Date of stay: 9 months, April 2010
Where you stayed: All over, but mostly Vinohrady
Travelled with: As a couple
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic. It is famous for cheap beer, stag parties, the skyline of church spires and the Velvet Revolution. There are many different sides to Prague and this is what makes it one of the most visited cities in Europe for tourists. In summer, the temperature can soar into the mid 30s with the main attractions heaving with sightseers, but in the winter the temperature hits as low as -20C, and the snow filled streets feel dark and empty.
Having lived in Prague for 9 months, I have seen most of what the city has to offer and really enjoyed the majority of places. The locals can seem somewhat frosty and customer satisfaction seems almost non-existent in most places, which was very much in contrast to the welcoming feeling I got from my work colleagues.
The castle is the main tourist attraction in Prague. Some people may be disappointed with the castle when they read that it is considered the largest ancient castle in the world. Once you get your head around that the fact that it is a group of different buildings and churches, rather than a fairytale-style castle with drawbridge, moat and turrets, there is much to appreciate. Try to go inside the cathedral if you can (at least once it was closed for a wedding when we visited) and the clock tower rewards a climb up the narrow stone spiral staircase with a great view over the city and a different perspective of the castle area. It is probably worth having a wander around the area before purchasing tickets to particular parts to figure out what you want to see.
The normal tourist trail then leaves from the castle, and after a brief walk you arrive at Charles Bridge. This bridge is the oldest, and for a long time, the only bridge in Prague. It is nice and wide and lines with religious stone statues, each with its own unique story and some of which people rub them for good luck. During the day in the summer this place is packed with people, little market stalls, artists and jazz bands.
If you have crossed Charles Bridge coming from the castle, then you are now in the Old Town area of the city. The Old Town is really frozen in time. There are beautiful buildings everywhere you look, so don’t forget to keep looking up to take in all the architecture. Simply follow the crowd through a couple of streets, and you arrive at the Old Town Square. This is the main part of city for bringing people together for markets, events and offers plenty to see and do. The astronomical clock is very unique and has an interesting history and just above it is are the statues that move on the hour for the audience that is always lined up to watch.
If you have enough time in Prague, there are plenty of other attractions that you can enjoy. The Petrin Tower stands on the hill near the castle, and is the Prague version of the Eiffel Tower. It offers a great view and nice walk (or funicular railway) up the hill to reach it. The Prague State Opera House has a truly beautiful interior décor, and if you are somebody that likes to put on your best outfit and make an event of the opera, then you will fit right in with everyone else. The Communist Museum, is very small and basic, but is very informative and definitely worth a visit if this part of the history of Prague is unknown or interesting to you. I came away from it having a much better understanding of the recent history of the city and an appreciation of how much the older generation have been through. Vyšehrad Castle (again not your typical fairytale castle) is further out from the main tourist areas of the city, but does offer enough to see and do to make a trip worthwhile. The graveyard there is very impressive and was reserved for people that somehow important to Prague, for example artists, a lot of which have very artistic graves.
One place that you should cross off your list straight away is the National Museum. The building itself is very impressive, but we left very underwhelmed, describing it as dusty stuffed animals and rooms of rocks. Apparently it was to be closed for four years for renovation, which should really offer an improvement, but highlights how much work it needs to have to bring it up to the level of other national museums.
The riverboat cruises offer an excellent way to see the city. Unfortunately we took one, which we paid extra to have dinner aboard, and found the food very poor compared to Czech standards. On a nice day in summer, take the cruise in the afternoon, and then find a nice restaurant in the city separately.
The Sahara restaurant near Namesti Miru, was a favourite of ours for special occasions. The prices are well above average for Prague, but the food and atmosphere are great. Otherwise the best idea is to try and avoid the tourist trap locations, and find some nice local restaurants where you will find that they make amazing pork, dumplings, goulash inside a loaf of bread and half a roasted duck with cabbage as local favourites. The Kolkovna restaurant in the Old Town is a good one to head for. “The Pub”, as well as offering good food, always has an inventive modern drinking game system. Firstly each table has its own touchscreen menu on top of several beer taps. This is used to order food and keep track of how many beers you have poured. The number of beers for each table is then displayed on a projector screen, which brings roars from tables in competition with each other to find who can drink the most. Not only that but it also compares your pub against all other locations in the chain of “The Pub” so that all tables can join in together. This may be an obvious gimmick to increase the amount of revenue, but it does create a fun atmosphere.
After dinner, the nightlife is spread across the city. Wenceslas Square busy with shoppers during the day, becomes full of tourists and stag parties looking for somewhere to go. Of course it depends on what you like, but there are three places that I would recommend. Propaganda, is an expats bar set down into an old cellar that has good live music and a friendly atmosphere. Akropolis, is an underground Reggae bar that also has a large stage for bands. It’s a bit more of a locals bar, but this I your scene, or you fancy somewhere off the beaten track give it a go. Last but not least, and one you really have to visit to experience is Cross Club. An industrial design made of engines, computer parts and anything mechanical all twisting and turning constantly. It is a huge place and filled different music and chill out areas and a buzzing vibe.
One of the lesser-known attractions in Prague are the teahouses known as a Čajovna. This was something that we discovered late in our time in Prague, and not really something advertised to tourists. The teahouses are a mix of Moroccan and Asian influences. This combines for a great relaxing atmosphere and the perfect place to chill out if you need a break from discovering all that Prague has to offer.
Overall, I would say that Prague is a great destination for a short break in summer. In a couple of days you could cover most of the sights to see, but there is also enough to keep you busy for longer as well. There are so many great day trips to do from Prague, so if you are there and lacking some inspiration, just pull out the guide book and jump on one of the cheap, but good, trains to go exploring.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your tour: N/A
Would you recommend your accommodation: N/A
Overall rating: 4/5