I love Prague! It’s my favorite city in Europe by far, and whatever you’re looking for, shopping, history, nightlife, romance, scenery, or medieval torture devices, this town has it all. Don’t waste your money on the little horror or ghost museums, they’re generally a rip off, but here are some of my favorite things to do in my favorite city… and don’t be afraid to try the Absinthe, it’s not that bad!
Hit a 500 year old pub!
I hadn’t even fully sat down on my first visit to U Fleku (Kremencova 11, Praha 1) when the waiter brushed me aside and slammed a mug of beer on the table in front of me. As he turned and started to walk away I told him I hadn’t ordered yet. He looked back at me, throwing up his non tray-bearing arm, and said “Well, you’re drinking beer, aren’t you?!” I think that may be when I fell in love with this town. U Fleku is the oldest pub in Prague, and from the dark wood paneling, to the leaded windows, and the traditional clothing of the staff this place feels like it has been a happy comfortable place to hang out for every one of its 515 years in business.
My favorite spot is U Vejvodu. (Jilska 4, Praha 1) Walk through the small bar area by the front entrance and down the stairs into the great two-story drinking hall below. Eat the pork knuckle, trust me it’s amazing, and before you head out to see the rest of the town, order some B52 shots with a flaming absinthe floater!
Walk across Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is beautiful in its own right and offers amazing views of the city from every angle. There are always artists and musicians set up all along it as well, so plan to spend some time crossing. The towers at both ends are open to climb up for a small fee and they also have great views of the bridge, the castle, and the city.
I would skip it though if you have any fear of heights. The rickety old wooden stairs winding up the inside of the tower may be new, but they look and feel like they date from the middle ages as well. It is worth mentioning that pickpockets do frequent the bridge, especially at the town end which is always packed with people during the day. A friend spotted one pickpocket with a fake arm in a cast, and the real arm sneaking out under his coat to dig in purses and bags. Just pay attention to where your belongings are, especially in crowds, and you’ll be fine.
Stroll the riverbank at night
For my money, the view of the castle and cathedral at night from the banks of the Vltava River is the prettiest cityscape in Europe, if not the world.
There are plenty of boat tours and dinner tours available also, if you want to get out on the water. In fact you won’t get off the Charles Bridge without getting brochures for at least four boat tours, three torture museums, and two rather exotic clubs, so they won’t be hard to find. If you get tired of all the beauty, tranquility, and romance along the river however, the building at the end of Charles Bridge opposite the castle houses one of the largest dance clubs in Europe.
Old Town Square
Old Town Square is surrounded by shops and restaurants. Before you walk around, get some hot spiced wine and a Trdelnik. It’s sweet bread cooked over an open fire and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. I guarantee you will want one every day of your trip after you try it. If there is a festival going on, the Old Town Square is where the booths and street performers will be. The tour guides will all tell you to see the huge astronomical clock here also, and it is impressive as clocks go, but don’t spend your valuable vacation time waiting for it to go off at noon. You have better things to do with your time, such as…
Deface a historical monument!
I hope you brought your spray paint, because the John Lennon wall is right around the corner. It was originally a place where young people spray painted words and symbols of protest, a lot of which was inspired by Beetles songs. I don’t know if John Lennon was ever actually here but his portrait and the words of his songs are painted and re-painted on the wall daily. Every time you go back it’s a completely different scene. Feel free to write whatever inspires you.
And if you still have time…
About an hour south of Prague is the town of Kutna Hora. In the 13th century an abbot from the church went to the Holy Lands and brought back dirt which he dumped on the cemetery around the monastery Sedlec. Over the next few hundred years the cemetery was a very desirable place to be buried, and during the many plagues that..uh..plagued Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, there were too many bodies to be buried. Some of the monks at the monastery began to decorate the walls of the chapel with the bones of some 30-40 thousand people… because, what else are you going to do with that many bones? Kutna Hora is a sleepy little town, but if you have half a day or so to sneak down from Prague, the Sedlec Ossuary is worth a side trip.
Where will you go in Prague?
photos via Michael Ball