Just like in every popular destination, Prague also has shameful, touristy and silly things to offer. A lot actually. Keep your eyes open and don’t let dishonest individuals change your impression of the otherwise beautiful and charming city of Prague. This is a list of the most flagrant Prague tourist traps! Read carefully before you come.
Who writes this blog?
My name is Dana, local guide and also founder of Prague Behind The Scenes, a small touring company. With my services I try to present Prague in a less touristy way and help travelers avoid the touristy circus taking place downtown. Hope this article will help you to plan your Prague trip with ease. If you wish to see Prague landmarks and hidden gems with me, in a more authentic way, please drop me a line or book one of my Prague introduction tours.
Dana // firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Trdelníks or Trdlos (chimney cakes), tourist traps par excellence
Do you know how locals recognize foreigners even from a distance? They are eating “trdelník” or “trdlo” (same stupid thing). Simple sweet pastry made on every corner in Prague and sold for ridiculously high prices. The promo signs always say that trdelník is a traditional Czech pastry. But believe me…I ate it myself twice in my life. It is nothing that our grannies make at home!! Btw, do you know what “trdlo” in Czech language means? Dull person. You will find this pastry everywhere downtown, especially in garbage bins. People just take a few bites, snap an Instagram picture with their dull cake and dump it. Such is the life cycle of the touristy pastry. Don´t be part of this ridiculous circus and rather buy “koláče” – a pastry we actually like, eat and bake. Get one either in Kolacherie or in Torto.
2. Narrowest street in Prague
Maybe you have heard about Prague´s narrowest street which is currently so extremely popular among tourists…I will tell you a secret now. This is a tourist trap and another “discovery” of travel influencers. Locals say: please skip it, otherwise you will be standing in a line up like a sheep. For a tourist trap. The “street” is actually a gap between two houses, the “street” doesn´t have a name. It´s just a corridor leading to a very average restaurant. Rating 2.3 on Google says a lot about it.
3. Karlovy lázně (downtown club)
Karlovy lázně is a name for the biggest club in Central Europe. It´s situated just a stone throw from Charles Bridge. The ugly neon lights can be seen right from the bridge (who allowed that??!!). Couple years back this historical building got redesigned into a 5-floors club. It´s a big tourist attraction but don’t expect much. It is just a money factory with no added value. Locals avoid weird places like this.
4. Matryoshka dolls
I have already written a lot about matryoshka dolls but they are still here, still being offered in all the kitschy souvenir shops downtown Prague. Matryoshka dolls are Russian traditional toys, not Czech! If you don´t know what matryoshka is: it is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. Remember, you are visiting the Czech Republic not Russia and buying matryoshka or USSR fur hats isn’t funny. In fact it is very abusive especially these days. Russians have never had the best reputation in the Czech Republic and this doesn´t help either.
5. Historical / vintage cars
Once you reach Prague city center you will see them almost everywhere. So called “vintage cars” taking tourists around. They are replicas designed a couple years back in Poland. After recent controls initiated by Prague City Hall it was found out that many of these cars are in a very bad technical condition and some of them are offered illegally – without proper licence. Some of them were registered as tractors or snow cats!!! 55 cars out of 58 controlled had some technical or legal issues. 10 of them were pulled away right after the control. Think twice before you hop on.
6. Exchange offices and Euronet ATMs
Big shame of Prague! There are many exchange offices downtown Prague, however some of them are simply and officially ripping people off. It’s their daily routine. Please note that the fair exchange rate for 1 Euro is currently around 24 CZK and 22 CZK for USD(information from January 2024). The best exchange place where you get a fair exchange rate is EXCHANGE CZ close to the Old Town Sq. You can also use ATMs, but only those branded by Czech banks (AirBank, Česká Spořitelna, Moneta, Komerční banka, etc…). Learn more about where to exchange money in Prague and where not in my other blog post.
Definitely avoid the tricky ATMs branded with Euronet Worldwide logo. Once their machines detect foreign cards, they will charge you high fees, give you a low exchange rate and will also push you to withdraw a high amount of money (like 10 000 CZK – for this amount you can buy for example 222 large tap beers). And please never ever exchange money in the street!!!!
7. Taxi drivers
I could write an extra chapter about local taxi drivers (especially about those doing their business downtown). But to make this paragraph shorter I will give you a simple advice: never take a taxi in the street. Either call it through a dispatch or via your hotel front desk. But the best option is to use Uber, Liftago or Bolt apps and leave the greasy taxi drivers behind. To make it clearer, Prague taxi drivers are well known for their disgusting tricks and ripping people off, especially tourists. Please don´t support them.
8. Marihuana and absinth from souvenir shops
First of all I need to say that marihuana is not legal in the Czech Republic. Whenever you see marihuana shops, it is all fake. Simple “placebo” tourist trap. No THC, just hemp, CBD and big show around that. Prague is not Amsterdam! Regarding the absinth, that’s just another hype. Absinth is a legal drink in the Czech Republic and many tourists go crazy about it. They believe that absinth cause hallucinations and give them the right bohemian sensation. It´s a nonsense. You will not write poems or paint pictures after sipping absinthe in your hotel room. It’s a bitter alcohol and needs to be served right. Just don’t expect any hallucinations. Seriously. Also, please don’t buy those little absinthe bottles in souvenir shops, it’s not always clear what it´ s made from.
9. Thai massages
Thai massages rank among the top weirdest tourist traps in Prague city center. Plastic Buddha and riksha on Old Town sq.? It’s absolutely bizarre to see a scene like this in the historical city center. Double facepalm for tourists who need a Thai massage on Old Town sq. You deserve more than “fast food” style massage and locals deserve less places like this. Because our eyes are bleeding while passing them. There are great Thai wellness places in Prague with relaxed ambience and more comfort. Please don´t support bizarreness. They live from your money and we don´t want them here 🙂
10. People with animals
This is not only a Prague tourist trap, it’s very common in other big cities, too. Please don’t take pictures with animals of people who are pushing you to pet them. It can be a snake, bird, or a dog. Please don´t support treating animals like this.
Just like this guy in the picture. I keep seeing him regularly on the stairs leading up to Prague Castle. And yes (unfortunately) he still has enough “customers”.
11. Skip-the line tickets for Prague Castle
Are you planning to visit the interiors of Prague Castle? Then please don´t believe anyone who tells you that you need some skip-the-line tickets or to buy tickets ahead of time, blah blah blah….don´t get stressed by this. Stay flexible and enjoy your holidays. Whenever you plan to visit the castle interiors, just come and get the tickets at Prague Castle. BTW, all the exteriors, courtyards and gardens are open for free!!
It always drives me crazy whenever I see booking sites selling all those so called “skip-the-line tickets” for double price!! It´s simply terrible. The fair price for the interiors is 250 CZK (from March 2024 it will be 450 CZK). The tickets sold online can only help you to skip the line at the ticket office. But there are barely some line-ups in the ticket offices and I am guiding at Prague Castle several times a week so I know the reality. Please read my blog post Prague Castle: how to plan the visit? 7 tips from a local.
The only place where you will be probably standing in a line up is the entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral. And no skip-the-line- ticket will help you.
Dana, owner and fully certified guide for Prague Behind The Scenes | small-group tours and experiences.