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Thank you / Just returned from Prague

Hi all,

Recently I returned from two+ weeks in Prague. As I used this Forum for help and suggestions in planning my trip, I’d love to give back in terms of our experience.

Here are just a few thoughts. Hopefully they are helpful.

  1. Hotel - Residence Hotel Agnes: My daughter was at a music competition in conjunction with the Prague Conservatory, so for much of our trip, we stayed in their dorms. This said, we treated ourselves to a hotel stay for the first three nights, while my daughter acclimated to the time change and we learned our way around Prague.

After a lot of research, I chose Residence Hotel Agnes (a “boutique hotel” with maybe twenty rooms). Without question Residence Hotel Agnes is hands down, the absolute best hotel in which I have ever stayed in. I highly, highly, highly recommend it! I gave it a lengthy review on Trip Advisor (under the name NoelfromMA) that you can read over there. I just want to reiterate here that it is true what all the reviews say, the staff caters to the individual, and will do everything they can to make your visit to Prague easy and enjoyable.

  1. Wittman Tour: I am Jewish and wanted to spend a lot of time in Prague exploring the Jewish experience. (We had stopped in Amsterdam first, and had several amazing Jewish-oriented tours so I was hopeful as we made our way to Prague). Before leaving home in the US, I tried hard to arrange a tour of Terezin with Wittmann Tours. Although they have lots of good reviews I found them to be quite difficult to work with. Initially they didn’t return my emails. When they did, they often gave me only partial information (e.g. yes there is a tour, but they didn’t give me the time).

Ultimately, I did not take a tour of Terezin with them (see below), but decided to book a Jewish Quarter tour with them once I arrived in Prague.

Big mistake. Our guide was a young woman whose name began with “M” (can’t recall it, I'm sorry). She was absolutely terrible. Within minutes I knew that the tour wouldn’t be good and I asked the Wittmann administrator (who was also there collecting fees) if I could leave the tour and join another tour the following day, with a different tour guide. Strangely her answer was “no.” I reiterated that I wasn’t asking for my money back, just to join the same tour with a different guide, the following day. Again she refused my request. As it turned out, the tour only got worse. The guide’s knowledge was very limited and she found it difficult to explain certain information and ideas or answer any questions with any sort of depth or substance.

At the end of the tour, two other families came up to me and complained that she was the worst guide they too had ever had.

  1. Terezin: From the US, I booked a tour with Wittmann Tours. Unfortunately, two days before the tour, they told me that no one else had signed up and if I wanted to take the tour, my daughter and I would have to pay for a private tour rate.

I quickly cancelled and booked at tour with Pavel Batel instead. As everyone else has noted here, Pavel is amazing! He has committed his life to researching Terezin stories. As far as I can tell, he knows more about Terezin than anyone else. I would not hesitate to recommend Pavel. He is fascinating, knowledgeable, and a really nice guy.

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  1. Museum of Medieval Art: Admittedly, there is a lot to see/do in Prague and this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This said this museum is really wonderful. The amazing collection of artwork, some as early as 12th century, was fascinating. The curators also seemed to have a wonderful sense of how to display and interpret paintings and sculpture in a way to both highlight their importance and beauty and not overload the viewer. The low light, darkly painted walls, and relatively pithy labels were perfect. In a sea of over crowded tourist sites, this museum was calming and quiet.

(We visited tons of other sites and museums, but whether you will like them or not is personal preference...)

  1. Lokal: There are a lot of restaurants in Prague that serve traditional food. Some of these foods however were not exactly our taste (e.g., pork knuckles). We found Lokal, in Old Town to be really affordable, with lots of delicious traditional foods which were also a bit more “accessible” for our tastes: schnitzel, cucumber salad, sausages with whipped horseradish (yum!), and lots of beer. More affordable than some other spots, as well.

  2. Prague chocolate: Yum. Yum. This is a family company that has been around for many years. They take pride in their chocolate and also pride themselves on customer service. Their shop (on Nerudova) is more like a show room of gorgeous and delicious chocolates. One morning toward the end of our visit my daughter and I ventured in here to buy some gifts. An hour later, we emerged with boxes, bags, and bars of chocolates each one tied in a beautiful decorative bow, and our bellies full of chocolate (they are extremely generous with samples!) I cant speak highly enough about the delicious chocolates they carry – ranging from traditional milk chocolate to rose chocolate to dark chocolate with ginger – and everything in between. I highly recommend a visit.

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26 posts

(continued)

  1. Everyday life: For a variety of reasons, I spent a lot of time doing things that many of us do at home: Laundry, grocery shopping, buying everyday things (e.g., bed sheets, notebooks). This means that I had the wonderful opportunity to get out of the city and away from most other tourists. With this in mind, I have just a bit of advice:

Although people will say “A lot of people in Prague speak English” I can tell you that outside of Prague, a lot don’t. This made my visit more interesting and also a lot more challenging.

If you decide to venture outside the city (which I highly recommend) especially to non-touristy areas, I suggest a very good, detailed map for your own reference (I used Google maps) and a small pad of paper. If you are going someplace tricky, write down where you want to go, and then, just point to it, as you ask directions. This worked better for me than trying to pronounce difficult to pronounce words or showing someone a map. This worked especially well with bus drivers and other service people outside the city.

If you are looking for people who speak English, I recommend asking a younger person.

Finally, I suggest wearing good walking shoes, there are lots and lots of great sites to see and it’s easy to walk around Prague. Enjoy and thank you all.

Enjoy - and sorry about the lengthy message.

Noel

Posted by
892 posts

Hi Noel - thank you for taking the time to write about your experience in Prague!

Here are just a few thoughts. Hopefully they are helpful.
Yes, they are helpful! I'm going back for a 2nd visit this October and appreciate the recommendations for museums, restaurants and getting around in the less touristy areas. Based on great reviews from you and others, I'm really looking forward to my Terezin tour with Pavel Batel!

And I've added Prague Chocolate to my Google Maps places so that I can find it!

Posted by
644 posts

@Noel: We had the same experience at Hotel Agnes a few years ago, and I totally agree with your synopsis. They also offered to drive us around Prague (instead of having to call a taxi). Couldn't believe it, but they did on two occasions. As for Wittmann Tours, I have done two tours to Terezin with them (2007 and 2016). Both times they were outstanding, especially the second time with "Helen". Sorry that you didn't have the same experience with them. It would be helpful for readers of this Forum to know if others have experienced what you did with them, or if it was an outlier. Nevertheless, glad it worked out for your.

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Noel-really enjoyed reading your experiences in Prague! And thank you for taking time to post. We are going back to Prague in early December for a second time and will use some of your suggestions for sure. As for Wittman Tours, we had a similar experience on our first trip to Prague with a very poor guide and lack of flexibility. Sounds like your trip was interesting and fun though. We can't wait to get back to Prague, even for the busy Christmas season!

Posted by
87 posts

Noel, thanks for the trip report. I am going back to Prague in November and will definitely look up Prague Chocolates! Thanks for the recommendations!

Posted by
1421 posts

Hi Noel,
Thank you for your candid and detailed report. So glad to hear you enjoyed your Terezin tour with Pavel! We are so looking forward to our tour with him next month. We have also hired his colleague Yvonne for the Jewish Tour of Prague. Pavel & Yvonne came highly recommended by relatives and contributors from the Forum.

Appreciated your restaurant review. We are searching for some traditional menus, but also vegetarian options. Thanks also for the heads up on the chocolate! Sounds wonderful.

Posted by
26 posts

Hi,
I've heard Yvonne is really good, too. I wish we had gone that route. I hope you enjoy your trip. As for Prague Chocolate, we went early in the day (I think they open at 10am). We had the place to ourselves and the women who was working there, an architecture student, was incredibly helpful (and happy to ply us with samples!).
Noel

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1421 posts

Thanks again Noel. I see that your hotel & Lokál is one minute from our hotel. Looks like Prague Chocolate is about a 20 minute walk away. Yes, we will be wearing good walking shoes. ;) We have also booked a Prague City Walking tour with Jason @ www.livingpraguetours.com.

Posted by
16 posts

Noel,

Thank you for such a comprehensive and thoughtful trip report. It was truly helpful and it inspired me to write one myself.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you all. The more we can all help each other (even though admittedly, it's sometimes a bit time consuming to write these), the better! Noel

Posted by
892 posts

Noel, Prague Chocolate was a great tip. I had fun tasting and shopping and tasting! Bought some nice chocolate in scenes-of-Prague packaging that will be perfect gifts. And a little something for myself of course 🙂

Sorry suitcase, you're being checked on the way home!

Posted by
1421 posts

I will also add that we stopped at Prague Chocolate twice last month. Oh my, we got our "chocolate fix" along the way. My favorite was Ginger and Cinnamon. Thanks again for the tip. ;J

Posted by
3421 posts

I can add to the recommendation of Lokal even though I also love pork knuckle (what's not to like?). It's difficult to choose from the menu as I wanted everything but I would recommend the Trio of Sausages as it provides a good selection of typical Czech sausages made from scratch at the restaurant. Also, for those who don't like sauerkraut I found the Czech version to be a bit sweeter and not so sour so you may find it more palatable, I loved the sauerkraut at Lokal. Also their dark beer is very good, brewed on site (as are all their beers).

I also love their kids menu, not a chicken nuggets and fries in sight but rather boiled neck of beef with champignon sauce or braised beef heart stuffed with bacon for example although I suspect my kids may err on the side of caution and plump for the chicken shnitzel.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you again for all your kind words. I'm glad some of my suggestions worked out for you all and I get to relive my trip (and plan my next one?) hearing about your experiences. I just have one more thing to say: Trio of Sausages! OMG, yum!!!!!

Posted by
381 posts

Thank you Noel. I am going on December 20th for six nights. If you have any advice for other restaurants, bars/pubs or even local "fast food" please share. Did you go to any of the supermarkets?

Posted by
26 posts

Hi, I did go to quite a few grocery stores as my daughter has an allergy and I needed to prepare meals for her. In Prague, I found the selection to be limited. One caveat though - I didn't search for the best local shops or boutique-y kinds of places. I mostly looked for pretty straight forward American-type grocery stores. There were two I frequented (in Old Town where I was staying): Albert (right across from the Palladium, a huge vertical shopping mall) and Penny Market (on Republika). Albert is larger but I had trouble finding some simple things like salt and pepper. They have a huge selection of sliced meats though -- which to me, did not look terribly appetizing. They were always busy, no matter what time I went! Penny on the other hand is a much smaller market with a much smaller selection (really, almost like a larger convenience store) but a bit more of a range of items and the veggies and fruits seemed fresher. At both of these stores, try to remember to bring your own bags. Otherwise, you will be charged. At Penny I bought a nice sturdy bag that I used nonstop for two+ weeks and continue to use (and I love that the printing on the bright red bag is all in Czeck). The best store I found was Tesco Extra. It is located in a strip mall about a 30 min subway and bus ride out of town and in the same shopping area as an Ikea. Tesco Extra feels a bit like a Target (housewares, clothes, toys, food, etc.) but with more of an emphasis on a larger selection and better quality foods. For some people, this might feel like a schlep and like your local chain supermarket. For me it was extremely helpful given my daughter's needs, nice learning to navigate the subway/bus system, and super nice to get out of touristy Prague and into an area with mostly locals. Be forewarned, if you need to check the ingredients on any of these foods, bring a software program (mine didn't work well), as mostly the employees (unless they are young and in school) largely don't speak any English. Hope this helps.

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26 posts

Oh, BTW, I didn't go to any pubs or bars (other than Lokal), nor did I go to fast food restaurants. BUT, I can tell you that in the Palladium (the mall I refer to above), on the top floor, there is a HUGE food court, including some American "favorites." There is also a MacDonalds in Prague, not too far from Old Town. Enjoy!