This autumn I embarked on my first totally solo trip, taking on the Czech capital of Prague for three nights of intensive sightseeing. These are some of the little moments that proved I was right to go it alone; the times when I knew it was okay not to be part of a group or, as the copywriting cliché goes, ‘with that special someone’ (highly unlikely, as a man has never treated me to a city break, though two have taken me on dates to Burger King… But I digress).
You know Prague is perfect for solo travellers when you can…
- Browse the shopping area of the Fashion Museum to your heart’s content, not panicking about keeping anyone waiting as you try on rails of clothing and then do some hasty mental arithmetic to work out just how many retro purchases you can stretch to.
- Manage to navigate the train network without any help, then walk from the station time forgot to the Sedlec Ossuary. Once inside, surrounded by an estimated 40,000 bodies arranged into beautiful sculptural forms, you feel liberated.
- Spend ages poring over the menu at one of the city’s famously relaxing tea houses, finally deciding on a blend that sounds infinitely cooler than English Breakfast Tea, but tastes a lot like it. Then sit back and absorb the atmosphere.
- Replace going to the Kafka Museum with going to the Kafka Museum shop, because knowing you should visit a place and really yearning to visit are two very different things.
- See a series of emotional exhibits at the Pinkas Synagogue, including wall after wall of Jewish residents’ names painted in tribute, and then walk through the sobering Old Jewish Cemetery, soaking up the atmosphere and getting in touch with history as you go. I know that some of my friends would consider these kind of places too upsetting and intense to visit, but for me they were essential places to go.
- Get lost in the labyrinthine second-hand bookshops piled high with old novels and create a huge list of books to read, even if half of them are in other languages. And nobody tells you to just look up the title on Amazon when you get home.
- Stumble upon a photography exhibition in a 13th century bell tower and drink in the monochrome prints of Czechoslovakia and Canada, walking through the rooms at your own pace and going back to the shots needing that second or third viewing.
- Embrace the joy of the humble hot dog or the local cheap and cheerful self-service Czech restaurant without feeling the need to go gourmet for every meal. Less time eating and waiting to be served = more time exploring.
- Sidestep the endless offers of drinking tours and the dubious honour of joining the Praha Drinking Team, because you’d rather savour the taste of a carefully-crafted pint in a pub called Therapy.
- Take an impromptu tour of an alchemy museum without anyone scoffing at the level of plausibility and the historical accuracy of the exhibits. Though you may secretly scoff a bit yourself when the truth becomes a little too stretched.
However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss other people the entire time I was away. There were a few moments that did make me feel sad to be flying solo. You know you’re a social creature after all when you…
- Turn up for a free walking tour and realise you’re the only person not part of a smug couple. When I say ‘smug’, I mean they introduce themselves as a unit, are seemingly surgically attached and have merged their opinions so as not to have independent thoughts. Ok, I get it, I’m the Bridget Jones of the group.
- Don’t have anyone to hire a rowing boat with, and feeling too inherently clumsy to attempt a solo jaunt on the Vltava, in case you get stranded and end up screaming like a girl (ever the optimist…).
- Keep seeing things that remind you of your friends and you wish they were with you so you could show them that crazy shop or that cool museum. Yes, they can look at your photos, but you know they’d love to see things first-hand.
So, is Prague a good destination for solo travellers (even ones who aren’t used to going it alone)? Absolutely. It’s easy to get around the city and, what’s more, it feels safe. Everything, aside from the smaller streets and alleyways in the recesses of the Old Town, is well lit and approachable at night, and it’s unlikely you’d be walking anywhere in complete isolation.
Your solo trip to Prague doesn’t have to be expensive, either, as you don’t need to rely on taxis; in fact, you can skip public transport if you really want, as all of the main sites are accessible on foot. Just make sure you pack sensible shoes and you take it easy on the climb up to Prague Castle, which can be a bit of a killer but is well worth it for the views across to the Zizkov Tower and the rooftops of the Old and New Town.
Food is cheap enough for you to eat out all the time without feeling too indulgent, although some hotel rooms have small kitchenettes, as mine did, so you can prepare meals if you feel the urge to cook (which I never do). Hotels are also fairly quiet, even in those the centre, so you can be right in the heart of the action without having to lose a good night’s sleep for the privilege. What else could you ask for?!
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Prague to solo travellers. If you’ve ever been and you want to share your tips, why not add them below?