Prague is a city that has been on my bucket list for quite a while now, so I was so happy to finally go there. My top priorities while there were: to see the famous Tourist Triangle (The Bridge, The Square and The Castle) and drink a lot of Czech beer. And of course eat local cuisine and have fun and walk my feet raw. All accomplished, and this is how it went down:
I Arrived at my hotel in the middle of the afternoon, and immediately set out for the first part of the Tourist Triangle: The Old Town Square in the Stare Mesto area. This area is just filled with beautiful houses: tall and stately, multi coloured, and everywhere little turrets and flourishes making it look like no other place.
As you get closer to the Square the throng of tourists thickens – rounding the last corner, cameras at the ready: Old Town Square, with the two towers of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn as the first thing to catch the eye. There were little stalls selling souvenirs and snacks next to the Town Hall and horse carriages lined up for tourists to buy a trip around the city, all adding to the general cosyness.
I happened to be at the Square, quite unintentionally, at one point when the Astronomical Clock would do its hourly little show. People flock at the base of the tower so that you can barely push through, all to see 3 figures at the side of the clock moving one arm and tilting their heads. I heard several cries of ‘Is that it?!’ while pushing through.
I made sure to spend a little time in the Jewish area, Josefov. I didn’t have time to visit the Jewish Museum itself, but took a good walk around to get a feel for the place. This area is I’d say almost prettier than the Stare Mesto, as there are many roads lined with trees along with the same style of houses. I especially liked the look of the Old-New Synagoge, and took a peek into the Old Jewish Cemetery, a place I wouldn’t mind having a better look at another time around.
I ended the day with a one hour river cruise down and then up the Vltava River. The weather was lovely and I got myself a Pilsner Urquell to enjoy during the trip. The highlight for me was seeing the Charles Bridge from an outside perspective, as it is quite hard to appreciate its size and beauty when you’re on it with about a zillion other tourists. The river cruises are easy to find as soon as you start walking along the river – actually, it’s very likely that someone will approach you with an offer for a tour.
Aim of the day was to see the Prague Castle complex, and I wanted to make the most of the walk there. Went over the Charles Bridge to the Malá Strana area on the other side, and made a detour to the John Lennon Wall. I was surprised to find the place relatively uncrowded – I had thought it was much more popular – and it was quite interesting to see.
In general the streets immediately connected with the touristy areas are very crowded, but as soon as you start taking a different route than the rest you practically have it all to yourself, which I think is a very redeeming feature of the city. This applied to all of the city that I went to.
The walk up to the Castle was not exactly a relaxing stroll in 23 degrees heat and sunshine, but the view over the city and the cathedral was most definitely worth it. I was utterly captivated by the St. Vitus Cathedral – immense and very beautiful. The line to get inside stretched more than halfway around the building, but luckily it only took about 20 minutes to get inside. This is probably the most beautiful church I have ever been in – the space, the golden and reddish light and the gorgeous window mosaics all added up.
I also climbed the south tower of the cathedral in the eternal hunt for good views. It was definitely very lovely, although I thought the price of 150 CZK just to climb the tower was somewhat steep (is there a pun in there somewhere?). Going down from the tower I heard something that sounded a bit like an old fashioned steam train – upon inspection it turned out to be a rotund American woman with a strong southern accent, coming to terms with the fact that 287 steps up a staircase was simply not possible with her current level of fitness.
This day I had decided to rent a car and drive to the little town of Kutná Hora. There were two things I wanted to see in particular: St. Barbara cathedral and Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the Bone Chapel. I parked the car at the very center of the city, and started walking towards the St. Barbara church, knowing that this would take me through the old part of town. I was absolutely delighted with that part of the city – where Prague has tall, stately and very beautiful houses, this was something else: small crooked alleys with low houses and a much more ‘old’ and very idyllic feel. There were also plenty of view points across a small valley towards the big Cathedral.
The cathedral is reached via a long path lined on one side with a huge, white, good looking building, and on the other with statues just like on the Charles Bridge. I really had the feeling that that particular path and the cathedral could be compared to the Charles Bridge and the Skt. Vitus Cathedral, just with far fewer tourists. The cathedral is surrounded with trees giving it a quite serene atmosphere, and the view from the top of the hill is beautiful. The building itself is gorgeous, in the same style as the St. Vitus, but a bit of a let down come inside if you’re comparing the two.
Finished the visit to Kutná Hora with the famous Bone Chapel in Sedlec. This was really very special – macabre, yes, but definitely not something you see every day either. It’s a rather small place filled with about 40.000 leftover bones from discarded graves. The bones are used as decorations – some quite artful, others just plain weird. I was quite impressed with the ticket stall’s language selection of explanatory brochures – they even had one in Danish!
Other suggestions for day trips from Prague would be the city of Olomouc or the city of Cesky Krumlov.
Food in Prague:
I went to a number of different restaurants, some for the food, some for the decor, some for the view:
Lokál is a large place that served mostly local food and a few specialities. I got one of the latter: chicken breast fried in butter, buttered potatoes and a Prazdroj beer, which turned out to be my favorite. The meal was, obviously, simple, but very delicious.
At Kavarna Slavia I tried out svickova, which is a slice of beef in a cream sauce with bread dumplings. Quite heavy, so I was glad that I had ordered a Radler beer along with it – thought it tasted rather more of Sprite than of beer, but quite perfect in this setting.
Grand Café Orient and the Globe Bookstore & Café belong in the ‘for the decor’ section. Orient is a place that is decorated with cubism in mind – quite cool – and Globe had a bookstore and a cosy vibe, that I enjoyed during my brunch.
Letna Beer Garden lies within the Letna Park just above the Stefanikuv bridge. From there there is a lovely view over the city, and a nice and relaxed atmosphere – just a bunch of benches among the trees and a small stand that serves draught beer. I got a Gambrinus beer which I quite liked – tasted of honey.
I made sure to try one of the famous Czech sweets: a trdelnik or chimney cake which was very delicious (I got one with nuts and Nutella).
Butcher’s Grill and Pasta is a cheap but very well rated restaurant in the northern part of centrum. I ordered an El Gaucho steak (from local Czech farmers) with mushroom sauce which was absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.
Pivovarsky Klub lies not far from Butcher’s, and is described as a beer library where I first read about it. It’s a place with walls completely covered in beer bottles for sale, and they have the largest beer menu in the country, which I think is pretty cool.
Have you been to Prague? What was your favourite place? Comment below.