First of all let me wish you all the best for 2020! The last 2 weeks I have been travelling to visit my family in Germany and I just realized how much I missed Christmas markets: drinking Punch or Glühwein with comfort Central European food, the Christmas carols and beautiful atmosphere.
While on holiday season and preparing my next post and the very first one for 2020, I checked I had actually never written about a city very close to my heart, beautiful Prague in Czechia, more well known as Zlatá Praha (Golden Prague) and a city with a particular lovely atmosphere during Christmas.
The first time I went to Prague was with my parents back in 2004 and I immediately fell in love with it: the panorama over Charles Bridge with the castle in the background, cobble stone streets, the architectonic combination between medieval, barroque and gothic styles, colourful restored historic buildings, Wenceslau Square (which resembles Avenida dos Aliados in my hometown) and so on. Some years later a love story took me to Prague, where I stayed for a year under the Erasmus programme and learnt Czech. 2020 will be 10 years since this incredible experience (Gosh I was 19 back then…) and like anything else in life: even though the love story is gone, solid friendships have remained and the eternal passion for Prague. No matter how far we travel in Europe, Prague is a gem. Even after almost 10 years to me it still feels like home. Let me share with you some if its hidden treasures 😊
Once you are in Prague, you will figure out it is divided in several districts (from Prague 1 to 11), so maybe the very first question you will ask will be what should be the best area to stay at?
- Prague 1 and 2 will be great choices, as you are very close to the main sights (and even withing walking distance). In Prague 1 I would choose Malá Strana, Muzeum, or Namestí Republiky, Staromestská. In Prague 2 I would choose Vinohrady (great for foodies).
What is the best way to arrive to the city center from the airport?
- Definitely the Airport bus express, which will take you directly to the main station. On the main station (Hlavní nadrázi) you can take the metro line red, which will take you to almost anywhere in the city.
What should not be missed in Prague?
- Prague Castle and its gardens
- Strolling from the bridge in Staromestská, where Rudolfinum (concert hall) is located to Wallenstein Garden
- Jewish Quarter
- Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock (do not forget to buy Trdelník as a snack) - made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix (even though other combinations are possible, such as chocolate or pistachio)
- Walking through Charles Bridge at dawn or sunrise, contemplating the beautiful panorama and avoid…crowds!
- Go to a ballet or opera at the National Opera or National Theater
- Go to any classic music concert (happens almost hourly) and listen to the great Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana
- Klementinum – one of the most beautiful libraries in the world (I used to study there so many times)
- For modern architecture fans observe the Dancing House. On top of it there is a fancy French restaurant and bar Ginger & Fred
Well these are the ex-libris from Prague which should definitely be on your list, however let me share you other less well-known places/experiences, slightly off the beaten track which I have explored throughout the years:
- Letná Park – It is most enjoyable during the Summer, with its many beergardens, beautiful gardens to stroll around and even football camps/skate grounds, the view is just unbeatable
- Stromovka Park – One of the biggest and most beautiful gardens in Prague. On the weekends you will just see families walking around and to me it was a very dear study spot 😊
- Vyšehrad – You can take a long walk on the riverside from the Main old town square, however it has also a metro station (red line). It is a historic fort, probably built around the 10th century. In this fort are located the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous Czech personalities.
- Zámek Troja: A very nice baroque style palace with astonishing gardens in Prague 7 district, not far from Prague Zoo (below on the first picture)
- Waterzorbing It is so much fun
Prague Panorama at Charles Bridge
Zámek Troja in Prague 7 district
Prague Castle panorama
What should I take home from Prague?
- Czech waffles from the Spa towns ( I love hazelnut and chocolate flavour). You can buy them at any supermarket or in the street markets
- Manufaktura body lotions and shower gel A Czech brand which produces handcrafted cosmetics and traditional toys. Some of the most popular cosmetic combinations include the ones with beer and wine. Many years ago there was a combination of chocolate and orange which was my favourite one, it is a pity it does not exist anymore!
- Medovník (honey cake)
- Handmade puppets - One of the most well-known museums and children shows is precisely the puppet one. They are sold at the stores close to the old town market – Havelské tržiště
- Czech beer - Even though I do not like it, it is the national beverage and cheaper than water. The most well-known one is Pilsner Urquell produced in the town of Pilsen (Plzen in Czech).
So after all these years, where in Prague do I have lunch or coffee? Any fancy spots to share?
To be very honest, for me Czech food is extremely unhealthy, greasy and very heavy (pork knuckle with dumplings, pork meat with cooked potatoes, duck meat, fried cheese with red fruits sauce and alike are the most typical dishes, so you get the picture). Have I mentioned already I do not like pork meat? Yes, it was quite a challenge to have dinner with friends 😊 The only Czech dish I like is Svíčková (beef with dumplings). In conclusion, when I visit Prague, I end up going to Mediterranean restaurants – check the neighborhood Vinohrady (Prague 2) it is the Foodie Spot!
My timeless fancy choice will always be Nebozízek Restaurant, one of the very best Prague restaurants. It is located on the Tower Petřín, hence can only be reached by funicular (stop: Nebozízek). As you can imagine, the view is impressive. I remember taking duck meat or rabbit with dumplings and it was very well prepared and presented. A very fancy spot for a special occasion, it is worth a visit.
Off the beaten track, close to Sparta Stadium, but it is worth the effort. During the Summer there is an outdoor garden which makes it a perfect atmosphere for the hottest days drinking homemade lemonade. Cakes are all handmade and unforgettable.
More touristic, but represents undoubtedly the great epoque of 20th century coffee houses. Has always been one of my favourite lunch spots!
A great detox place with very interesting and tasteful vegan and vegetarian options. I only discovered it last year and has very quickly earned a place in my To Do List in Prague.
How did I find communication in Prague?
- Nowadays, I speak intermediate Czech with makes communication much easier. However, when I was in Prague at that time even in the middle of the old town it would be hard to communicate in English or German, which was frustrating. On the other hand, it gave me the incentive to start learning Czech ;) Of course things change and nowadays young people learn and speak English fluently, but from time to time one can struggle.
Which cities/places do I recommend visiting not far from Prague?
- Karlstejn Castle
- Kutná Hora (last picture below)
Kutná Hora Cathedral
What do I miss most from Prague?
- Definitely the cultural and artistic diversity. For me living in Prague was the very first time I had lived in a capital city and I was just impressed how every hour I could go to a ballet show, opera, classic music concert, you name it.. Not to mention I could attend all these events with superb student discounts.
- The easy-going Erasmus life (Too obvious!): going to university twice a week, strolling around without responsibilities, enjoying life, the friends I have made, travelling throughout Europe with student discounts limitless. One of the happiest periods in my life!
Prague is one of the most beautiful European cities, personally I believe in the Spring or Winter has a special charm. Ideally you could combine it with Vienna (just 4 hours away).
It has an impressive architectonic, artistical and musical richness which should by no means be missed! To me it is much more than that, it is also home, it has shaped the person I am today and I cherish very special and romantic memories from it.
Let me know what you think of it and my personal choices 😊
See you fancy explorers!