Your guide to summer in Prague
Prague can be just as gritty as any metropolitan area in the warm summer months. But luckily, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities that are best taken advantage of when the sun is shining.
Here to help you plan your tour of the majestic Golden City is Petr Žídek, one of the friendly guides from Free Prague Tours. Yes, that’s right, there’s a group that offers tours of Prague for free!
“We liked the idea of doing tours,” Žídek explains. “Most travel agencies target high-end clients, but for us, money isn’t the issue. We are relaxed and positive about the tours and so are the clients.”
Free Prague Tours was started by Libor Šulák, who also runs the Lotus Buddhist Center. The tours are truly free, but tips are appreciated. Half the money from each tour goes to the guide; the other half to the organization for operating costs. So what unique highlights will you see on your Prague tour?
“We try to take a leisurely pace, concentrate on curiosities, ordinary things that make [tourists] feel like locals,” Žídek says. “We don’t bombard them with names and dates, and we try to avoid the busiest routes.”
Žídek believes many people only visit the obvious highlights, like Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. Often, they miss out on touring the city’s many unique and interesting neighborhoods, such as Vinohrady, Žižkov and other areas that help connect tourists to the locals.
So take Žídek’s advice and get out of the center. One good place to start is the Troja area. Three excellent sites are all huddled together: the Prague Zoo, Botanical Gardens and Troja Chateau. Each one offers numerous opportunities for outdoor fun.
“The zoo has expanded a lot and the conditions for animals are much better,” Žídek says. “They have really wonderful runs. For those who like animals, it’s really nice.”
There’s an extra bonus for those looking to explore this area — the Troja Card. This new promotion allows holders of the card to visit all three attractions for one low price.
“It’s a very good idea,” says Vít Kahle, the zoo’s spokesman. “Only one ticket to see animals, flowers and art.”
Through the end of September, visitors can purchase this card at any of the participating attraction’s ticket offices. The Troja Card is 200 Kc for adults, 100 Kc; for children and 500 Kc for families. Kahle says the card has many benefits.
“The price is convenient,” he says. “Plus we have prepared additional events for the holders of the Troja Card.”
These include a special day at the zoo in July, another at the botanical gardens in August and a “Troja Day” hosted in the garden of Troja Chateau in September. Even without the card, all three sites have numerous events going on all summer, and “every day [there’s] something new” at the zoo, according to Kahle.
“Troja is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Prague,” says Kahle. “To visit Troja and not see the zoo, botanical gardens or chateau would be incredible. If you have our Troja Card, you have a chance to enjoy your time here at a reasonable cost.”
It’s not easy being green. Prague does offer some inner-city green places, Letná Park and Stromovka, for instance, but if you are looking for some real backwoods accessible by public transport, Žídek recommends Divoká Šárka in Prague 6.
“Šárka looks like the wilderness. It’s a nice area,” Žídek says. “There are reservoirs there to swim in, too.”
Looking at a full city map of Prague, you’ll see the city is ringed by natural preserves. Another popular hiking area in Prague 6 is Hvezda. Originally a game preserve founded by Ferdinand I, it has recently opened a new nature trail featuring local geological conditions and bird and plant species. It’s an added bonus to the site, which is already popular for its unique star-shaped summer palace.
Prague 6 isn’t the only green region. While Prague 5 boasts the excellent Prokopské údolí and Barrandovské skály, Prague 9 is home to Klánovický les, where you can spend hours wandering its many trails. A shorter option is Modranská rokle in Prague 4.
One final not-to-be-missed place is Pruhonice. It’s a bit further out, but visitors will be rewarded with lovely walking paths, woods, lakes and a chateau.
Beaches in Prague?
It’s summertime — time to hit the beach! Despite the fact this is a landlocked country, two places have got your “beach” needs covered. Žluté lázne is practically in the city center and offers lots of fun stuff, especially if you have kids. Beach volleyball, climbing and petanque are available for the energetic folk, while grass, sand and hammocks are offered for the lazier souls. In Prague 5, Pražská pláž boasts 200 meters of fine riverfront sand, plus a pool, volleyball and other sporty activities. Both places offer food, music and dancing, especially in the evenings, for those looking to keep the fun going till the sun goes down. If you are looking to swim, but in a more chlorinated state, Podolí has two huge outdoor pools, a high dive, an indoor pool and a slide.
Even though Prague has much to offer all year round, Žídek, who also provides tours throughout the Czech Republic, reminds people that it’s important to get out of the city and see other parts of the country. (For tips, check out our article on page 6) But he does have one final recommendation if you will be in town this summer.
“The best thing to do in Prague in the summer is to sit in a beer garden and enjoy a mug of beer,” Žídek says.