It’s called the city of five hundred spires, and it had been on my destination list for a decade. When I lived in France in college, Prague had somehow eluded me despite being a cheap flight away. So, when planning our route from Norway to Italy, I convinced G to let us spend 5 days in Prague. With plenty of recommendations in hand, we set out to make our way through this beautiful – though somewhat gritty – city. We were not disappointed.
We picked a decidedly terrible day to travel, connecting through Amsterdam and experiencing a 2-hour lightning storm delay. By the time we got to Prague, it was 1AM. Despite our assurance that it wasn’t necessary, our kind hosts stayed up to pick us up, hand over the keys, and get us settled into our Airbnb located in the Letná neighborhood of Prague.
Letná – on the other side of the Vltava river from the Old Town – is still up-in-coming, with many buildings in need of some TLC. Across the street from our flat, we looked out onto anarchy-laden graffiti urging bypassers to “f**k the system.” Regardless, we found the beauty in our location: its proximity to the lovely Stromovka park, which we jogged through on several occasions, and Letná Beer Garden, where we knocked back pints while enjoying one of the best views of the city.
On a health kick, we tried to walk everywhere, which not only helped us get our steps in, but was also a great way to explore the neighborhoods. We hit the Old Town first. Once there – with an authentic trdelnik (ice cream churro) in hand – we couldn’t miss the famously stunning Charles Bridge, a cobblestone walkway lined with 30 Baroque religious statues. We caught it toward the evening, and were able to get some great sunset photos before a storm came in.
Prague really is beautiful no matter where you go, so we enjoyed getting lost in the various neighborhoods, one day to the extent of a 17 mile trek! A particularly long day of walking was exploring the Castle District. Starting at the Strahov Monastery, we made our way down to the Prague Castle in the extreme heat of the afternoon. After taking a water break on the stairs (and snapping some photos of the guards in their ridiculous outfits) we continued down Mala Strana to see the St. Nicholas Church.
One of our highlights was making it to the John Lennon Wall, a colorful manifesto to love and peace. Since the 1980s this wall has been getting filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs. We loved that people are always adding new artistic contributions, so we snapped a photo next to the biggest peace sign of course.
In the hipster Karlin district, we sought to see a what was off the beaten bath. After lunch at Eska (more below) we made our way to the Vitkov National Memorial. It commemorates the Czechoslovak soldiers who died in WWI and boasts one of he best views of Prague from the top of the building. The weirdest sight we came across was the Žižkov TV Tower, a Jetsons-like building sticking out like an obnoxious sore thumb among the the rest of the Prague skyline. After getting lost in the woods for an hour, we finally made it to Lyckovo namesti, a picturesque square and park with a beautiful primary school. We enjoyed the view with a glass of wine at the nearby Veltlin natural wine bar.
I spent a lot of time walking around solo while G was working on his Sweden track (still to come!), so I happened on a few other interesting sights. For instance: did you know that Prague used to be a huge wine producing region? I learned this when stumbling upon Grébovka Vineyard, a tiny remnant of its former winemaking glory. I enjoyed this lovely relic of the past while sipping a glass of Bohemia White while overlooking Havlickovy park.
I’m a huge Frank Gehry fan, having visited (and worked in!) his many buildings in New York, the Bay Area, and LA. So I had to the see the Dancing House, a “new-baroque” style building set on the location of a house destroyed by the U.S. bombing of Prague in 1945. The building looks woefully out of place, but is truly a sight to behold. I loved it.
Eating & drinking
We’d been pretty good about mostly cooking at home while traveling, but we really fell off the wagon while in Prague. Czech cuisine surprised me and was quite good. There is a huge movement around “new Czech cuisine” which I guess means taking traditional recipes, and gastronomizing them. Either way, it was delicious. As far as drinking, we didn’t shy away from that either. The beer is literally cheaper than water (in some places), unsurprisingly Prague has the highest per capita beer consumption in the world. We certainly tried the pivo, but also made sure to sample the Absinthe-laden craft cocktails being served up by bartenders all over town town. Here were some of our faves:
- Bakeshop: Absolutely divine bakery in the center of the Jewish Quarter. We had vegetarian quiches and a pastry here for breakfast and set up to people watch in the neighborhood.
- Cafe Letka: A gem of a spot in our neighborhood serving up healthy bowls, smoothies and coffee. Gorgeous interior as well.
- Eska: This place is where the “nouvelle Czech cuisine” moniker comes from. Started by a former sous-chef of La Degustation ^, this is a light, bright restaurant in the heart of the Karlin district of Prague. We came here for lunch, and absolutely loved the freshly baked bread, amazing soups and delicious crêpes to finish off the meal.
- Herbivore: While I certainly can’t claim to be vegan, I love to scope out vegan restaurants when I’m starting to feel weighed down from eating a little too well. So that’s exactly why I sought out this lovely little lunch spot for delicious zoodles, heavenly falafel, and a yummy green smoothie.
- La Finestra: Prague does Italian food incredibly well, so we went here for dinner on our first night. They specialize in simple Italian cooking, and have an impressive wine list. Plus we had to get warmed up for Italy.
- La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise: This was at the top of our list of recommendations, with many people professing this to have been the “best meal of their life.” The Michelin-star restaurant specializes in traditional Czech cuisine, yet with a lighter touch. We ordered the seven-course meal – which you can also get with a wine pairing – and were not disappointed. Gaetan even discovered an ability to tolerate cauliflower after one particular dish. The food is brought out slowly to maximize your enjoyment- we recommend setting aside at least 3 hours for this culinary experience.
- Hemingway Bar: We heard this place was one of the world’s best bars, inspired of course by this famously hard-drinking author. I tried my first Absinthe cocktail (hated it) before moving on to a Gin Fizz, which was terrific. We snagged seats at the bar, where it was a joy to watch the bartenders do their thing.
- Anonymous Shrink’s Office: Out bartender at Hemingway Bar told us about this place. The concept is awesome: masked bartenders give you a Rorschach (inkblot) test to determine what kind of drink to serve you.
We hope you enjoyed hearing about our experience! After braving the heat of Prague, we were excited to move onto our next stop: the Amalfi Coast.