We decided more or less the last minute to spend the weekend in Prague, which is a little less than 5 hours drive from our home. So, we drove off Friday after work and were in the hotel by 9PM, which basically gave us almost 2 full days to explore the city. We left the city on Sunday when it was getting dark and were home at a reasonable hour in the evening. Although Prague is quite a big city, the old city centre where all the major attractions are is easily explored on foot. That´s why 2 days are also enough time to see and experience much of what the city has to offer. And it´s definitely worth visiting the city, it has a very relaxed atmosphere and beautiful architecture, everything is cheaper than at home, food is good and the beer is even better!
I heard it so often from friends or random tourists who kept saying Ljubljana (my home town, the capital of Slovenia) was like a little Prague. And now I could see it with my own eyes – the two cities really resemble. Of course Prague is much bigger and all, but the little streets in the walking zones made me feel at home!
One of the most recognizable views in the city – the CASTLE, ST. VITUS CHURCH and all the red rooftops down the hill.
CHARLES BRIDGE (Karluv most) is one of the most recognisable sights in Prague. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge in the 15th century and stood for an important connection between the Prague´s castle on one side and the old city on the other side of the river VLTAVA. The bridge is 621 metres long and 10 metres wide, it is protected by 2 WATCH TOWERS (nowadays you can climb the steep wooden stairs in one of the towers and get some amazing views on the city in return) and is decorated by 30 statues which stand on the bridge´s wall continuously from one end to the other.
The view down from the tower.
Another view from the TOWER – you can see the city in a whole different light from here. You just need to climb up quite some steep wooden stairs and pay a reasonable fee to get in.
More views in the other direction, towards the castle and the chirch on the hill above the city.
So, now we had a better overview of the city and we decided we cannot miss WALKING UP TO THE CASTLE. The way way a bit steep but nothing a 4-year-old couldn´t manage. Along the way there were many small restaurants and beautiful shops. Also, don´t forget to look up at the amazing buildings and their facades! Once we were up, the views blew us away. There are also some cafes, or you can just rest your legs on one of the walls, while watching the city below.
The mighty ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL, which is located within the confines of the Prague Castle is the largest and the most important church in the whole country and a great example of the Gothic architecture. Inside there is also a Royal Crypt where the remains of Bohemian royals are buried.
This photo might not be the best example but believe me, there are many many many SHOPS in the old city centre! Shops with modern clothing, shops with natural products, shops with hand made souvenirs, shops with glass products, food shops and and and. Don´t forget your wallet!
Okay, first, the BEER– if you like drinking beer, this is like a paradise! It´s cheap, its cold, its tasty and it comes in so many variates that it´s impossible to try them all. Then, the food – besides the usual pizza/Italian/ fast food/salad things, there are many local specialities. Most of them include meat, potatoes and cabbage. Then there is the GOULASH of course and different soups. For those who feel more like exotic food, there are many Asian restaurants also. For deserts the most common would be pancakes with ice cream and for a sweet snack in between try the “TRDELNIK” – a sweet pastry made out of rolled dough wrapped around a stick, grilled and topped with sugar, cinnamon or almonds.
I was really positively surprised by how everything was organised and most of all, clean! Absolutely nothing to nag about the public toilets, there were signs everywhere so that it´s impossible to get lost, the metro system is easy to use and most of the locals understand some English. Okay they need to work on the last point a bit, but they are getting there.
To get a different view of the old town centre you can rent one of those funny boats in different shapes and sizes.
For a moment I thought we were in Venice!
If you walk along the riverside you cannot miss the steel-framework tower (the PETRIN LOOKOUT TOWER), which surprisingly resembles the French Eiffel Tower. Although it is much smaller, it is still very much present and clearly seen on the top of a hill. It will take you about half an hour to walk up to the hill and then you can enjoy the views from one of the observation decks.
VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY IN PRAGUE
During the communist period it was not uncommon for young Vietnamese students to come to Prague for studies, many others were also invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovak government. From the Vietnamese government point of view all this migration seemed like a good idea at was first, because they assumed people with return to the homeland with knowledge and new skills. But after the fall of communism many decide to stay and the numbers have been increasing ever since. According to Wikipedia, Nguyen, the most common Vietnamese surname, is now the 9th most common surname in the entire country. So, if you want a bit different experience head to the part also known as “Little Hanoi” – there you will find the so-called SAPA MARKET. This is a big wholesale market where you can buy all kinds of (Asian) stuff. You can also get your hair done, or buy a plane ticket to Saigon – it´s like a city within a city.
You won´t meet a lot of tourists here, that´s for sure. And if you have never been to Asia but always wanted to – this is like a little introduction. It´s pretty much the same, I just hoped for more fresh vegetables and spices and stuff like that. So, if your time is very limited I would not recommend coming here, but if you feel like doing something else than the usual – it´s a great way to spend a couple of hours. Inside tip – go there around lunch time, the restaurants looked very authentic! The market is opened every day from morning until 6PM. The connections with public transport are not ideal, we drove there with our car. If you are visiting Prague with kids – they might love this! Lots of toys there also 😉
PRAGUE WITH KIDS
Prague is a very big town, but the old centre where the most attractions are is easily discovered on foot. If you have kids that are still happy being driven around in a stroller it is perfect, but also for those already walking – the distances are doable. Hotels directly in the old town are more expensive than the ones a bit far away but if you live in a western EU country, everything will seem to be cheap anyway. The metro system is very efficient, easy to understand, clean and cheap so staying a bit out of Zone 1 is really not a problem.
Lu loved the old towers and was especially amazed by all the street artists! There were really many. He found it interesting to just listen to the music and was happy to donate a coin to each and every one of them.
Food and snacks are available everywhere and there are many other interesting things you can do with your children in case they get bored staring at all those church /towers /bridges/old stones. Prague is a great city to visit for a weekend or longer – and it does make you feel like coming back again! Lucky for us that it´s just a 5 hours drive from home 😉