Is Prague, Capital of the Czech Republic, an Overrated Tourist Destination?

Prague – A Case of Too Much Success

More than 15 years ago, one of my co-workers vacationed in Prague. The Czech Republic was only a few years out of communism at the time, and she described an Old Town Square with exquisite architecture and locals overflowing with gratitude for tourists. That image hung in my head like a ripe plum waiting to be picked, growing juicier and more delicious with every passing year, so when I finally arranged to visit Eastern Europe this summer Prague was my obvious first stop.

Crowds choke Old Town Square in Prague, making it hard to enjoy the exquisite architecture

Crowds choke Old Town Square in Prague, making it hard to enjoy the exquisite architecture

I wish I could say that it met my expectations. The architecture of Old Town Square was stunning, including the magnificent Disneyesque Our Lady before Tyn Church, whose twin spires peek over the square like a Gothic castle, and the equally beautiful baroque St. Nicholas Church. Off to one side of the square, the famous Astronomical Clock is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall. Installed in 1410, it is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still functioning. Each hour, animated figures representing the twelve apostles, greed, vanity, pleasure and death emerge from doorways in the face of the clock while the skeleton (death) strikes the hour.

Unfortunately, Old Town Square is the place to be in Prague. From early morning until late at night, it was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists and crowds began to assemble in front of the Astronomical Clock a quarter before each hour. Though I spent two weeks in Prague, I could never get close enough to see the show due to the massive crowds.

Crowds await the animated figures that emerge from the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall tower in Prague

Crowds await the animated figures that emerge from the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall tower in Prague

The pedestrianized Charles Bridge is the second most popular attraction in Prague. It is, indeed, a beautiful structure, however not much of a pleasure to walk due to the mass of humanity streaming across and kiosks selling junk merchandise and caricatures along its entire length. On the far side I fought the crowds once again to see Lesser Town, and made my way up the hill to tour Prague Castle and St. Vitius Cathedral (you’ll have to pay if you want to see the front of the nave inside the cathedral). Here the legions were fewer, but still too large for my comfort.

Tacky vendors set up along the length of the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Tacky vendors set up along the length of the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

In an effort to escape the crush, I did seek out alternative sights. I spend one lovely afternoon wandering through Petrin Park’s rose gardens and climbing Petrin Tower for a fabulous view of the city. Another delightful afternoon was spent investigating the nooks and crannies of the gardens on the southern slope of Prague Castle. And my visit to the John Lennon Wall was a very moving experience. But all-in-all, I found the city to be extremely touristy and incredibly overpriced. The day I tried to buy a small bottle of water in Old Town Square and was told it was $4 (double what I’d pay in the U.S.) was the day I hit my limit of patience with Prague. I handed it back to the vendor and said, “ridiculously expensive.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “This square is the most expensive place in all of Europe to buy anything.”

Frankly, I could have dealt with the crowds and the prices if I had been made to feel welcome, but I wasn’t. Though I tried mightily, very few Czechs were willing to have a conversation with me. Wait staff suffered me only long enough to collect my money and it took me ten days to coax a smile out of the woman in the shop where I bought my tram tickets each day; in the beginning she refused even to say hello, and I seriously doubt that my pronunciation of the Czech greeting was so bad she couldn’t understand me. With one exception, the only friendly people I met in Prague were from Poland. I broached the subject of unfriendly Czechs with my Polish tour guide one afternoon and he laughed. “Many Czechs go to Poland for vacation,” he said. “I’ve asked a few of them why and they tell me it’s because Poles are so friendly.” It seems even Czechs think Czechs are cold and unfriendly.

Archway leading from the Charles Bridge to Lesser Town in Prague

Archway leading from the Charles Bridge to Lesser Town in Prague

There was, as I said, one notable exception. One day I was feeling quite sick to my stomach and popped into a Bohemia Bagel shop to rest. The young man who waited on me could tell something was wrong and asked if he could help. When I explained, he said, “I know just what you need.” Within minutes he delivered a pot of tea with fresh mint leaves and honey, a bowl of soup, and a bagel. I returned several times to that shop and absolutely everyone who worked there was pleasant, the food was delicious, and the prices were reasonable. I later learned that this particular chain, which is a partnership between Americans and Czechs who wanted to bring a healthier menu to Prague, has a reputation for having the friendliest employees in Prague. They opened their first shop in 1996, featuring a variety of bread with a hole in the middle – thus the bagel was introduced to Prague – and the previously unheard-of policy of providing free refills of coffee. Today there are three Bohemia Bagel restaurants in Prague, all offering salads, sandwiches, soups, desserts and a variety of grilled options in addition to coffee and bagels.

At the end of my visit, I was trying to decide where to go next when I received an email from the town of Poznan, Poland, inviting me to their lovely city. I hadn’t planned to visit Poland on this trip and had never heard of Poznan, but based on all the friendly Poles I met in Prague I figured, why not? I departed Prague on the PolskiBus, bound for Wroclaw (pronounced VRO-shaf), where I transferred to a train for Poznan. As my bus pulled out of the station, I said a sad goodby to Prague, knowing that I would probably never return.


Prague - A Case of Too Much Success

71 Comments on “Prague – A Case of Too Much Success

  1. I visited the city recently, almost a year ago and was disappointed, to say the least, except for the sausages.

  2. Thanks very much for your honest review. I live in the alps, and had always wanted to go to Prague. So much hype about it. My brother spent a lot of time there, loved it, and married a Czech. Apart from what my brother has said, I have heard only negative things mainly, so I decided to forego any trips there. I am actually more intrigued by Slovenia. The amount of people in Prague would be a complete turnoff for me. I prefer to go where people are not! I watched a Rick Steves program on Prague, and got a good enough feeling about it watching it on my computer with a glass of wine. That was good enough! I’ve seen most of Europe and now only have a few places still on my bucket list: The northern lights in Norway, Sardinia, and Ireland. I don’t travel for the sake of traveling. I need to feel a burning desire to go somewhere. Prague is not one of them.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Jasmine. I’d like to go back to the Czech Republic someday, but to the less touristy, little-known places in the eastern part of the country.

    • I totally understand PRG being overrun with tourists but that goes for most popular places everywhere in the world. Gone are the days when there weren\’t huge influx of tourists everywhere and one could always get the perfect photos, prices were not impacted by excess demand and the majority of the locals, perhaps, were more welcoming, but that\’s life. To keep away because of the hordes of tourists, which all visitors are, would be ashame.
      It\’s a beautiful city and to not visit would be your loss. Just plan around the peak tourist periods as much as possible and things will work out. Don\’t be angry at the hordes of tourists because WE all are one.
      Taking photos of the Charles Bridge at the wrong time is a disaster and I did put my camera away and returned earlier the following day, got my shot. Enjoy and go with the flow

  3. I really enjoyed reading your article. I completely agree with every point you brought up except I don’t think Prague is expensive at all (specifically food and drinks). Maybe I’m just used to the crazy prices in San Diego. Just my two cents. Happy New Year!

    • Hi Emmanuel, and Happy New Year! Had to laugh at your comment.I live in Thailand, so by that gauge, everything in Europe seems expensive to me.

  4. The problems raised in this article of the side effects of mass tourism in a relatively small area are to be seen in many other tourist hot-spots exacerbated by the ever rise in tourist numbers including those from countries opening up to the concept of foreign travel such as India and China.Berlin, San Francisco, Barcelona, Paris, Rome & New York have all appeared in the press recently suffering from the onslaught of mass tourism in particular the effects of websites such as airbnb on the local property market.I went to Prague a few years back and agree with most of what has already been said although unlike others here I am too self-aware to start complaining about the amount of tourists in a city which I was visiting in a tourist capacity.I guess you are left with two choices: stay at home and appreciate your own country (which most people never do) or else go to places where few people venture – Bangladesh and most of West Africa spring to mind.

  5. Well, for one it is not eastern Europe. It is central and it sucks. I spend a lot of time in Ukraine and that is real eastern Europe and has not been ruined by mass tourism yet. The groups have destroyed the city to the point where I disliked it all. It is also expensive too and walking is a nightmare. It makes Krakow and Budapest look like Paradise . Go to Kiev , Lviv, Minsk, even Poland but avoid Prague. It is so depressing to so how tourism killed the soul of a city. I actually got so angry that I told some to go back to China and that was not okay of me. However,the Chinese tour groups are terrible and ruin travel for all around them.

    • Tourism brings money into a country, Czech people should realize this. We visited Prague this September and we’re happy to leave. People are rude and will not help you. I was told by a Czech on my flight home that Czechs hate tourists and people with dark skin. I would never recommend this place… depressing and never sure if you are being ripped off with their currency, which is a must. They don’t like to take euros, in fact most places wont.

      • I as a Czech don’t have any problem with dark skinned People. The center of Prague is really small so its very crowded. The last Czech people who live there (most of the flats are Airbnb) still have to hear drunk tourist a? Night etc.. We in the Czech republic use Czech Crowns so you shouldnt be surprised if people here dont accept Euros. Its same if i’d like to pay by Euro in the US. Wish you a better experience next time in Prg.

  6. My husband and I just got back from Prague, we were there in early to mid May 2018, and I completely agree with you…the old town area, although beautiful, was insanely crowded to an unpleasant degree….weirdly reminded me of Niagara Falls! And lots of kitschy shops, ice cream sellers, etc. But yes, you can escape the crowds by walking away from this area, including the neighborhood below the castle….but the old town part was one of the more beautiful areas of Prague, in terms of architecture. I think next time we visit any place in the future we will go in January and February and bundle up! Or go to some place undiscovered as of yet, if any still exists. It was, sadly, a disappointment. I was thinking of visiting Dubrovnik, then heard that’s also ruined by tourism as well! As a traveller you have to either put up with the crowds, prices, kitchiness, or find someplace undiscovered, and/or travel at an odd time.

    • Sadly, I have to agree Tsela. Just trying to walk across the Charles Bridge in Prague is a nightmare. Even in shoulder season, the town is a mass of tourists. Can’t really blame the locals for being a bit testy. But fortunately, there are still lots of virtually undiscovered places in the word. You just need to have a good sense of adventure! (P.S.: Dubrovnik is getting touristy, but is still nice enough for me to be able to recommend it.)

  7. O my god! That’s really a bad experience and sorry you did not enjoy in Prague. You have mentioned pretty good points; I will consider these while I am travelling to Prague.

    Try visiting again in off-season (off-season= less tourists +affordable prices) as you said. Replace your bad memories with fresh and new thoughts because Prague is a beautiful city with stunning architecture, castles, museums and much more. Finally am happy you had a good time in Poland.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Barbara.

    • You’re welcome, Helena. I recently saw an overhead photo of the Charles Bridge and, while there were still a lot of people on it, I didn’t see any vendors lining both sides, so maybe the city has gotten the message.

  8. I certainly understand you feeling, from the overcrowded tourist attraction in Prague, it is quite a stampede, so why not try something that is more off the beaten track like , the quiet part of the Prague castle district- called Novy Svet- its narrow back streets, with picturesque little houses, one of these houses, it quite unique, as its one of the only surviving black and white timber built log cabins which are endemic in the Czech countryside.
    This parts of the Prague castle, is certainly quiet, and definitely interesting, because it has no great landmarks, but is great to wander around and have a quite coffee

    • Hi Rob: Thanks for taking the time to reply. There were areas of Prague, well outside the tourist district, that I found more enjoyable. In fact, I stayed in the Prague 3/Zizkov area, so well outside the Old Town. And I did spend a day wandering around Novy Svet(took the trolley up the hill to the castle and walked back), which was much more enjoyable. I should probably give it one more try, but this time in low season.

      • I was in Prague with my family for 3 days during potato school vacation. It was my 3rd time in Prague and I can say that they are the unfriendliest people of all unfriendly people. They could learn the oposite behaviour in Greece. It is unposible to talk normaly with them, becouse I understand almoust everything in Czech, but couldn’t talk in sentances, so I thought if I talk Slovenian very slowly, they willl surelly understand. Everytime I’ve got back to me – NE RAZUMEM, vhich is the same in Slovene. Of course next thing to do is talk English and that was when we had our amusement every time. They understand English really bad and speak even worse. On the top of it young people in American franchises like Sturbucks want to apear more American as Americans themselves, so this young Czech wanted from us to spell our names in English that he could write them down on cups. The outcome weren’t our names, we were just laughing every time we thought of it.
        But I don’t understand how they could have such enormous ahievements in the past, we Slovenians are total peasants towards them in our history.
        I am 45 and in my twenties we have theme parties in Maribor called ?eška (Czech) parties, where you have to come dressed like a Czech, becouse in my youth Czech was sinonim for no style at all. Until I came for the 1st time to Prague I didn’t understand the gigantic contrast of magnificent city of Prague, which was Europe’s capital in middle age and industrial importance of Czech before WW2 und totaly unstyleish and indeferent Czech people how we know them in my lifetime.

  9. Hi Barbara, I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m excited to read more and be inspired for my next trip. My husband and I spent two months in Prague earlier this year and we loved it. We did encounter people who could be called cold and unfriendly, in particular a very scary looking lady at the ticket desk at Petrin Tower comes to mind. We were also treated badly by rude staff at a restaurant when we were a little late for a reservation.

    But for the most part, we found the Prague people friendly. One woman volunteered to walk us out of the shopping centre we were in to the metro station we needed to get to. We also had a lovely guy drive us around the Castle and charm us with stories of his past life as a musician. And many more similar experiences.

    Maybe, we were lucky as we weren’t there in peak season. Even in March, the crowds at weekends on Charles Bridge put us off going there. We do plan to go back to Prague but maybe in winter when the crowds have left and the pace has slowed down again.

    • Hi Tracey: Thanks for sharing your experience. I did arrive in high season, so some of it was to be expected. Good to know that it’s not so bad during other times of the year.

  10. I lived in Prague for four months, over two summers, coaching baseball for part of that time. I guess the Czechs are the classic example of “you gotta get to know them well.” Certainly, they can be rude and brusque. Many of them truly are jackasses and filled with contempt for tourists. But many of them can also be excellent friends, demonstrating a wry sense of humor and a very intelligent take on life.

    The reasons generally given for the Czech cynicism and outwardly bad attitude:
    (1) For years now they’ve been a popular tourist destination, and have seen more than their share of British lager louts arriving by the planeload and boorish Americans.
    (2) They’ve been constantly occupied by one dominant power or another throughout their history.
    (3) They lost their religious beliefs during communism (according to a Polish woman who claimed the Poles retained theirs).
    (4) If The Unbearable Lightness of Being is to be believed (and I think a lot of Czechs repudiate the book) their cynicism has morphed into a nihilistic sexual promiscuity, the last stop before total despair.

    Just found this site — a great resource. I’m shoving off for some of the same destinations, such as Bled and the Turda salt mine, to put them in the frame of whether the advertised health benefits are to be found.

    • How interesting and thought provoking, Gordon. Thanks for sharing your take, as it’s much more informed than mine, given the time you’ve spent there.

  11. Greetings from this wonderful city! I am sorry to read that you had so bad experiences. I have spent quite a few MONTHS here already and haven’t seen everything yet…

    If you change your mind and ever want to come back to Prague for a visit, I would recommend you a few things:
    1. The season doesn’t matter much (except if you would like to have a good swim in the summer – that sucks here). Of course, in January there is a little down time when you can have the Charles Bridge sometimes just for yourself, but not too much happening in town, either. All the other months are very busy with festivals, sports and cultural events. The best to avoid the tourist crowds in any seasons is to have your walk in the early morning or late evening.
    2. Don’t take it as an offense if they seem unfriendly: many Czechs are friendly – but even more of them don’t really speak English and I guess that’s why they seem to be reserved with foreigners.
    3. Prague is quite a cheap place, except for the Old Town Square and a few shops between the Charles Bridge and the Castle. But even there you can find decent shops, just have to ask from the locals where do they go shopping. I bet you went to one of those Vietnamese mini Markets where most everything is indeed ridiculously overpriced.

    • I’m afraid my time in Prague soured me for good, Andrea. I stayed outside the center, and still had problems with cold locals and high prices. Don’t think I’ll ever be back. But I am interested in visiting eastern Czech Republic one of these days.

  12. Central Prague is undoubtably a rip off, but there are many excellent districts in Prague where you can find cheap pubs and restaurants. It’s a pity that so many people visit central Prague and assume that it’s representative of the city, or indeed the entire country.

    • Hi David: I actually stayed outside the center, in a local neighborhood, where I stayed in a vacation rental apartment. Even there, I felt the residents were cool and withdrawn, and the restaurant in the lower level, which was full of local people, was pretty darned expensive.

      • At the risk of sounding rude I think you have what I would call a very \”american view\” on your visit to Prague. I moved here from Ireland and having been living here a year. I cant really see what your complaint is… I mean if you have ever traveled you would realise that every major city has a tourist district. Going to the Old Town square and complaining about the tourists is about as inane as going to Vatican City and complaining about them or going to a butchers and complaining they don\’t sell vegan food. Prague\’s tourist district is actually quiet small, and once you get out of it you\’ll see the architecture is just as stunning and prices go back to normal. The people aren\’t crazy friendly at first, this is true, but why should they be. I mean you are visiting THEIR country, and they are treating you as a local. It\’s a cultural thing, a lot of Czechs actually find it rude or obnoxious to be too friendly with strangers, so I don\’t think it\’s fair to expect them to adjust to your cultural sensitivities. Also if you get to know a Czech person they immediately become more friendly.

        Prague is a very cheap city so I think your apartment \”outside the center\” was in a very expensive district, perhaps the New Town, which is actually more of the functional center for locals. But there is no city west of Prague that is cheaper in Europe (except perhaps Madrid or some Spanish cities, but not by much). A bar near me (in Zizkov, still quite central) sells an amazing burger and chips for €5, with €1 a beer, and for Prague that\’s not unusual, in fact cheaper places are easily found, except for the beer; that\’s about as cheap as it gets. You wouldn\’t find that for under €10, in Paris or Rome or London.

        Sorry for the essay but I really think you should reconsider your position on Prague and give it another shot. By the sounds of it you only went to the places where all the tourists flock ie. square, bridge, castle, petrin. If you do ever change your mind and return I\’d suggest visiting Karlovo Namesti and environs, there is a little english book shop not too far called the globe, its is also a cafe bar and has great Karaoke on a saturday. Also Vysehrad castle, it has a beautiful church set in a fortress that is like mini town, it also has a nice park, if you go here I suggest going to the Balkan grill and beer garden (can\’t quite remember the name). Or you could wander around and sample the many bars and restaurants districts like Vinohrady, Zizkov and Karlin have to offer and experience some true czech hospitality.

        P.s. It is very possible that the woman in the shop couldn\’t understand you. Czech is a very complicated language and pronunciations are really difficult.

        • With respect, John (which is more than you gave me at the start of your email with the “American view” comment), I hear what you are saying. But I’ve been doing this for nearly ten years, have visited 77 countries, and countless cities. I am quite well aware that every major city has a major tourist district. When I go to a new city, I do a brief tour of the major sites, but then focus on more local places and people. There are many cities that do tourism very well. Prague is not one of them. Crowds are to be expected, but filling the Main Square with ratty-looking performers, and lining the Charles Bridge with so many vendors that it is very nearly impossible to walk across it, is short-sighted. Whoever made these decisions has not done so with a view to the long term.

          Secondly, I actually stayed in Zizkov, a couple of blocks away from the TV tower. Even the people from whom I rented the apartment were cold and unfriendly, until they learned I was a travel writer, and then they got quite accommodating. To me, that felt hypocritical. It’s also never good when I feel like vendors are only speaking to me long enough to get my money, and promptly ignore me the moment they have. In one shop, one of the salespersons actually started yelling at me because I didn’t want to buy the candy he was making. I have rarely encountered more rude people, anywhere in the world I have traveled. And I don’t drink and I’m a vegetarian, so the cost of beer and burgers is irrelevant to me. I’m glad you found your place, but my experience in Prague was much different.

  13. I am currently in Prague, planned on moving here to teach English and live for a while. Sadly I’ve had an experience these past few days that mirrors what you have put above, these people have a serious attitude problem! If you are going to travel here be aware its seriously pricey, water bottle story is the tip of the iceberg, also was followed around and watched like a hawk in almost every shop I was in, not even subtle about it they werent. My advice, steer well clear, not even that nice up close, looks run down and dirty.

    • It’s so sad that such a beautiful city has become such a tourist trap.Hopefully, they’ll figure it out soon and do something about the attitude of the locals. If they don’t, they’re liable to discover the hard way that there are lots of other destinations for tourists to choose instead.

  14. It was very interesting reading your thoughts and feeling about Prague and they made me keep strong on my decision never to go back to Prague.

    I first visited the city in 1980, when communism was still in place and the regime control over the population very strong and tough. Only a few people were visiting at that time, and the locals were hungry of contacts with the Western world, more than willing to talk although they had to be extremely careful since the police was everywhere, doing their best to prevent any contact. People were poor, oppressed and often sad, but the few I could approach were incredibly friendly.

    I went back 10 years later, right after the fall of the Berlin wall. The people had regained their freedom and their smiles, and what struck me most was the number of bookshops. Now that they could eventually chose which books to read, people were hungry for culture, There were already a few more tourists, but nothing comparable to the boom that the city experienced since then.

    The city has certainly been embellished and beautifully restored, but I feel it had lost its charm and I swore I would never go back. I want to remember Prague as it was. Even though these image exist now only in my memory.

    • Hi Simon! How very interesting. I wish I had been fortunate enough to see Prague back then. Sadly, I think you have mdae the right decision.

  15. Fortunately, when I was visiting Prague I had my friend who is Czech as a guide so I didn´t have any first hand experience with this cold behavior..One thing he told me though was that nowadays the Old Town is an area as if for tourists only, locals simply don´t go there if they don´t have to (the hordes of tourists being the obvious reason)..So this is what tourism can do, I guess. Banish the local spirit and atmosphere.

    • Unfortunately, Julie, that’s one of the downsides of becoming a popular tourist spot. Sometimes, when I find a wonderful place, I think about maybe NOT writing about it 🙂

  16. One of my Georgetown classmates came back from Prague in 1996/1997 and told us she saw one of our favorite alums selling bagels in Prague! Lol I always wondered what happened to his business venture.

    I have the same feelings about Prague– we went to a restaurant in the center and my niece broke a cheap salt shaker. The restaurant tried to shake us down for $50 US. When my brother refused to pay, the waiter assaulted him. It was quite the debacle– my brother pressed charges and was successful but it spoke volumes about the city for me. My fellow travel blogger friend and I are setting off for a 4 city tour of Xmas markets this December– she’s heading on to Prague afterwards and I’m heading home!

    • Hi Kiki: It’s so sad – such a beautiful city and such cold and uncaring people who treat tourists as an imposition on their time rather than valued customers.

  17. I visited Prague in August. So agree on all the points. Prague is so beautiful! However, it is frustrating to see Old Town packed with tourists shoulder-to-shoulder. I also couldn’t get close enough to Astronomical clock to see Apostols… and Charles Bridge vendors… but still, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe.

  18. I’m planning a visit to Prague for two days in a month. I live in London which is rammed with tourists so in sure it won’t bother me too much but ill note your out of town recommendations!

  19. I love Prague. Thanks for the tips in this post. Can anybody give me the suggestion about tour operators to this place..If there is any operator I can visit this place.

  20. I was in Prague a few years ago over Thanksgiving weekend, just as the Christmas markets had started. It was when I first met Andy in person, so I can’t say that I paid any attention to the level of friendliness from the people around me. I do remember a fair number of tourists, but at the beginning of the Christmas markets, that was to be expected. Funny you mentioned Bohemian Bagel, Andy loved that place when he was in Prague at some point before our visit together, and he took me there. One of the few places in Europe with free refills! Anyway, sorry you didn’t enjoy Prague. I did think it was a pretty city, and if I ever do return it will be during spring or fall when hopefully there are less tourists.

    • Hi Ali: It is a gorgeous city – the architecture is simply stunning. So I think it’s worth seeing, but in off-season, as you suggest.

  21. The gothic architectures are stunning. I’d love to see the beauty of Eastern Europe. I also like to try the local food. I’ll consider the seasons of the year when we’ll go there in our future trips. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • You’re very welcome, Noel. I try to be as fair and honest in my stories as possible, in the hopes I can save others from disappointment.

  22. I couldn’t agree more with your post! I first visited Prague in 2006 and thought it was lovely. Then, we returned for a long weekend this May, and I felt the city was more crowded, more grimy than my first trip. Sadly, I was quite disappointed too.

    • Hi Joy: I expected readers to jump down my throat over this story but quite the opposite has happened. Like you and I, many people have had the same experience in Prague. So sad.

  23. The season has lots to do with it, I think, Barbara. Europe in summer can be demanding – lack of service, sometimes unbearably hot weather – and crowds. That’s especially true for the big tourist-magnet cities, incl. Prague. Old Town Square on a winter night, with the Christmas markets, well, it’s like walking through a different century, magical. Very cold, though, so warm clothes are essential. Look forward to hear about your experience in Poland. Were they friendlier?

    • Hi Sophie: I absolutely loved Poznan, Poland, as you’ll see in upcoming stories. I thought the people were genuinely warm and giving and hope to go back and see more of the country.

  24. Your candor regarding Prague is appreciated. I still want to visit, but perhaps in the winter. I’ll wear my mukluk boots and musher mitts from my time spent in Alaska!

  25. I thought it was funny how Prague had all its tourist sites in a straight line, so if you went perpendicular for a few blocks, the tourists were gone, and the prices dropped in half. When I was there, anyway.

    • Hi OC: I found the same thing. I was staying just outside the historic center and the restaurant prices there were about half of those being charged in the center.

  26. My memories are of Prague 15 years ago – an architecturally superb city and I found the people OK to speak and deal with – several keen to practice their English after years of Communism. It sounds like there may be too much of a good thing now…

    • Unfortunately, I think that’s it, Mark. I used to live in a lace that had a quarter million tourists descend each week. The local residents (one-tenth the number of visitors) quickly grew tired of the tourists each summer. But they need to remember that their higher quality of life is because of the tourists. If all the tourists suddenly disappeared, I bet they’d have a pretty rapid attitude adjustment.

      • I’m sure they appreciate that at some point, Barbara. Maybe the quick rise of Prague as a top destination hasn’t left the natives evaluate the whole situation yet. While the case with Sofia is different – people usually don’t flock in thousands at the same time to see the city, I have the feeling that it has much to do with the changed reality after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
        I do hope they’ll learn how to deal with all that attention. 🙂

  27. There is something about Eastern Europeans that makes them seem cold and unfriendly – I wonder if it was the reserve they had to build up when living under communism. However, I must say that it seems there are better places to visit than Prague – perhaps you would have fared better in other parts of the country.

    • Hi Heather: It has been interesting to try and connect with locals as I travel around Eastern Europe. I found people in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and now in Bulgaria to be quite friendly and always willing to help. It was only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that the people seemed stand-offish and/or downright unfriendly. I suspect you’re right about things being much different in parts of those countries that are not such popular tourist destinations.

  28. I think it is one of the toughest things for a traveler to admit when she was disappointed with a place. You know, with the expense of travel, you almost want to lie and say “it was alright” even if it wasn’t. I just want you to know that I totally appreciate your honesty in your feelings with Prague.
    I actually felt very similar in Italy, and given that I spent an entire 3 weeks and 5000 USD (for 3 people) I really wanted to love it. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of aspects of Italy that I really did like, the history first and foremost. The people however, I found to be extremely unfriendly, the food average at best (and I love Italian food), and pretty much everything overpriced.

    • Thank you, Julio. I never WANT to write bad things about a place and it takes a lot for me to do so, but I feel I have an obligation to my readers to tell the truth. And I try to be as fair as possible, highlighting the positive as well as the negative. I really appreciate your comment.

  29. You make a lot of good points in this post. I did meet friendly locals, however it was clear in many respects that Prague has now become a very tourist focused destination. It happens to all spots that become popular eventually I suppose, especially if tourism forms such a big part of the local economy.

    • I’m afraid you’re right, Paul. It’s an interesting dichotomy that I’m always looking for places that haven’t yet been spoiled by tourism, yet my blog brings those very places into the public view.

  30. We’ve limited time while in Prague, but in the late 1990’s…the crowd wasnt bad, I was lucky to see the statues moving clearly, took pictures just like any tourists. Despite the war[s] in some parts of the world, recession and hardship, I noticed that there’s more people travelling now…blame it on modern technology and publicity. Hope you’ll continue to visit unknown places and you honest outlook on every places you’ve been too is a pleasure to read. feeling better already? take care

  31. I wonder if winter may have been a better time to visit… but then there are those harsh winters, maybe not!

    • I think the same thing, Anil. Off-season would be much better for anyone not bothered by cold and snow. And I suspect the exquisite architecture would be even more lovely topped by freshly fallen snow.

  32. Sadly Prague does suffer from success. Still a great place to visit but not like it was 15 years ago. If you want un-spoiled beauty try some countries such as Estonia, Latvia, etc. They have not yet become engulfed with the hoardes of tourists, but probably will.

    • Hi Gloria: The Baltic countries are high on my list! Hope to go there next summer.

  33. I love the Czech Republic. It’s a beautiful country and there is much to explore beyond Prague, and in the city itself, which is rich with history and has many worthy sights. I also love the Czech people. It’s true that the ones that deal with tourists in Prague are often not friendly, but they are a hospitable, fun-loving people. I think Prague suffered after communism because it became “the gem” of Eastern Europe very, very quickly. The mass of tourists was maybe too much for the people to handle well. That being said, I am glad you had a better time in Poland. Poznan sounds like a lovely city.

    • Hi Jenna: I have to admit that I was perplexed by the whole thing, and I do realize that I might well have had a much different experience in a more rural area. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to the countryside one day and check that out.

    • Hi Kevin and Ruth: That’s a very good question and the answer has to do with my choice of lifestyle. Because the road is my office, I sometimes need to just stop somewhere and do nothing but work. By the time I got to Prague, I’d had a whirlwind month in the UK, followed by a 2.5 week tour in Morocco, and I was seriously behind in my writing. The fantastic apartment that GowithOh provided for the first week came with rocket fast wifi, so it seemed a very good place to catch up. I spent the entire first week in the apartment writing, leaving only to eat.

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