Monday, April 29, 2013


Prague is beautiful, but the reality of the city doesn't always live up to the dream. Once upon a time it was a secret only Europeans knew about.  Charming, inexpensive, and most importantly, devoid of tourists.  It's most definitely no longer a secret, but you can absolutely still find it charming.  You just need to know what to avoid, where to eat, and when to visit.

Astronomical Clock, first stop on everyone's Prague itinerary
If you've done any research on the city, or have any friends who have been, I'm sure you've heard nothing but rave reviews.  This was the case for me and by the time I finally visited last year, it was talked up to a level so high I was afraid reality could never match my expectations.  Well, I went, and it was amazing.  I've listed my own itinerary for build it up or strip it down as you like.  

Hopefully you'll be able to catch that magical feeling Prague is known for.

DAY 1: 
Astronomical Clock at night
Head to the Astronomical Clock on your first night (hint: do not go at the top of the hour when you need to elbow your way through the crowd).  You will no doubt come back to the square again en route to other places in the city, so just enjoy the clock for what it is on your first visit.  Dinner at Kolkovna.

DAY 2:

Wake up early and head to Old Town Square before the cafes and shops open so you can appreciate how gorgeous it really is when the hawkers in period costumes aren't around.  Check out the Jan Hus Monument on your way to breakfast at Bakeshop Praha.  Walk across the Charles Bridge and marvel at the amazing details. 

Charles Bridge
Once on the other side, drop by the Tredelnik cart for a snack before heading inside St. Nicholas Church (one of the most beautiful in all of Europe). 

St. Nicholas Church
From here, walk up to Prague Castle and take the long or short tour to see St. Vitus Cathedral, Story of Prague Castle, Basilica of St. George, Convent of St. George, Golden Lane, and Powder Tower. Try to time your visit to the castle with the changing of the guard.  Their uniforms were designed by the Amadeus Costume Designer (possibly the most stylish uniform in the world).  

 Sights inside Prague Castle, including the beautiful stained glass windows of the Cathedral
Afterwards, walk to Wallenstein Gardens and if it's your lucky day, you'll catch a glimpse of the elusive albino peacock.  

Wallenstein Gardens
Break for lunch at Cafe Savoy (highly recommend the duck). Head to Wenceslas Square to see David Cerney's brilliant "Horse" sculpture at Lucerna Passage (inspired by the statue of St. Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square).  Dinner at La Degustation

"Horse" by David Cerney at Lucerna Passage
DAY 3:

Breakfast to go at Michelske Pekarny (largest bakery chain in the Czech fact: they hold the contract for McDonald's hamburger buns on this side of the world).  Take a train to Kutna Hora to see Sedlec Ossuary (a church decorated with 40,000 human bones).  Lunch somewhere on the way back to Prague (not memorable).

Sedlec Ossuary

Explore the Jewish Quarters (all part of a combined ticket):  Spanish Synagogue, Prague Jewish Museum, Klaus Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, and Old Jewish Cemetery.  Dinner at Lokal

Old Jewish Cemetery
See Charles Bridge at night.  Head to Zizkou Tower to see another of David Cerney's creations.

View of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge lit up at night
Traffic jam on Charles Bridge
DAY 4:
Breakfast at Bohemia Bagel (not recommended if you're visiting from the States, I live in Italy so Bagels are hard to come by). One last look at Old Town Square. Shop at the Open Air Market close to the square before picking up some traditional baked goods at Michelske Pekarny for the flight home.


LA DEGUSTATION: Highly recommended.  This was the best meal I had in Prague.  I almost didn't make it through the 10 course dinner.  Make sure you dress up a little. Reservations essential. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 6pm-12am. Address: Haštalská 753/18, 110 00 Prague 1-Old Town.
Food coma-inducing tasting menu at La Degustation
LOKAL: This is the kind of place I would go to over and over again if I lived in Prague.  Easy food, laid back atmosphere, good prices.  Make a reservation or go early. Hours: Monday-Friday, 11am-1am. Saturday, 12pm-1am. Sunday, 12pm-10pm. Address: Dlouhá 33, 110 00 Prague 1.
Good food, plain and simple at Lokal
CAFE SAVOY:  The duck was absolutely delicious.  Crunchy skin, tasty meat.  The bread dumplings were the perfect companion to this dish because it sucked up all the tasty juice. Cute contender for breakfast too. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-10:30pm. Saturday and Sunday, 9:00am-10:30pm. Address: Vítězná 124/5, 150 00 Prague 5.

Mouth-watering duck with bread dumplings and red cabbage at Cafe Savoy
TRDELNIK CART: The place I tried by St. Nicholas Church (22 Malostanske nam, Mala Strana) was mediocre at best, but I couldn't help myself.  Please don't judge this delicious treat based on your experience here.  It deserves better.  Hours: All times of day. Address: All over town.

There's a Starbucks next door if you need some caffeine to wash it down
BAKESHOP PRAHA:  We came here twice, not because of the life-changing pastries, but because the location was perfect.  Get the basics and you'll be good. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 7am-9pm. Address: Kozí 918/1, 110 00 Prague 1-Old Town.

KOLKOVNA:  Classic (touristy) Czech Pub.  It's open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, so save this as a backup in case any of your other choices backfire. The food was decent, but very heavy. Beer was good. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11am-12am. Address: V Kolkovně 8, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město.
Meat and bread dumplings
BOHEMIA BAGEL:  This place was decent, but  don't come here if you're visiting from the states.  I just usually try to inhale as much non-Italian food as possible when traveling. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 8am-9pm. Address: Masná 2, Prague 1, Old Town.

  • U medvídků
  • Céleste
  • Kampa Park
  • Mozaika
  • U Modré kachničky
  • The Globe Bookstore and Cafe
  • Pivovarský Klub
  • Na Verandách
  • Slavia Art Cafe

GETTING TO THE CITY FROM THE AIRPORT: The cheapest way to get to the city is to take bus 119 then transfer to Metro A which runs through the heart of the city (your ticket is valid on the metro too).  Make sure you do two things before stepping outside the airport: pull Czech Crowns from the ATM and change the bills to coins at the Tourist Information. stand  Only specific denominations are allowed for purchasing tickets at the ticket machines, which are located right next to the bus stop.  You can buy tickets from the driver, but it will be more expensive. Validate your tickets on the bus.

GOOD SHOES ARE A MUST: Ladies, leave the heels at home. Pack blister band-aids instead. 

PUNCTUATE YOUR VISIT WITH FOOT MASSAGES: Some savvy business person understood that foot massages and a walking town like Prague go hand-in-hand.  Just make sure you read the prices carefully!  If something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

WAKE UP EARLY, SLEEP LATE: I know I'm beating a dead horse, but to truly enjoy Prague, you should see it without the crowds.

WHERE TO STAY: With limited time in Prague, stay as close to Old Town Square as you can afford.  The other area hotels are concentrated is near Wenceslas Square, which I do not recommend. You will be further from all the sights and Wenceslas Square is known to be shady at night.  Not unsafe shady, but tauts all vying for you to patronize their strip clubs shady.

WHEN TO GO: I went in September and it was a manageable crowd.  Like all of Europe, it will be a zoo in July and August.  Early spring or early fall would be your best bet.  If you don't mind the cold, I'm sure a snow-covered Old Town Square would be breathtaking during the winter.

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