Photo via Serzhile
Photo via Serzhile

As a general rule we, like many travelers, don’t love getting caught up in the tourist crush. Yes there’s some irony there — tourists wanting to avoid tourists! — but if your goal is to learn more about the world I think it’s not a bad idea to seek a degree of authenticity in the places you visit. And so, we try to avoid “tourist traps.”

There are, however, times when certain touristy activities end up being worth it. Case in point: tourist concerts in Prague:

Prague is a beautiful city. One of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited, in fact. As a result, there are significant tourist crowds in parts of the old center. The crowds in turn create an industry of small concerts, which at least when I was there were advertised by people passing out handbills on the street.

Now, I normally try to avoid things that are aggressively pushed to tourists by street hawkers. But when I visited Prague a woman was trying so hard to sell us a couple of tickets that she kept dropping the price down more and more until it fit within our very meager budget. (I’m sure this is a sales strategy, but whatever.) Finally we relented and bought a couple of tickets for a concert later that night.

And guess what, it was actually fantastic.

The concert took place in a beautiful old building we would never have managed to get inside otherwise. We sat beneath grand chandeliers as a string quartet played for 45 minutes or so. They began with familiar classics, then moved onto a more playful and modern selection. The audience was probably only 20 people.

When we left Prague a few days later, this concert ended up being one of my favorite things we had done.

This experience stands out not just because it was enjoyable, but because it was the opposite of what we normally try to do while in cities — namely, avoiding experiences custom tailored to tourists. And I think it consequently shows how playing a travel situation by ear (no pun intended), often leads to the greatest rewards.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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