Prague: where history and hipster meet
The Czech Republic capital will satisfy both the hipster and the historian in you without breaking the bank. Beer and baroque seamlessly intertwine throughout the ‘Golden City with 100 spires’, which has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world (142.6 litres per person to be precise!) and one of the most well-preserved medieval Old Town’s in central Europe. With its expansive parks, romantic restaurants and extremely diverse nightlife, Prague is the perfect place for a ‘hybrid’ city-break!
Above: The infamous 'Dancing house' which stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous.
Things to do:
Sandemans’ Free Walking Tour
On our first day we signed up for a Sandemans’ walking tour of Prague, which was a great way to get to know the city centre. For those of you unfamiliar with Sandeman's, they offer free, 3-hour walking tours in 18 cities across Europe, where you pay what you think it’s worth at the end. Our guide was informative, funny and enthusiastic about all things Prague and offered us a great introduction to the city. My only qualm was that our tour group was rather large (but it was a Saturday afternoon) and we actually ended up losing our guide in the last 30 minutes when we were momentarily distracted by ice-cream filled doughnut cones (also known as Trdelník- a Czech specialty).
Top tip: ideally book mid-week and don’t get distracted by decorative doughnuts!
Above: The view from Charles Bridge
Miraculously, the medieval city was almost undamaged by WW2 and so upon stepping into Old Town you may feel as if you have journeyed back in time! It offers a delightful mix of cobbled alleyways, courtyards, cathedrals and yes….lots of spires! Old Town Square really spoils the senses with several notable sights, including the famous astronomical clock! The clock’s incredibly intricate construction makes telling the time rather difficult, but thankfully on the hour every hour, a bell rings as a trap door opens and a little procession takes place. Although most people will tell you that this is the most underwhelming tourist attraction in Prague, so I wouldn’t stand there with the crowd- camera at the ready- in anxious anticipation!
Yet in spite of its beauty, the capital city has been crippled by centuries of bloody wars- with religion being the primary cause for most of these. (Take for example, the 30 years war in the 17th century, one of the most deadliest European religious wars which resulted in 8 million and essentially ended in a stale mate!) It's unsurprising that 75% of the population are atheists and 'praying' for a boring generation: they don't want to make it into the history books, they just want to lead peaceful lives... and find a consistent national name! After centuries of name changes the Czech Republic is currently trying to 're-brand' itself as Czechia, so let's just hope this one sticks!
Almost all of the locals we spoke to told us that this was their favourite region in Prague. Located across Prague 2, 3 and 10, it is slightly removed from the city-centre, yet is home to some of Prague's trendiest bars, clubs and shops. We were staying in Zizkov (located in Prague 3) and stumbled across this gorgeous area by sheer chance when we were walking into Old Town on our first morning. St Ludmila’s church is a fantastic example of Prague’s neo-gothic architecture and is the focal point of Náměstí míru, a public space that hosts events throughout the year, including a popular Christmas market. We were fortunate to be visiting during Signal Festival and were able to see the church re-imagined through video mapping, a spectacular projection technique that brought the structure to life.
2017 Dates: 12th-15th October
For food near Náměstí Míru look no further than Reinsdyr Gastro Pub, which offers exquisite food at really reasonable prices (we paid £40 for two courses and a bottle of wine). They have an in-house smoker and I can confirm that these guys know how to cook a succulent smoked salmon steak!
Address: Náměstí Míru 1221/4, Vinohrady, 120 00, PRAGUE 2
Jiřího z Poděbrad Square is home to The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord- and is considered to be one of Prague’s most original pieces of 20th century architecture. Enjoy a croissant and a coffee at Mamas Coffee, which overlooks Jože Plečnik’s impressive sacral construction.
Address: Náměstí Jiřího z, Poděbrad 12, PRAGUE 3
Or for something slightly stronger, head to The Brutal Panda a bizarrely named bar offering cocktails, shisha and karaoke.
Address: Bořivojova 2422/15, 130 00, PRAGUE 3
Yet in stark contrast, just outside of Vinohrady you will find Prague’s (and perhaps the world’s) most ugliest building: The Zizkov Television Tower. The communist construction is now a popular tourist attraction and houses a hotel, which offers some of the best views in Prague!
Address: Žižkovský vysílač, PRAGUE 3
The beautiful walk up Petrin Hill is well worth the effort as the view is stunning (and free!) Although if you’re tempted to go even higher then there’s always the option of climbing up to the top of Petrin Tower, which was built as a mini version of Paris’ Eiffel Tower in 1891. Standing at 63.5 metres high, it’s 299 steps to the top, but on a clear day you may catch a glimpse of the Czech Republic’s highest mountain -Snezka-, which is over 150km away! Right next door you’ll find Bludiště na Petříně, a wooden mirror maze (also built in 1891) and a joint ticket for both costs 190 czk (£6.20). The mirrors were a good laugh but I wouldn’t have queued for it had it been a busy weekend!
We then continued our walk across Petrin hill and in the direction of Prague castle, where we finally stopped for a well-deserved pint at Bellavista. Undeniably overpriced (although still not quite London prices) yet worth it for the remarkable view of Prague castle and the city beyond. A standard draught beer cost 109 czk (£3.60) although by this point we’d got used to paying as little as 30 czk (90p!) Even on a Monday there was a mighty queue to get into the castle- so we opted instead to walk around this magnificent structure and take in its ambience from the outside.
Address: Strahovské nádvoří 1, PRAGUE 1
If you’ve done an escape room before, you’ll know that they're not exclusive to Prague. Yet this one is particularly great as it is themed around the city’s link to alchemy. For those of you unfamiliar, it's essentially an interactive game where you have an hour to escape from a room. They are great fun, very challenging and hilariously stressful (ME: “Where’s the key?!?!” ) Mind Maze do a special rate for 2 people and accommodate for groups of up to 6.
Address: Tyršova 9, 120 00, PRAGUE 2
Prague is surprisingly good for vegetarian, vegans and gluten-free diets- you just have to look off the beaten-track. When we first arrived in Old Town we checked out two restaurants that didn’t offer a single vegetarian dish (although pescatarians will usually find salmon on the menu)! Thankfully this wasn’t a theme of our trip and was only problematic at the ‘Traditional Czech Cuisine’ restaurants. There are several exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants and many more that offer great options for meat-free and gluten-free diets. Prague is also incredibly cheap and unless you're eating near the main squares (or at a michelin star restaurant) you should expect to pay around 150 czk (£5) for a main course
White and Crispy, Gluten-Free Maison- I had the BEST gluten free pizza I’ve ever had here before climbing up to Petrin Tower. I am tempted to fly back to Prague just for another taste!
Address: Pavla Švandy ze Semčic 388/16, 150 00, PRAGUE 5
Restaurace Na Ovocném Trhu (The Fruit Market Restaurant)
A traditional restaurant set in a 14th century building serving up local favourites and the classic Czech beer, Černovar. As its name suggests, it's located on Fruit Market Square and is right next door to the Cubist museum and shop (which are sure to satisfy your inner art geek!)
Address: Ovocný trh 568/17, 110 00 PRAGUE 1
Serves fresh and healthy vegetarian dishes and raw vegan cakes.
Address: Týnská ulička 1064/6, 110 00, PRAGUE 1
A cute little café/restaurant offering a wide selection of fresh and healthy meat and vegetarian dishes (and great gluten free options too!)
Address: Dušní 9, Staré Město, 110 00 PRAGUE 1
Mamy Korean Restaurant- There’s a huge amount of authentic Asian cuisine in Prague and my vegetarian Bimibap did not disappoint!
Address: Benediktska 3, PRAGUE 1
The world's biggest beer drinkers know how to serve up a decent pint…or four! And at particularly pleasing prices too!
Prague Beer Museum
Great if you want to sample several different Czech beers, including chocolate and honey beer. Think of it as an 'interactive museum' where you taste your way through the culture: less reading, more drinking!
Address: Dlouhá 46, PRAGUE 1
Lokal Beer Hall
There's no need to wait at the bar for your next round because as soon as you've taken your last sip another pint will be placed on your table. This can be very dangerous, so in order to cease this endless cycle place your beer mat on top of your pint, which is the beer hall sign for 'stop serving me!' Instead of a tab, you get a beer tally- another tradition of beer halls.
Address: Dlouhá 33, PRAGUE 1
Black Light Adventure Golf
Bored by another bohemian bar? Then why not add a competitive edge to your evening and put a round of mini- golf on the tab. Definitely not for serious golfers, but a fun place to pre-drink. I loved the gimmicky glow-in-the-dark theme, which even stemmed to giant Jenga, face paints and most practically ...beer bottles!
Address: Opatovická 18, PRAGUE 1
The Czech Republic is rightly renowned for it’s beer, but in fact there’s a wealth of Czech wine waiting to be discovered. 96% of the Czech wines come from Moravia, which is why Czech wine is usually referred to as Moravian wine. If you haven’t got the time to travel to this eastern region then definitely check out some of Prague’s wine bars, offering tasters, tapas and expert advice.
We fell in love with ‘La Boutique’, a charming little wine bar in Prague 2. Alex, the extremely friendly and hospitable host has encyclopaedic wine knowledge and will pair you with your perfect drink. We went for a glass of wine before dinner (along with some delicious on-the house- homemade tapas) and enjoyed ourselves so much we returned for a post-dinner drink!
Above: One of the many wierd and wonderful statues scattered across Prague
I truly believe that walking is the best way to explore a city, as it is a great way to discover little-known areas away from the tourist traps. The centre of Prague (Prague 1) is relatively small so walking is definitely an option. We stayed in an Air BnB just outside of the centre in a trendy neighborhood called Zizkov (located in Prague 3) and even from here we could stroll into Old Town in 30 minutes. Saying that if the weather is crap, or if you can’t be bothered to work for your carbs (see ‘food’ below) there are some fantastic public transport options.
This was a real novelty coming from London and is an incredibly quick way to commute right across the city. Don’t forget to buy a ticket before boarding (and validate it with the date/time at one of the yellow machines) as plain clothed ticket-inspectors are known for catching out unsuspecting tourists! Tickets are priced by time and cost 24czk for 30 minutes (80p) or 36czk for 90 minutes (£1.20)- although we never needed to purchase the latter. There are also several night trams, perfect for transporting you from bar to bed!
Priced the same as the tram and is very simple to use as there are only 3 lines: A (green), B (yellow) and C(red). Do check for your nearest stop as this might be a more convenient option than the tram.
Beware! They are notorious for ripping off tourists! So if you really need to use one, call ahead. We foolishly forgot to book before landing in Prague and had to pay 900czk (£30) for our airport transfer when it should have been cost around 600czk (£20). On arrival our Air BnB host recommended Speedcars (+420 224 234 234 - choose option for speaking in English) and we found them much cheaper (and friendlier!)
Above: 'The lovers' near Love Locks Bridge
Prague, useful information:
Currency: Czech crown (koruna)
Language: Czech. Hello= "Dobrý den!" [Sounds like Dobree den]; Thank you= "Děkuji" [Sounds like Dya-koo-yee]
Nearest Airport: Prague Václav Havel Airport (PRG / LKPR) which is 19km from the city centre.
When to visit: The best times to visit Prague are the spring and early fall when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds.
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