A real fairytale city, with its castle on the hill and famous statue-covered bridge, Prague has starred in everything from moody music videos to real-life revolutions. Its glorious architecture and rich cultural and historical heritage make it a permanent draw for tourists, and the excellent public transport and cosmopolitan and artistic life is a boon to its residents.
What is it known for?
The Prague of the wild, wild east that drew backpackers, adventurers and other
peripatetic souls to its cobblestoned streets after the Velvet Revolution has turned
(back) into a first-class European city. And is priced like one too. But the
attractions remain: the medieval, Gothic and Baroque architecture (and the
modern, marvellous “Fred and Ginger” building), Wenceslas Square, the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, the Staronova
Synagogue and Jewish Cemetery and the Charles Bridge (built and named for the Holy
Roman Emperor Charles IV who reigned from 1346 to 1378) over the Vltava River.
They may be crowded, but there is a reason they attract so many people.
Prague is a central Europe cultural hub, with important national theatre,
opera, museums, galleries and a long literary history. But the city’s one
million residents are also keen for fun at the local beer hall or beer garden,
and will help you get some of those Budvars under your belt. They like to sit
with friends in one of the outdoor cafes and listen to some elegant jazz played
by a group of young musicians on the square.
Where do you want to live?
Prague is not a big city, but has dense neighbourhoods and outlying suburbs.
Most people moving there find it best to rent first in the centre, in Old Town
or Mala Strana. “Start in the centre and learn about the area that might work
better for you,” advised Prokop Svoboda, managing partner of Svoboda and
Williams estate agents in Prague. “Sale prices are high, but rent is low, so
The most picturesque and romantic area of the city is Mala Strana, on
the banks of the Vltava River, home to Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral.
For those who want nightlife, the packed streets of Old Town are the right
spot, along with the New Town, which is, in fact, quite old. Many expats look to
residential neighbourhoods that are close to the centre, such as Vinohrady,
Holesovice, Hrebenkach and Orechovka. And many new residents with families live
close to where the international schools are located, usually no more than 15
or 20 minutes from the city centre. The English International School is in
Libus, the French school is in Smichov, and the German school is in Jinonice.
Others, like Russians, tend to buy close to the Russian Embassy or in
new developments in Stodulky in Prague 5. Prague’s neighbourhoods are also
grouped together into 22 numbered district, with Prague 1
covering most of the centre and Old Town, and the other numbers radiating out
Many people have weekend cottages around the countryside that are within 100km of
Prague. The rivers Vltava, Berounka and Sazava (a tributary of the Vltava
River) are popular for day trips, and the mountains are favourite weekend
getaways, like the Jizera and Krkonose Mountains on the border with Poland or
south to Sumava the Bohemian Forest range on the borders with Germany and
Austria. Or drive to see the castles in Moravia or the spa town of Karlovy
Vary, now host to an international film festival every July.
Prague’s central European location makes it a relatively easy train
journey to Berlin and other German and Polish cities, as well as points south
like Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest. The airport is served by 50 international
airlines travelling to 130 destinations, and it is about two hours to London
and an eight to nine hour flight to New York.
Renting first is a good option, as rents are relatively low in Prague and
demand is limited. There are less expats than there used to be in the city and
Czechs themselves are reluctant to rent. There were a lot of small residential
developers who turned to real estate as a sideline, so there are a lot of apartments
on the market right now. A typical two-bedroom apartment of 90 to 100sqm in the
centre of town rents for about 900 to 1,000 euros a month.
Overall the entire property market is stagnant, but since there are a
lot of properties are available, and new properties are starting to coming on
line, prices will drop further, which is good news for buyers. “The means there
will be a drop by 5 to 7% in prices next year,” Svoboda said. “Most sellers
will get 10 to 20% less than asking price.”
For good value, look at the best apartment in the nicest buildings in
well-established locations. “Right now prices don’t differentiate much between
a corner apartment with a park view compared to one without,” said Svoboda. But
he believes that will change, as the market evolves and matures. “Focus on
buying properties with good views, good light and original details.” In the
central areas, apartments cost around 100,000 CZK per square metre.
The most important thing is finding an ideal fit. “Prague is a very
small city,” said Svoboda. “Learn what area is right for you.”
Prague Post: English-language newspaper with news, reviews
Daily Monitor: English-language newspaper with news, business
and daily emails
A Tout Prague: a city guide in English, French and Czech