Prague

Visited: 2015

Prague is rare city. Here you’ll find castles, burnt orange rooftops, gorgeous Medieval architecture, and crooked cobblestone streets to reward the curious explorer. The best part about Prague isn’t the “sights,” it’s wandering the medieval streets, squares, and parks experiencing the city alive with grace, that presents its stories and history without pretension.

This is all just the beginning.

Know Before You Go:

What to Bring:

  1. I ABSOLUTELY recommend you check out the amazing page pragueczechtravel.com and sign yourself up for the Prague Local Explorer Kit. We bought the kit and it came with so many great goodies, bus tickets, a book about great local eats, and much more. Best part? Roman will deliver it to wherever you are staying so you have it to enjoy before your first day out in Prague. I still use my bag all the time and is a wonderful reminder of our visit.
  2. If you are coming to Prague with romantic intentions ; ), consider bringing a lock to add to Prague’s own love lock bridge right next to Charles Bridge.

The People

  1. There are around 10 million people in Czech and 2 million of them live in Prague!
  2. Prague is very safe to walk and travel too. Pickpockets will always be a problem around some of the heavy tourist areas, so always be careful.
  3. The official language is Czech, but many people speak excellent English as well.
  4. The Czech people have been ruled by many occupiers: Austria-Hungary, Nazi Germany, and the U.S.S.R.. You will see much of the influence around the city.
  5. Czech have their own currency called the Koruna. The abbreviation is Kč or CZK.

Scams and Avoidance

  1. Taxi drivers have a reputation of overcharging. Look for official Prague taxis and designated taxi stops. These taxis have a fixed price for many destinations, so there are no surprises – just check the sign for the destination you want to go and it will tell you how much the taxi ride should cost.
  2. At night Wenceslas Square transforms from the touristy shopping center to the central location for strip club touts, prostitutes, and all manner of the unpleasant. Might want to stay away.

What We Saw:

The Historic Center

The historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It proudly presents its standing and still used relics from the Middle Ages.

Charles Bridge (Karlův most)

Prague’s most iconic bridge is an essential stop in Prague, and is probably the only time in your life where you are eager to walk on a bridge. This ancient bridge is dotted with beautiful statues of saints that have been watching over the Vltava river for over 650 years. Go and soak it all in.

Charles Bridge, also called the Stone Bridge, was first built in 1360 by King Charles IV. It is one of the oldest surviving complete and functioning monuments in Europe. Legend has it that egg yolks were mixed in with the stone and used to hold the stones together.

King Charles loved his grandmother’s pastries, specifically her strudel. Asking her one day what the secret was to strong and unbreakable strudel, she revealed: ‘It’s all about eggs.’ Charles did not let her grandmother’s wisdom go to waste.

Today there are no more Kings – instead the Czech people finally have their own government, only as recently as 1992! The bridges meaningfulness beyond it’s history, now serves to connect the people with the government and as a symbol of persevering through changing times.

The best time to walk the bridge is early in the morning before EVERYONE arrives. Tourists, commuters, vendors, artists, everyone seems to gather at Charles Bridge. Our sleep clock is usually off our first night in a new city, so we visited Charles Bridge at 5am – we were completely alone. Anytime after 8 AM to 9 PM, you can barely breathe between the merchants and tourists bumping into each other.

As you walk and see the saints on the bridge, you’ll notice some are brighter than others. One saint serves as a Trevi Fountain of sorts for Prague.

One saint, John of Nepomuk was a priest in Prague. The priest served the Queen at church and heard her confessions, which the king, being suspicious of the Queen’s faithfulness, demanded to know. Nepomuk was committed to his promise and would not reveal anything, even to the King. For this, Nepomuk was thrown from the bridge into the Vltava.

The plaque of John of Nepomuk has been polished by the millions of visitors to Charles Bridge. Touching the falling priest is supposed to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague.

A bronze cross between statues 17 and 19 marks the point where Nepomuk was thrown off.

Love Lock Bridge

Right next to Charles Bridge, behind the Charles Bridge Museum is a fence line covered in locks. Many are engraved or written with sweet sentiments from couples in love from around the world.

If you remembered to bring a lock, take a romantic moment to step away from Charles bridge and add your promise to each other in Prague. Make sure to throw away the key in the river to symbolize your unbreakable love.

Prague Venice – Historical Boat Trip

Around Charles Bridge you will be approached by many hawkers trying to sell their wares. We were approached by these lovely fellows.

Being just in love with their little sailor uniform I listened to their spiel about a boat ride. We normally would have passed on, but we actually heard good things about Venice Prague so we bought our tickets and walked down to our boat.

You will climb into a lovely wooden boat, warmed by a potbelly fireplace, and provided with a snack and a warm drink. It was perfect after a cold morning about town. We set out with other tourists to listen to the history of Charles Bridge and Judith Bridge.

You can see the only surviving arch of the Judith Bridge by taking a boat trip with Prague Venice. The trip was lovely and entertaining as you slowly putt around the river enjoying the sites. I recommend the trip if you want to relax and cruise the Vltava.

Cost: Kč 290 or $14 per person for an hour boat ride and entrance into the Charles Bridge Museum.

Charles Bridge Museum (Muzeum Karlova mostu)

With our free ticket from Venice Prague we visited the Charles Bridge Museum. You can also visit vice versa, entrance into the museum includes a tour with Venice Prague.

This is a small museum, that provides a deeper dive into the history and construction of Charles Bridge. You’ll see models and dioramas, learn about the tools used, who the people where, and the significance of what the statues on the bridge represent. It’s worth the price of admission, especially paired with an hour boat ride with snacks!.

You can make it through the museum in about an hour. If you need a rest, there is a cafe and restrooms inside.

Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí)

Considered as one of the largest squares in Europe, Wenceslas Square has plenty of shops, hotels, and history. Once being a horse market and food market, it has been the center of all political changes. In 1918, declared in Wenceslas Square, the Czech people proclaimed their independence from Austro-Hungry empire. In 1938, the Nazi invaders declared their occupation. Wenceslas Square bore witness to the Russian occupation and again their exit during the Velvet Revolution.

Visiting in December we were able to witness the beautiful Christmas market stalls set up in the square, selling their treats and warm honey wines. Take a walk and window shop down the street, making sure to stop by mounted Saint Wenceslas to say hello.

The Klementinum Library

The Klementinum’s Baroque Library Hall is the stunning Czech National Library, housing 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards. Decorated with ceiling frescoes, and gorgeous globes.

Now, this beautiful library isn’t all that visitors may be expecting. All you will be able to do is view the library from behind a rope with the lights dimly lit. The guide will not let you in, and they will always be checking to make sure you are not taking any photos, which is forbidden.

One of the best delights of the museum is getting to view and TOUCH a 14th century Kodex! As a former museum employee I was terribly upset they would let everyone touch such a beautiful book, but the other museum lover in me was ecstatic because I was actually allowed to touch such a beautiful relic.

The tour continues through the astrological part of the college where early observers worked to study the planets and stars. Climb the original, creaky, worn wooden stairs and explore where the early astronomers once worked.

Book your tour around an hour before sunset, because as part of your ticket price you also get to tour the astronomical observatory. Climb another set of stairs and view the city from the rooftop at the perfect time. Best view of the city you will find.

Cost: 220 Kč or $10 per person – tours the entire complex, not just the library

Total time spent: 2 hours

Castle District

The Castle District is of course home to the Prague Castle, but also home to cobblestone streets.

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)

Take the old Castle stairs for a fun climb upwards and a beautiful view of the city.

It would be impossible to not have the Prague Castle as part of our visit. It sits high on a hill above the city, its walls decorated with the former rulers all the way back to the Holy Roman Emperor.  Holding the title of “the largest ancient castle complex in the world,” the castle complex includes a royal garden and cathedral within it walls. There are also smaller living palaces, towers, halls, and street markets.

The castle is worth a walk around. Our favorite part of the castle was the Garden of the Ramparts that was less crowded and offered gorgeous views of the city.

St Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Víta)

St Vitus Cathedral is a favorite for many visitors to Prague due to its’ unique baroque architecture. I recommend that you walk around the entire complex to view the statuary and gargoyles. The space behind the church is very quiet, there is even a snack bar with warm drinks to enjoy.

Next, take a look inside St. Vitus Cathedral. We didn’t take a tour and it didn’t seem worth it too. Just stick your head into the Cathedral for free without getting to the section for paying visitors.

The Old Town (Staré Město)

On the other side of the bridge is Prague’s Old Town. In the center of the Old Town square is a statue of Jon Hus. He held the exact same views about church injustices as Martin Luther, except 100 years earlier. His reward for trying to work towards church reform? He was burned at the stake. Luther is the one who history remembers while Hus remains mostly forgotten.

Church of Our Lady Before Týn Church (Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem)

The Old Town Hall has become a big tourist attraction, yet you really won’t want to miss visiting it. We actually wandered into the square at night into a beautiful Christmas market. Viewing the lovely and distinctive Týn Church with it’s Gothic towers.

Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj)

Based on the number of times it is mentioned by travelers, you would think it is a marvel of the ancient world, that must be witnessed to be believed. Every hour, the clock will chime and the twelve apostles appear, as well as other moving sculptures, especially a figure of Death striking the time – I think we get the message.

I suggest you don’t make it a highlight of your day. The clock will strike and mechanical statues will appear for a moment and be done.

Museum of Communism

A little hard to find, follow the signs that leads to an opening in a building. Climb the stairs and take a sharp turn to the left to Prague’s Museum of Communism. The museum itself seems oddly placed, being surrounded by the Czech Mall and so much capitalism.

The museum is laid out on one floor, detailing the communist ideology and the reality. You will find a collection of items paired with fact sheets on the walls, explaining the history and the life of the time from food, industry, politics, economics, as well as the roles that the police and media played as the people were censored or imprisoned.

There’s a display classroom with books, a\the living room of an average apartment; there’s the display counter of a local grocery store with the minimal allowed products. You’ll also see an interrogation cell, mannequins wearing uniforms, gas masks, and a full display of the cult that was of Lenin and Marx.

No other place in Prague reflects the communism control. Statues have been torn down, books burned, and capitalism crept in. The people of Prague don’t seem to want to remember that time. Going to the Museum of Communism will give you a better understanding of the history, but not a better picture of what Prague is today.

Cost: 190 Kč or $9 per person

Total time spent: 2 hours

Statues – Provocative & Quirky

Prague is home to come really fun and bizarre looking statues. They are a thrill to stumble upon while exploring the city.

What We Ate:

Letensky Zamecek

Found in THE most GORGEOUS park, is Letensky Zamecek. We always plan at least one splurge meal either cost wise or out of the city center. This restaurant was both. With views overlooking the city and the Vltava River, it was a wonderful dinner. Nearby is the Letna beer garden, voted one of the best beer gardens in Europe by the Travel Channel. Being winter the beer garden was much to cold, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the views.

Total Cost: Main course meal for 2 with two drinks each was 900 Kč or about $45

Dhaba Vladislavova

It might sound odd to come to Prague and eat Indian food, but the food here is really exceptional. We wandered upon this spot being hear our hotel and a Christmas Market we were visiting. The lunch is authentic and flavorful, with a fun view of the Franz Kafka monument across the street.

Total Cost: Buffet lunch for two, no drinks was 250 Kč or $10

Pivnice Hlávkův dvůr

A typical Czech pub that serves authentic Czech meals and Pilsner Urquel, a classic Czech beer. It is a big restaurant and a beer garden.

I enjoyed a beer, a shot of whiskey, and beef goulash with bread dumplings. Hubby had roasted chicken with vegetables in herb sauce with two beers and a shot of whiskey. Pretty good deal for all the food and drinks we enjoyed that night!

Total Cost for 2 and Drinks: 600 Kč or $30

Wenceslas Square Street Food

Medovina (Honey Wine)

Every Christmas market had at least one stall serving Medovina. The Czech “Mead” is warmed honey-wine. Beautiful golden color with a sweet aftertaste. It comes in a plastic glass to no deposit required for this treat. If given the choice though, I’d still go for mulled wine over this.

Sauteed Mushrooms

I LOVE mushrooms. And these mushrooms were divine! I could have eaten them every day. Charged by the weight, we bought a cup full to try and devoured these garlicky treats. We then ordered more, a cup for each of us right after so we didn’t have to share that time.

Trdelník

A rolled pastry, cooked by wrapping pastry dough around a spit stick and roasted over an open flame. Served warm and topped with sugar, nuts or cinnamon. Watching the Trdelník rotating is an enjoyable sight. Common in Prague, you can find this treat all around town. I could eat 10 of these!

View all the places visited in Prague

 

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