Oh, Prague. I didn’t know much about you; you weren’t at the top of my bucket list. I’d heard good things but had lots more places to see before I made time for you. But this January, you wowed me.
Western Europe is a hotspot for tourists as it should be. There are lots of cool things to see and do, but Eastern Europe is tickling my fancy more and more. France will forever be my second home, but my few days in Prague made me crave more time in Eastern Europe.
This small country hasn’t been free for too long and had been long held captive by communism. Cobblestone streets trickle about the city and are bordered by buildings in various shades of peach. January saw chilled temperatures, but the light snow made me forget about my frozen legs. I tried so hard to learn how to say “thank you” in Czech, but most times, I messed up, which elicited very confused or blank stares from locals. But the few times I only slightly butchered it were received by kind smiles. Most Czechs’ English is minimal, yet I was surprised at how well we were able to get around. The outside chill didn’t match most Czechs’ spirits; our hotel warmly greeted us with hot wine punch. And as we headed to the castle on the tram, a Czech lady went out of her way to ask us if we were heading to the castle and proceeded to tell us we were going in the wrong direction. (Others weren’t so kind like the bartender at Déjà Vu who was probably taking advantage of our American status and made us pay twice for our drinks.)
On your next trip to Prague, here are some things you absolutely must do:
St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle
This was a highlight of my time in Prague. The architecture is beyond stunning, and it’s ancient as it dates back to the 1300s. Stained glass wallpapers the cathedral; one photo can’t encapsulate all of this building’s glory. I’ve seen a bunch of old churches during my time in Europe, but this one takes the cake.
Prague Castle is connected to St. Vitus and pales in comparison to the majestic cathedral. But it was included in our tickets, and it’s worth a brief stroll. This spot also offers some epic views of the city as it’s far up. Be sure to charge your cameras for this one.
If you are in Prague around Christmas time, this is a must. (That being said, they’re pretty impossible to miss — just like all the trdelník stands and Thai massage places.). We went to the markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square multiple times during our few days there. During winter, these squares are filled with different stalls offering everything from warm candied pecans to wooden puppets. As you stroll through these shops, be sure to get some hot wine punch and a trdelník, which is a churro-like pastry often with a filling like cream or Nutella. Yes, please!
You might also be interested in my Christmas Markets in Prague photo diary. (One reader commented and said Prague has Easter markets too!)
Nestled in Old Town Square, the astronomical clock is also another popular attraction. It’s more than 600 years old and chimes on the hour between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Read more here.
Get epic views at a rooftop restaurant
One of my favorite experiences was splurging on a fancy lunch to get great views of the city at a rooftop restaurant. You might be wondering if we froze our toesies off, but I was surprised at how well the standing heaters warmed us up. Every chair even had a complimentary fleece blanket to use during your meal. We dined at Terasa U Prince, which overlooked Old Town Square. My caesar salad topped with an egg and heap of French fries were both pretty good, but this experience was more for the views than the culinary experience.
Another must-see for your time in Prague is the Charles Bridge. You get great views of the river and can stroll along to hear street musicians and see local artists.
This cafe was highly recommended to us, and we had a pleasant sit-down dinner here one night. Our waiter was so friendly and spoke good English. This restaurant has been open for over a century, and iconic figures such as Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka and Karel Čapek have dined here, according to its website.
Another must-see is the painted, graffitied Lennon Wall. Yes, the Lennon Wall, not the Lenin Wall. Lonely Planet says John Lennon became a sort of pacifist hero after his murder, and the secret police couldn’t keep it clean. They also wrote that “a lot of Western pop music was banned by the communists, and some Czech musicians were even jailed for playing it.”
Jewish Museum and Quarter
I’d read good reviews about this on TripAdvisor, and it was so powerful. The museum is a group of different synagogues and sites across the Jewish Quarter, so you buy one ticket that gives you access into different spots. The synagogues are stunningly gorgeous, and they lay out the story of the Jewish people in an easy-to-understand and interesting manner. The Pinkas Synagogue is sobering as the walls are covered in almost 80,000 painted names of those whose lives were so wrongfully taken in the Holocaust. One of our group members even had ancestors who worked on this building, which made it more personal.
You could easily spend a half day to an entire day here, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
The best way to describe this dive is a boujee buffet. Some group members stumbled upon this place not too far from our hotel, and it was such an enjoyable experience. You walk in and have a smorgasbord of small plate options with at least one skewer poked into it. Options included quesadillas, warm potato chips, mini hamburger on a baguette and pork with potatoes. And you pay per skewer, and it was so reasonably priced.
Eat a trdelník and drink hot chocolate
When in Prague, you absolutely must eat one of these heavenly churro-like pastries. I’m gluten-intolerant and still ordered one with Nutella and ice cream. (Don’t worry, Mom; I didn’t eat all of it.) The hot chocolate in Prague is nothing like American hot chocolate; it’s low-key like soup. And pretty much the best thing you’ll ever consume.
I was entirely wowed by Prague, and it was one of my favorite cities from my European tour. What else do you recommend to see and do in Prague?