Prague has long been a place where writers (along with poets, artists and musicians) have headed to nurture their talents and become ’real’ Bohemians. Its beautiful cobbled streets, atmospheric Old Town, avant-garde nightlife and illustrious history retain a uniquely magical appeal which, even today, few other cities in Europe can match. Today, it is not just novelists and playwrights who come here to follow in the footsteps of Franz Kafka and Václav Havel; web writers and bloggers also flock here to live the digital nomad lifestyle and imbibe the city’s intoxicating literary heritage.
If you’re a travelling freelance writer then chances are you will have thought about spending a prolonged spell in Prague at some point or another. If this is the case then I would urge you to do it sooner rather than later, as in addition to becoming more expensive every year, Prague’s identity is being ever so gradually eroded by the commercial party scene which has sprung up over the last decade to accommodate British and Irish stag parties.
So what’s the best way to make the most of this fine city?. Well, if you follow the steps outlined below, once you arrive, chances are you’ll get a feel for what makes the Czech capital tick in no time at all...
Step 1: Get settled
Although Prague has a good selection of accommodation offerings, it is fair to say that relatively few of them (even the backpacker hostels) are overly budget friendly. If you book a hotel, guesthouse or hostel before you arrive then it’s important to remember that - 9 times out of ten - you’ll be charged per room, rather than per person. It’s also worth noting that some hotels (especially pensions) do not discriminate between twin beds and double beds so you could end up with two twin beds pushed together if you’re travelling as a couple. Bear in mind also, that a 10 per cent tax may be added so be sure to find out whether the room rate includes all taxes before you confirm your booking.
If you’re looking to stick around for a while, then you’ll no doubt want to look into renting a place of your own once you’ve spent your first few nights in a hostel, hotel or guesthouse. In many respects, a conveniently located serviced apartment or private flat is often the best option. Although they are likely to cost a little more than private flats, serviced apartments tend to make good economic sense for prolonged stays (six months plus) as they will include high-speed Wi-Fi as well as cooking facilities.
Apartments can be found pretty much everywhere in Prague these days; however, the following neighbourhoods remain perennial favourites amongst wandering writers, digital nomads and expats: :
· Ujezd (borders the Lesser Town, just below the Petrin Hill).
· Anděl (ten minutes from the city).
· Vysehrad (situated between the Nusle Bridge and the river)
· Vinohrady (above Wenceslas Square)
· Zizkov (20 minutes away from the city).
Accommodation listings can be found online as well as in all manner of print publications. When looking through listings, be aware that “3+1” means an apartment with three major rooms (i.e. two bedrooms and a lounge) plus a kitchen. “2+kk” refers to a two-room apartment with a kitchenette, while a “1+kk” is a studio apartment.
Step 2: Get wired
Wi-Fi is plentiful everywhere in Prague. Practically all hotels and hostels have on-site Wi-Fi (or data points in rooms), while many serviced apartments include it as standard. If you prefer to be out and about when writing or uploading your copy, then you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice in the city centre as the number of cafes, coffee shops and hotspots offering free Wi-Fi really is very comprehensive. Whilst the reliability and speed of public Internet was questionable even just a few years ago, this is no longer an issue. Find yourself a mellow, friendly and comfortable cafe in the Old/New/Lesser Town (of which there are plenty) and you’ll feel your creative juices stirring straight away. If you’re keen to meet other freelancers then you can always seek out one of the impressive co-working options which have sprung up (and remained open) throughout the city in recent years. Indeed, places like C3(in the city centre, near Muzeum/Můstek/Náměstí Republiky),Locus (also close to Muzeum/Můstek metro stations), and Desk Room (in the heart of the Lesser Town) are well worth checking out if co-working is your thing.
Step 3 Get around
The beautiful architecture and myriad nooks and crannies make Prague a very enjoyable city to walk around. Remember though, Prague has plenty of steep hills, cobbled streets and tramlines so it is wise to wear trainers or sensible shoes when embarking on any kind of city trek. You will also need to keep an eye out for the trams as they have a tendency to come out of nowhere without warning. Cycling is a viable way to get around, although, the city’s cycle infrastructure is nowhere near as developed as those in Western European capitals.
Public transport in Prague is reliable, efficient and very easy to use. The Prague metro is made up of three lines and runs from 5am until midnight while the wonderful tinkling trams keep things ticking over well past the witching hour. The city’s buses provide options to areas where the metro or trams don’t run to (mostly suburban neighbourhoods), some of which offer services after midnight.
When first arriving, it can be beneficial to invest in a PragueCard, a transit card designed for tourists which enables you to use all of the city’s public transport options simply by swiping it before you climb on board. As well as using it to get around the city by public transport, The PragueCard also allows the use of a free shuttle to and from the airport (via the Airport Express line), and includes fares for the funicular on Petřín and cruising along the Vltava.
Prague’s taxi drivers have an unenviable reputation for being very unscrupulous so be sensible and vigilant when hailing one down. Where possible, avoid using those that park outside the city’s train stations or near tourist areas.
Strolling along the cobbled streets outside Kafka’s old house and letting your mind wander whilst looking out over the Vltava from the Charles Bridge, are the kind of things most writers – regardless of whether they are online copywriters or published novelists – are likely to get a kick out of. With this in mind, I would heartily recommend a prolonged stay in Prague if you’re a wordsmith who likes the idea of immersing yourself in the true spirit of Bohemia and letting your creative juices run riot.
But don’t put it off for too long: those stag weekends are getting more and more prevalent..!
If you’re a freelance writer who has had the pleasure of living and working in Prague then please feel free to contribute your own experiences to this article in the comments box below.
Image: author’s own photo