Prague In Winter: Czech Bargains
Author: Family Travel Forum StaffTags : Cheap Vacation, City Break, Europe, Museums & Culture
Families will find top value entertainment choices, hotel ideas, and bargain cultural attractions in Prague, Czech Republic, an ideal getaway for the off-season visitor to the hippest spot in eastern Europe.
Prague is arguably Eastern Europe's most popular destination, a strikingly picturesque and culturally rich capital that should not be missed by travelers of any age. Its winding cobblestoned streets have been immortalized by such thrillers as Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible II and Vin Diesel's XXX. James Bond and Jason Bourne have hidden in the shadows of its medieval churches, including St. Vitus Cathedral, which lures travelers into its early morning masses just to enjoy the glorious acoustics.
Prague is a Great Destination with Babies in Strollers - So Much to See!
Prague is a remarkably visual city, one where you never need to go inside to admire the beauty or interact with the locals. In addition to its prominence among local sights, families have hunted for Easter eggs on the exotic main square of Old Town for generations.
It is also a wonderfully walkable city year-round, where you can stroll a block and then stop in a coffeehouse for some art and strong coffee. Your family will find vendors, performers, classical music concerts, intriguing shops -- all free attractions -- at every cobblestone intersection. There are many other reasons why Prague has become one of Europe's more crowded, (usually expensive) destinations, so that's why we recommend an off-season visit.
Despite the chill, winter is a culturally warm time throughout the Czech Republic, when families can enjoy nights at the Opera, days touring the sites and many photo opportunities of the King Charles Bridge in the snow. for the latest on what's on around town, you can visit the local Czech Center, an international culture forum that features Czech arts at 24 branches in many countries.
So Much To See in Prague
The city offers such visually rich architecture that visitors can get their fill of the arts without spending money, or passing too much time indoors at museums.
Almost any neighborhood is an ideal introduction to the variety of Medieval to Renaissance to Art Nouveau style buildings. We like to begin at the city's heart: the Vltava River which is traversed by the beautiful Charles Bridge. This pedestrian crossing is crowded with buskers and portrait artists in nice weather, but still offers plenty of free diversions in the cold. If you're traveling with little ones, park the stroller and grab a backpack -- you'll find it much easier to navigate the cobblestones and narrow sidewalks.
Stare Mesto or the Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992) has survived war, invasion, flooding, and even mass tourism. Well, it's sort of survived mass tourism. The crowds can be daunting and the shops overwhelming, but many of the city's fine museums are nearby.
For current hours of museum operation and admission fees, as well as a listing of which sites have official Prague Info guides on duty, visit the Welcome Prague Tourism Office or call (+420 224 224 224). This helpful tourist office runs a regular “Children, get to know Prague!” series of lectures and kids' tours to introduce little known sites to local schoolchildren. Young visitors are welcome to tag along, and all guides are bi-lingual.
Amongst the city's finest buildings are the Municipal House (Obecni Dum) at 5 Namesti Republiky, Troja Chateau (restored after flood damage) and the Loreta Church. Even more authentic, do not miss walking around Hradcany, the colorful castle district. Around Prague Castle, look for the mini climb-on Eiffel Tower and outdoor playground within its grounds, where the kids can let off steam. Inside the castle there is a sweet museum of old toys. Make a tour of Mala Strana with its cathedral, terrific bookshops and old cafes; and the Josefov Jewish Quarter with its superb museum (renovated after the 2002 flood).
The historic Jewish Cemetery is located on Listopadu Street (buy a ticket at U Stareho Hrbitova Street to enter), where you can read about the legendary Golem who inhabited it. To pay respects here, bring a small pebble that you can leave in the pile you'll see atop many gravestones.
Special Prague Attractions for Families
Getting around is easy because most sights are within walking distance; however parents toting little ones will enjoy the Historic Tram that operates from April until November from the Stresovice Tram depot. Alternatively, there are many cheap buses and trolleys that are easy and fun, though crowded. Beware of pickpockets on public transportation and in any crowded place.
In nice weather, the kids can run around Ledeburg Gardens and Palffy Gardens, or tour the Golden Street. The Prague Zoo has been recently renovated and modernized. It is located on Kampa Island under the Charles Bridge; go on a morning outing when the animals are most frisky. An interesting city overview is available from inside one of the observation pods at the futuristic Zizkov TV Tower. This civic project, left over from the Russian occupation, has been restored and reopened to the public; don't miss the sculpted metal babies that can be seen 'crawling' up the sleek silver columns supporting the structure.
For evening entertainment, those with older children may want to see what's playing at the Prague National Theatre (Národní divadlo v Praze) (+420 224 901 237). We heartily recommend any performance of Laterna Magicka, a sound, light and dance-filled show reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil that will knock the socks off anyone over 5-years-old.
Prague Travel Deals & Accommodations
CSA, the Czech Airlines, offers some terrific deals at the city's top business hotels, particularly from October to March. Check their website for upcoming packages and available accommodations. Some of our favorite hotels are the pricier, historic ones, but all offer winter rates and specials before Easter.
At the top of our aesthetic list, the beautifully restored, five star Hotel Paris (+420 222 195 195) is an Art Deco masterpiece in the heart of Stare Mesto, the Old Town. Double rooms with breakfast for a family of four start at around €180 with advance booking and a minimum three night stay.
The newer but charming U Krale Karla, located at Uvoz street 1, Prague 1 (+420 226 201 910-13) has an excellent restaurant and lovely gabled attic room. Kids will respond to its authentic Medieval style, formal looking but casual lobby space, and friendly staff.
The Hotel Savoy (+420 224 302 430), located next to the castle, is another Art Nouveau beauty accepting high-class guests. Built in 1882, it was fully restored in the 1990's and is considered one of the city's finest hotels.
One of the nicest B&Bs for families is Pension Vysehrad (+420 241 408 455) because of its pretty garden at Krokova 6, Prague 2. The five small rooms all accommodate pets and an extra bed, and the place is so intimate and friendly that you'll be happy to let your kids sleep in their own room down the hall. Additionally, many of Prague's less distinguished hotels have been renovated to meet tourist demand, greatly enlarging the pool of value priced properties adequate for a family stay.
Prague Trip Planning Details
Though Czech hotels are pricey for the small accommodations, note that restaurants, shopping, and performances cost less than in most of Europe.
Once you decide your travel dates, consult the Welcome Prague Tourism Office for a current events calendar. Frequent free concerts are given at the Old Town's many churches, and because you won't have to invest your college fund in opera or chamber music tickets, your children will be able to enjoy fine music in a "risk-free" environment. Don't miss any of the holiday concerts given in November and December, or the local Christmas markets.
Although it's a walkable city, in inclement weather you can take taxis, which must be called in advance from a hotel or restaurant. They are notorious for overcharging, so set a price before you climb in. There's also an efficient subway if you're covering long distances and several routes of trams, a scenic way to get around town, and a lot cheaper than the taxis.