Prague without breaking a sweat
A variety of specialized tours allow visitors to see the city from many angles
Posted: September 4, 2013
Tourists explore the area around the National Theater on Segways.
Prague is often described as a "fairytale" city thanks to its heady mix of ancient architecture and its labyrinth-like layout, and there is no better time to experience it than in the summer.
Fortunately for tourists, the city offers a variety of ways to see the main attractions and hidden gems that abound. And for visitors there are plenty of options to choose from in terms of how to go about accomplishing that.
Either by foot, bike, bus or Segway, we break down the best ways to experience the Golden city.
Despite the cobblestone streets, Segway tours have become increasingly popular in Prague and it is not uncommon to see more people using them than bicycles. Once hailed as the future of personal transport, the sheer number of the two-wheeled, stand-up scooter-type transportation devices on the streets suggests inventor Dean Kamen was on to something. More than 10 operators offer Segway tours in Prague, and they range from sunset tours of the city's most beautiful parks to outings you design yourself.
Operating a Segway could not be easier. The self-balancing device uses a gyroscope that measures and maintains orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum, and keeps the Segway stable. It is propelled by detecting changes to its center of mass. In other words, it travels in the direction you lean.
"The best thing about Segway tours is that you get to see everything in a short amount of time and it requires a lot less energy than walking," says Prague-Segway-Tour's Magdalena Maratová, who gives Segway tours most days. "You won't ever feel lost with one of your guides, and driving a Segway is quite an experience. Most customers leave with a smile on their face." For more information on Segway tours, check out Prague-segway-tours.com.
Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours
Perhaps the best way to see Prague's main attractions, if you are short on time, is to opt for a traditional bus tour that allows visitors to explore everything from Old Town Square and its famous astronomical clock, to the Metronome Monument, which sits in place of the now-destroyed 75-foot statue of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Audio commentary is available in seven different languages and through the help of multi-lingual tour guides.
"We really enjoyed the City Sightseeing Prague tour," said Anna and Billy Stevens, who gave a testimonial on Sightseeing-Prague's website. "My husband and I always make a point of doing Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours, and this was without a doubt one of the very best we have ever been on."
For more information on Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours, check out Sightseeingprague.com.
You do not have to be the next Dave Mirra to take part in a Prague bike tour, but if you opt for one of PrahaBike's night-time pub crawls then you might find it helps. Alternatively, you can wear one of the many helmets that are provided.
There is no doubt a bike tour in this city is more demanding than either a Segway tour or bus tour, but you have to burn off those extra beer calories somehow. Choose from classic city tours where you can see all the highlights of Prague without having to travel up steep hills, or the Prague Castle tour, which takes you through the idyllic Letná Park and into the largest castle complex in the world.
Those who cannot ride a bike need not worry: PrahaBike has tandem cycles that the guides are happy to share, and if you are a little rusty, there are stabilizers too. For more information on bike tours, check out Prahabike.cz.
One of the few places in Prague where you can admire the city's beauty without being pushed by tourists and the notoriously unobservant Czech commuters is on a Vltava River boat tour.
Tours depart throughout the day and cost between 240 Kč and 900 Kč, depending on whether you want dinner. Cruises vary greatly, but most start by the Čechův most bridge, where you will see the stunning Prague Castle, and end by the famous Dancing Building, modelled after dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
"Our company has a 20-year history, and we only started with one boat," said Jakub Černohous, a spokesman for Prague Boats. "Now we have the newest boats and very special steam boats, which have been in operation since the 1950s."
"I personally recommend the Night Dinner Cruise with live music," he said. "Prague by night includes a buffet dinner and a live jazz performance. Prague also looks spectacular by night."
For more information on boat cruises, check out Prague-boats.cz.
Tourists don't always wish to visit a city and see the usual tourist traps. Some want an "authentic" look at a city, and Prague, more than most, has a dark underbelly.
More than 20 years after the fall of communism, corruption remains endemic. It is the reason why the prime minister has just resigned and also the reason why many connected with his Cabinet are now behind bars. One of Prague's many travel agencies, CorruptTour, wishes to show visitors just how rife the problem can be here.
"The best thing about the Corrupt Tour is that the name is not a pun. It offers exactly what it says on the tin," says CorruptTour Managing Director Petr Sourek. "It is also the best way to see Prague at its worst, and it tells you more about this city and its people than any other out there."
Tourists will be taken to the homes of famous corrupt politicians and other landmarks famous for their ties with corruption, like the Blanka tunnel, which was delayed for years and unacceptably over budget.
For more information on corruption tours, check out Corrupttour.com.
The best way to get up-close and personal with a city is to do it on your own two feet, and Prague's many walking tours range from the spooky to the historic. There are even a number of free tours that run every day, but if you are looking for something a little more in-depth, you should expect to pay up to 700 Kč.
In most cases, you can just show up at the meeting time and pay the tour guide, but there are various discounts available online. There are many popular tours, but the ones that attract the most tourists are the ghost tours and the beer tours, although most of the time, every tour becomes a beer tour anyway.
With former news reporters, teachers and actors as tour guides, you will quickly find that Prague is more than just a pretty face.
For more information on walking tours, check out Newpraguetours.com.
Michael Finnigan can be reached at