The delightfully scenic city of Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and the largest city in the country. It is split by the Vltava River and is brimming with Baroque churches, Renaissance architecture, medieval streets and tasty treats that will make you yearn to return over and over again. History buffs, foodies, castle fanatics and grand church aficionados can all find something that draws them to this incredible location.
Sites to see
No European city is complete without a castle perched high on the hill overlooking its territory. Prague is no exception. Prague Castle was once the seat of Czech rulers, but today is the residence of the president. The surrounding grounds are free to visit, but you have to pay to enter the St. Vitus Cathedral, Basilica of St. George and Golden Lane. It’s worth the small fee as this massive structure is the largest coherent castle complex in the world.
Not far from Prague Castle is Charles Bridge. A quick 15-minute walk will take you to the edge of the Vltava River. The colorful buildings in the background plus the 14th-century bridge make for the perfect picture which captures the essence of Prague. Stroll across the bridge, stopping for photos along the way.
As with most European cities, the Old Town Square is not to be missed. Dine in an al fresco restaurant, admire the surrounding architecture and listen to the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages as they convey visitors through the cobblestone streets. In the square you’ll find the astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall. This is one of Prague’s proudest accomplishments. The clock was built in the 15th century and is considered one of the best-preserved medieval mechanical clocks in the world!
From Old Town the Jewish Quarter is just a five-minute walk. This area dates back to the 13th century when both Czech Jews and those from other countries had to vacate their homes. Despite having many of their buildings destroyed, there is still a fantastically preserved complex of Jewish monuments today. Surprisingly, this little neighborhood survived Nazi occupation because Hitler wanted it to be a “Museum of an Extinct Race.” Artifacts were collected from other occupied countries and now make up the Jewish Museum in Prague. You can also visit six synagogues here.
What to eat
The Czech Republic is full of fantastic foods, and Prague is the perfect place to sample as many as possible. Be sure to add beef tartare to your list of foods to try, a raw minced beef dish often served with an egg on top. You can eat it with bread and garlic and it pairs perfectly with a Pilsner beer.
If you prefer your meat cooked, try “svíčková” with dumplings. This is marinated sirloin beef and bread dumplings covered in a delectable root vegetable cream sauce. It is served with cranberry sauce and unsweetened whipped cream and makes for the perfect dinner. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, opt for the fried cheese. This incredible dish is exactly what it sounds like: fried and breaded Edam cheese. The ooey gooey goodness hits the spot every single time. Do not pass up an opportunity to try this!
Of course you must sample some of the local sweets. One particularly delightful dessert is “kolache”. It is a small, round yeast dough ball filled with sweets like strawberries or cherries. It pairs perfectly with the coffee you are sipping at the cafe!
While you’re strolling the cobblestone streets you’ll likely notice many places selling “trdelník,” or chimney cakes. These are rolled yeast doughs wrapped around a stick and roasted over an open flame. The dough is then brushed with butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Get them filled with Nutella and ice cream for an extra sweet treat!
Where to stay
The buses, metro lines and trams make it easy to stay just about anywhere in the city, but a few places stand out as the best. Malá Strana is known as a fairytale neighborhood. It is in the hills near Prague Castle and close to Charles Bridge. Though it can be quite busy during the day, it is peaceful at night.
If you want to be right in the center of the action, Old Town is the place for you and the obvious choice for first time visitors. New Town, though not actually new, surrounds Old Town and has lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and shopping opportunities.
If you have a creative side and crave crafty spaces, Holešovice is for you. This is a former industrial area that is now home to warehouses and factories for artists and creatives. It is located across the water from the historic city center.
No matter where you stay or what you do in Prague, you’ll want to come back time and time again. From the incredible scenery to the inexpensive food options, there is no shortage of ways to spend your days. Explore the castle, learn about the local history and indulge in a chimney cake or two. Prague is the perfect place for your next vacation.
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