 AM on June 5, 2007

I haven't been to Prague or San Juan, but I can tell you that Barcelona is a foodie paradise, and you can eat very well without breaking the bank.
posted by escabeche at 10:47 AM on June 5, 2007

Wow yankeefog, I had no idea that Dublin wasn't that nice. I was just thinking in terms of population size, crowdedness and heat. (Good that we have people with actual info here!)
posted by mdonley at 2:04 PM on June 5, 2007

I was in Prague a few years back, and found it to be a beautiful, interesting, bustling city. It had a lot more history than I gave it credit for (sorry). I really encourage people to go there. IIRC it has the largest dance club in Europe (or it did then, anyway), if that's your thing. The architecture is amazing. The food... maybe less so, but it wasn't bad.
posted by !Jim at 2:07 PM on June 5, 2007

I have been to all three. This is the equivalent of asking "what color shirt should I wear today?" It's such a personal choice, and in the end you will be wearing a shirt, so that will be nice.

I have a special fondness for Prague, I've been there several times in the last 12 years and I've been able to see it change. It is no longer cheap. But the bonus is that the tourist infrastructure is better than it used to be. July is the crazy tourist season, but the tourists converge around specific areas and if you basically turn off the main drag between old town square and Charles bridge things get less crazy immediately. If you end up going there, let me know and I can shoot you suggestions.

Prague is pretty, the food is not great but you can live on cheap street food, there are lots of things to do that don't involve nightclubs.

I am not a Spain person, especially not in July. It is too hot and I just don't care for the landscape. However, most people I know consider Barcelona to be "to die for." The food is good and it is a place that is very much itself... if that makes sense. I don't get it, it isn't my favorite, but people usually like it.

I like Puerto Rico. San Juan can be expensive, but some of the other places are cheap and lovely. Summer is low season, so there are better deals and less people. There is also higher chance of rain and ickiness. That is why it is Low season. I suggest spending some time in Vieques. It is just starting to catch on as a destination, and you can swim in the best bioluminecent bay. You'd be bored if you spent the whole time there though, it sounds like you might like more activities.
posted by Mozzie at 3:34 PM on June 5, 2007

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