Prague 2011 - Travel Guides

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As I usually do, I bought a travel guide for my destination about a month before my departure. I bought the Rick Steves guide because, when I went to Rome, it was far superior for restaurants to the Rough Guide (we had both in hand on that trip). The Rome Rick Steves did drop one thing I considered very important, but I chose Rick Steves for my trip to Istanbul and did okay. But this time, two weeks before departure, I was back in the bookstore buying the Rough Guide because the Rick Steves choices were so thin. The Rick Steves title is something like this:

and the Czech Republic

About half the book is about the rest of the country, so not enough pages were spent on Prague given that I was going to be there for a week. So I bought the Rough Guide.

Rick Steves has always called itself "selective," saying they only include the things they think are the very best. This leaves you with very few choices if you're spending a long time there: you're doing it their way, and you're doing all of it because that's the only way you're going to fill the time. Rough Guide on the other hand covers not just the highlights, but all kinds of specialty stuff that's going to appeal only to a smaller audience. For example, I love technology museums - not everyone does. I like that they give you the choice. The breaking point came towards the end of the trip, when I went to the Veletržní palác (the Trade Fair Palace), the country's national art gallery. It gets three and a half pages in the Rough Guide, but is entirely ignored by Rick Steves - perhaps because it's out from the core of the city. Until I got there, I didn't realize what an terrible omission this was. The Veletržní palác is slightly smaller than the Louvre, and second only to the Louvre in quality of all the art museums I've seen in my entire life. It covers art of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Primarily Czech, but there's an excellent selection of art from the rest of the world. They have a bunch of Rodins, they have a van Gogh. It's only one van Gogh, but it's a damn good one.

If you want to be led by the nose and not think at all, maybe Rick Steves is for you. But I'd recommend the Rough Guide, or perhaps Lonely Planet as a second choice.

My guide to travel guides 
by giles