if you made it through the monster that was my budapest post, congratulations! and also thank you for indulging me. today we head to our second destination: prague! this one is still lengthy, but i promise it is not at long as the first one.
from budapest we flew to prague, where we spent two days and three nights exploring. below are the sites we saw, the places we ate, where we stayed, and our tips to having a blast in praha.
what we did.
we landed in prague around 9.15pm on tuesday and cabbed it over to our airbnb. we didn’t do a lot on tuesday night but got our fill on wednesday and thursday.
we needed food upon our arrival, and our pickings were slim. we tried a few nearby places only to find their kitchens were already closed for the night, but luckily burrito loco was open and ready for us. we were able to fuel up and plot our route for the following morning.
following dinner katie and maggie wanted to get a beer, so we wandered into klub újezd. the whole place is three floors of pubs and clubs, but we stayed on the ground floor and grabbed a table. we were all pretty spent, so we only stuck around for the one beer and then headed home to crash.
i’m pretty sure maggie and katie will agree when i claim this was the best breakfast of our entire trip. café savoy was right by our flat, and we treated ourselves to a very decadent breakfast of pastries and coffee and hot chocolate and all the delicious things. and to top it all off, by the restrooms there was a viewing platform overlooking the pastry kitchen, where i very easily could have camped out for hours. definitely check this place out if you are in town. pro tip: if you would like to eat here i suggest making a reservation; we got lucky and only had to wait about 15 minutes for our table, but it was packed when we walked past on tuesday night and the whole time we were there on wednesday.
astronomical clock tower.
after breakfast we strolled our way across the river and made our way into prague’s old town. the town’s tourist center, old town is full of tiny shops, restaurants and pubs, and hidden treasures. our first stop was the astronomical clock tower in the old town hall, where we learned about the history of the building and its renovations and rode the glass elevator all the way to the top; once there we reveled in 360-degree views of the entire city. it was a beautiful day, and we could see for miles in every direction. it was a beautiful site to visit, and it gave us a lot of historical context for prague as a whole. pro tips: go as soon as it opens and head up to the top to have a little space to yourselves; by the time we went up, around noon, the tower was packed and we had to maneuver around a lot of people. try to be out in the square when the clock strikes the hour; we didn’t think about this until it was too late, but it’s supposed to be cool.
old town square.
once we descended from the tower we spent some time wandering the square in front. there were hundreds of tourists milling about, there were artists working on sketches and paintings, there was a guy with bubbles, and there was someone dressed as a giant panda walking around. it was fun to see so many people from so many different places all enjoying the space and mingling together.
one of the places we most wanted to visit in prague was the jewish museum, which is made up of a number of different sites committed to preserving the history of the area’s jewish population. we knew we wanted to focus on two parts of the museum, the pinkas synagogue and the old jewish cemetery, so we bought our tickets and then made our way over. pro tip: your ticket gives you access to 7 different sights all within walking distance of each other; the content is pretty heavy, so if you plan to visit all the places i suggest making sure you give yourself a little break in the middle.
- the pinkas synagogue is a memorial to bohemian victims of the holocaust, with the names of every known victim printed on the walls inside. it is a very somber, very powerful sight to see all of those names and to know they are not only a fraction of the total victims but also to realize how much we will never know about others who were never heard from again. upstairs in the synagogue is an exhibit of children’s drawings made in the terezín ghetto between 1942-1944. it is amazing that these drawings survived, and they tell a powerful story of what life was like for children in ghettos.
- behind the synagogue is the old jewish cemetery, home to around 12,000 graves. the earliest tombstone dates to the 15th century, and in nearly 350 years it became such a sought-after burial ground that people were buried on top of one another to continue fitting people in. many of the etchings are unreadable now, but it is a beautiful place to stroll through and think about the lives of all those buried there.
we needed a bit of a break after the synagogue and cemetery, and we needed some sustenance, so we wandered until we found cerná madona. we rested our feet and fueled up on fries and mulled wine before making our way back into the streets.
once we had our energy back we made our way over to pragtique, a souvenir shop that katie discovered. they have stunning prints, great postcards and pins, and all sorts of locally made handicrafts. we had a great time browsing and chatting with anna, and we all loaded up on gifts for various people.
anna from pragtique suggested we stop by standard cafe for some more mulled wine, so that was our next stop. it was nice to find a small, local place amongst all the tourist hotspots, and we enjoyed our drinks while we decided where we wanted to have dinner.
la piccola perla.
we wound up at la piccola perla for dinner and had a great time stuffing ourselves with bruschetta and spaghetti and risotto. maggie got to converse with people in italian, we marveled once again at how there are italians everywhere, and once we finished we were all ready to troop back home and curl up on the couch in a food coma.
we wanted a quick breakfast on thursday morning, so we swung by café alba on our way out in the morning. they had crepes and coffee and hot chocolate, which was all we needed to get us on our way.
john lennon wall.
our first stop of the day was the john lennon wall near the french embassy. following john lennon’s assassination in 1980, an unknown artist painted a picture of lennon and some song lyrics on the wall. over the years people added more pictures, more lyrics, quotes, and various slogans and the wall become a major draw in prague. it has been repainted a number of times, so you can revisit every couple of years and see a brand new wall, and it was fun to spend some time reading the things people felt moved enough to capture up there, however temporarily. pro tip: there are tour groups that stop at the wall throughout the day, but if you wait them out for about 15 minutes you can eventually have it mostly to yourself.
maggie and katie both wanted a coffee after our time at the wall, so we stopped by this adorable pastry shop on our way out. if we had more time in the city we would have returned for breakfast.
our big visit of the day was to the castle complex. prague’s castle complex dates back to the 9th century, and it was so cool to be in a place so old and to think about all the people who have visited over the centuries.
- the first thing we did was sign up for a tour. lucky for us there was an english-language tour starting in about 20 minutes, and even luckier, we were the only ones on the tour. that meant we got stan, our guide, all to ourselves and could ask all of our super nerdy questions while he told us about prague’s history and all the famous people and important happenings we needed to know. stan was great, and he took us through st vitus cathedral and the old royal palace while regaling us with tales of the czech republic’s history as well as its current political situation. we discussed wenceslas and the current prime minister in equal measure, and stan indulged all of our ridiculous commentary. construction on the cathedral began in 1344, which went a long way in reminding me of my own insignificance, and in the palace we got to walk on the same steps the horses walked on 500 years ago. not too shabby.
- after our tour with stan we quickly popped into st george’s basilica on the castle grounds to take a look around. it is a beautiful space and definitely worth a stop.
- on our way out we strolled along golden lane. the lane is a strip of colorful houses built directly into the fortification, and they now have exhibits showing various aspects of czech life. we learned about the life of a local fortune teller, we saw where soldiers lived, we walked into franz kafka’s former home, and we were able to visit the home of a film collector. all of the houses are tiny and so very cool.
pro tips: i would definitely recommend a guided tour if you want to learn about the history of the buildings but also be able to ask questions. the minimum number of people for a tour is 4, so if there are only 3 of you you will be asked to cover the cost of the fourth person [we did this and it was so worth it]. you can also do an audioguide, but that costs more and didn’t seem worth it, especially once we met stan. check tour timings before you go, as they are different depending on the language; we lucked out big time that we didn’t have to wait too long for the english tour.
after our time at the castle we decided to take a leisurely stroll to the 7th district to find some food. we walked along the river and made our way to bistro 8, where we gorged on some soup and steamed buns. the food was so, so good and totally worth the walk.
during our tour with stan we realized we had missed one of prague’s most iconic sights: the charles bridge. the oldest bridge in prague, and for many years the only way to get from the palace across the river to the old town, the charles bridge is an architectural marvel and nowadays only open to pedestrians. it was great to stroll across the bridge as the sun was setting and to see the statues along the way [mostly replicas these days]. pro tip: walk across during the day or during sunset so you can get a good look at the statues and carvings; i’m sure it is beautiful at night, but you’ll miss a lot of the details.
we had some time before our dinner reservation, so katie found this fabulous place to have a pre-dinner snack and drink. we snuggled under some blankets on the patio, had a bottle of wine and a meat and cheese place, and listened along to the live music. this was definitely a favorite stop for all of us. pro tip: live music starts at 6pm.
art & food.
what a fun place for dinner! we had great service, the food and wine was delicious, and we treated ourselves to a lovely, indulgent dinner. the artwork on the walls added a perfect touch of ambience, the fire made it super cozy, and the live music was a great accompaniment. i especially love that all the food is seasonal and sourced from local farmers, so it was super fresh and tasty. art & food was the perfect place to wrap up our time in prague. pro tip: make a reservation; there aren’t a lot of tables, and they were all full when we went.
brothers bar & café.
we spotted brothers on the first night we arrived, and something about it drew us in, so we saved it for our final stop in prague. it was a great little dive bar and they had my tennessee honey, so you know i loved it.
and everything in map form:
where we stayed.
while searching for prague airbnbs, there was something about this one that drew me in. yes, it is a 4th floor walkup [5th floor to americans], but there was something about those slanted ceilings and the skylights that i could not resist, and maggie and katie indulged me with this one. the cleaning products had a very strong smell that got to katie’s allergies when we first arrived, but once we aired the place out all was well. it was so lovely and cozy, and it had the added benefit of having a washer and dryer, so we were able to do laundry halfway through our trip. it is on the quieter side of the river, but we enjoyed it and definitely recommend staying here.
some good things to know.
currency. new country, new currency. prague uses the czech koruna [crown], with $1 equal to about 23 czk. we did feel like prague was slightly more expensive than budapest, but we also did spend more time in “touristy” areas which tends to bump up prices a little.
transportation / getting around. prague is also very walkable so again we did not have to use public transportation a ton, but when we did it was very easy to navigate. we rode the tram once and then used the bus to get to the train station when we were leaving, and it was all very well-organized and punctual. in general we stuck to a much smaller area in prague, with our only big excursion being the walk up to district 7, so we used transit even less here than in budapest. pro tip: as with budapest, tickets are not available at all stops, so purchase a few tickets to have them on hand if you think you’ll need them. i personally don’t think a 24-hour pass is necessary in prague, but it depends on what you want to do and where you are staying.
cash v card. i did use my card more in prague so that i only had to withdraw cash once, but in general it depended on where we were. i used my card in some of the restaurants, and then katie and maggie would venmo me for their portions, which worked pretty well for all of us.
tipping. we generally tipped 10-15% at restaurants depending on service and whether or not service charge was already included.
reservations. we booked a table for art & food, and i’m glad we did as it is a pretty small place and the tables were full the entire time we were there. i would suggest booking a table for café savoy as well, as they were quite busy and we had to wait about 10-15 minutes for a table. otherwise we had no issues, but it also depends on what time you are eating. if you’re sticking to the old town area, making reservations is probably a good idea.
the old town is where the people are. the tourist area is pretty well demarcated in prague, with most visitors congregating in and around the old town and jewish quarter. we were on the opposite side of the river, and while we loved our flat, our neighborhood was pretty dead in the evenings. if you want to be in closer proximity to people and restaurants and bars, stay on the other side, but be prepared for prices to be a bit higher.
restaurant timings. in prague we found a lot of restaurants – especially those outside the old town – closed in the middle of the day or opened only around 4pm. because we often ate at odd times, that sometimes cut down on our mid-afternoon options, particularly when we were in district 7: we originally wanted to check out a burger place, but they were not opening for another 40 minutes and we [mostly me] were bordering on hangry and couldn’t wait; luckily bistro 8 was open and was delicious. pro tip: if there is a specific restaurant you want to visit, check their hours before you go.
we are now 2/3 of the way through our trip! stay tuned for our vienna adventures.