I can’t believe its already been 2 weeks since I returned from my vacation to the Czech Republic, a place I’ve always wanted to visit for the longest time ever. I fulfilled my dream to visit the beautiful “City of 100 spires” aka Praha or Prague as we know it and I thought I’d share some of the things you can do while you’re there, because quite a few of you had expressed interest to visit.
If your plan is to shop till you drop then Prague isn’t for you. Let’s just get that out of the way because I’ve met more than a few people in my time who, at the mention of Europe, start to get that Chanel sparkle in their eyes. There is good shopping to be had in Prague, but its not the best place for that. What its worth going for is the views, and architecture and to just soak up the atmosphere of an old city, relatively undamaged by the various wars and political upheavals they’ve undergone, and just live for a little while.
I was there towards the middle of Spring which I was told, is not exactly a wonderful time, because the weather can get a little wonky. They had a long cold winter and were just starting to thaw out by April so when I arrived, the weather was a warm (almost hot) 25°C and I was quite disappointed. 2 days later, the temperature plummeted to the low teens and down till about 4°C. Its apparently better in Autumn when the weather is more stable but in Spring, you’ll see the beautiful flowers in bloom everywhere so it has its attractions.
I thought I’d share 10 things you can do in Prague, in case you think of visiting, and it serves as a quick introduction to the city and what I did while I was there 🙂 So, strap yourselves in your chair, we’re going on an armchair holiday with quite a few pictures to go through! 😀
1. Take a Free Walking Tour from the Old Town Square
The Free Walking Tour is just that – free. There are a few companies doing it, but I looked online and went with Sanderman’s New Prague Tours which came highly recommended. Their meeting point is at the Old Town Square where every tour in the city seems to meet up, and which is a central meeting point in the city. Its easy to find because that’s where the Astronomical Clock is, and everyone knows where that is! All you have to do is turn up at about 10.45am look for the guides in the red jackets and umbrellas, pick a language (English, Spanish etc) and you’re good to go. They go on for about 3 hours, taking you through the city, stopping for a short break and serves as a very good introduction to the history of the city and for you to get your bearings.
At the end of the tour, all you have to do is tip your guide, depending on how much you feel they were worth. The guide I had was entertaining, knowledgeable and kept my attention riveted for all the 3 hours with his little anecdotes and stories. If possible, take this walking tour the day after you arrive so you appreciate the city better. I made the mistake of taking it later in my trip after I’d spent a couple of days bumbling around, not knowing what was what or where was what.
2. Eat a Trdelník (Trdlo)
You must. I didn’t do any research before I left, so I didn’t know about this traditional Czech pastry. When I was getting lost in one of the little side streets around the Old Town Square, I saw a bakery called Krusta and a very interesting pastry making session going on. The sweet pastry is rolled in a spiral around a stick, rolled in sugar and cinnamon and then rotated over heat to cook it. In this shop, they called it Trdlo and it cost CZK60 (approx RM4) and I later saw other side stalls selling it for about CZK50 but I bought one and it wasn’t as good.
Its absolutely delicious. Like a sweet cinnamon roll and especially good when its hot off the fire. Its also absolutely fattening so yes, I’m still paying for packing in a Trdlo a day while I was there. It was so good, I couldn’t help it 😛
3. Look Down and Up everywhere you go
There is so much to take in, in the streets of Prague. Look down and you will find yourself treading the age old cobble stone streets, look up and marvel at the soaring spires of medieval towers and intricate carvings and architecture. Here is a sampling of what to expect.
The oldest working astronomical clock in the world is found here in Old Town Square of Prague. Everyday on the hour, hordes of tourists gather at its base to watch the clock strike the hour, and to catch a glimpse of the 12 apostles through the doors above the clock. But as the guide told us, there is a lot more to the clock than just this brief display of sound and motion. The clock shows which part of the year we’re in, whether its day or night (strange!), what the phase of the moon is, what zodiac sign it is presently, in addition to telling the time. Quite a marvel of technology!
Spanish Synagogue – Jewish synagogue built in Moorish design
There is a large area in Prague known as the Jewish Quarter where the Jews were confined. It used to be a slum but is now one of the more upmarket areas of Prague. There are quite a few functioning synagogues still found there and they are surprisingly quite well preserved considering how the Jews were persecuted during World War 2.
The Powder Tower is a gothic structure that was built as one of the gates leading into the city. The name came from the fact that it used to be used to store gunpowder! These days, you know you’re heading into the Old Town area when you come upon this dark brooding structure. I got lost a few times and seeing this put me back on track so I have to say it did come in handy!
Those who are into music will appreciate that child musical genius Mozart has a strong bond with the city of Prague. The people of Prague adored him when reception was only lukewarm in other cities. It was said that he once received a 30 minute standing ovation!
Me and Emperor Palpatine 😛
Outside the Estates Theatre where Mozart performed his great operas like Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro sits a statue dedicated to him. It is a rendering of the Commendatore character from the opera Don Giovanni which was performed to great acclaim here in Prague.
Here’s another strange statue you will come across as you enter the Jewish Quarter – a statue dedicated to one of Prague’s most well known Jewish writers – Franz Kafka.
I’ve never read Kafka but this is from one of his books about him dreaming of being chased by an invisible suit. All very esoteric and dark and just beyond my philistine literary quests 😛
Wenceslas Square is the scene of many an uprising and is also a place for people to gather. These days, this is also a shopping strip with a Sephora store, clothing stores, souvenir shops, hotels and the like. I didn’t step into any Sephora while I was there, in case you were wondering 🙂 I didn’t really do much shopping but I did pick up some interesting Czech brands from the pharmacy so I’ll share that next time.
There is so much more to see in the city that I can’t adequately describe. I adored it and I just know that there is so much more to discover if I ever have the chance to return.
4. Walk and Get lost
If I reach, I can almost touch the sides
No, you won’t actually physically get lost (although it felt like I did a few times) The city is small enough that you can walk everywhere, yet large enough so you don’t find yourself going round and round in circles, seeing the same thing. There always seems to be a surprise at every corner!
Some streets are impossibly narrow and quiet, and then you come upon a lovely little restaurant that isn’t expensive and serves excellent food. So, bring your most comfortable walking shoes and just walk. I wore flat boots some of the time, but found that rubber soled sneakers are actually the best footwear to wear. The uneven cobblestones do make it quite hard to walk fast if you’re not used to it, and if it rains, it can get slippery. But I did spot some locals dashing everywhere in their heels so I suppose its possible!
5. Eat, Drink and be Merry!
I apologise in advance for the non-halal food and drink photos but beer is cheap and plentiful and apparently I just found out that the Czechs are one of the largest consumers of beer in the world. There are many local breweries in all the little towns and their beer is really good!
Clockwise from Top Left: Dacicky at a pub in Kutna Hora; Kozel Dark beer (my personal fave!), Pilsner Urquell and Kozel Dark Beer; Eggenberg dark beer at a pub in Cesky Krumlov ~ local beer
Also, it was a lot cheaper to drink beer than to drink anything else so I did 😛
Clockwise from Top Left: Pork knuckle as large as my face! ; Beef goulash and dumplings; Street Food of Roasted Prague Ham bread, Cabbage and Bacon; Svícková – beef cooked with cabbage, parsnip, carrots and double cream sauce served with cranberry sauce, whipped cream and a slice of lemon and steamed bread dumpling
Food was heavy on the meats – pork and beef in particular although duck was quite good too – and light on the vegetables except cabbage and sauerkraut. I went on a vegetable diet for a week after I got back 😛 But I enjoyed the food, despite the gigantic portions, and how heavy it was. Paying for it now of course, but hey, on holiday, everyone should eat drink and be merry! 😀
6. Enjoy the Prague Castle by Day and by Night
Photobombing a view of the Prague Castle from King Charles Bridge
One of the main attractions in Prague is the Prague Castle or Pražský hrad, home to the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, Presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. It is supposed to be the largest ancient castle in the world and believe me, its HUGE! Its not large, but mostly sprawling.
You could do it the hard way as I did, by walking across the King Charles Bridge and through the town, up a gazillion castle steps, to collapse panting at the gardens where you are treated to a gorgeous view of the whole of the city….
… or as I found out later, you can take a tram that takes you almost right to the doorstep of the castle, where you can hop out, fresh as a daisy to enjoy the grounds. The entrance to the castle grounds is free, but there is a fee if you want to enter the buildings.
As you enter the main castle grounds, you’ll come face to face with the soaring and magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral in all its Gothic glory.
It was an abominably hot day when I was there so I wasn’t quite in the mood to do much except hide in the shade. So that’s what I did, after a cursory look around the castle where I’m sure I missed out on a ton of important details, I dragged myself back out to the gardens, plonked myself on a bench under the shade of a tree and just enjoyed the view. It was wedding season too, so I spotted quite a few bridal couples having their wedding photos taken in the gardens, with the city as their backdrop. Stunning!
Another breathtaking view of the castle is at night, from across the river.
In the evenings, the main attractions in Prague are lit up and the sight quite takes your breath away. I took this shot from across the river and you can see just how sprawling the castle is. Not quite our conventional idea of what a castle looks like I’m sure, but its how much its grown over the years its been standing there.
7. Take a day trip to Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov
I will share more about these other 2 towns separately because there’s so much about them that deserves a focus, not just a cursory one liner. Kutna Hora is about an hour away by road (I took a half day guided tour) and Cesky Krumlov is about 3 hours away by road (I took a bus).
I will say that both are worth visiting whether on your own or with a guided tour although I’d lean towards taking a guided tour to Kutna Hora and travelling to Cesky Krumlov yourself and then joining a walking tour when you arrive.
8. Eat in a Cellar
Here’s something I found interesting. Prague seems famous for having cellar or underground restaurants. When I looked up recommendations, there were many. But for the most part, many also seemed to be quite pricey and tourist traps. These cellar restaurants are literally situated in the basements or cellars of buildings and you may even miss them if you aren’t observant.
The atmosphere is cosy and vaulted ceilings seem to be a popular architectural touch. It could be a throwback to medieval dining styles and they do have that sort of cosy, noisy atmosphere. I went to 2 but I do recommend that you try Tlusta Mys located in Kampa, across the river from the Old Town, for an inexpensive cellar dining experience. I had one of the cheapest meals in Prague here, with the cheapest Kozel dark beer I found at just 28CZK and it had all the lovely atmosphere without the hefty tourist pricetag 😀
9. Take in an aerial view
There are 2 places in Prague where you can go to take in the aerial view of the city. The first, which is the strange building you see on the left above, is the Žižkov Television Tower. I found the strange futuristic modern design jarring, because the rest of the city is so fluid and romantic. You have to take the underground to Jiriho z Podebrad on ‘A’ line Metro and then walk. I wasn’t terribly keen to visit but my friend was so we went. Once we got there of course, we had to pay to go up after coming all the way. What you get is panoramic views of the city and a slightly creeped out feeling from seeing the sculptures of the crawling babies on the tower. Personally, for a panoramic view, I’d rather go to the Petrin Hill lookout.
That’s the Eiffel Tower looking building on the right situated on Petrin Hill. We walked there from the Castle, through a lovely green park and I highly recommend the walk. You do have to pay to go up and you have to climb all the way. There are 2 levels but I’d suggest just going to the first level, because it affords you a very good view of the city and its open so you can walk out on the deck. If you decide to brave the rest of the steps and go right to the top, you get a small enclosed area that can get crowded if there are too many people there. So stop at the first one and enjoy the beautiful views of the city from up above.
10. Make a friend… or just meet one
Alright, this is a cheat. I happened to know that a reader, A lives in Prague so before I went, I contacted her to find out a little more about the city and getting around etc. She was incredibly helpful and we arranged to meet up for tea on the Sunday when I was there, where she introduced me to Medovnik, a Czech Honey Cake.
This is incredible. A slice of rich layered cake of butter, nuts and caramel. I was warned it might be a bit sweet and it was, but it went perfectly with a cup of hot tea or coffee. Delicious! You can also buy these at the airport, packed for travel, which I did, to finish up my Czech Koruna. Makes for a delicious souvenir!
I’ve met two absolutely gorgeous and wonderful readers just this year and its been amazing both times. We just sit there and yak away like old friends, and again, we don’t talk about beauty! Haha… I love it 😀
I hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with me to Prague 🙂 Its a beautiful city and one I highly recommend anyone to visit. You can do it yourself quite easily as I did, and I do suggest you spend a little time, instead of just passing through. This way, you can enjoy the sights, take your time, indulge in the food and drink and bring home lots of wonderful memories, the way I did 🙂
Have I ignited your desire to visit Prague? 😉
I can tell you that Prague is one of the more affordable European cities I’ve visited thus far. I had a loose budget but even then, I managed to do many things very comfortably on the wallet, unlike visiting many other European cities which can quickly burn a hole if you aren’t vigilant. If you have questions about getting around, or getting there or anything, do feel free to ask below. I’ll try to give you the answers the best I can based on my travel experience 😀
I love travelling and this is my little corner where I share my Travel Tales. These are some of my travel tips as I make my way around my country and the world. You can read more Travel Tales here.