More than two decades after the Velvet Revolution and the fall of communism, the popularity of Prague as one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations shows no signs of slowing down. And while it’s no longer the travellers’ bargain it was, the Czech capital’s combination of a thrilling history, glorious architecture, a huge variety of entertainment remains as compelling as ever.
Today the Czech Republic – and Prague in particular – is seen as a role model for all other Eastern European countries looking to improve conditions for their citizens and economic conditions for the country as a whole. Prague is seen as a cosmopolitan city to rival many of the more established capitals in Central and Western Europe and has a reputation for being a place that benefits from all the different thing that capitalism brings – as well as some of the negative aspects as well. The best measure of the country as a whole is the fact that the Czech Republic has the highest GDP of any country joining the EU in the past 10 years – with the highest amount of GDP to be found in the capital, Prague.
Although the financial situation in Prague is one that is far superior to most of the other Eastern European neighbours, the transition to a democratic and capitalist way of life has caused a few problems, with the most obvious of these being the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Although this is a problem that every capitalist country suffers from in some way, the Czech government are going to need to move fast to stop this problem from escalating.
One of the most surprising things that you will notice when visiting Prague is that the city has a huge number of smokers. Although smoking in public places has been banned since 2006, the amount of smokers does not seem to have dropped. Oddly, people are still allowed to smoke in restaurants, although most have areas for this to occur away from non-smoking guests.
One of the biggest impacts on Prague in recent years has been the influx of young tourists from Western Europe, all drawn in by the vibrant nightlife, cheap alcohol and strip clubs around Wenceslas Square. Opinion is divided about this; on one hand, they bring large amounts of money into the economy, but on the other hand they cause disruption and have led to many areas of the city becoming particularly undesirable. As prices have started to rise though, many tourists are now looking at going to other Eastern European cities instead, such as Riga, Bratislava and Bucharest.