With just enough time after New York to recharge our batteries, spring clean, do some washing and catch up on some sleep, we were off to Prague for the Easter weekend. It was our first time to the Czech Republic and we were curious as to what to expect. Prague is a very special city and if you can step a bit off the beaten path, you’ll find old world charm, beauty, culture and magic around every corner. With so little time between trips, we had little room for research and planning however, the feeling of being somewhat unprepared, not scheduling everything and allowing ourselves to wander was exhilarating and refreshing.
We had 3 full days in Prague which was ample time to get a taste of this romantic city. Easter weekend has its pluses in that the infamous Prague Easter markets are on in most of the city squares giving you a bold glimpse into local delicacies and traditional fair. On the downside, the place was seriously crowded and navigating Charles Bridge was a task to behold and I can imagine something much more special to experience in solitude or quietly in your own time where possible. Nonetheless it was expected and we just had to make the most of it. If we found a main street, we’d walk a block or two left or right and catch ourselves on our own for a bit and although Charles Bridge is iconic in its steadfast charisma, similarly beautiful bridges dot the river. Here you can find fewer crowds and take in the scenery with Charles Bridge in your view – so you can actually use this to your picture taking advantage.
We arrived late on Saturday after not wanting to rush travel time too much and had arranged an airport transfer directly with our hotel. Pentahotel was an excellent choice for our stay in Prague. While we were initially concerned we weren’t very central, everything was in easy reach with a metro stop and tram stop less 200 m away making any area of Prague easily reached in less than 10 minutes.
The hotel itself is stylish, modern, friendly and clean. We were upgraded to a plus room with a huge King size bed. Little extras in the room didn’t go unnoticed from Astronomical toiletries with their quirky design and copy to Easter eggs left on our pillows. Everything is catered for. The lobby is wonderfully cosy but modern with dim lighting, a bar area that acts as reception, a dining area serving delicious meals throughout the day with relaxation areas for guests to chill in. We also made use of the gym facilities which were great plus fresh apples were left out daily for guests, a nice touch. I would recommend this hotel 100% and it was great value for money. On our last day we had time to kill before our flight and the lobby area was the perfect place to take refuge from the snow that surprised us on our last day. You can view my tripadvisor review here.
The metro and tram system work on the same ticketing system so you can purchase tickets at any metro station as well as most convenient stores. Any local map will easily display how to navigate through the public transport system which is organised, clean and safe. We preferred the trams as you get to see a bit more but sometimes the metro is just that much more convenient.
We headed out in search of the Old Town to acquaint ourselves with Prague. We stopped at a small market area for a traditional sausage with bread just curbing our hunger as we began our search for dinner in the Old Town Square. We popped into Black Angels bar which we’d read about – this is situated in the Prince Hotel right in the Old Town Square and highly recommended. We chose from the extensive list of craft cocktails, presented beautifully, surrounded by glamourous décor and live music. The underground bar oozes charm and ambience from each nook and cranny of the maze-like venue.
After wandering around a bit, we came across Seven Angels restaurant and I’m so glad we did. The last table to be seated, everyone after us was turned away – we poured over the menu of traditional dishes. Maybe we were star struck on our first night in Prague but the evening experience was definitely one to remember. While the food was notably delicious – local goulash and dumplings and roast duck, we were serenaded by live gypsy music as we sat in our corner table in a cavern like dining area, decorated old bohemian style, infused with romance.
The following day after a somewhat lazy start, we took the bull by the horns and made our way back to the Old Town Square. The Astronomical clock can be found here – the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. After catching a bit of the Easter market displays, we made our way past the Astronomical clock and onwards – winding our way through Old Town towards Charles Bridge. As I’ve said Charles Bridge was very crowded but we managed to find a steady pace, listening to live musicians and gazing upon local artists as we made our way across to Lesser Town.
From here we headed to Prague Castle stopping along the way to snap pictures and glimpse up quieter alleyways. The views from the top are quite breath-taking as you gaze down on Prague below – dotted with steeples and pastel coloured buildlings. Prague castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a variety of palaces and buildings of various architectural styles from Roman-style buildings through Gothic medications – it is one of the most important cultural institutions.
It was lovely to walk through the castle gardens with the sun on our backs and to finish off we sampled some honey warm wine and a trdelnik from Mila’s – It is made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. You can find Mila’s on the steps, halfway up to the castle – a charming little hole in the wall type bakery where a single lady is making the traditional Czech rolls of deliciousness. I had one and one was enough but my goodness are they mouth-watering – I recommend going for the chocolatey one.
From here we made our way back down into Lesser Town finding the Lennon Wall and the love locks which I always love photographing and thinking about the sentiment behind these locks stuck in a moment in time. The Lennon Wall, covered in art and graffiti is a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the regime. The wall, located at Velkoprevorske Namesti, Mala Strana, is owned by the Knights of the Maltese Cross, who allowed graffiti to continue. As the sun was still out, we walked along the river bank back towards our hotel, stopping for a riverside drink. That evening we had booked a river cruise on the Jazz Boat. Phil is a big jazz fan so it seemed like the perfect fit for an evening in Prague. With unparalleled views of Prague’s historic buildings lit up at night, we wined and dined with a Jazz soundtrack making our way up and down the river. For such a great price, I’d really recommend this. There are a lot of other cruises on offer (find them here – Prague boats) from upmarket style to more traditional styles but the Jazz boat is highly recommended. For a quick nightcap on our way home, we stopped at Le Fleur mixology and champagne bar. Having only opened a month previously, this trendy spot is sure to become a favourite. Friendly, informative mixologists whip up creative concoctions in a lavish and sleekly designed venue. Sunday morning we made our way to Wencelsas Square but missed a bit of it, getting on a tram before we hit the actual market section. Luckily we found it the next day. We made our way on a scenic tram ride getting off before Most Legii bridge so we could get across on foot. This is probably the second most scenic bridge with a beautiful island halfway across and a park area. I had a reason for coming this way in particular, being that Café Savoy lies close by. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a table but stepping inside you get a glance at the opulent old world charm of this iconic café. As I longingly glanced at plates going by, I saw an array of delicacies to rival any patisserie in Paris and apparently a popular dish is dumplings in Apricot. For the ladies, I can’t recommend visiting Café Savoy enough but book ahead to avoid disappointment for breakfast, tea or lunch – this will be top of my list for a return visit.
After a quick cup of coffee at a nearby café, we made our way to Petrin hill. There is a furnicular going to the top but if you have the energy, I’d recommend the short hike to the top. It’s wonderful to be outdoors and gaze at the cityscape at your leisure. At the top you’ll find the Petrin tower, a tower similar in design on the Eiffel tower in Paris and originally used as an observation tower. There is also a restaurant, a maze etc. at the top so you can spend a bit of time up here. We walked down the opposite side making our way through the first trees blossoming. I can imagine, in warmer weather there is no better place to have a picnic or plant yourself for the afternoon with a book in hand.
As you look down on Prague, with cherry blossoms framing your view, you can’t help but feel moved by this city. After seeing some restaurants on the water from our river cruise, we walked in this direction to find a late lunch spot. We came across Certovka restaurant and while there may be better river side venues I’m sure – this we found down the smallest street in Prague and the setting was perfect. Although the cold sent us indoors after a while, a meal by the river is a great way to spend some time with the Charles Bridge as your backdrop. Making our way back to the hotel, we got dressed up ready for a night at the ballet at Prague’s state opera house. I think this is the first recommendation you’ll receive when asked what to do in Prague and I would definitely second any such recommendation. We opted for a ballet – Romeo and Juliet as I absolutely love ballet but you can find what’s on here. There are other venues too but the State Opera house is probably the most lavish and opulent of them all. Attire for the theatre in Prague has retained its formality which encourages the feeling of grandeur and old worldliness.
In search of another nightcap, we headed for Cloud 9 – a rooftop bar at the top of the Hilton. A great find giving flawless views over the river and twinkling lights below. On Monday we had covered most of what we wanted to cover – although we missed some of the museums, Prague has a lot to offer however after a full few days of sightseeing in New York and the crowds of Prague over Easter, we decided to spend out last day wandering. We found Wenceslas Square with a quieter, smaller and less touristy Easter market than Old Town Square. Close by we stopped for coffee and a cake (to make up for Café Savyo) at Café Cafe – a real gem serving only Nespresso coffee paired with delectable cakes or pastries.
We strolled the streets exploring bits of the Old Town we hadn’t yet seen and came across St Matthews hole in the wall church and made it just in time for a free concert by a touring youth orchestra. This is the magic of Prague and I was so glad to have experienced it – getting lost in the beautiful cobbled streets only to come across culture, romance and charm around every bend. With each passing building the pastel colour palette changes and you can find lovely antique shops and galleries if you look past the tourist streets. Snow put our wandering to an end although equally magical in this city and still a novelty for the Saffa in me. This post isn’t as informative as others because our agenda was slightly different for this trip – we wanted to enjoy our weekend at a leisurely pace and explore Prague’s gifts as and when we found them. I left Prague feeling content, fulfilled by its wonderful culture and romanced by its charm. My main piece of advice would be to avoid the crowds, find a few things off the beaten track, don’t be afraid to just wander or to get lost – if you do, there will always be a trdelnik or a glass of warm pivo or a local musician awaiting you.
For more inspiration visit Conde Naste Prague and New York Times 36 hours in Prague
‘If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be the diamond among the pearls’ – Anonymous