One of my favourite European cities.
I’ve visited Prague three times so far and the city continues to be one of my favourites, so this post is going to be a long one. The last time I visited was around Christmas 2017 and the difference in terms of mass tourism was quite noticeable compared to 2012. However, the city is still holding on to its charm with both hands and the crowds did not feel horribly overwhelming in the centre, even during Christmas season.
Since I am from Slovenia, Prague is one of those cities that feels much like home, as we share a similar culture, but mostly because one of the great Slovenian architects, Jožef Plečnik, also worked extensively in Prague. Somehow, the shared architectural influence and similar designs of churches makes strolling around the main square in Prague feel akin to doing the same around the main square in Ljubljana.
That said, Prague is a city with a lot to offer and best of all, it is walkable and cheap even by my Balkan standards. However, like all large cities, even Prague is becoming increasingly more expensive, if you do not know where to go, so I’ve written down some of my money saving hacks and ideas for visiting Prague here.
There are several must-see tourist points, such as the Prague castle, its gardens and the Golden lane, Charles bridge etc., which are all very nice, but have become severely overcrowded tourist points and are also the favourite fishing ponds of pickpockets. Unfortunately, Prague, much like Venice and Paris, has a pickpocket problem, so it’s best to be extra careful. To avoid the crowds, it is worth visiting those places in the early morning and have a good experience. Just stay off the Vltava islands while it’s still dark (why? here).
The Prague astronomical clock is another thing you can’t miss, as well as going into the Church of Our Lady before Týn (the beautiful black gothic church at the Old town square). If art is your thing, Prague has the Mucha museum, dealing with the works of Alphonse Mucha, one of my favourite art nouveau artists and Prague is also the home of Svejk the good soldier.
As a Slovenian, I must also recommend the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord made by Plečnik, which is a very architecturally interesting building and definitely worth a short metro detour ride to visit, but it just does not fully suit my aesthetics. As for daytrips, a visit to Kutna Hora is a great investment of your time.
Apart from the main tourist points, the LEGO museum, the Chocolate museum, the KGB museum, various islands on Vltava and the Jewish quarter are well worth the visit. In the Jewish quarter, there is the old Jewish synagogue and as legend has it, the golem of Prague sleeps somewhere under it. There is also the old Jewish cemetery, which is quite an amazing sight. Jews were not allowed to expand the cemetery beyond the allotted area, causing them to build graves stacked on top of each other within the cemetery walls for decades, which creates a great historical scenery. As for a bit of the bizarre, Prague has a museum of old sex toys, which is equal parts disturbing and funny, and if you have some extra time, the Prague zoo is also quite enjoyable. The Prague Municipal library was recently rebuilt into a giant book tower, so that one is a great sight to see too.
Impressions of Prague
Now, let’s discuss the important stuff: the food. The Czech republic is one of the few places where you can eat like a royalty even on a low budget. I tend to use my time in Czech to overstuff myself with their various delicious meat roasts, fluffy dumplings with cranberry jam, meat-based soups, pastries and of course the beer. I’ve found some amazing restaurants with not just traditional, but also quite fancy meals at very reasonable prices, both in Prague and other, less popular towns (unfortunately it was in the pre-blog era, so I can’t recommend any until I visit next time, but most of them should be good, with the most famous being the U Fleku pub).
On a side note, do avoid the salads, as they use a kind of sweet-vinegary dressing, which makes any of the salads taste more like pickles on a sugar rush than anything edible.
There is of course much more to Prague, tourism wise or else, such as quirky cafes inside book stores, an alternative pub/event space run by Unijazz, amazing waffle places, charming peaceful cafes in the middle of the busy city centre and so on, but it takes a bit of an effort to find them. I was lucky that my boyfriend did his Erasmus exchange in Prague and I got to experience a different side of Prague when I visited him. Again, unfortunately I don’t remember all the places I’ve seen, so you’ll have to discover most of them by yourself, but that’s part of the fun. He took me to a secret cafe at the top of an apartment building, which is so secret I can’t find it online, but there are other hidden places around Prague, both bars and cafes, such as the Hidden bar and the Anonymous bar. Prague really has a lot to discover, even if you are just strolling around, so go for it!
Bonus: Christmas Prague 2017
Some photos by my friends.