I first visited Prague about 7 years ago, my brother had just bought an apartment in the city and was keen to show us around the areas he’d fallen in love with. It didn’t take long to catch the bug and before the 4-days were up, I was already planning a return visit.
Three visits later and I’m still as firmly in love with the place as I was back the first time round. Having said that, even in the short space of seven years, a lot has changed and it feels far more tourist-orientated than it did back in 2005… it’s also a little more expensive but thankfully, charm still oozes from every back-street, pivnice, and cobbled alleyway.
Pick up any tourist guide and you’ll be directed to the most popular sights: The Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and the Castle. But Prague is so much more than that and if you stick to these major attractions alone, you will miss the hidden gems that make the city so magical! Here are a few of my favourite things to do in Prague.
Well you don’t go to a country and not immerse yourself in the local culture do you?! They say that the Czechs drink more beer than any one else in the world, and when you compare both the price and the taste to the stuff we get in this country, you can see why. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s generally cheaper to buy a glass of beer than a bottle of water. In the tourist areas, you can expect to pay anything up to 50/60 CZK (£2.00) for half a litre but if you step just a little off the beaten track, you shouldn’t pay any more than 35CZK (£1.20). It becomes a bit of a challenge finding the best-looking drinking spot for your money, and if they serve authentic Czech food as well? Even better!
There are many varieties when it comes to beer in Prague and all of them far less gassy and more drinkable than ours: Gambrinus, Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Kozel, Budvar, and Staropramen are the ones you’re most likely to come across but if you’re a real beer buff, there are microbreweries to be found allover the city offering their own unique blends. My favourite? Well it changes every time I visit – I suggest you give them all a chance Na zdraví!
Yeah, yeah, the trams are cute but I’m a firm believer that you can only begin to understand a city once you’ve walked across it. Prague is very walkable, if a little hilly in places! Cobbles are everywhere so don’t even attempt it in a pair of ballet flats, your feet will not thank you. If you’ve got an iPhone, download a walking guide and give it a go, this one isn’t too bad, particularly as you can add your own tour to the itinerary, it’s also cheaper than a guide book! You don’t get these kind of views just from sitting on a tram guys!
I’m happy to admit that I sometimes need a little motivation to pull on my walking boots and drag myself away from the shops. If you’ve got a camera, start a little project to capture the city’s beauty in less conventional ways. A city like Prague offers a wealth of quirks, some of you may be aware of my door fetish! Capture the spires, the gargoyles, statues, or the graffiti (there’s lots!) – do whatever you need to do to keep on walking, it’s the easiest but most rewarding way to get a feel for the city.
Explore the lesser-known delights of Petrin.
Once you’ve done the Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock and the Castle… don’t just assume you’ve done it all. My favourite things to do in Prague are none of those – infact, I get people rage in the built up areas (Y U WALK AT 0MPH!!!) Intolerance is my forte. Seriously though, for a little taste – here are some of my favourite places to visit in just one small part of Prague, high up on a hill… an area known as Petrin, the green lung of the city:
1. Grab the furnicular to the top of Petrin (appreciating the view on the way up) and head for the Petrin Tower. It’s a mini replica of the Eiffel Tower and is well worth the climb! You can reward yourself with an ice-cream when you get back down but beware – if you are unfit, take your time on the ascent. I power-walked it and literally couldn’t move for about three days afterward! The best view is from halfway up, so if you are feeling a little lazy – take solace in the knowledge that the very top of the tower smells of B.O., has scratched perspex for windows and isn’t “open” like the first level – you could skip it… but then you don’t get the satisfaction of knowing you climbed all the way up!
2. Get a sense of size at the Strahov Stadium. The Strahov Stadium is probably the biggest thing you’ve never heard of. That would be because it is the biggest stadium. In the world. Seating 250,000 people and holding 8 full-size football pitches, it’s a behemoth of an arena, nowadays only used to host the occasional concert. Its dilapidated state only adds to its Soviet-esque “charm” and it was indeed, used as a bit of a regime showpiece for mass gymnastic displays watched by millions of spectators during the country’s communist era. Worth a peek before it falls into complete disrepair.
3. Get a sense of proportion at the Museum of Miniatures. A great “distraction” not far from Petrin and the Strahov Monastery is the Museum of Miniatures. A two-room display, featuring some wonderful tiny masterpieces including The Lords Prayer written on a human hair and even a flea wearing golden horseshoes! To appreciate the finer details in all these mini-marvels, microscopes are set up along the display cabinets. Entrance is only around £2/£3 each and although it won’t keep you entertained for hours, it’s one of those places that will instill a sense of childhood wonder and plenty of “how did they do that?!”
4. See the stars at Stefanik’s Observatory. Sitting atop of Petrin stands Stefanik’s Observatory and its two publicly-accessible telescopes. If you want to be charmed by Saturn’s rings, faraway nebulas, and the brightest stars in the sky, it’s well worth forking out the minuscule entrance fee (around £2) for an expert opinion and a close-up view. If you can’t make it up there at night, the observatory also offers daytime observations of the sun and its solar flares and hotter-than-hot sun spots. One of the most-underrated activities in the whole of the city.
5. Get historical with The Hunger Wall and The Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Looking up at the hill from the impressive Most Legii (bridge of The Legions), you’ll see a stone wall running up the side of the hill. This is the Hunger Wall, over 1200 metres long and built in the 1300s to add to the defences of the nearby castle. The construction of the wall provided a livelihood for the city’s poor, thus earning itself its name. At the base of the wall, and indeed, the base of the hill – is a memorial commemorating the victims of the communist era, and featuring seven bronze figures in various stages of human decay. It’s a poignant reminder of those who were impacted by the regime. If you’re feeling up to walking back down the hill, this is a good place to finish your journey!
This is just a tiny, tiny, look at some of my favourite things that Prague has to offer… I haven’t talked about the shopping, food, or indeed anywhere else other than a very small part of the city. It’s not my usual posting and I’m all too aware that it might be horribly boring – but as I instagrammed my way around the city last month, I received some questions and requests for a little guide – so hopefully this was, at least, semi-interesting in parts.
Don’t worry, I won’t be doing it for all my holiday destinations and I’m not about to branch out into travel blogging(!) but Prague captures my heart, and is the one place in the world I could see myself living, other than in the UK. Part two coming when I get around to it!
Have you been to Prague?