16 AUG 2018: Prague is too pretty for its own good, it seems. Like Venice, Barcelona, and some other European cities that are straining under the burden of too many visitors, the Czech capital is similarly looking for ways to find a balance between a healthy and necessary tourism industry and a liveable city for residents.

Just recently a former Canadian travel industry colleague visiting the city posted photos of the city’s famed Charles Bridge so clogged with pedestrians that it seemed impossible to move. “As beautiful as ever, but about 20 times the amount of people [on the bridge] compared to when I was last here in 1991,” he observed.

Czech Tourism North American assistant director Jiri Duzar agrees, admitting the city’s popularity is becoming a problem and residents are starting to complain.

The worst months are July and August, but Duzar says even a wintry month like February is now busy. “I can’t say there are slow months,” he admitted to Travel Industry Today during a visit to Toronto from New York recently.

Nevertheless, not visiting in high season is a certainly a first step for those determined to beat the curse of the crowds, he says, but adds that there are other strategies that work any time of year.

First and foremost, he says, is to stay outside the city centre, where there are a least half a dozen neighbourhoods that are just as historic, but life is infinitely calmer.

“People make a big mistake by always wanting to stay in the Old Town or near the [Charles] bridge,” he says, noting that the aforementioned neighbourhoods are only a 20-minute tram ride from the centre. “The most central location isn’t always win-win,” he adds, pointing out that the Old Town is also “super touristy,” with inflated prices to match.

Secondly, Duzar says that 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. is the busy time of day as tourist buses arrive from near and far, dropping their charges for requisite day tours. Hence, like many spots in Europe, the best time to visit in peace is first thing in the morning or later in the evening, meaning that staying overnight has its perks.

Lastly, Duzar urges visitors to get out of town. After one or two days in Prague, heading off to discover the rest of the Czech Republic and getting off the beaten track can be just the ticket. With beautiful countryside, famous spa towns, over 100 golf courses, a beer trail, wine along the Austrian border, seasonal Christmas markets and a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites – all in a country about the size of New Brunswick – the options are virtually limitless.

With such a long list of amenities, coupled with cheap flights from all over Europe, excursions from a booming river cruise industry, and the hypnotic draw of “a buck a beer,” Prague and the Czech Republic are almost certain to retain their touristic appeal.

“Don’t get me wrong, we want visitors,” Duzar says, but adds that he also wants visitors to get the most out of a visit by avoiding the pitfalls of a poorly planned stay. “We want,” he says, “people to come back!”

Currently, approximately 100,000 Canadians a year visit the Czech Republic. Air Canada Rouge and Transat serve Prague with seasonal direct flights.


email icon facebook logo twitter logo

author

Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

Read more from Michael Baginski

comments powered by Disqus