A few years ago I took a trip to Budapest, then a train to Vienna, and then another train to Prague in Czech Republic. I did not prepare myself for how wonderful this city would be. Maybe that was part of the charm? Everywhere you look in Prague, there was something new, fascinating, and yes, charming, that was the right word. As I am writing this, I am thinking to myself, when can I go back again?
The entire historic center of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage site and commonly listed as one of the best preserved medieval cities in the WORLD! I love a good medieval city so I was definitely in love with Prague. It also has an incredibly fascinating history as it was once the capital of Bohemia, residences of Holy Roman Emperors, and very important in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Prague has played a lot of roles but it is still standing and thriving and maybe you can argue better than ever.
Day one: Traditional cuisine and trying absinthe for my first time!
At this point in the trip, I was a bit exhausted after spending the previous seven days sightseeing. I was on an overload of new experiences, sights, smells, food, all of it. Once I set eyes on Prague, all of that washed away and I was just as excited as the first day of my trip. It was a four-hour train ride from Vienna to Prague, once I arrived and dropped my bags off it was dark and time for food.
I can’t remember the name of the restaurant I went to, but it was serving traditional Czech cuisine. Which I must say is perfect for how cold it was, the food is so warming and filling, and I wish I had a plate of meat, bread, potatoes, and cabbage now.
Next stop was U Fleků a restaurant/pub that dates back to 1499 and brews their own beer, Fleku dark lager, which is the only beer you can order. They often have live musical performances of Czech Folklore. While this place is full of tourists (don’t let that scare you), it also feels like you are stepping back in a time capsule and was a lot of fun.
The final stop of the evening was the Hemingway Bar. I wish I remembered which blog I read that recommended this bar, so I can give them a hug. If you want to try authentic rare or craft absinthe in an intimate environment this is THE place to go. Once again, there seemed to be a decent amount of English speakers, so if you are traveling alone and want someone to talk to, try here. I recommend making reservations as they are very strict about how many people they let in here, and their sister bar Cash Only Bar.
Once sitting down, a server came to the table, and I explained that I was there to try absinthe for the first time. The server was extremely knowledgeable about all of the types of absinthe they had, where they came from, what they taste like, and provided some recommendations. Then I got the whole experience, the absinthe fountain that contains water was brought to the table. Glasses with some absinthe and a really cool absinthe spoon (pictured above) where you place a sugar cube. The water slowly drips on the sugar to slowly dissolve it into the absinthe, you add as little or as much as you want. Yes, I just spent two paragraphs talking about absinthe…
After a dance with the green fairy, feeling warm and sleepy it was time for bed.
Day two: All about the Castle DistrictThe next morning started off a bit cold and snowy. The bed and breakfast I stayed at in Old Town served a very comprehensive hot breakfast. The place was called Pension Corto. Nothing fancy, as I usually skimp on where I rest my head to spend elsewhere on my trips. It was affordable, the room was clean, it was central, and offered great breakfast options.
Off into the cold and snow, I went. Wandering through Old Town towards Charles Bridge, the iconic footbridge in Prague. Took a few pictures, and made my way to the Castle District (Hradčany).
For CZK 350 (~$14.50) you can gain access to the sites on the grounds. You are able to see some things without paying, but it isn’t worth it, you are just wandering the grounds without access inside anything. The first stop in the area was St. Vitus Cathedral, which is the main attraction of the Castle District. This gothic cathedral is the biggest and most important church in the Czech Republic, it also contains the tombs of Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman Emperors.
An interesting part of the cathedral is the gargoyles on the exterior, there are over 100 all around the structure, functioning as part of the drainage system and for symbolic reasons. My personal favorite in churches is the stained glass. St Vitus’s windows were spectacular.
Now, don’t think I went to a church and did not go in the tower. Of course, I did the tower. It is an additional fee on top of the ticket you get for the castle district. The view speaks for itself.
The Old Royal Palace was barren. I spent a couple minutes inside walking through quickly, and then right back out. Maybe if I went with a guided tour it would be more interesting as there wasn’t much to see, no signs or labels, so no context. Even the Wikipedia page for the building is empty. Does anyone know what has happened of significance in this building?
St George Basilica is also in the Castle District but sadly is overshadowed by St, Vitus. It is the older of the two churches but appears to suffer from neglect.
There are two towers in the Castle District that you have access to with the purchase of a ticket. Powder Tower is a museum for castle guard items, I walked in and right back out, not interested. The second one, Daliborka Tower you actually travel down into, it was a medieval torture tower and had some medieval devices in it, cool to see for a few minutes.
The last stop in the Castle District is Golden Lane, a series of historic houses, some of them were set up to recreate different time periods and how it would be used, and others which are souvenir shops. It is rumored that alchemists used to live here and tried to discover a reaction that could create gold.
After I got my fill at the Castle District it was off to explore the city via aimless wandering, my favorite type of wandering. I could wander these streets for hours and never get bored, all of the buildings were inspiring, I felt like I was inside of a storybook.
While I was on this side of the river I stopped by U Krale Brabantskeho a medieval pub. It is lit mainly by candlelight, no wifi, they brew their own beer, and in the evenings, they have fire dancers and swordsmen, definitely something for me to check out next time I go. For now, hiding in this tavern was a way to warm up as the locals do, with enormous glasses of beers.
Day three: Klementium, a tower, and an astronomy tour!
Final full day in Prague, and of the entire trip. I can’t lie, at this point, I was beyond exhausted. This was day 10 of nonstop travel, but I pushed through.
Today I started with stopping by the Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Hall. For a small fee, you can go on top of the tower.
Next up was the Klementium, Baroque Library, and Astrological Tower tour. I had no idea what I got myself into, but it was really interesting. The tour was based on the history of the Klementium and of the astronomers that worked from there. They had authentic tools that they used to measure and document about the stars, planets, and weather. One of the main reasons I did this tour was to see the Baroque Library which contains astrological globes. Absolutely breathtaking. Sadly, in favor of preservation, no photos are allowed, the library which is a room is full of very old books, paintings, and the globes. So I guess you will have to go to Prague to see it for yourself!
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the Tyn Church, National Theater, Dancing House, Powder Tower, Municipal House, and Museums. I didn’t go into any of them, just wandering around the city taking it a bit easy, taking in the sights.
My food recommendation is to try Trdelník, especially with Nutella inside. It is a cake done on a spit (like kebab!) and topped with sugar and walnuts, purchased right on the street. It can be found in several countries around the area, and I tried it in Vienna but was unimpressed. In Prague, it was heaven in my mouth.
The picture above is from my final meal; meats, potatoes, bread, cabbage, all of the good Czech food. These dishes felt more like home than most food I have had in Europe so I enjoyed it, but it was definitely meat overload. Yes, the beer came in a liter!
I had an amazing time on this trip and I cannot wait to spend more time in central and eastern Europe this year. I feel like I barely scratched the surface during this trip.
This trip was part of a 3 country tour via train. If you want to read about my experiences in the other countries check out these articles.