As a general rule, the cities of the lost bohemian era are beautiful. Their pastel walls and sculpted arches are gloriously photo-friendly and prettily positioned for posing beside, and their cultures are enticing and addictive. Their history is written into the tragic losses of the individual, and the collective victories of the many, and no matter how far away from home you may be, you can always find a small touch of the familiar in their urban landscapes. Like many other cities surrounding it, Prague’s history, its present and its future have become a tourist haven, and I was incredibly lucky to get the chance to join the masses and discover for myself just what exactly draws so many to this City of A Thousand Spires (and far too many Starbucks to imagine!).
There are so many little secrets I picked up on when exploring Prague that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Do I start with the restaurant reviews or the sightseers guide? For those of you who would journey here with a tripod in one hand and a Canon in the other and nothing in your pocket but a barely used lens cap, there are a million different sights I can recommend. On our very first night here, we were lucky enough to spend the evening eating by the Vltava – the endless river that twists throughout the Republic, lining everything from the Bohemian Forest to the outskirts of city itself – and if you can catch it in the right light, it’s amazing to experience. There are a hundred different things happening along the pier beside it, from boat hotels to beer festivals, and if you walk far enough you can reach the first of many beautiful bridges in the Prague…a perfect spot for a photo op.
Another little lens happy destination to investigate would definitely have to be the Old Town, right at the heart of the city, where only the biggest and busiest buildings can live. This is where you will encounter a maze of shops and apartment buildings that somehow don’t quite feel real, as if one gentle push could tip the elegant cardboard-cutouts over and into the cobbles below. Each interior feels a little like a mock shop, as if plastic people from history would be sat at the pizzeria or posing behind souvenir counters – as if nothing could believably be that beautiful. To walk to the central square, you must first encounter the Astronomical Clock, and once you’re there, I’m afraid your entire day is lost. Most likely stolen away inside half a dozen memory cards, and the remaining dregs of your camera battery. Every city should have on of these clocks, they’re mesmerising. With two astrologically detailed faces framing the ancient 13th century stonework, this clock actually has so many surprisingly mythological properties that it is definitely worth researching. Local legend even states that if the clock is not properly maintained, and its beauty neglected, the city will suffer, alongside all of its inhabitants. After its construction, the residents actually blinded the clockmaker so he would never be able to re-create his masterpiece for any other city in the world.
Astronomical Clock, Old Market Square. Designed by Mikuláš of Kadañ
So far we’ve drunk more high end coffee than biologically polite, pigged out on Japanese sushi and Parisian macarons, and spent over 1000Kč on one fancy river-side dinner. Luckily for us, however, 1000Kč between two of us actually worked out to be around £15 each in UK money, so essentially we dined on duck liver and goats cheese bruschetta for the same price as a regular cheeky Nandos! I’ve yet to have a meal I didn’t adore here, and there are so many restaurants and cafe I’m sad we won’t get to try out. When you’re hungry, and have been on your feet for hours watching the sunset turn the baby pink promenades orange, it feels like all you see are restaurants. Personally, I would’ve loved to check out the pricey posh place on the 7th floor of the Dancing Tower…dinner with a city view is my kind of food.
Love Locks and Waterwheel, Malá Strana District
In terms of travel, it’s actually surprisingly easy to get around. To stay near the city centre means the biggest tourist spots are all within walking distance, but if you fancy drifting a little further afield, I’ve come to notice their Metro system is actually a whole lot easier to understand than the English one. Their lines are limited to three, and you don’t need a Duke of Edinburgh award to navigate across them. Just make sure you have enough coins for the ridiculously cheap one way tickets…we had to rely on the kindness of an English speaking resident to help us out for this one, for which we are incredibly grateful. And evening entertainment? Well, having just sat through what was perhaps one of the most bizarre yet hilarious and absorbing Black Light Theatre performances the city has to offer, I can definitely argue you won’t be stuck for ideas. If watching Mr Bean at a neon rave sounds like your kind of show, or you have a taste for the more quirky and inventive spectrum of performance, then you will definitely enjoy one of these.
As we were only visiting the city for a few days, we knew wouldn’t get the chance to explore everything we would’ve wanted to, so on our final day there we hired out a tour guide to take us and a handful of other tourists on a sightseeing adventure across the river. On segways. Yes, segways. Those big motorised scooters that look like a hybrid of a hover board and a hoover. But once we’d had our introductory lesson on how to use them (and I’d accidentally caused my mum to crash face first into the cobbled road below) we actually had the best time sweeping through the streets on these strange, noisy inventions. Though we perhaps didn’t have as much time as you would need to fully explore some of the places we visited, it was still so exciting to learn about some of the quirkier and more personal details of Prague’s history, from an actual native. Our tour guide, Andrew (who fancied my mum), took us to some of the most beautiful and moving places on our route, from the Old Jewish Cemetery, to a park-side protest of Communist tyranny, to the John Lennon Wall, which, on the day we visited it, hosted this particularly poignant message.
John Lennon Wall, Grand Priory Sqaure
Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Petrín Hill
I could write a thousand more words on my Prague adventures, and then a thousand more on some of the tinier details I would want travellers to know. Everything is cheaper than you think, so many residents here do speak English (beautifully too, I might add), the sizes of clothes definitely vary so try everything on before you buy, toilet doors are red when unlocked, and segways are a lot safer to travel on than you might think. Oh, and don’t be afraid of the toaster in your hotel. It may look like a Saw trap, but just use the tongs, wear protection, and prepare a second slice just in the case the first one emerges in embers. Good luck!
Thank you so much for reading, I have fallen completely in love Prague throughout the week and I can’t wait to write up the rest of my adventures when I get home!