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11 Amazing, Free ways to Experience Prague

Prague is a city filled with history. Just walking through the city you can see and feel the past all around you. There are many things you can do and see for free and still get some of the best experiences in the city.

1. Walk the Royal Route

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The Royal Route is a must! It will take you by the most important historical sights in Prague. Start at the end of the route (the Prague Castle) and work your way to its beginning at Prašná Brána (Powder Tower). This way you start at the top of the hill and walk down, rather than constantly up.

Come back to read more about the Royal Route!

2. Astronomical clock

If you have walked the Royal Route, you have definitely seen the Astronomical Clock. However, it is definitely worth visiting again. The clock was installed in 1410, making it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world. Make sure you are there on the hour to see the animated figures that appear as the bell rings, the four figures on the sides represent vanity, greed, death and lust. Each hour, you can also see the Apostles in the small windows. Prepare for hundreds of people showing up each hour to see this!

*Unfortunately, the astronomical clock is currently under construction, so you won’t be able to see it right now.

3. John Lennon Wall

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The Lennon Wall is in the Lesser Quarter and it is filled with graffiti. This wall has been used as a way to bring up social grievances since the 1980s, when students used it against the communist regime. The wall still represents love and peace, and every time you visit it, it is different!

4. Petřín

Petřín is a great place to walk up to. The lookout tower is paid (150kc), but the area is beautiful even if you don’t want to climb up the tower. There are many views of the castle from different parts of the park and the gardens are gorgeous in the spring and summer, usually filled with various roses. At the Petřín hill you can also see the Hunger Wall, which is a long defensive wall built in the 14th century by Charles IV. At the time there was a large famine and the emperor wanted to give poor people jobs and food. The workers received enough food for their families as well.

A good way to get up to Petřín is either by walking up through the gardens or you can take a funicular up or down the hill, with any public transportation ticket.

5. Náplavka 

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Náplavka is a great place to go for a walk along the Vltava river. The best way to get there is to take the tram to Jiráskovo náměstí, where you can also see the Dancing House. Then you can take the stairs down to the riverbank.You can walk along the water and enjoy a gorgeous view of the Castle. You can sit on the edge and dangle your feet above the water (beware of the swans, they can get a little territorial). Along the way you can stop on a boat for a beer or some wine, there are many choices for refreshments. On Saturdays you can also enjoy a farmer’s market on the riverbank.

6. Riegrovy Sady

Riegrovy Sady is a city park close to Wenceslas Square and the main train station. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the view of Prague and the Prague Castle. It used to be a vineyard, but that no longer exists. There are different restaurants and pubs around the park that you can stop at for some refreshments.

7. Metronome

You can either walk to the Metronome from the bottom or from the park side. If you are coming from Old Town, you can cross Čechův most and walk up the stairs to it. At the top, you will be rewarded with a view of Prague and of the Castle. Then you can continue to walk around Letná park. You can also do the opposite if you don’t want to walk up the stairs. The metronome was built in 1991 after a giant Stalin Monument was taken down.

8. Get lost in Malá Strana

Malá Strana or the Lesser Quarter, is absolutely gorgeous. There are many tiny streets and alleys that take to some of the most beautiful locations. For this activity, leave the map at the hotel and just walk around! Take a few turns down cobbled streets, enjoy the 18th century architecture and get lost in the time period. It will be easy to see why Prague is used to represent so many historical cities in movies. This part of the city hasn’t changed much in centuries. There are many small cafes and restaurants that you can pop into for either some food, coffee or beer.

9. Sunrise over the Charles BridgeIMG_0058

Whether you are out all night, enjoying the Prague nightlife, or you are willing to get up early, go to the Charles Bridge for the sunrise. It is never as empty as it is at 5 in the morning, so you can enjoy the view with the minimum amount of tourists. The sun rises from behind the castle, illuminating the city in the most stunning light. This is the perfect time to take pictures!

10. Stromovka

Stromovka is a large park that was originally used as a Royal Game Reserve. It is a beautiful place to sit down for a picnic or just enjoy a little bit of nature in the center of a city. You can walk to the planetarium or even walk to the Prague Zoo from Stromovka (both have entrance fees). As you walk through the park you can come across some of the older buildings, including a small summer palace that was built when the park served as a game reserve.

11. Divoká Šárka

If you are looking for a larger escape from the city, Divoká Šárka is a protected park that has a large gorge named after a female warrior, Šárka. It is a great place to leave the city behind and go for a hike through the nature reserve. There are multiple trails that can take you to either amazing views from the top or to the lake below. You can swim in the lake to cool down after your hike and if you fall in love with the area, you can even set up camp (for a small fee).

There are many other sights in Prague that you can see for free and more experiences! So just take a walk through the city and get to know the city up close.

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Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

While we were in Tokyo, we couldn’t resist spending a day at Tokyo Disneyland. We just can’t resist a good theme park. Our bodies had given up on any sense of time, so waking up early to make our way through Tokyo rush hour traffic (wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy) and make it to Disney for opening time.

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Getting there:
The trip there is easy – we took the Keiyo line from Tokyo station to the Maihama stop. You can see the part from the train and it’s a quick 10 minute walk from the station. We didn’t have our tickets ahead of time, so we first had to go through security and then to buy our tickets. Since we were there early, all of these procedures were pretty quick. When we left, we took the same route back. We already had the Tokyo subway system semi figured out, so it was pretty straightforward and we managed even without wifi.

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The Park:
We were there in early October, so the park was beautifully decorated in Halloween style. I definitely recommend paying it a visit this time of year. Also, considering the time of year, it was hot all day, so by the end of the day I sported a not so cute sunburn. So even if you think you won’t need it, bring sunscreen.
First things first, Pav downloaded an unofficial app, estimating the wait times at different attractions. Since they don’t have wifi in the park, we brought the pocket wifi from our Airbnb. In combination with the park map, we were set.

            1st tip: If you have pocket wifi, bring it with you.

 

The Attractions:IMG_7757
There are quite a few attractions in Tokyo Disneyland that are everywhere – Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice’s Tea Party. Most of these are similar to other Disney parks that we’ve visited.

The Haunted Mansion was transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was completely different from the usual way the ride looks. Again, totally worth visiting at this time of year.

Pirates of the Caribbean was themed around Dead Men Tell No Tales and was one of the less popular rides at the park. That just meant that we went on it whenever we needed a relief from the heat outside and to take a break.

Unfortunately (lucky for Pav, who doesn’t like the ride too much), It’s a Small World was closed for repairs, so we weren’t able to go on it. We also visited a lot of other Disney staples: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Star Tours.

 

Pooh’s Hunny Hunt:
This ride is unique to Tokyo Disney. We were a little on the fence as to whether we should go on it or not (let’s face it, it doesn’t sound too great), but the fact that it had a 2+ hour wait almost the entire day convinced us that it might be worth it. Eventually, during the main parade of the evening, the wait was under an hour, so we slipped away from the crowd to go check it out.
The ride itself is definitely worth the wait. Its premise is that Pooh ate too much honey and suffers a psychedelic dream. It functions completely differently from all other rides at the park, so it’s an absolutely different experience.

            2nd tip: Even if it might be against your better judgment, go on Pooh’s Honey Hunt.

Final Thoughts:
We were happy that we spent a day at the Tokyo Disney and it was a great experience. The one problem we ran into was the language barrier – the story based rides were all in Japanese, so it was a problem. But again, if you know Disney, you’ll be fine. Other than that, the usual Disney tips apply: comfortable shoes, plan your day and take advantage of Fast Passes.

If you’re a fan of Disney Parks, you shouldn’t miss this one.

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Air Canada: the long, long flight

img_0997When I was looking for tickets to get back to Boston I looked at the price and dates, and Air Canada turned out fit my criteria the best. I have never traveled with them before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I was certainly surprised. 

Pre-flight

One thing that surprised me was that I could not check-in online before the flight. I understand that it is probably because of increased security, and even though you usually can’t check into flights to America, it still surprised me. That’s because you couldn’t even choose your seat online. It was a little like stepping back about 10 years, before online check-in and seat selection was an option. At the airport everything was fine. Of course lines were longer at check-in, because everyone had to check-in at the counter, instead of just dropping off their luggage.

At the Prague airport I had my very first experience with the e-gate passport control. I heard horror stories about people getting stuck between the gates, the camera not recognizing their faces and all sorts of other great anecdotes. So, as I was nearing the e-gate, Alena told me she would stand right there and watch as I embarrass myself. So much faith in me… 😀 I managed, without getting stuck and on my first try!   

Flight

The flight itself was fine. It was a 9 hour long day flight, so boredom comes naturally with this. However, boredom hit earlier, faster and harder than usual, but I will talk about that later. There were a couple of turbulences, but nothing the airline can affect. Somehow, I became the translator and the short-flight-connection coordinator/expert, when Czechs all around me started asking me to either translate the safety briefing or customs forms.

The service was nice. Only one flight attendant made me feel like I was bothering her when I asked for the English version of the customs form instead of the French. Other than that, the flight attendants were very nice!

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Gluten-free food is always a bit of a problem. However, I actually had really good chicken on this flight, it wasn’t completely dry and tasteless! Shocking, I know! One thing I don’t understand is why I always get pretzels as a snack at the beginning of the flight. I wish I could get something else to nibble on. Oh well.

In-flight entertainment

Where do I begin. There were no screens. You could rent an iPad from the airline for $10 or download the app. However, if you are going to do something like this, there should be a sufficient amount of warning! Shoot us an email, saying something like “hey, there won’t be any in-flight entertainment, so bring a book or a magazine. Make sure you download the Air Canada app, so you can enjoy some in-flight entertainment. Thank you and goodbye.” But no, instead, halfway through boarding, they announce over the intercoms, hey so if you have internet on your phone or your tablet, download the app for in-flight entertainment. Except guess what, not everyone has internet in their phone, a lot of people are traveling internationally, so naturally they don’t want to pay the extra money on data. And if you are leaving the country, chances are you are out of data! So please, Air Canada, don’t assume, and warn your passengers that the flight isn’t flying in this century and that for the 9 hour flight you will only have your thoughts to distract you.

I wrote half of this article on the plane ride, when I was very bored and a little mad. I was quite happy with Air Canada, but I do wish that for the price of that ticket, I could have had free in-flight entertainment. That might just be me. It is a good airline and I did like this connection! Just make sure you bring things to do!


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5 hours at the Frankfurt Airport

When traveling back to Boston, I had a 5-hour layover in Frankfurt. This gave me plenty of time to walk around and see what this airport is about. My gate was Z50, so right after landing from Prague I headed for that area of the airport.

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The Frankfurt airport is huge, which means it looks extremely empty. At one point, it looked like I was completely alone. That didn’t bother me, I prefer the emptiness over crowded airports, where you constantly crash into somebody, because they are standing in the middle of the hall.

One thing did bother me at the airport, though, the WIFI. Everywhere they advertised free WIFI, but those signs mostly just mocked me. For the first two hours of my layover I could not connect to the WIFI on my iPhone or my laptop. Finally, I managed to sign in and register for 24 hours. I was just thinking that the five hours would not be that bad, when the WIFI cut out for the first time. I spent the rest of the layover trying to reconnect to the internet, hoping I could entertain myself with something more than the few people around me.

 

I was also hoping for more shops,IMG_6478 where I could just buy a drink or a small snack. I wandered around for quite some time, but found nothing, so I ended up going to McDonald’s. I was very disappointed with the service there. When I came up to the counter to order, the cashier seemed very surprised that I did not speak German. Maybe my expectations are ridiculous, but why does it surprise people that at an international airport there are customers who do not speak the local language? Somehow, I managed to order an iced coffee and I got the right order, but not without a lot of sass and attitude from the cashier.

After spending five hours at this airport, I decided to avoid it, at least for the long layovers. For short transfers I’m sure the airport is great. It is clear where you have to go, and even though the distances are long, I had no issues getting from one gate to another. But hours seem to drag at the Frankfurt airport, so if you are someone who needs a lot of entertainment, bring a buddy or a lot of books :)!


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How we flew with Ryan Air

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How we flew with Ryan Air

Our trip to London with Ryan Air was quite entertaining. True, we probably found it more interesting because of the coffee/sugar high, but even now, looking back, I laugh at the thought of the Ryan Air employee and their wonderful safety cards. We’ve done low cost airlines before, but this was our first trip with RyanAir. And we were not disappointed.

The journey started normally enough, we went through passport control and security checks to our gate, where we waited. After quite some time, two buses arrived and took us to the airplane. Like I said, everything was normal. Once I got used to the fact that there is no seat pocket in front of me, things were good. They actually started looking up when we had the three seats all to ourselves.

The first sign that things were, let’s say, a little different was the grin on the flight attendant’s face as he tried not to crack up during the safety briefing. I understand that after doing the briefing so many times, the seriousness of it might not be so clear. And I know that I shouldn’t judge since I haven’t actually paid attention to this procedure in years, but is it appropriate to laugh while showing where the emergency exits are? Probably not, but like I said, who am I to judge?

When everyone finally buckled their seat belts and cross check was completed, we took off.
Only once we were in the air did we notice the one of a kind safety card on the seat in front of us. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are the pictures we took of the card:

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Since this was a low-fare trip, you had to buy the food. When you buy cheap tickets and it’s a short flight, you usually don’t get food. But what struck us as a little strange was that they went around twice. First the flight attendant asked if we want food and the second time he asked if we want “fresh food”. Suddenly, we had serious doubts about they food they offered from the first cart.

Overall the journey was quite enjoyable. The service was pretty good and once the caffeine dissipated a little, we even stopped thinking everything around us was so strange. It was a smooth ride across the board and if you’re looking for cheap tickets to London, Ryan Air is definitely a great option.

If you want to know how the rest of our trip went, come back later this week!


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