Why go to Prague?
While planning for my Euro trip, I had asked a handful of people which countries were best to visit that were different from Rome, Barcelona, and Paris. Since my mom had already squeezed in a few days for Vienna, many suggested we head on over to Prague.
Actually, a very close friend of mine even told me to skip over Rome and spend days on Prague, Budapest, and Croatia instead as they’re more my speed. But anyhow, about 5/10 people I asked told me to make room for Prague as it’s more magical than any other city in Europe they’ve been to.
Can’t say I don’t agree now that I’ve spent almost a week in this beautiful city. There’s so much to do and see in Prague that spending only 3-4 days won’t cut it. You have beautiful architecture, great food (all for cheap prices!), and friendly people that have made this trip even better.
And so, instead of the usual short blog posts, I’ve decided to write a really long overview about this not-so-hidden gem that can serve as a short introduction with guides. Enjoy!
How to get to Prague:
From Paris, we flew to Prague on easyJet (operated by British Airways) which took about an hour and a half to reach our destination. For any other country in the EU, the flying time is more or less the same as I’ve tried it out with 4 other countries.
If you’re planning to take the Eurail, it’s two hours from Dresden (Germany), five hours away from Vienna (Austria), and finally, six hours from Budapest (Hungary).
Other than taking the plane or train, you can also go on a road trip or have someone to drive you the way as you can drive around small towns within the area.
Seriously brief history of the Czech Republic:
One of the reasons why Prague is so beautiful, is actually because Hitler thought it was ugly. Yep. In fact, it started with him wanting to bomb many parts of Europe but had thought Prague was not worth the — umm, time. And so, many of the architecture in the city actually dates back to Pre World War II. Which is a feat in itself since so many other countries had to start with rubles.
Anyhow, back in the day after the fall of the Roman Empire where Prague was earlier known as Bohemia, it was also known as Czechoslovakia. It was in unity with countries like Poland, Hungary, and Germany where they were became an independent, unitary state.
But then Hitler comes and with majority of Germans backing him up, decided to make careful separation between Germany and the rest of Czechoslovakia. Later, as it turned out, the Polish and the Hungarians teamed up with the Germans and left majority of the state.
Nazis came to the Czech Republic and even had a base camp near Prague. Since majority of its citizens were also jews, they created a separate quarter (as with many places in the EU) where the jews struggled with famine and died. Outside of this, the Czechs became slaves to the Germans in their own home and had to give up their fundamental human rights to make room for more..um, Germans.
Later on, they were free from the Germans and became a communist state after showing their support for the Soviet Union.
Present day, Czech Republic would still have traditions and remembrances of their history. Aside from this, it becomes evident with their culture as many Czechs can not converse in English, and have a different life from outside Prague’s city centre.
The fun, funny, and down-to-earth personality of the Czech
However, despite all of this, many of the Czechs you do get to meet are very friendly and good people. And yes, pickpocketing is evident as with many cities in the EU.
You’ll enjoy their wonderful sense of humour and find pleasure in knowing that they’re willing to help you out as much as possible. It’s not to say though that you shouldn’t be careful with strangers. Case in point, there are many gypsies hanging around the streets where they know tourists are around (and honestly, pretty much the entire city centre is full of tourists).
While you’re thinking or are going to Prague, here are a few things that are pretty fun to do:
1. Eat beef gulash at Lokal
Beef gulash is Prague’s “national dish” where you’ll have the chance to try really good meat with dumplings and sauce. I highly recommend going to Lokal, it’s a famous restaurant that probably only locals know about. I was fortunate to have stricken up a conversation with one of our hotel’s staff who really knew his way around Prague’s restaurants.
Lokal is located a little farther down in the Old Town square and is actually near a lot of residential buildings. It’s like a pub with lots of beer and locals. You’ll have to specifically say “beef gulas with dumplings” since the servers tend to get busy especially around dinner time.
Oh, and just so you know, dumplings in the Czech Republic are different from the Chinese ones that’s famous around the world. But hey.
2. Try Trednik
It’s a special pastry you can try in Prague that has almonds wrapped all over this special bread, and you can choose which filling you like from chocolate to strawberries and vanilla. Since I’m allergic to nuts, I had to make a special request to not have any almond in mind but just as well, it tastes delicious!
Fun fact: This famous pastry isn’t actually from the Czech Republic. It’s from somewhere in Poland or Slovakia that made its way to this side of the continent.
3. Drink lots of beer but maaaybe not as much as the Czech (or you could, ya know)
The locals drink about a litter and a half every day! They serve alcoholic, non-alcoholic, dark, light, malt and with no malt. Yep.
You can buy beer anywhere and everywhere you want in Prague without having to worry about the expenses since they cost about one euro only. Totally cheaper than water. Plus they serve it per litre! So you really have no way out of it if you’re drinking beer.
A local recommended me to try the dark with malt Pilsner Urquell to me and I was fortunate to try it at our hotel’s bar instead of the city centre since it’s tons of cheaper that way. Umm, think 25 cents cheaper but I’m not complaining. Haha.
4. Watch a show at the Prague National Theatre or at the Opera House
You’ll love that the Czechs love good music and a good show too! The prices are really cheap, and you they have a lot of English shows you can watch in the National Theatre. I’m also advising you that because this is so common for them, you don’t even have to really dress up to the nine’s.
5. Join a free walking tour and learn their history first-hand
My favourite part about visiting Prague is getting the chance to join a free walking tour by SANDEMAN’s. We also got to try it out in Paris and then ended up booking for ones in Prague and Barcelona as well.
Our tour guide, Tatiana, was beyond amazing (and no, I’m not associated with them) because she made understanding the Czech Republic’s history so easy. Plus, she also likes making jokes about their culture and give you insider tips on how to negotiate at the market.
One more thing, if you do happen to join the free walking tour, I suggest you not to buy a ticket to the President’s palace on the same day. We did that and ended up frying our brains with too much information and walking for a day. But it’s totally up to you!
6. Stroll around Josefov
Josefov is the old Jewish Quarter in the city, with shops aligning that will lead you to the Jewish Museum and the Old Syangoge. In fact, this is also where you can climb the hill that overlooks Old Town, which is a fun place to have a picnic at.
You can also wander around here for the cafes, bookstores, and many other trinkets you can find. Though I did not get to ‘get lost’ here as much as I had hoped, there are many options for drinking, eating, and being merry here. Plus, it also helps that Josefov is one of the most scenic places in the city.
7. Take photos or cross over at Charles bridge around sunrise or sunset
Since Charles bridge is one of the most famous bridges around Europe, it’s the most visited place in the city. So if you go around 9am until 4pm, you’ll be greeted with so many street performers, artists, and tourists. Ugh.
It’s really difficult to navigate around the bridge and take a good photo if you’re there during the day, that’s why I recommend going before everyone gets there or when they’ve left.
Plus, seeing Charles bridge during the sunset is definitely one for the books! It’s so beautiful, especially with street performers playing Moon River in the background.
8. Admire the view from the President’s Palace
There are many things to see at the President’s Palace like the Cathedral of St. Vitus or to simply stroll around the gardens. Or even watch the shifting of guards, like the ones at Buckingham. Before exiting the gardens, you’ll be greeted with this view of the new town of Prague where majority of the higher class tend to live.
9. Ride the boat at the Vlatva River
If you’re looking for something to finish the day with, you can jump on a river cruise around the Vlatva River. It’s a very scenic ride that will take you between two parts of Prague.
Oh, and the nice thing about doing this cruise would be how far away you are from the tourists and tourist areas that tend to be crowded during the night.
10. Enjoy yourself walking through the cobblestones at Old Town
This is it, basically! Wandering around Old Town is incredibly refreshing as you get to bask in great architecture and meet many locals with very colourful personalities.