Oh, the things you make us do. A while back, we posted about budget eats in Prague. We took some of our Prague’s great restaurants that meet our stringent standards of quality, found what cheaper options do they offer and wrote about them on the blog, adding some insider tips. The crowds went absolutely mad. "Too expensive", they said. "Are you crazy?” they asked. “Somebody should do a list of eateries under CZK 100.” Oh well, haters gonna hate.
We thought, “This is preposterous. Nobody is going to do a list of things that cost less than CZK 100 in Prague. What would you write about? Sure, Prague is affordable, but CZK 100?”
Well, today, we bring you our ten fun things to eat and do in Prague if your budget is CZK 100. Sigh. Obviously, we do take requests. The list includes some food, some activities, and some souvenirs, too, because even if you’re on a tight budget, you should think about your loved ones. So without further ado, here we go: Ten things to do and eat in Prague on a budget. A budget of CZK 100 or less.
Get out of the centre
Yes, Prague can be affordable, but a short walk or ride outside of the historical centre will open a new horizons to how cheap Prague can really be, compared to other cities in Europe. And, in addition, you get to see something new and really get off the beaten path. The Karlin district, Zizkov, Vrsovice and Vinohrady, Letna or Holesovice... they are all great, have some delicious food and offer some spectacular and authentic sights.
Get some Czech fast food
If you’re in search for proper Czech fast food, because that’s what CZK will mostly get you, make sure you check out the chlebicek, the traditional Czech open-faced sandwich. The modern version at the Sisters bistro is a local favorite that takes a lighter and more colorful and flavorful approach to the traditionally rather filling snack that tends to combine meat and a deli salad on a piece of baguette. The brave at heart should have the traditional version that spares no coronary bypass with the sheer quantity of mayonnaise used. Visit the “U zlateho krize” deli in the Jungmannova street for a quick time travel back to the 1970s Czechoslovakia. Finish smart… with a Lipitor pill. Our budget buys you four of these, which is more than anyone in their right mind should eat.
Alternatively, have something that many Czechs turn to in times of need and sorrow: meat. The Nase maso butcher shop sells some fantastic meat products for incredible prices, and the Disney World-caliber lines over the Friday lunch hour are the best proof that they know what Czechs like. And what do they like? Well, the best meatloaf anywhere and the “variace”, a trio of Wiener-style sausages with bread and mustard, and one of the best hangover foods in Prague, are both well within the budget. The best vegetarian version to these snacks can be found nowhere else than in our beloved Maso a kobliha: the fried cheese in potato bun is the best twist on a local classic we’ve tried in Prague. Obviously, it takes an English chef to revive a Czech classic.
Get some Vietnamese...
If you want to go lighter but still eat fast and well, you can rely on the rather large Vietnamese community present here in Prague. After the Pho explosion a few years ago, banh mi sandwiches have been getting traction in the last year or so, and for good reason: they are cheap, light, fresh and delicious. We’d recommend two venues: banh-mi-ba has opened quite recently and despite the hype at the beginning followed by the slightly mixed reviews later on, they have improved dramatically. A nice banh mi with fresh herbs, pate or cold beef or pork cold cuts costs exactly CZK 100. The Banh mi makers in the 1930s Bila Labut department store are another great place to grab a quick banh mi. Just please note the latter is pure takeaway, with no seats whatsoever. Banh mi makers have their logo on the foodie arcade in the Dlouha street and the last unit is showing signs of building works, so let’s see what happens!
Especially on a cold day, or after a long night, we have a tip that, for CZK 99, will keep on giving… work to Prague’s heart surgeons. The recently opened Garage True Canadian Deli in the Karlin district serves Poutine from CZK 89. Our tip is the Mississippi, which is Poutine with pulled pork, going for CZK 99. This Poutine is so wrong it’s good: French fries with cheese curds, gravy, pulled pork and fried onions, served in a paper takeaway box, will fill you up for the rest of the day. The first reaction? Delicious. The fries. The pulled pork. The curds. The gravy. Love it! But then comes the guilt part but your arteries will be clogged so much you may not live to see the guilt part, so it’s a win-win. Sorta. For CZK 99.
Get a lunch special
You know what they say: When in Rome… All Prague’s locals enjoy the city’s cheap lunch specials, and we think you should, too. Yes, most restaurant offer a lunch special of some kind, and while most of the places are either above our budget or below our quality standards, there are a few exceptions. Our tip today is the Lokal pubs that usually serve one “express” dish sold below CZK 100 and a few others that only barely exceed the budget. These are what many Czech call “hotovky”, which means an already prepared dish with slow-cooked meat, a sauce, and a side. No, these dishes don’t make for great photos (have you ever tried to take a photo of meat, sauce and dumplings?) but hey, they can be pretty tasty. Combine with the cheep Pilsner from the tank and you have a complete lunch with value that will blow your mind.
Get some soup
This tip is especially great for the autumn and winter when the days shorten, the temperatures drop and the winds rise. Home Kitchen, one of our favorite bistros in town, offers a large bowl of hot, rich, steaming soup and a bread basket with flavored olive oil (we tend to go for rosemary) - what’s not to like? Both locations offer three soups daily, so there’s always something to choose from. And we think there’s something deeply satisfying, almost primordial, about getting a bowl of hot soup and a bread basket. Like getting a hug, or releasing doves from your hands to fly freely. (Okay, we got carried away here for a bit.) Still, the soups is a great deal. We’d recommend visiting the central location after the main lunch hour, because it’s hard to get a lunch seat in a venue that sits about twelve. The Holesovice location is much larger, though. For an alternative, head over to the Karlin district to the Polevkarna soup bistro. A bowl of borscht or other soup and Khachapuri bread will set you back some CZK 80.
Get some sugar rush
Alright, this is not a "full meal" in the traditional sense of the word, but oh boy, if you count calories, this little firecracker will blow the FitBit out of your wrist. The vetrnik at Cafe Savoy, the clear and undisputed winner of our blind vetrnik tasting challenge a few months ago, truly makes up for a proper lunch. And dinner. We've heard from one of the managers at Savoy that when they have a rough day and there’s still one or two vetrniks left, they pop up the lid and just eat the cream… only to wake up at 2pm to belly aches and regrets. Anyway, this giant choux pastry filled with vanilla pastry cream and caramel whipped cream and finished with caramel fondant is a great guilty pleasure that is best eaten when shared with your loved one, because no one in their right mind would try to eat it all by itself. At CZK 95, this is a steal. Alternatively, CZK 100 will buy so many kolachees at Simply Good, our favorite Karlin-based bakery, that the next meal you’ll need will be in the plane on your way home.
This is something we keep repeating to the guests of our Prague food tours: if you want a great value from your Prague stay, you should start boozing up. Yes, living and drinking is easy in a country where beer is cheaper than tap water (we’re looking at you, Cestr).
Anyway, you probably know by now that beer in the Czech Republic is sold nearly at wholesale price and only a small markup is added to its price. That’s why the price for half-liter never really gets above CZK 50 (USD 2), so our budget for this article actually satisfies two thirsty and price-sensitive individuals, and sometimes even three if you venture out of the centre and settle for a cheaper beer, like in many pubs in the Zizkov district, the local favorite destination for beer. And the lagers are great. But it does not stop there. Wine is also a nicely priced drink, and CZK 100 will buy you a glass of great local wine easily. Just go for a white rather than a red in this price range, and visit one of the wine bars we like in Prague. And please - no matter what you do and what your real budget is - please drink responsibly, because God sure knows many in Prague don’t.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: if it’s raining or if it’s cold, go see a movie. Heck, that’s what we do whenever we travel ourselves. The tickets at Svetozor, the most central of all of our favorite independent cinemas in Prague, cost CZK 100 on most weekdays (and CZK 120 over the weekends), and the price drops down to CZK 60 if you are a senior… of if you’re really good at pretending you are one. Kino Svetozor cinema is a great movie theatre that draws younger crowds for a curated selection of some of the best movies in rotation at each particular time, and you can get a Kofola, Czech coke, in a glass for the movie, which is a must. (But no popcorn. Sorry!)
If movies are not your thing, just cross the street and head over to the Lucerna Music Bar for the infamous "80s and 90s Video Nights". We did spend a few evenings there in our college years and while they were not our proudest moments, we still remember the parts that we remember with a sense of nostalgia and fondness. To see lots of happy and drunk people dancing to the “Final Countdown” or “Hungry Like a Wolf”, make sure your Friday and Saturday itineraries are free. We’ve heard that the crowd on Fridays and Saturdays is different. One day draws older locals, the other younger expats and study-abroad students mostly from the US. We really don’t remember which was which. But hey, they both sound fun. Or not.
Get some presents
No, you don’t have to buy a Moser vase to make an impression. In reality, bragging rights about your Prague vacation are for grabs at a much lower price point. We love ourselves a souvenir that is cheap, can be easily packed, and has a story behind it. And Koh-i-noor pencils easily meet all these three criteria. Why should you care? Because Koh-i-noor, founded in 1790, invented the lead density categories, and with it the infamous number two pencil. So you need to buy them. The originals. For extra nerdness, you must buy the mechanical pencils, an indispensable part of any student’s backpack when we were growing up. The sturdy pencil served and still serves double duty: a pencil during the day, and - when you unscrew the internal mechanism - a spit gun… also during the day, namely at school: you took orange peel, banged one end of the metal case through it, put the other end into your mouth… and bam! Your classmate has just received the shot he knew he deserved. Look for them in the Koh-i-noor factory store near the Powder Tower or in the wonderful Papelote stationery shop.
If you are too young to actually remember what a “pencil” or “handwriting” mean, we have another easy tip for you: the Antiperle mint. The “Tic Tac of the East” was a Communist invention that dates back to the 1960s and has remained unchanged to this day, including the manufacturing process that takes six weeks (as mint-infused sugar solution is dropped on a single crystal of sugar), or the packaging. Wonderfully minty and super cheesy in their mint-green plastic round case, this is a gift that keeps on giving… until you eat them all, that is. These can be found in Tesco stores around Prague or in the Artel Glass design shops in the centre.
Get a view
Enjoying the best view of Prague will only set you back CZK 80, and we think that’s worth it. The National Memorial at the Vitkov Hill, a WWI memorial turned into a Communist mausoleum for the embalmed first Communist president of Czechoslovakia (he began to decay some six years later, so he had to be buried in the end) is a fascinating sight below the radar for many visitors to Prague who totally miss out on a great opportunity. Sure, the ticket ladies and the guards may seem like it was them who actually embalmed the poor president in the first place, but you should tolerate the intolerant staff and focus on getting the best view of town. And when the staff is hassling another visitor, sneak a peak into the president Masaryk’s office and the main hall.
Get a ride
The public transport in Prague is cheap, reliable… and should we say fun. A little bit of money goes a long way: CZK 24 buys you thirty minutes in the system, and the CZK 32 buys you 90 minutes for that extended ride. For a central ride, the 22 tram is a visitors’ favorite because it passes some of the sights and gets you to the Prague Castle without the associated hike. Please do not forget to validate the ticket in the yellow box: the ticket is invalid without validation, and the fine exceeds our budget here. For something more advanced, take a ride to the Kastrol restaurant. The ride combines nearly all modes of transport: tram (if needed), subway and bus, and offers a view of an entirely different part of Prague normally hidden to visitors. And at the end, you’ll be rewarded with great Czech cuisine, including some lunch specials well below the CZK 100 budget.
Get a workout
Alright, after all this fast food, you need a good workout. The Axa gym has a special place in Jan’s heart, because it was the stage for what was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most embarrassing moment of his life. (You’d have to get on the tour and get him a bit drunk to talk about it. Suffice to say it involves Olympic wrestling and a dwarf. Seriously.) Anyway, the Axa offers an hourly access to the gym for CZK 100 between 10am and 3pm and over the weekends. The last time Jan was there, he made friends with “Sasha”, an incredibly big Russian who worked “in security, hahaha”. Yes, things get real there.
For a bit mellower experience, head down to the basement floor and have a swim in the Axa pool built back in the 1930s. Jan actually learnt how to swim there with his elementary school. The price of admission costs CZK 1 per minute, or you can buy the hourly pass for CZK 100, which includes access to the pool and the dry and wet sauna. Getting a swim in an old-school pool is well worth the price of admission, and you'll need some exercise after all the food you’ve been getting in Prague. Or at least we hope so.