Prague is a big tourist destination, and we get why. The city itself is like walking back in time. Prague didn’t get destroyed like many other European cities during the 20th century, allowing us to view the historic buildings in its original (or close to) form. Architecture, museums and beer bring many tourists in, making it the 5th most visited city in Europe. Since I mentioned beer – did you know that Czechs consume the most beer? True to form, they know a little something about beer and yes – it is delicious. Even the original Budweiser is better here. Needless to say, Steve and I were very excited to come here and plan on returning on a future trip.
How We Got There and Around
We took the train from Oświęcim to Prague. The train was close to 6 hours, but with modern technology and a good book – seemed to go by quick.
Once arriving in Prague, we ended up taking an Uber to our AirBnb. We didn’t have to, but as we were tired and hungry, we decided to do it. The ride ended up costing only a few dollars for the 10-minute ride.
Throughout the stay in Prague, we made use of their modern public transportation – mostly using the tram and occasionally the underground. Buying tickets proved to be somewhat challenging at first. The tickets are sold at select tram locations, and only use coins. Tickets are also sold at every underground station, and we later found out convenience stores. The tickets are sold in 20 minute or 90 minute increments. By the time we left Prague, we were experts (which has come in handy in other locations).
Where We Stayed
Our apartment was near city center which was great. Our nearest tram was just a 5-minute walk. We also had a little market across the street, which helped immensely to get last minute water or breakfast items.
Our Favorite Foods
We experienced a lot of great food in Prague, from traditional Czech food, to pizza.
Lokál – Our friends Ted & Sara recommended this restaurant and thank goodness they did. Not only was the beer delicious, but the food was served in big portions and amazing. I ordered the Fried Aged Cheese with potato dumplings, and Steve ordered Pig Neck Fried Steak.
Trdelník – These are little donuts shaped like cones and it’s literally what I dream about at night. I actually feel quite surprised that the US, the country that invented bacon sundaes, has not gotten into this craze. Well, whatever, they are missing out. It can be ordered with ice cream or stuffed with chocolate. The possibilities are endless. I have read that they are very popular in Eastern Europe and I look forward to many encounters with them.
What We Did
The Powder Tower – It was built in 1485 and was meant to be an attractive entrance tower, not a defense tower. It was one of 13 original gates into the town. During the 17th century it was used to store gunpowder. Today, for a few crowns, guests can climb the stairs and get impressive views of the city.
Municipal House – We didn’t take a tour, but did go inside the magnificent building. The current building started construction in 1905. It is of the Art Nouveau style. Today, they host concerts, balls, and tours of the building.
Old Town Square – The main square in the old town, and a popular spot to grab lunch/dinner, ice cream, and check out popular tourist sites located in the square area. The main feature in the square is the Jan Hus Memorial. The memorial was put out in 1915 to commemorate Jan Hus. Jan Hus fought against the Catholic church, one of the first reformers. Hus was later burned at the stake for his actions in 1415. This memorial symbolized much more for the Czech people who viewed it as a symbol to fight corrupt regimes (Habsburgs until 1918, and Communist Rule). I have read that during Christmas, there is a huge Christmas market here and it is rated one of the best in Europe – I hope to come back to that someday!
Church of Our Lady before Týn – You can’t visit the Old Town and not see this beautiful church. It is a staple in the area, especially with the towers at 80 meters high! The church was built in the 14th century. We are bummed because while visiting, they were doing renovation work, so we didn’t get to capture it in its true glory.
St. Nicholas Church – Built in 1737, this is the main church for the Prague diocese.
Old Town Hall & the Astronomical Clock – Once again, we traveled during construction and renovation season, as the Town Hall was closed. We did get to watch the 3:00PM mark on the astronomical clock. The clock is the oldest working clock of its kind, built in 1410! The figures adjoining the clock represent Vanity, Greed, Death and Lust. On the hour the Skeleton (Death) rings the bell, and the other figures shake their head “no”. Then the 12 Apostles make their way on display above the clock and the figures. To watch a video, click here. To celebrate the 600th anniversary, they did this amazing show.
Charles Bridge – This bridge was built in 1402, connecting the city to the castle. Starting in the late 1600’s the bridge’s very plain appearance got an upgrade as over 30 statues were added to the bridge. Today, those statues have been replaced with replicas. The bridge is a not only a huge tourist attraction, but also big for street entertainment and vendors.
Wenceslas Square – This square is set up in the “New Town” area of Prague, and has many department stores and strip clubs located in the area. The area is also the scene for many city celebrations, as well as protests – including the protest of Jan Palach – who set himself on fire to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1969.
The State Opera – The theatre opened in 1888, and it was originally called the “New German Theatre” intended to appease the German minority in Prague with their own German speaking theater. During Nazi ruling, it was used for political assemblies. After WWII, the theater started doing Czech productions. We would’ve loved to get a tour or see inside, however, they were doing some renovations. We saw pictures online of their Rococo interior.
Prague Castle – This is one of the most visited castles in the world (1.8 million annually) and covering an area of almost 750,000 square feet – it is the largest ancient castle in the world. The castle dates back to the 9th century, and was once used for the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, Presidents of Czechoslovakia and is the current residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Also, the Bohemian Crown Jewels are hidden in a room inside the castle – don’t you love a good mystery? We went to the castles ticket office and bought the “Circuit A” tickets, which allowed us to get into a few different exhibits:
- Vitus Cathedral – This Cathedral is really a staple at the castle. There was a church there starting in 930, but as the population increased in Christian followers (and decreased in Pagan rituals), the need for a bigger church became evident. The current church was built in 1344, with Neo-Gothic architecture. Steve climbed up the 200+ stairs of the South Tower and really got a remarkable view.
- George’s Basilica – This church looks a lot more humble compared to the St. Vitus Cathedral, but perhaps this one has more character. The church was founded in 920, enlarged in 973, and did a major rebuilt in 1142 after a fire. One of the more interesting matters of the church is the chapel dedicated and housing the remains of Saint Ludmila of Bohemia.
- Old Royal Palace – We got to tour part of the palace with some exhibits. It includes the Vladislav Hall.
- Rosenberg Palace – The Rosenberg Palace is currently an exhibition hall with replicas of the royal crowns.
- Golden Lane – This small little street has lots of bright colored houses and has plenty of retail opportunities. We also toured the Armor exhibit hall, displaying armors from 9th century and more.
- Royal Gardens – The gardens date back to 1540 for the Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg. The gardens have another palace, an orangery, beautiful fountains and a tennis room.
Vysehrad – The remains of a 10th century fort and castle. It is now a public park, where we checked out the cemetery, the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul and the Rotunda of St. Martin. We spent a few hours here roaming around and enjoying the sun.