Affordable, beautiful and steeped in history, Prague felt like the kind of place whose mention was always met with ‘we went there one Christmas’ or ‘oh, I LOVE Prague’ – the kind of place that everyone has already been. ‘Everyone’, of course, didn’t include me, so it’s been somewhere on my travel wishlist for a while, albeit partially for fomo reasons. The availability of cheap flights and the promise of generally low prices once there made it an easy decision when we were approaching the end of the year and low on money but wanted to sneak a weekend away in before the Christmas madness.
I must say that it all worked out swimmingly, because it’s a truly wonderful city; heaven if you’re a fan of wandering streets big and small or aimless exploring, full of enough to do if you can’t possibly be still for a moment, and chilled out enough to please those who prefer to take it easy while away. For those of you who aren’t in the group I think of as ‘everyone’ (i.e those who have been to Prague) and are thinking of a little trip, or for those of you who are just plain nosy, I thought I’d summarise the salient points.
Where we stayed
We stayed just south of the old town, in a beautiful Airbnb on Spalena Street, which runs parallel to the river. It was within walking distance of pretty much everything, close to transport for anything further afield and for airport purposes, and a wonderful base for chilling out in. The bed was huge, the shower was divine and the décor was pretty darn lovely too (hey, it helps).
I did have a small fight with the person covering the reception of the building on our last day – jobsworth, that’s all I’m saying – but still, I’d stay here again in a heartbeat, even if it was purely to hole up for a weekend and barely leave.
What we did
This was a trip that we were able to take quite slowly; we were lucky with flight times because they meant that we arrived in the city at 10am on our first day and didn’t leave until late evening on our fourth, so we really had plenty of time to savour.
Obviously a lot of our time was spent sightseeing, but we were able to move at a relaxed pace, pausing to take a million photos (that would cause future me great inconvenience in sorting), sit and drink coffee, and linger over anything we felt we wanted to. With near enough four full days we still covered a lot of ground, but we also managed a lie in – a miracle.
The Vltava River runs through Prague and we spent one of our days exploring some of the main sights on one side of it; Prague Castle (go here for the views alone even if you don’t want to go inside any of the buildings), the John Lennon Wall, St Nicholas Church and the Mala Strana (Lesser Town) area. We found ourselves ambling along the river a fair amount too, on either side and over bridges – including over the famous Charles Bridge, which is, let me tell you, close to an ordeal in the middle of a weekend day but very lovely and atmospheric when it’s not too heaving.
We wandered the Old Town, lingered in the Old Town square a while and of course stopped to watch the Astrnomical Clock procession of the Twelve Apostles which happens on the hour from 9am to 11pm. This was something of a let down, not that you would know it from the vast crowds that gather underneath waiting for it from half past the hour in some cases. If you do choose to wait from a while beforehand, just be aware that your carefully selected view will likely be obstructed by someone with no personal awareness blundering in 30 second prior to it starting with an umbrella.
One of our mornings was spent in Prague 2 – primarily for a café we wanted to visit – and turned into a trip to the TV tower. If you’ve been up anything of this nature before, you won’t be overly impressed (I don’t like the ones where there’s no outside) and while we did enjoy it at the time, it’s not one to include if you’re short on time.
Something that was unexpectedly really interesting though was a spontaneous tour of sorts that we (read: Rob) decided to book on to called Underground Walk By Lamplight. It was exactly as it sounds, down in the bowels of the Old Town Hall, through what used to be dungeons and torture chambers, and accompanied by historical stories of an executioner who worked there as well as some discussion of the paranormal. Not one of my usual city break activities, but actually really good.
I was thinking of doing a What we ate section here but I think I’ve now decided to put together a post specifically on what I ate in Prague (which is, FYI, a dietary requirements dream). For now I can definitely say that the delicious things we ate were one of the highlights, as was the sitting in various cafes, restaurants and bars warming up. We also met the lovely Natasha and her man for a night of cocktails in a 30s style bar called Tretters and drank some delightfully bougie cocktails.
Christmas in Prague
Oh, Prague knows how to do Christmas – if you’re already a lover of the season it’s an absolute dream, with Christmas trees all over the place and generally festive *vibes* abound.
Christmas markets of varying sizes are dotted all around the city on our visit – the main ones being those in Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square and the latter turning into quite the little winter wonderland. We also came across one up at Prague Castle. Shopping wise, they’re full of your standard gifts and souvenirs; we try to pick up a bauble for our tree every time we go on a festive trip and found a pretty glass snowscene one this time (as well as a creepy af evil looking cat in a stocking, a fantastic use of our remaining Koruna).
At them you’ll fine the usual European Christmas market fare; mulled wine, mulled cider, hot apple or pear juice, honey wine, ham, sausages, pancakes, gingerbread, Trdelnik (basically chimney cake, if you’ve ever been to Budapest) and the like. I made a beeline for a sort off deep fried potato spiral on a stick, because potato, and I’d highly recommend.
Praha, I’ll be back.