Prague – so much more than just a clock.
Prague is absolutely alive with culture, history and edge. It is obviously a tourist hotspot but its charm overrides the hustle. It was also the first city we had a spare day in. Looking back on our bookings we realised how much we have packed into such a short space of time and it was delightful to spend a day in bed, taking it easy and having a cooked breakfast (we are discovering the wonder of Airbnb apartments).
As with so many of these epic European cities we found the best ways to get our bearings was on a “free” walking tour. These give you are summary of the key tourist spots and puts you in front of a local who’s brain you can pick for recommendations and advice. All the tours depart from the Old town square and there are multiple companies offering tours – you can even do it by Segway or scooter if you are so inclined.
What you will discover is that Prague is another City built for walking. The Palace is up a short hill but you can catch a Tram (no.22) if you are worn out by the time you get there. Everything else is on the flat so get your walking shoes on. Check out all those little lanes and side streets and see where they lead…
The Palace is well worth a visit. After reading many reviews online we decided to forgo the tour and explored the exterior ourselves. Photo opportunities are everywhere and your climb up the hill is rewarded with panoramic views over the city. Try to save this outing for a nice day of you can. When you are ready to escape the crowds, go check out the palace gardens which are a little tricky to find but worth it for the peace and quiet amongst such a bustling city.
Two lunch options while you are visiting the palace are ‘Vegan’s Prague‘ which has an extensive and delicious fully vegan menu with homestyle Czech cuisine in a 16th century building. The other is Strahov Monastic Brewery, which is a restaurant inside a cellar which is hundreds of years old (lunch in a dungeon anyone?)
- Communism & Nuclear Bunker Tour (approx 2-3 hours) – Jan our tour guide gave us an insight into what life was like under Communism and the events that lead to (what was at the time) Czechoslovakia, becoming a communist state following WWII. We visited an underground bunker (5 stories deep) which was purpose built in the 50’s for the nuclear war everyone thought was bound to occur. We got to try on gas masks and army coats, handle Czech made rifles and soak up some pretty dire atmosphere.
- Kutna Hora / Bone Chapel Day Tour. Most people aren’t sure what to expect when the itinerary includes a ‘bone chapel’. We expected a couple of bones on a wall, maybe a skull or two. Boy were we surprised. The famous Bone Chapel has to be seen to be believed (warning, spoiler photos appear in this post). We were fortunate to visit on a day where they were excavating around the Chapel and saw skeletons being dug up out of the ground. This is not a tour for the faint hearted or easily spooked. Following the Bone Chapel the tour heads to an awe-inspiring ‘Cathedral’ at the top of the hill which would be worth visiting in itself. How does such a small town support so many churches? This is one of the questions you start asking yourself constantly as you tour around this continent.
Handy tips for visitors:
- It should go without saying, but don’t exchange money with anyone who approaches you on the street. We changed ours here which was recommended to us by our tour guide.
- Be careful of pickpockets. Thankfully we didn’t fall victim to any but it sounds like a common problem in Prague. It is worth mentioning here that we felt very safe in this City, even out late at night. We stayed around the Old Town area though where the streets are bustling with people at all hours.
- Check out Wenceslas square during the day or for a beautiful view at sunset. We were warned that at night it is a slightly dodgy area but we walked straight through late at night without any issues. Beware – if you travel with a Christmas fan you are bound to have a christmas carol stuck in your head for the next few days (“Good King Wenceslas“….)
- A better tune to put you in the mood for Prague and still just as catchy (not) is Smetana’s ‘Die Moldau’ which is the German name for the famous Vltava River that runs through Prague. Epic!