travel: Prague, Czech Republic

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

People have a lot to say about Prague and turns out after writing this post, I do too.

Prague has earned several nicknames throughout history – The city of 100 Spires. The Eastern Paris. Rome of the North. The Golden City. Heart of Europe. The Mother City. And my favorite, a Symphony of Stone.

With its skyline of spires and red-terracotta rooftops, beautiful Prague is one of the most picturesque cities we have ever been.

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It is hard to think my pictures will do this trip any justice, but here we go. The city is scattered with points and peaks in every direction. The Vltava river is lined with beautiful bridges that link the Old Town with the Castle District. Any rooftop view in the city will lead your eyes up to Prague Castle at the top of a hill.

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Simply walking around Prague and getting a bit lost is a good way to appreciate a variety of breathtaking architecture. Most of the buildings you see today are hundreds of years old. There are some scars and remnants of war in parts of the city that experienced Nazi occupation, but most of it remained in tact and it was one of the few cities that was not destroyed during WWII’s bombings.

Prague is beautiful. Seriously. Just go walk around without a plan and you are guaranteed to have a great time.  For the size of Prague we found it to be very walkable and you can easily come across many of the cities top sights without much effort.

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We spent our days walking around the city with eyes up, because every inch of Prague is pure European eye-candy. The question I kept asking myself during our stay in Prague, was, “How can it be this stunning, this magical, and this affordable, all at the same time?”

Dining, hotels, transportation, and tours all cost a fraction of what they do in other major cities we have visited. There are an abundance of things to do in Prague on a budget – here are some of our favourites.

See + Do

 

Old Town Quarters

Old Town is full to the brim of elaborate towering buildings that would make any architect teary-eyed. The Old Town Square is a historic square in Prague’s Old Town (did you guess that?) and where you can see a handful of Prague’s most famous sights — including Astronomical Clock Tower, Old Town Hall and Church of Our Lady before Týn. There are also a number of souvenir shops, food vendors, cafes and restaurants, but beware of overpriced items! Get out a snack or drink, sit down and enjoy this great spot to people watch and take in the vibes of city centre.

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A highlight for us was the walk up to the viewing area at top of the Old Town Hall. You can get to the top by either walking up the ramps or by lift. There is a fascinating exhibit up the ramps that provides an in-depth history of Town Hall with pictures from when it was Nazi-occupied. The reward for your efforts at the top are great panoramic views of the city. Definitely a place for a wide angle lens camera.

I love this view of Church of Our Lady before Týn from the top of Town Hall. The church is a gothic-style church and a dominant feature of the Old Town.  It has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church towers over the area and is topped by four small spires. It is also home to the the oldest pipe organ in Prague.

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Charles Bridge : This bridge, built in 1357, is said to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. It is a must-visit — and the best way to cross the river from the Castle District and the Old Town. It has 30 statues of saints, 15 on each side. Unbelievably, this bridge still had a tram line running across it up until 1976. Take in all the street artists, religious statues, souvenir vendors and great spots for pictures. Next time, we will try visiting at sunset.

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Castle Quarter

The Castle District is of course home to… you guessed it, Prague Castle. This side of the river has a different vibe to the Old Town Quarters. Winding cobblestone streets, loads of cute antique stores to rummage through, cafe’s with gardens and a part of town called ‘Little Venice’. Packed with history and charm around every corner. From winding staircases and corridors, to intriguing shops and cafes, getting lost with our friends and their little girls was a total pleasure.

Prague Castle : Dominating the Castle Quarter is Prague Castle. Czech leaders have ruled from here for more than a thousand years. The castle is hailed as being the biggest anywhere, with a 1,500-foot-long series of courtyards, churches, and palaces.

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St. Vitus Cathedral: Located within the Prague Castle complex, St. Vitus Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece that took over 600 years to finish. Admission is free with the cost of the Prague Castle ticket but you can pay a little more to visit special parts of the cathedral.

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Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Its history dates from the 13th century, when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their homes and settle in one area.

Over the centuries, with Jews banned from living anywhere else in Prague, and with new arrivals expelled from Moravia, Germany, Austria and Spain joining them, more and more people were crowded in.

Most of the quarter was demolished between 1893 and 1913 as part of an initiative to model the city on Paris. What was left were only six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall.

Jewish Cemetery : The Old Jewish Cemetery was the only burial place for Prague Jews from 1439 to 1787. Prague Jews were not allowed to be buried outside the ghetto, and the Jewish faith does not permit moving the dead, so the deceased were buried in as many as 12 layers. Sometimes visitors leave pebbles or prayers written on small pieces of paper on the tombstones.

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Some food history. During communist rule, all restaurants in Prague were required to serve a standardized menu from government approved recipes, for the same price as every other restaurant.  We learned that that ingredient variation was scarce in stores and many traditional recipes were nearly lost over decades of laying dormant. This meant there was little to no chance to pass recipes down to the next generation. Because of this, there are questions as to what real Czech cuisine is. The Czech Republic has been free from communism for less than 30 years and Chefs are pulling out old recipes as a statement of what they have overcome.

Many of the popular dishes in Prague have roots in Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Czech food is hardy and delicious (lots of meat, potatoes and bread). There is no shortage of goulash, dumplings, roasted pork and potato-based dishes in Prague. Prior to traveling to Prague, I did not know much about Czech cuisine but I did bring my gluten-free travel card and that was a huge help.

 

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As you can imagine, this charming city attracts its fair share of visitors, which means plenty of overpriced tourist traps. I was bamboozled into buying ‘Prague Ham’… but what I did not realise was that it was price per 100g! Yikes! The vendor handed me a plate that he said was ‘one portion size’ and lemme tell you, it took three adults to finish it off and cost… well, I am too embarrassed to say, but too much.

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And saving the best for last, Trdelníks!  Also known as chimney cakes or, as we were calling them, ‘turtlenecks’. 
Let me set this up. Trdelniks are pastries, coated in butter, rolled in cinnamon-sugar and then cooked over hot spinning cylinders over a charcoal pit. Everywhere you go, you see vendors making these funnel pastries by hand—sometimes on the street, sometimes in a shop window. Ryan and our friends were on a mission- to find the best. Try ’em all, chocolate lined, almond covered, ice-cream filled, Nutella coated… genius. 
 

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Well, sorry not sorry if you started to drool a little over the Trdelnik.

I guess this is all to say that Prague can be done on a budget, in 72-hours and that you might want to put it high on your list!

We are so grateful for the time we got to spend with our friends in Prague. It is always fun to have people to explore, adventure, and be tourists with. Especially when their daughter celebrates her birthday and you get to celebrate with a trip the biggest toy store ever! 

Anywhere in the world that you have traveled with friends or believe should be one everyone’s list?

 

Traveling mercies and lots of love

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