Tag Archive: budget

From the castle walls!

From the castle walls!

We have hosted more than 50 guests since we moved to Prague in 2011!  Many more will visit us this year. Below is my top ten list of things to see and do in Prague if you have only a short time.  I’ve also included our favorite inexpensive restaurants (main dish for under 200 CZK ($10/8E) near the sites.

1. Prague Castle and Gardens

Take a picnic lunch with you to the gardens.  Or stop at the outdoor restaurant on the way down the hill to Malostranska. It is surrounded by an ancient vineyard and has the most spectacular views of Prague.  They usually advertise dessert and coffee for 99 CZK($5/4E)…other items are quite expensive.

See my post for insider tips about Prague Castle:


The view of the castle from the gardens.

The view of the castle from the gardens.

2. Charles Bridge and Old Town Square

Going inside the clock tower is quite interesting. By some crepes (palacinky) from one of the food stalls in the square and enjoy the excellent people watching opportunities.  Don’t eat at one of the cafes around the square unless you don’t mind paying exorbitant prices!

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Old Town Square in 2010.

Old Town Square in 2010.

3. Jewish Quarter and Museums

Allow several hours to see this area, as there are six sites to visit in the Josefov district. Here’s a link to find out information about the ticket costs and other information:



The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetery

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

Find your way to the Cartouche restaurant for an interesting atmosphere and decor that makes you feel like you are in a tavern from the 1700’s. It has a pricier menu but there are a few Czech and other dishes for 199-249 CZK.


Inside the Cartouche.

Inside the Cartouche.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

4. Wenceslas Square

It’s a pleasant walk from Old Town Square to Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square. The blue building will be on your left if you are in OT Square heading for Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square.

Nate with dear friends Curt and Sandra, AKA Doc and Marmee.

Wenceslas Square with dear friends Curt and Sandra.

The Powder Tower and Municipal house are also a short walk away from Wenceslas Square.

The Powder Tower. There's an interesting little museum inside.

The Powder Tower. There’s an interesting little museum inside.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

If you have some time, stop in at the Museum of Communism…

LOVE this sign!!

LOVE this sign!!

If you are hungry, try one of our favorite restauranst in Wenceslas Square: O Balouna.  It says “Traditional Czech Restaurant” on the outside. Here’s the website:



It’s a few doors down from the Thai Massage place with big tanks of water in the window, where tourists sit with their feet in the water, allegedly getting their dead skin nibbled away by the fish. I say allegedly because my friend Elsa tried it and didn’t notice a difference…but it was a great photo op!

She said it tickled!

She said it tickled!

Elsa attracted lots of attention...she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch.

Elsa became a tourist attraction…she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch!

5.  Stroll along the river and rent a paddle boat.

Take a walk along the river from Charles Bridge heading south. After passing another bridge (Most Legii) and the National Theater (Narodni Divadlo)  you’ll see a small bridge leading to a little island (Slovanski Ostrov) which is pleasant to walk around.  You can rent paddle boats from here.

Our river walk in 2011.

Our river walk in 2011.

When you are ready for a meal, enjoy one of our favorite restaurants, Club Cestavalu (Caravanserai on the sign outside, a mint green building across the street from the island). The food is Arabic and Lebanese, with Indian menu choices as well. They have unusual photos of exotic places as part of their decor.  They also have some free exotic snacks for the brave of heart (which I was not)!


What are they holding? Why does Nikolas look like he is going to throw up?

What are they holding? Why does Nate look like he is going to throw up?

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Another favorite restaurant of ours is Grosseto’s Marina. We love taking guest here because the views of the city and of Charles Bridge are spectacular, and the prices are reasonable.


The view from the boat is outstanding.

It looks like a boat but it isn’t.

6.  Take a boat cruise on the Vltava River.

There are many different companies with a variety of cruise options, from a quick one hour spin to a several hour dinner cruise.  Our favorite is Prague-Venice, because it is a one hour cruise on a small boat which takes you through some hidden canals as well as along the Vltava.  Currently it costs 290 CZK ($14/11E) and includes a drink and ice cream.  You can buy tickets from the guys in white sailor suits at the end of Charles Bridge on the Old Town side.


You can see the boat sign behind Nate. We also went to a concert in the church behind him.

This is the area to buy the tickets. Taken in 2010

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

There are several other options.  I have heard good things about the Jazz Boat.


We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That's Vikki and me:)

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That’s Vikki and me:)


Sunset is a great time for a cruise!

There’s also another cruise option, free with your transportation ticket!  It’s a little boat that zigzags along the river; especially fun for kids. We found it when we were walking along the river and hopped on.

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

7.  See an opera or ballet.

We  have seen three operas and one ballet and have really enjoyed them…even Nate (although he looks bored in the photo below)!  You can pay a lot of money to sit up close, or you can sit up high in the middle for 480-530 CZK ($25/20E) at the Prague State Opera. You will have a great view of the stage and orchestra, and the acoustics are great.

If you forgot to pack your opera clothes, it’s ok…at least in the cheap seats:)

The Prague State Opera House.

The Prague State Opera House.

Buy your tickets from Bohemia Tickets.  They don’t add a surcharge like other sites.  You can purchase them online, or get them when you are in Prague.  Go to the Mustek metro stop and follow the Na Prikope exit. The address is Na Prikope 16.  If they try to tell you they don’t sell the lower price tickets, tell them a local friend told you that they are available (unless they are truly sold out, which you can verify online).


In front of the Estates Theater.

In front of the Estates Theater.

8.  Go to a classical music concert in one of the beautiful churches or other historic buildings like the Rudolfinum or the Municipal House.

We went to one at Saint Salvatore Church and loved it! The music, acoustics, and atmosphere were outstanding.

Waiting for the concert to start.

Waiting for the concert to start.

9.  Take the funicular up to Petrin Hill.

It’s free to ride the funicular with your valid transportation ticket.  Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the gardens at the top. Climb the “Prague Eiffel Tower”.

There's a nice view of Prague waiting...

There’s a nice view of Prague waiting…

Kids--big and small--will love the mirror maze at the top.

Kids–big and small–will love the mirror maze at the top. Taken in 2010.

Head down the hill...

Head down the hill…

Quench your thirst with the world's best beer--or apple juice:)

Quench your thirst with the world’s best beer–or apple juice:)

10. Take a day trip to Karlestejn Castle.

The castle was founded in 1348 by King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. It is easy to get here by train from Hlavni Ndrazi.  See the websites below for how to walk to the castle from the train station…it’s good exercise!  The town below the castle is very picturesque, with many options for restaurants and shops.  Souvenirs are cheaper here than in Prague.



Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

This was taken in March...the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

This was taken in March 2012…the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

It's pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

It’s pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

So, that’s my list!  There are so many more wonderful things to see and do in Prague.  I’ll get to them in a future post.  Are there any other places you would count in a top ten list?


View from the Powder Tower

Make sure you read these tips before arriving in Prague!  They will save you money and help you to enjoy your trip more.

1. Choose one of these three options to go from the airport to your accomodations:

A. When you exit with your bag, look for AAA Taxi Kiosk.  Give the taxi driver the address of your accommodations written on a piece of paper: avoid misunderstanding because you don’t know how to pronounce the street name!  A 15 minute taxi ride to where I live costs about 450 Crowns/CZK ($23/18 Euros).  They will give you a coupon for 47% off your return trip to the airport (which we think means you pay regular price). This is pretty reasonable for taxi fare, but read on to save more money…

B.  Leave the terminal to the outdoor parking lot.  You will see taxis of other companies coming and going.  Call Speed Taxi (see number below) and ask them to pick you up from the terminal parking lot (specify exactly where you are). Doing it this way  costs me 150 CZK less($8/6 Euros) than using the official AAA taxi. Read on for the most cost effective way…

C.  Buy a public transport ticket and take the airport bus #119 to Dejvicka. You can then enter the metro and proceed to your destination.  Alternatively, you can take a tram from Dejvicka or nearby Vitezne Namesti to your destination.

View from Prague Castle

View from Prague Castle

2.  Take public transport from Hlavni Nadrazi (main train station) to your accomodations:

NEVER use the taxis waiting at Hlavni Nadrazi Railway Station.  It will be double the cost! Instead, go upstairs and exit by Fanta Kavarna.  Call a taxi from one of the recommendations below and ask them to pick you up at Hlavni Nadrazi outside of Fanta Kavarna. See the link below so you know where to go:


However, it is really easy and much cheaper to arrive at your destination by public transport.  There is a metro station at the train station, and you can easily reach all parts of the city.

Basilica of St. George at Prague Castle

Basilica of St. George at Prague Castle

3.  Use a reliable taxi:

Never !!  call a taxi that is waiting on the street.  You will be overcharged!  Instead, call or send a SMS to one of the two taxi companies below.  Generally taxis are not expensive, from about 150 to 300 CZK.

Speed Taxi: +420 722 234 234 (my favorite, most reliable)

Taxi Nejlevnejsi:  +420 736 300 299

SMS: Please pick us up at ________address________.  My name is _______________.

The company will send a confirmation SMS with the make and model of the taxi, and its arrival time.

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

4. Get these three free apps for your smart phone!

MHDapp:  You can enter your location and your destination and it tells you exactly how to get there on public transport. You need to enter the name of the tram, bus or metro stop and it does the rest.  The app even tells you how many minutes before the bus or tram comes, so you know if you need to run!


CG Transit: Similar to MHDapp, and  it also shows you on the map how to walk from your current location to the bus, metro or tram stop.


Tripadvisor city guide for Prague: I love this app!  It gives you suggested itineraries, restaurants, and descriptions of the top attractions.  You can download it with WiFi, and use it offline.  It has a great map feature, and helps you find your way using your smartphone signal.


Prague at dusk

Prague at dusk

5.  Get a Czech sim card at any Vodafone office (airport, Vitezne Namesti, Wenceslas Square and more).  They are only 200 CZK ($10/8Euros) and include prepaid credit for calls, sms, and you can add data for 175 CZK ($9/7Euros). You avoid  roaming charges, and you can use the travel apps and Google Maps online using 3G. Any calls or SMS you send will be at the local rate.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

6.  Don’t bother with expensive tours or the Hop on/Hop off bus!!

Prague’s public transport system is excellent. Trams are fun to ride as they wind their way around this beautiful city! Get a good map with the metro and trams marked, and you can navigate the city like a local:)

Here is the website for the transportation system.  You can find tariff prices, and you can use Journey Planner to figure out how to get from one area to another.


If you stay for more than 6 days, consider purchasing a one-month pass.   You can buy them at most major metro stations, including Hradcanska. The pass is transferable, and you can make someone’s day by giving it away at the airport or train station when you leave, to a tourist who is just arriving!

The “green” or “A” line will take you to almost all the important sights in the city center.  Here are some of the stops and what you will find at each of the stops:

Hradcanska: You can walk to the castle in about ten minutes from the metro at Hradcanska. Walk down K Brusce to the right of the old gate (Pisecka Brana, now a café), out to Marianske Hradby. You will see the Summer Palace (now a porcelain museum) across the street.  Go in the side gate and you will see the castle gardens.  It is a lovely walk through the gardens to Prague Castle…and no steep hill to climb!  Note:  the gardens are closed in winter, so instead take the tram one stop from Kralovsky Letohradek to Prasky Hrad.

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

You can also walk to Letna Park from Hradcanska.  It has lovely walking and cycling paths, with lovely views of the Vltava river and the city.

The views are stunning!

The views are stunning!

Fall 2011

Fall 2011

Malostranska:   You will be around the corner from the bottom of the path to the castle.  There is also a lovely walled garden, Wallenstein Gardens, which has its entrance next to the metro. Walk to Malostranska Namesti to see St. Nicholas Church and Charles Bridge.

Wallenstein Gardens

Wallenstein Gardens


St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Staromestka:  You can get out here to walk to Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and the Jewish Quarter.


Old Town Square

The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetary

Mustek:  This stop takes you to Wenceslas Square.  You can also change to the yellow line. From here there is a nice walk to Old Town Square. You can also enjoy all the shops, and walk to the Municipal House and the Powder Tower.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

The Municipal House

The Municipal House

The Powder Tower

The Powder Tower

Muzeum:  Prague State Opera is here.  You can change to the red line here.

Prague State Opera with Mom and Dad

Prague State Opera with Mom and Dad

Tram Stops:

Malostranska Namesti is the stop to see St. Nicholas Church, and the Mala Strana side of the Charles Bridge is a short walk away, just around the corner.

The tower at Charles Bridge

The tower at Charles Bridge

Ujezd is the stop where you can take the funicular (included in your public transport ticket) to the top of the hill.  There are pretty gardens, the Prague “Eiffel Tower”, cafes, and a mirror maze (great for children).

The Prague "Eiffel Tower"

The Prague “Eiffel Tower”

Ok, so there is a lot more to tell you about, but I’ll save that for another post.  What are some of your favorite places in Prague?  What tips do you have for getting around Prague in the most efficient and enjoyable way?

My Amazing Year!

My name is  Nate  and I’m seven years old.  Tomorrow I start the new school year.  I’m excited to go back to school!  But first I want to tell you about my amazing year.

It started during the big winter storm in February 2011.  My mom and dad told me we were moving to Prague! My dad got a teaching job there. We had a big garage sale, sold our house, and  then flew to Prague in July 2011.

Now I live near a castle!  I go to a great school with great teachers.  We get lots of breaks during the school year.

View of Prague Castle

During the October mid-term break we went to Barcelona, Spain. It was just 2 1/2 hours to fly there.  I got to see Park Guell, designed by Gaudi.  Mom says he is a famous architect. I think he was inspired by Dr. Seuss!

Parc Guell, Barcelona.  Missing my two front teeth!

The Sanctuary of Sagrada Familia by Gaudi
What’s with the umbrella??!!

If Dr. Seuss went to church, this would be it!

In February we took the night train to Krakow, Poland.  It was so fun!

This was our sleeping compartment! It had three bunkbeds and a sink.

We stayed at a friend’s home and took care of their turtle.

I got to feed the turtle every day.

The salt mines were so cool!  We walked 65 flights of steps down into the earth.  Here’s what we saw:

We were thankful that we could take an elevator back to the top!

The miners needed a place to go to church. Sometimes they stayed underground for days!

One day we went to Nowa Huta.  It was built in the 1950’s as an example of a perfect Communist city.

After Communism fell, this is what they named their main street:

Yes, it’s Ronald Reagan Square!

In April we flew to Venice for Easter break.  I got to see St. Marco’s Square.

I love chasing pigeons!

I went on a gondola ride!

Then we took the train to Florence.  We saw the Duomo, Florence’s famous cathedral.  We spent Easter morning watching the exploding fireworks cart.  It’s a tradition that comes from the  1500’s. We went to lots of art museums.  My favorite part of Florence was eating gelato ice cream every day!

Dad and me in front of the Duomo.

We saw lots of cool statues, including Michaelangelo’s David!

Italian gelato ice cream rocks!

In May we drove for the day to Herrnhut, Germany with our friends.  That’s the place where modern missions started.  We went with friends.  It was a 2 ½ hour drive.

Suzanne, Moriah, Kelsie, me.

Moravian Christians fled persecution and settled here in the 1700’s.

This is the “Prayer Tower” where there were always people praying, 24/7.

In June the Zidek family came to visit us.  We went on a dinner cruise on the Vltava river.

Mom and Vicki being silly on the boat!

We took the train to Pilsen with the Zidek family to see the Pilsner Brewery.

Dad says Czech beer is the best in the world!

In late June my Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us.  It was so fun to show them Prague!  Here’s Grandma and me at the entrance of Prague Castle.

Is the coast clear?

We were celebrating Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary!

We went to an opera called Carmen at the Prague State Opera House. We also went to an organ and violin concert at St. Salvatore Church. We heard the music of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Handel.

St. Salvatore Church, near Charles Bridge.

Mom said I was an angel!

We took the train to Vienna and stayed with good friends at their hotel.  We saw Schonbrunn (summer palace of the Hapsburgs), St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s house, and had lunch in a café.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built in the 1200’s!

Grandpa was speechless!

We took the train to Dresden.  Then we drove to Wittenburg.  Here’s Castle Church where Martin Luther posted his 95 theses!

This is “THE” door!

Marin Luther preached here!

Next we went to Leipzig, home of Bach, who is one of my Grandma’s favorite composers. Here’s Tomaskirche, where Bach was Cantor. We also got to see the Bach Museum.

We went to a service here where the Tomaskirche Boys’ Choir sang.

The singing was amazing!

After Grandma and Grandpa left we went to Czech Switzerland, on the border with Germany.  We went hiking with our friends to Pravcicka Brana, the biggest natural land bridge in Europe.

Narnia was filmed here!

We hiked 10 miles that day.   Mom and Dad said I was a real trooper!

The view from the to

We stopped for lunch and to play.

At the end of July we flew to Paris.  My big sister Sam met us there!  We had so much fun!

The Eiffel Tower!

My wacky Mom with the Arc de Triomphe!


Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

Then we stayed 12 days in the French countryside, near Blois.  We saw  several chateaux.  Chateaux really look more like palaces than what you’d think a chateau would look like.

Chateau of Blois: Joan of Arc was here in 1429! We stayed in a quiet little village outside this town.

Chateau of Clos Luce: This was Leonardo da Vinci’s bed! He lived in Amboise the last six years of his life.

Chateau of Chenonceau.

Sam and Me at Chateau of Cheverny. This is Captain Haddock’s Castle. There was a Tintin Exhibition here!

We saw other cool places in the Loire Valley.  We went to Chartres to see it’s amazing cathedral.  We saw the Castle of Chinon.  We saw the city of Orleans, where Joan of Arc lifted the siege of the English during the 100 years war in the 1400’s.

Inside the Cathedral of Chartres. Joan of Arc is honored in the stain glass. It tells her story.

The Castle of Chinon, started in the 900’s and added to by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Abby of Fontevraud: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard the Lionheart are buried here!

The Cathedral of Orleans.

The inside of the cathedral honored Joan of Arc.

We think this place was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion!

Then we flew home to Prague.  We have been enjoying the last lazy days of summer before school starts tomorrow.

I wonder what adventures I’ll have this year?



Arc de Triomphe!

My family and I just had a wonderful six days in Paris.  We got to see most of the important sights, but not all.  There is always more to see of Paris, for the next trip!  So here are some things we learned, to pass on to other travelers who visit this lovely city. Mind you, these tips are for travelers on a budget.  We are teachers, so we travel in comfort, but not in luxury!

1.    Don’t book pre-packaged tours!

There is no need for tours, not even the “Hop-on, hop-off” bus.  Paris’ metro system is excellent.  There is a metro stop close to all of the famous (and not so famous) sights of Paris.  You just need to spend a little time to figure out the metro map.


No caption needed:)

2.    Buy an unlimited public transportation travel pass (a car in Paris is NOT recommended)!

They are good for metro, buses and RER network trains.

There are four choices: Navigo Decouverte Pass, Paris Visite Pass, and a carnet (book) of ten tickets, or single tickets for 1 Euro 50.

The Navigo Decouverte is the least expensive.  The catch is that it starts on Monday and ends at midnight on Sunday.  It makes financial sense if you arrive between Monday and Wednesday, but not if you arrive in the second half of the week.  You will need a 1 X 1.2” passport style photo (can be purchased at the airport or most metro stations in one of the automated booths for 5 Euros).  Then you go to the ticket window and purchase the pass (5 Euros) and load it with a week of credit.  The pass is good for ten years, so if you return to Paris you can add more credit on it and go.  Be sure to ask for a Navigo Decouverte, not just a “Navigo” pass.  The “Navigo” pass is only for residents, whereas the Navigo Decouverte is for any adult.  If you are traveling with children, you will need to buy them a child’s Paris Visite card.


If you plan to use public transport to and from the airport, and if you plan to visit Versailles, it is best to purchase the Navigo Decouverte that covers zones 1-5.  Round trip to the airport (20 Euros) and to Versailles (12 Euros), and the pass is only 33 Euros.

The Paris Visite Card can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. The price varies depending on how many zones you want.  If you want it to cover Versailles and the airport, it is best to get zones 1-5.



Montmartre, my favorite area of Paris!

3.    Pack a picnic lunch.

Eating out in Paris is expensive, especially for those who earn in dollars or other non-euro currencies. Stop at the local market to buy a fresh baguette, cheese, sandwich meat, fruit, and a bottle of water. Bring along a knife of some sort to slice the cheese and fruit.  There are dozens of lovely places for a picnic in Paris!


My French friend Nathalie showed us around on our first evening in Paris. Yes, that’s the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

4.    See the Louvre for free or for a discounted price.

The Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month. It is discounted for adults, and free for anyone under age 26 on Friday evenings after 6pm.



The Louvre (yes, it’s my photo)!

5.    MUST SEE: Paris by night on a cruise on the River Seine!

Our eighteen year old daughter, Samantha, offered to babysit her seven year old brother, and we took her up on it! We arrived at Bateaux Mouches around 10:30pm (It doesn’t get dark until 10 pm in the summer).  Paris by night is magical!! There was commentary in six languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. We got to see many of the places we hadn’t been able to see yet.  In retrospect I would do the cruise at the beginning of our stay, because you cruise past amazing sights you could plan to go see in the following days.



Paris by night!

6.    Avoid Versailles on the weekends!

We didn’t, and it was horribly crowded.  Take the RER train: it is a short, pleasant ten-minute walk to the palace from the train station.  Once you arrive, divide and conquer, if you have two or more in your party.  Send one person to stand in the massive line to buy tickets (or better yet, buy them online ahead of time, or at the ticket shop across from the train station).  The other person can wait in the massive line to get into the palace.


The Hall of Mirrors!

7.    HIDDEN GEM: Take a day trip to Chartres! 

I am a Lonely Planet Guidebook junkie, but all it told me that was worth seeing was the magnificent 13th century cathedral.  Wrong!  Chartres is a lovely medieval city, perfect for strolling the quiet streets and it is oh-so photogenic.  Go to the tourism office and ask for their free city map: it has an easy-to-follow walking tour.  Discover more medieval churches, quaint houses with flower boxes, a canal, and more! Best of all, it wasn’t mobbed with tourists.  We found a great place to eat with reasonable prices, right opposite the cathedral (thanks Lonely Planet).  It is called Café Serpente.



The lovely town of Chartres!

Enjoy your stay in this wonderful city!


Place du Tertre in Montmartre.