This post was written in partnership with Air Canada Vacationsand the tourism board of the Czech Republic. As always, all opinions are my own.
What’s preventing you from trying independent travel?
Is it all the planning involved? The daunting task of trying to figure out where to stay and in which neighbourhood? Maybe you worry about getting to and from the airport, or even navigating your way around a new city?
As someone who travels independently 90% of the time, I understand the anxiety that comes with planning an entire trip on your own. However, I also understand that fully guided tours, while easier, aren’t always an attractive option either. Which makes it hard for those individuals whose preferred travel style falls in the middle. The ones who want to have the time and space to explore on their own and choose what they want to see and do, but also are looking for some ground assistance in figuring out the basics.
Well, guess what?
I’ve got a solution for you. Or, rather, Air Canada Vacations does with their independent escape: Prague Your Way. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to test out the experience, and I’m excited to share.
Prague Your Way Independent Escape with Air Canada Vacations
Prague Your Way with Air Canada Vacations is marketed as an independent escape. It’s the ideal mix of a vacation where the basics are taken care of for you, but you have plenty of free time to explore on your own and do your thing. It’s perfect for those who want a fun but stress-free vacation to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
So, what’s included? The Prague Your Way package includes roundtrip airfare, transfers from the airport to your accommodation (and vice versa), 7-nights accommodation in a central area, 7 meals included in the itinerary, and 3 tours. Here’s a breakdown of what exactly you can expect.
Flights for this vacation package are offered by Air Canada Rouge which flies direct from Toronto to Prague in 8 hours. This overnight flight lands early in the morning local Prague time to ensure that you get the most of your day, so do your best to try to sleep on the plane!
Air Canada Rouge offers two different classes: economy class and Premium Rouge.
Economy class offers a meal and a snack during the flight and the opportunity to purchase alcoholic beverages. There are no provided screens for in-flight entertainment, however, you can access movies via the Air Canada App and watch that way. Just make sure to bring your own headphones (though they are available for purchase if you forget).
I was lucky enough to be able to experience the Premium Rouge class during my flights. Our hot meals were different than those served in economy class and served in proper dishes and glasses rather than the usual plastic trays. Alcoholic beverages were included as well. Premium Rouge passengers were also provided with complimentary iPads (for movies) and earphones to use for the duration of the flight as well as a little kit including socks, toothbrush, and an eye mask to make the flight more comfortable. The seats were also significantly larger and each passenger had a blanket and a pillow. Plus, since it’s a smaller section I found it to be quite quiet in comparison to my previous economy experiences. It was a nice and relaxing flight experience so you may want to consider upgrading since Toronto to Prague is a longer, overnight flight.
No matter which seating class you choose, Air Canada Vacations will include 1 piece of checked luggage for free for each individual and, of course, you are allowed a carryon.
Personally, this was one of my favourite aspects of the Prague Your Way package with Air Canada Vacations. Nothing stresses me out more than arriving in a new city (especially one with a different language) than trying to figure out where I’m going by means of public transit. After all, we all know I’m too cheap to pay for an over-priced taxi unless I absolutely have to.
Entering the main area of the airport and seeing a sign with our names on it was such a relief. Our driver greeted us and took us on a short walk to the parking lot where he was waiting with a clean, spacious, and comfortable van to take us to our hotel. Since our flight arrived early in the morning there was a bit of traffic, but we still made it from the airport to the hotel in about 30 minutes.
The same happened when it came time to leave. Our driver was waiting for us in the lobby of the hotel at the agreed upon time and took us directly to the airport. Again, this meant no getting lost (as someone who has actually missed flights because of this before, I really appreciated this) plus, since it was a direct drive we didn’t have to leave extra early either.
With Air Canada Vacations Prague Your Way package, you’ll have the option to choose between two different hotels. The first option, which is rated as a 4* option, is the Adria Hotel located in Wenceslas Square. This was where we stayed and the rooms were quiet, clean, and comfortable. A continental breakfast was included in the stay (pastries, fruits, meat, cheeses, eggs, juice, coffee etc.) and it was located right by a metro station which made it ideal for getting around the city.
The second option is rated as a 3* option and is the Hotel Ibis Wenceslas Square which, as the name indicates, is also located in Wenceslas Square. This is a central area located just minutes from Old Town which makes it ideal for exploring. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants nearby as well as public transit.
It is important to keep in mind that you do arrive to Prague early in the morning so your hotel room may not be ready until around 1pm, especially if you are travelling during the high season. This is normal for every hotel worldwide. However, if your room is not ready when you arrive they will gladly hold your luggage so you can explore for a few hours before your check-in.
*Please note that there is a chance that you will be put in a different hotel similar to those named above depending on availability.
Included in the Prague Your Way with Air Canada Vacations, you’ll have three different tours. The first is a half-day guided sightseeing tour, part of which is spent on a bus and part of which requires walking. This tour is a great introduction to the city and will give you a quick layout of Prague and an opportunity to see some of the highlights. It’s a quick tour but is ideal for getting a feel of the city and figuring out what you want to see more of.
The second tour is a private walking tour that will take you through New Town, Old Town, and the Jewish Quarter. During this tour, you’ll have the chance to learn more about the city of Prague and its history plus, of course, you’ll have the chance to ask questions and get some great tips from your local guide.
Last, but not least, you will receive a 48-hour hop-on-hop off bus pass so you can revisit your favourite places and check out some new recommended ones. The hop-on-hop off bus is a great way to travel through Prague because it means you get to stay above ground and can take in the beauty of the city rather than going underground to use the metro.
Bonus: Several meals are included in this package (as per your itinerary). Plus, for those who collect Aeroplan® Miles, yes you can earn them by booking this vacation.
A better question might be, why not? I love Prague. This was my third time visiting the city and I still found new things to see and do during my stay. But, even though I might be a little biased, I can honestly say that Prague truly does have something to offer for everyone.
To start with, Prague is a stunning city just to look at. It’s home to several types of architecture including gothic, baroque, renaissance, art nouveau, and more. While this variety may seem random, Prague makes it work. From the pastel-coloured buildings lining the streets of the Jewish Quarter to the gargoyle-encrusted Powder Tower, it all comes together to create a picturesque city that looks like it belongs in the pages of a fairytale storybook.
Of course, Prague is so much more than it’s looks. It’s also a historic city filled with stories and legends. From communist history, still so recent and prevalent, to Jewish history and the hundreds of stories that can be found in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, and even myths and legends that can be found hidden across town, this city is full of history and secrets waiting to be found and heard.
It’s also a city for art lovers. No matter where you go in Prague, you’re bound to find at least a few interesting art installations that are sure to grab your attention. The spinning head of Franz Kafka in New Town, the yellow penguins along the river, and of course the world-famous Lennon wall with its colourful graffiti and heartwarming messages.
Foodies will also find plenty to try in Prague. Traditional Czech food consists of meat (often beef or pork), dumplings, and potatoes. It’s definitely a must-try, but be sure to dine in different places for the true foodie experience. There are plenty of restaurants and historic cafes where you can find all types of cuisine. My favourite meal of our trip was at Alchymist Grandhotel & Spa. You don’t need to be a guest to have a meal at their restaurant but trust me, it’s worth it.
Food is great, but we can’t talk about Prague without mentioning the beer. This city is truly a beer lover’s paradise and yes, the rumours are true: beer is in fact cheaper than water in many locations. Beer can, of course, be found at nearly every restaurant in Prague, especially the traditional ones. Must-mentions, however, include U Fleku, which only has one beer on tap but has been brewing since 1499, and Novomestsky Pivovar which has an on-site brewery. Oh, and if you are a true beer connoisseur, consider trying one of Prague’s beer spas.
Finally, I want to mention the affordability of Prague; something important to note especially given the current value of the Canadian dollar. While not everything in the city is cheap, it can be quite affordable to those looking for a European vacation without breaking the bank. Travellers can find great deals in this city, especially in comparison to other European capitals like Amsterdam, Vienna, and Paris.
How to Spend 7 Days in Prague with Air Canada Vacations
The Prague Your Way Package with Air Canada Vacations is 7 nights and 9 days (Day 1 and 9 are travel days). As mentioned earlier, some activities are included in this package but you will still have plenty of free time to explore on your own. Based on this package and my own experiences in Prague, here’s what I suggest.
Travel day: overnight flight to Prague with Air Canada Rouge. Try to sleep so you can explore when you land!
Arrive in Prague and take your included private transfer to your hotel. Take it easy today and explore a little on your own. Wander through Wenceslas Square and old town. Watch the famous Astrological Clock put on a show on the hour, and try a Trndelnik or chimney cake if you need a sugar buzz to keep you going! Try to stay up as late as you can so you can better adjust to the time change.
Time to learn a little about Prague and see the different neighbourhoods of the city! Start your day with the included half-day guided tour. The first part of this tour is on the bus where you will be taken around Old Town and New Town to see some of the highlights including; Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, and the Dancing buildings (also known as Fred and Ginger). You’ll then cross the river to Lesser Town where you will leave the bus and walk around on foot through Lesser Town which, in my opinion, is the prettiest area in Prague. It’s also where you can find Prague Castle.
Once your tour is over, I recommend taking a couple of hours to really explore Lesser Town. There are so many great photo spots here; down by the river with the swans, the John Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge etc. If you need a break there are a couple of beautiful parks as well including my favourite: the Senate Gardens which is home to peacocks (it’s slightly hidden so download an offline map and use that to find it).
Today you’ll take a private walking tour to explore more of Old Town, New Town, and the Jewish Quarter. These areas, especially the Jewish Quarter, have a fascinating history and plenty of stories attached to them. Make sure to pay attention to your guide as they share the secrets of Prague with you.
After your tour, you’ll have some free time to explore on your own. It’s also a good time to pick up some souvenirs if you want. Ask your guide for recommendations on where to buy typical Czech products such as garnet and Czech glass; he/she will give you the names of reputable shops to make sure you get a good product.
If the weather is nice, you might also want to consider doing a river cruise to see the city from the water. It’s a relaxing way to spend an hour and rest your feet while still experiencing Prague.
Guided tours are over, so now is a great time to make use of your hop on hop off bus pass to explore Prague in depth. Re-visit some of the places you saw during your tours if you want to spend more time. For example, you might want to actually go inside Prague Castle- it’s pretty impressive!
Prague is also home to many museums including classics like the Franz Kafka Museum or the Museum of Communism, to the strange such as the Torture Museum or the Sex Machine museum. Hey, I wasn’t kidding when I said Prague had something for everyone!
Take your time and enjoy the things you see; your bus pass is good for 48 hours so there’s no need to rush.
Whether you are a morning person or not, I highly recommend getting up before sunrise to see Prague at dawn, especially if you are into photography. The sun rises on the old town side so you can get some gorgeous photos as the sky changes colours. This is an especially good time to see and photograph Charles Bridge and Old Town Square before they are filled with tourists.
Once you have done your morning photos, you can go back and relax or take a nap if needed at your hotel or, start your second day with your hop-on-hop-off bus pass. By now, you’ve probably seen the main attractions so I recommend going in search of some of Prague’s lesser-known places and the hidden gems or visit some more museums.
Fun things to look for include:
- Prague’s many art installations. I’ve already told you about the penguins, the Lennon wall, and Kafka’s revolving head but there are many more placed around the city.
- Find the Paternoster elevator; a revolving elevator that is always in motion. It’s fun to try!
- Go in search of Prague’s best viewpoints! There are a few well-known ones (for example, the top of the clock tower at Town Hall) and a few lesser-known spots as well such as Lucerna Rooftop in Lucerna Palace (open to the public Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). Another great find is at the rooftop restaurant of Hotel U Prince, it opens at 11am so arrive early before the lunchtime crowd to get your photos!
- If you enjoy nature, you can also check out Petrin Gardens. Located on a hilltop, this area is full of landscaped gardens and offers beautiful views over the city. You can also find a monastery here which is known for their blueberry beer.
Prague is a beautiful city, but after 5 days of exploring the city you’re probably ready for a change in scenery. Which is great, because there are several fantastic day trip options from Prague.
Today, I suggest planning a day trip to Cesky Raj; Bohemian Paradise. This area is known for its sprawling forests filled with hiking trails, magnificent rock formations, and plenty of castles. My favourites included Sychrov Chateau; a pink palace with a stunning courtyard and sprawling gardens, Hruba Scala; which is actually a hotel but looks like a real-life Hogwarts (and is surrounded by some awesome rock columns), and Hrad Kost which looks like a medieval fairytale castle.
Unless you plan on renting a car, you will need a guide or a tour to explore this area. I highly recommend Jana from Bohemian Paradise Tours. She’s a private guide and local in the area who you can hire to show you around. You can get in touch with her here.
Important tip: This is a hiking area so dress appropriately. Hiking clothes plus good shoes, or even hiking boots, are a must!
Today is the final day of your vacation and I recommend another day trip; this time to Kutna Hora which is nicknamed the City of Silver. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day with two major attractions in the vicinity. The first is the towering and impressive St. Barbara’s Cathedral and the second is the Sedlec Ossuary which, for those who don’t know, is a bone chapel. The Sedlec Ossuary contains the bones of 40,000-70,000 people and they have been artfully arranged in the interior to create intricate patterns on the walls, columns, and ceilings. As morbid as it sounds, it’s also strangely beautiful.
You can easily hop a train to Kutna Hora and explore on your own or, if you prefer, you can take a guided tour.
Travel day: take your included transfer from your accommodation to the airport where you will fly home after an incredible trip to Prague.
The Booking Details
Ready to book your own Prague Your Way independent escape with Air Canada Vacations? Good, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s what you need to know.
This vacation, as mentioned earlier, is 7 nights and 9 days and includes airfare, transfers, accommodation, 7 meals, and 3 tours. Plus, you can earn Aeroplan® Miles.
The package is available from May 17thto October 30th, 2019.
Flights to Prague are direct from Toronto Pearson Airport and run on the following schedule:
- May 17th– October 31st: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
- June 1st-October 267th: Saturday (as well as Wednesday, Friday, Sunday)
- June 20th-October 30th: Every day of the week
Prices vary based on dates and hotel selection but start at $1899.00 CAD per person.
You can book this vacation online here.
*This is based on the information provided for 2019 travel
Tips for Visiting Prague
I find Prague to be a fun and safe travel destination, but as with everywhere else, there are a few things to keep in mind while you visit. Here are some tips for Prague:
- Pickpockets are common in the tourist areas, so keep your bag in front of you at all times, including on the metro.
- Metro and tram tickets need to be stamped upon entering the metro station or the tram. This can be done at the yellow machines- but make sure to put your ticket in the right way (follow the instructions on the ticket).
- The local currency is Czech Crowns. For the best rates, use an ATM to get your cash. Credit cards are accepted in many places, but not all.
- Most people in the tourist areas of Prague do speak English, but you may have a harder time in the countryside if you decide to do a day trip. If this is something you worry about, book guided day trips to avoid any confusion.
- Prague’s streets are mostly cobblestone, so bring comfortable footwear! I wore Keds sneakers and Birkenstock sandals for my latest visit and was comfortable in both.
So, do I recommend Prague Your Way with Air Canada Vacations?
I’m primarily an independent traveller, and despite the fact that I’ve explored nearly 60 countries at this point, I still get anxiety when going somewhere new. Silly things like trying to find a good hotel in a safe neighbourhood, figuring out how to navigate on the ground, and getting to my accommodation from the airport when I first arrive are common stressors for me. So, having the basics taken care of for me, and a couple included tours to help me get a feel for the city is a huge relief and a perk that I honestly believe will only enhance your vacation experience.
Whether you are new to independent travel or, an experienced independent traveller looking to take away some of the work that comes with planning, Prague Your Way with Air Canada Vacations is the perfect option for those looking to explore one of Europe’s top cities.
Learn more about Prague Your Way with Air Canada Vacations here.