Czeching out Prague
I’ve been looking forward to writing this post, as it’s about one of my favorite European cities—Prague. Those of you who follow my blog probably know that one of my best friends since elementary school lives there, and visiting him was a good excuse to sneak away from my busy life and enjoy beautiful architecture and the welcoming spirit of tranquil Prague, complemented by good, flavorful beer.
I think the best time of year to visit the Czech capital is late spring. The trees are blooming, the Vltava river is reaching its fullness, and the temperature is pleasantly comfortable. My favorite activity in Prague is to start the day by exploring the city, which in my case is means revisiting already explored and beloved venues, until my feet start aching and then find a small restaurant of authentic Czech cuisine and indulge myself in amazing food and most importantly, refreshing delicious beer.
Czech beer is definitely the reason to visit Prague in the first place. I especially appreciate the taste of lagers and ales from the Krušovice and Staropramen breweries—these types of beers go great with any food without overpowering but instead highlighting the rich flavors. One of the most popular local dishes is called svíčková (strips of beef sirloin cooked in a thick sour cream gravy), which is usually served with knedlíky, sliced wheat or potato dumplings. I can honestly say that Czech cuisine is probably not my favorite, but it does have unique flavors and offers interesting methods of cooking and serving food.
The Czech Republic, and especially Prague, features a remarkable historical heritage, which involves being a beloved residence of European monarchs as part of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, a satellite socialist republic of the Eastern Bloc and finally, a democratic member of the European Union. And all this history is reflected in the city’s diverse architecture.
My tips for exploring Prague is to start from Staromestske Náměstí, the old town square that consists of several charming cathedrals raised between the 13th and 19th centuries and an old Gothic tower featuring an astronomical clock—Prague Orloj—that doesn’t work, because according to the legend, the master who constructed the clock was blinded, so out of frustration he threw a heavy screwdriver into the mechanism and forever ruined it. The legend was proven to be a historical mistake, but I still prefer to stick to it, as other explanations are just too prosaic to even pay attention to. Another famous detail of this place is that in the 19th century Franz Kafka’s family used to live close by.
The Old Town Square is also the beginning of the Paris Street that hosts multiple luxury boutiques of famous French and Italian designers. Not far from it there is a restaurant called Café Café, a favorite place of local bourgeoisie who approach the venue with especially loud roars produced by their Porsches and Lamborghinis to attract attention of the Bohemian public.
My personal favorite place in Prague is Karlův Most, also known as the Charles Bridge, built in the 15th century by the King Charles IV. The bridge is a true architectural masterpiece that unites the banks of the Vltava river. There are thousands of tourists crossing the bridge every day; therefore, the venue features all kinds of tourist attractions, from amusing musical quartets to local craftsmen with their artisan knick-knacks. I promise that the view that opens from the Charles Bridge will take your breath away. You’ll enjoy the full panorama of Vltava and of course, Pražský Hrad, also known as the Prague Castle, located on top of the highest hill in the city.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this castle is the oldest and largest coherent castle complex in the world, protected by UNESCO. Its origins go back to the 9th century, and since then the castle has been the residence of the Bohemian Kings, Holy Roman Emperors, and the presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Ladies, make sure to wear flat and comfortable shoes when you’re going to explore Pražský Hrad. I made a huge mistake during my first tour of the castle by wearing heels. Normally, I have no problems walking long distances in high heels, as I believe it’s just another casual exercise for your legs, but the streets of the complex are cobbled, so all I got was a spoiled pair of nice shoes.
Another great sightseeing place in Prague is Václavské Náměstí, aka Wenceslas Square, the central square of Prague, where in 1968 the Soviet troops invaded their tanks to suppress the Czechoslovakian revolt. A month later, student Jan Palach set himself on fire to express protest for the Soviet invasion. Sad. But apart from that, the square represents monumental architecture implemented in gray, “socialistic” colors, and is built with a slight incline so when you stand at the beginning of it, you can observe the whole place.
Prague offers many beautiful sightseeing tours, but what I recommend most is to go on a boat cruise on Vltava or rent a little paddle boat to experience a true romantic adventure. Also, if you have a chance, definitely check out a medieval castle excursion, where you’ll get the opportunity to explore a real hunting lodge, tour a brewery involving beer tasting, and then feast at the medieval-style banquet while enjoying an improvised knights tournament.
Check out my food page soon for some delicious Czech recipes. And for now, I hope you enjoyed my little European adventure 🙂