Prague: A City Full of Charm

Prague must easily be the most beautiful city in Europe. While I haven’t been everywhere, I would be surprised to find a city more stunning. It was quite easy to fall in love with this city and I was sad that I hadn’t planned to spend more than 2.5 days there. Prague was left undamaged after WWII and it maintains much of its 19th century charm with Art Nouveau architecture and brilliantly colored buildings. There are stunning views on either side of the river if you climb high enough, and the Old Town streets charmingly twist and turn so getting lost is even enjoyable.

I visited Prague in mid-November when the weather was relatively mild (upper 40s/50s) which was perfect for exploring the city by just wandering around (my favorite way to discover a city). I even happened to be in Prague on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, a national holiday where I saw many celebrations and many political demonstrations as I walked around the city. Coming off of the recent US election cycle, this was a very interesting time to be in Eastern Europe!

The other thing I noticed in Prague was how friendly everyone was. I was traveling alone and managed to meet people everywhere I went, both locals and other tourists. Prague was an easy place to travel solo, and I really enjoyed meeting new people during my time here, some of whom I am still in touch. I cannot way to get back to Prague and see more of this incredible city!

Getting There: I took the train from Berlin with a short stop in Dresden for a few hours. The train ride is about 5 hours total, Dresden is about halfway between Berlin and Prague. The train station is a short walk to the Old Town (about 15 minutes walking to my hotel). You can also fly into Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport, about 6 miles from the Old Town center.

Where to Stay: I stayed at the Design Jewel Hotel, a small hotel in the Old Town. I absolutely loved it: the staff was incredibly friendly, the rooms were well appointed and updated, and there was a turndown service every night with little cakes offered. I had a single room which was quite small, but was a perfect size for me. Breakfast is included and available at the restaurant in the ground floor of the hotel. Food was delicious, there was a buffet offered as well as menu of a dozen items to order from. The restaurant was also open for meals/drinks later in the day.  Highly recommended! Easy to get around from here to all of the sights and public transit options. Because of the restaurant downstairs, I also felt very safe as a solo traveler when I arrived later in the evening.

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Havelske Market – Right behind my hotel!

Things to Do: I think the best thing to do in Prague would be to wander around (on foot primarily) and see the city as you go. Prague is a very walkable city, you will only need to take public transit occasionally to get to the castles. Many of the sights are outdoors and, because I was a bit tired of museums after being in Berlin, I opted to spend my time in Prague outside. My few days in Prague was basically lots of walking coupled with a lot of relaxing (and also so much food)! I imagine it would be especially lovely to visit Prague in warmer temperatures as there are quite a few parks around the city to enjoy.

Prague Castle – Go for the views, wander the grounds. But don’t pay for a ticket – just explore on your own. I don’t think there is much to see in most of the buildings aside from St Vitus Cathedral, and you can enter the Cathedral without a ticket (you can’t walk around the whole thing but it’s OK). After my visit to the castle, I went up to the Strahov Monastery and had a beer and lunch at Klasterni Pivovar. It was pretty quiet when I was there, but imagine it becomes very lively in the evening or during the summer! 

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views from Prague Castle
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Strahov Monastery

Vysehrad – The other castle in Prague. Take the metro/tram there and wander around, take in the amazing views. I went just before sunset, which was perfect. This is one of my favorite things I did in Prague and should not be missed. There’s a beautiful cemetery and church here that you can walk around.

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Vysehrad

Letna Park – Quite possibly my favorite viewpoint in Prague. The park is up on a hill across the river with great views of the city. There are beer gardens around the park where you can sit and enjoy a nice afternoon when its warm. 

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Views from Letna Park

Jewish Quarter (Josefov) – Recommended, you can either do a tour or visit on your own (I did the latter though a friend recommended using Wittman Tours). If you go on your own, buy a ticket that enables entry to all of the sights in the quarter and spend a few hours walking around and seeing the synagogues and Jewish cemetery. Costs 480 czk for the full ticket. 

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Jewish Cemetery

Old Town Square – Get up early in the morning and go to the square when there are few tourists around (before 8am). Check out the famous Astronomical Clock. You can also go up into the Old Town Tower for nice views of the square and the city though would do that later in the day.

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Charles Bridge – Another thing to do early morning, otherwise it is jammed with tourists. Go early and enjoy the sunrise/early sunlight on the bridge. The bridge itself and the views are incredible which makes it quite popular, but it’s really enjoyable early in the day when not many people are around.

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Mala Strana from the Charles Bridge

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Wenceslas Square – I had the Rick Steves Prague guide and followed his walking tour from Wenceslas Square through the Old Town. This was a really nice way to see major sights in Prague and learn a bit of the history (I did this on my first day). You will wander in and out of various buildings and side streets, you can stop off and take a break for photos or street food, etc as you wander.

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Art Nouveau at the Municipal House

Prague’s Municipal House is also worth checking out, even if you just walk through the lobby. The architecture and design is stunning, would be great to catch a show here while you are in town!

Eating and Drinking (A LOT AND IT IS SO GOOD AND CHEAP): 

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beef tartare at Nase Maso
  • Drink beer – It is cheaper than water and delicious. And it’s available nearly everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much good beer in my life.
  • Take the Taste of Prague tour – Best thing I did in Prague, no question. This tour is an awesome way to learn about Prague’s history and culture, see more of the city, eat delicious food, drink Czech beer and wine (yes, wine), and meet new people. The tour will take you to a number of top restaurants where you can sample dishes, have some drinks and get acquainted with this charming city. Reserve online in advance – tour costs 98 Euro and takes about 4 hours. The Taste of Prague website also offers up some tips and recommendations for your stay in Prague (not limited to food); if you do the tour, you will also get their foodie map and more tips/recommendations.
  • Czech food (traditional) – You should try the following dishes: smazeny, svickova, bread dumplings (omg these are incredible carb deliciousness), pickled cheese, and Prague ham. My favorite place to eat all of these things was Lokal so just go there.
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svickova at Lokal (and beer of course!)

Amazing places you must try (a few of these were on the ToP tour):

  • Lokal (more traditional Czech food) – Try the Prague ham (the whipped horseradish is incredible), schnitzel, and the svickova (I wanted to lick the plate it was so damn good)
  • U Provaznice – Beer hall. Come here to drink and eat some Czech food (pickled cheese!), enjoy the naughty drawings on the wall. The seating is communal tables so it’s quite easy to meet some new friends over beers and goulash. Also recommended for similar experience: U Zlateho Tygra, U Hrocha
  • Nase Maso – Butcher shop where you can also order food to eat in the shop (it’s small and crowded but enjoy it – there’s beer too). Highly recommend trying the steak tartare and/or the burger! 
  • Bistro Sisters – Open-faced sandwiches (a Czech dish) served in a new/modern way. It’s next to Nase Maso so you can try both!
  • Sansho – Highly recommended, Czech/Asian fusion. Serves lunch and dinner. Dinner is a 6 course meal (plus dessert), while lunch is a la carte. Make reservations. And eat the pork belly.
  • Maso a Kobliha – Across from Sansho, butcher shop but also serves sandwiches, sweets, and a highly Instagrammable Scotch Egg. I only had a drink here and regretted not being able to return for that aforementioned Scotch Egg.
  • Eska – Modern Czech restaurant in Karlin (‘the Bushwick of Prague’). Very cool space, restaurant focused on local ingredients. Was lucky enough to sit downstairs next to the open kitchen while I was there. The brunch looks fantastic here, by the way.
  • Cafe Savoy – Comes highly recommended for breakfast though I never made it here (I was not in Prague long enough to eat all of the food I wanted to eat!)
  • Malostranska Beseda – In Mala Strana, along the river. Recommended to come here after visiting Prague Castle
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my drink at L’Fleur
  • L’Fleur Bar – Cocktail bar with very innovative cocktails. Highly recommended! Tell the bartender what you like, they will make you the perfect drink. I found myself with a smoky Scotch drink that also included a piece of ham…
  • Hemingway Bar – Cozy cocktail bar, with cool drinks. Worth a visit for a drink or two. I had a couple of the Hemingway’s Gasoline, which I would definitely recommend.
  • Vinograf – Wine bar, you can get some great Czech wines here! There are a few locations around Prague, I tried to make it back to buy some wine to bring back to NY but didn’t have a chance.
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my favorite Czech wine at Vinograf
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