Why I like living in Prague

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague photographed from Petrín Hill on New Year's Day 2011 © Ricky Yates

“Do you like living in Prague?” This is a question I’m frequently asked by Czech people once they discover that I’m not a tourist but that I’ve actually chosen to live and work here. Many Czechs cannot understand why someone from Western Europe might actually want to come and permanently reside in their country.

The same question is also frequently posed by English-speaking visitors who join us for worship at St. Clement’s Anglican Episcopal Church and by family and friends when they write or speak with me. So for my first post of 2011, I’m going to set out some of the reasons why I enjoy living particularly here in Prague and more widely in the Czech Republic. Some of these I’ve mentioned in previous posts so there are an inevitable number of links to things I’ve written previously in this blog.

Metro station at Jirího z Podebrad © Ricky Yates

Public Transport

Prague has the most wonderful public transport system consisting of buses, trams, the Metro and even a number of little ferries. Why is it wonderful? Because it is:

Incredibly cheap – Last week, Sybille and I went to renew our annual season tickets for the Prague public transport system. It cost each of us 4750 Kc – at current exchange rates, just over £160.00 / €193.00 / US$250.00. For this sum we can travel anywhere in Prague, at any time, for a whole year! The Church reimburses me for my season ticket – we just have to pay for Sybille’s.

Escalator on the Prague Metro © Ricky Yates

Integrated – Each part of the system links to the other. At Dejvicka, the current terminal of the A/Green line of the Metro and the nearest Metro station to our flat, you walk out of the station and immediately in front of you is place where buses depart to take you out further into the suburbs or to the airport. The Dopravní podnik hravního mesta Prahy or dpp for short, have a wonderful website that speaks Czech, English and German. Put in the starting point of your journey and your destination, the time you either want to start or arrive and then click. Out comes a journey plan with times, where to transfer from one form of transport to another, etc.

Frequent – If you know where you are going and you are travelling on a weekday between 07.00 and 19.00, there is no real need to visit the dpp website. Once you reach your point of departure you will only need to wait a few minutes at the most. Even on Sunday mornings, there is a tram every twenty minutes which will take us from the Podbaba tram terminus near our flat, all the way to Dlouhá Trída, just around the corner from St. Clement’s Church.

Reliable – there is a timetable and nearly always, it is adhered to. Sometimes buses and trams do get delayed by other vehicular traffic, but usually only at peak periods. And when it snows, everything keeps running – it doesn’t grind to a halt as in Britain.

It isn’t just within the city of Prague. The Czech Republic, along with Slovakia, has the densest rail network of any country in the whole of Europe. One member of my congregation lives in Milovice, about 50 km from the centre of Prague. But in 45 minutes, he can travel by train into the city centre and then have a 10 minute walk to Church. I don’t exactly know what his rail fare is for the return journey but he assures me it is extremely reasonable.

Bar-Restaurace U Topolu © Ricky Yates

Eating and Drinking

Prague has an abundance of bar-restaurants. And provided you avoid the expensive tourist traps in the city centre, ‘eating out’ can be remarkably inexpensive. As I’ve written previously, some single people tell me that it is often cheaper for them to ‘eat out’ rather than buy food from the supermarket and cook for themselves.

Half a litre of Kozel beer © Ricky Yates

The photo on the left is of U Topolu which, since it’s refurbishment in July 2010, has become our favourite local place to eat and drink. A main course here, even with a side dish, costs no more than 150 Kc / £5.00. The quality is excellent and portions are generous.

The further great attraction at U Topolu is the beer. As well as Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, they have Kozel beer, directly from the tank. It is light, fresh and costs 26 Kc for half a litre. In British terms that is under £1.00 a pint! What more do I need to say?

Architecture and Buildings

As I’ve previously written, Prague suffered remarkably little structural damage during the Second World War. And whilst many historical buildings suffered years of neglect during the Communist era, since 1989, great effort has been put into restoration. What is really pleasing is how well restoration work has been done.

Restored building in Vinohrady © Ricky Yates

This photograph is of a building just around the corner from where my dentist has her surgery in the suburb of Vinohrady. It consists of residential flats on four floors with retail outlets on the ground floor level. But as you can see, all the intricate detail above the windows on each level has been lovingly restored, together with the ironwork that forms the railings to each balcony. Likewise, the render on the outside of the building has been repaired before being attractively painted.

These buildings are typical of those which form much of the inner suburbs of Prague. Yes – there are still ones like these that are crumbling. But increasingly they are a minority. And rather than wholesale demolition, buildings like these are being preserved and their interiors sympathetically modernised.

I could write and illustrate several blog posts about the architecture of Prague which I promise I will do during the coming months. But for the time being, just let me say that walking the streets of the centre of Prague, together with the inner city suburbs, is always a delight to the eyes.

Not too big but not too small

Prague only has a population of about 1.3 million people. Therefore, as cities go, it is relatively small meaning that the nearby countryside can be easily reached. Yet because it is the capital of the Czech Republic, (10.3 million population), it has all the assets and facilities of a capital city.

There are many more things that I could list as to why I like living here in Prague, but this post is probably long enough already. And yes – there are also a small number of things that I don’t like. But they are minor irritants compared to the joy of living in this delightful city.

16 comments to Why I like living in Prague

  • Oh – you made me pine for Prague now!
    I agree – transport in Prague is excellent…I thought that that is the sort of transport one finds in any big European city. London has definitely proved me wrong! (though in all fairness it is much bigger)

    As for food I agree. I barely cooked when I was there. For 60Kc (around £2 – and around 3-4years ago) I used to be able to get a drink and a meal at a local student pub/bar, with enough on my plate to have leftovers for the next day (and believe me…I eat a lot, so if the portion size used to flummox me, it would be a lot for most people).

    You make me miss my time in Prague!

  • Ricky

    Hi annmucc,

    Sorry to make you pine!

    Yes – public transport in Prague is so much better than London & vastly cheaper! And yes – you can eat very cheaply in local student pub/bars here in Prague, especially from set menus which are often available at lunchtime.

  • What’s not to like about a country which lets dogs into the restaurants and doesn’t count beer as alcohol! You forgot to mention that the entire public transport network continues to operate when it snows – unbelievable!

    • Ricky

      Hi Lis,
      Actually, I DID mention that the entire public transport network continues to operate even when it snows – it’s in the paragraph about reliability. But I agree with you – it is unbelievable! As for beer not counting as alcohol, it is partly because in Czech, the word ‘alkohol’ (as they would spell it) is used to describe anything that is stonger than pivo/beer or vino/wine, rather than in the wider collective way we use the word ‘alcohol’ in English.

  • I’m pining for Prague too as I read your post. Now I’m very curious to hear what you don’t like. I think I’ve met one person in my whole life who didn’t think Prague was fantastic. And as gorgeous and historical as it is, it doesn’t yet feel completely “touristy/commercial” the way London does, which is not to say London isn’t awesome, because it is.

  • Ricky

    Hi Karen,
    I’ll save my post about my ‘minor irritants’ for when I’ve had a bad day 🙂 Prague can at times be ‘touristy/commercial’but it is currently most enjoyable because of the virtual absence of tourists. On Friday evening we walked across Old Town Square at dusk & there were hardly any other people there – delightful! This should continue until mid-March when the tourist season re-starts.

  • I have to say that your a very lucky man! I’ve not been to Prague however I did go to Krakow (which I imagine to be a lot similar in comparison with the UK) with my girlfriend a few years ago and I fell in love with the architecture and feel of the place.

    The beer could also be a plus for me 🙂

  • Karin Shepherd

    Yes! Yes! You have also made me longggggg for Prague! So well said, so well written! My husband and I just left the states (we are now in Ireland) and you cannot believe how many times we said while there; “In Prague…., in Prague.” Especially regarding the ease of getting around the city and the cost of doing so. We got a 3 month pass to use on buses, trams and the Metro and found it to be quite reasonable! Restaurants in Prague can be so affordable, whereas in the States (and Ireland, also) restaurants are mostly expensive. When we were visiting Prague last winter, we were aghast at how cheap the train was to Cesky Krumlov. Yes, Prague (and the Czech Republic) is the GREATEST!

    • Ricky

      Hi Karin,
      Your comment, together with some of the previous ones on this post, are beginning to make me feel guilty for making so many of my readers pine or longggggg for Prague 🙂 All I can say is,’Come back soon & enjoy it’!

  • Hi Ricky, Well written article and I must say that the things you mention about the public transport are very true. My wife and I have lived in Brno for almost 7 years now. For the first 5 and 1/2 we didn’t own a vehicle. It was only with the addition of our second child that we broke down. Public transport is a refreshing change to the vehicle dependent way society is setup in North America (we are from Canada). Nathan

  • Ricky

    Hi Nathan – Thank you for the complimentary comment.

    I can understand that with having two young children, a car can sometimes be the best way to transport them. But with good public transport, you don’t have to use the car all the time. As I describe elsewhere in my blog, I brought my British RHD car with me to the Czech Republic when I moved here two & a half years ago. But I just don’t use it that often only to get bulk supplies from the supermarket & for holidays.

  • Hi Ricky,

    Your post would be a very good article in any travel magazine. Czech Tourism or whatever agency they have would be well advised to get a guest post or an article from you.

    Strolling through the old town streets, visiting local restaurants and sipping a beer are very enjoyable activities in Prague. And like you say you don’t need a car at all.

    The architecture is remarkable and there are many different styles to be found. The Art Nouveau is especially rare to fine elsewhere I hear.

    The prices are going up every year but they are still very reasonable compared to the countries you mention. For the average local though they are not cheap at all.

    Let’s hope that all the things you like about Prague will remain for a long time.

    It’ll be interesting to read what are the “minor irritants”. Well, there has to be something since nothing is perfect.


  • Ricky

    Hi Vance,

    My apologies for taking a few days to reply to your kind comment.

    Your remarks about prices are interesting. Yes – prices for most things, especially eating out and public transport, are far cheaper here than the UK or USA and also far cheaper than in neighbouring Austria & Germany. But I am aware of the low wages many local people receive. And certain things, particularly housing costs, are far higher in Prague than they are in the rest of the Czech Republic.

    You are the second commenter to ask me what my ‘minor irritants’ are. Watch this space!

  • […] the end of my first post of 2011 entitled ‘Why I like living in Prague’, I did say that there were a small number of things that I don’t like about living here but […]

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