There are many different ways to explore and experience Prague, but one of the best ways is to catch one of 5 ferry trips that criss cross the river. Update: the ferry route from National Theatre to Detsky Ostrov is cancelled since 30.10.11. All others still run - I recommend the Císařská louka - Výtoň - Kotevní route from Výtoň tram stop near Paleckeho Namesti, Císařská louka (Fun Island) in the middle of the river, opposite the Vyserhrad Castle complex, Kotevní (Smichov riverbank) and back again.
For the cost of a regular public transport transfer ticket (32CZK) you can hop on and off the ferry as many times as your 90 min ticket allows. Of course being part of the public transport network means that children under 6 ride for free so boating on the river can be done at minimal cost. For young kids, combining public transport and a visit to the playground makes for a great day out. So with two under 2’s to entertain, my sister and I set out to explore the city by water.
Setting off from the National Theatre is a good starting point as there are many tram links nearby. Be sure to keep a firm eye out for the sign below, this signals the entry point to the jetty and illustrates the route and operating times. At the bottom of the stairs there is a restaurant that looks ok and a small jetty. Waiting for the ferry we were stunned to see how tiny it was - but in the end it fitted everyone in comfortably. The maximum capacity is 11 plus the driver, they are not strict on this when you have a couple of small kids making up the numbers.
Be warned, you will encounter stairs at most stops and ideally prams should be folded for easy handling. We took two prams on board but they were umbrella style Maclarens so we could hoist them over our shoulders and pass them onto passengers eager to help. One lady had a pram that could not fold but she was helped by all and room was made to accommodate it.
On entering the boat you either show the driver your ticket already stamped and with a valid time recorded or stamp your ticket using the yellow box on board (just as you do before catching the metro or on board a tram). It must be a transfer ticket (32 CZK) and you cannot buy the ticket via SMS. The driver will also want to know which stop you would like to get off at. A tip is to make sure little fingers and hands are clear of the sides when the boat is departing, standing or arriving at a jetty - the howling would be pretty bad if fingers got jammed between the boat and the jetty!
Viewing the city by boat is wonderful, the noise of traffic is lost as you cruise under the bridges and admire Prague’s finest architectural buildings. The cool breeze off the water is refreshing and the city’s river life is a real eye opener - I never realised how many riverside bars, cafes and boats were in operation.
Our exit point reached we alighted at Detsky Ostrov which translates as Children’s Island. Here you’ll find quite a large playground for all ages, it has a water fountain for hot days and lots of river boats pass constantly so the kids find it really exciting to watch these large craft go by. You can read Darina’s article on Detsky Ostrov here.
The ferry service is very regular and arrives at each stop every 30 minutes so you never feel impatient waiting for it to arrive. I suspect that on weekends the service could get quite full especially from Detsky Ostrov so it’s probably best to start waiting a few minutes before the ferry is due in order to make sure you get a place.
OPEN: Prague’s Ferry Service runs from 1st April to 31st October
TIMES: From Výtoň (one stop on from Paleckeho Namesti) the first ferry is at 8.12am and arrives roughly every 30 minutes until 7.42pm
WHERE: Jetty below tram stop Výtoň, Prague 2
COST: You can use a normal public transport ticket which can be purchased at any newsagent or metro station around Prague.
DIRECTIONS: By Tram: Take the 3, 7, 16, 17 or 21 to tram stop Výtoň. Walk down to the riverbank and look out for the sign on the picture above.
FURTHER INFORMATION: http://www.prazskeprivozy.cz/mapka/ (in Czech only but with maps that show you the 6 ferry routes that you can take with your public transport ticket) http://www.praha.eu/jnp/cz/home/doprava_v_praze/mhd/privozy/index.html (in Czech only)