Prague is GMT+1 and uses the euro (approx = £1). The local language is Czech
Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic and a city steeped in history and medieval architecture. The best thing about it, however, is the excellent (and affordable) food and beer.
My friend Anna and I decided to visit Prague for a long weekend in early winter of 2017. To capitalise on cheap flights we took Friday off work so we could fly out Thursday night and be back early Monday morning. This made the flights almost half the price.
We arrived late Thursday evening and rather than fiddle with public transport, took a relatively cheap (18 euro) cab to the city centre. Using some nifty filter tricks on ‘Booking.com’, I had managed to find us a stunning apartment for only £20 a night. It is possible to get cheaper accommodation in Prague, but for a city centre private apartment, this was a great deal.
After collecting the apartment key we dropped our bags and headed out to find some food. We were surprised to find town very busy even though it was Thursday night and quite late. It seems in Prague everybody is always eating out. Soon we discovered why.
Settling on a cosy looking steakhouse called the Crazy Cow, we made ourselves comfortable and ordered. In short time they served us up two perfectly cooked, thick juicy steaks and 1-litre steins of locally-brewed dark beer. Obviously, steak isn’t the cheapest food around but I can assure you, it was worth the extra expense. (And the beer was only €2 a pint!)
After dinner, we strolled through Stare Mesto, the main square where the city’s most beautiful gothic church stands – “The Church of Our Lady before Tyn. It’s the symbol of Prague and truly is like something out of Cinderella.
A few too many photos later, we continued across the square and, despite the cold, walked all the way across the river and down to the Charles Bridge. By this time it was proper freezing and quite late, so we bid the gothic statues goodbye and made a bee-line for home.
Up and out early, we grabbed some takeaway coffee and crossed the river again and up a hill to ‘The Metronome’. This consists of a huge working metronome that watches over the city while ticking slowly back and forth. Bizarre, but interesting none-the-less.
We continued past a small church and through a park in search of the Prague Castle. The road here gets very confusing and we ended up getting quite lost, eventually finding a hidden route to the castle behind some kind of palace. Don’t always trust google maps!
The castle complex is very impressive, featuring nine different sections inside. Each you can pay for individually, or buy packages to see various parts. We got the circuit B package for about £5, which includes Vitus Cathedral (amazing), the old palace (not great, and seemed to be under repairs), and a few others including Golden Lane, which was my favourite.
Golden Lane is a bunch of tiny old houses which have been preserved to show how life was thousands of years ago in the castle. It has an armoury with lots of traditional weapons, as well as a torture chamber, bakery, tailor, and even a tiny old cinema!
By the time we had viewed all that, it was well past lunchtime and we were freezing, so we left the castle and found a nearby restaurant. It didn’t look like much from outside, but was very warm and cosy inside and served a delectable goose, duck and pork platter with sauerkraut and potatoes.
Satisfied and tired, we wandered slowly back to the apartment, as Anna wanted an afternoon nap. I spent the time editing photos and sampling more delightful Czech beer.
That evening we went to a popular traditional Prague institution called U’Fleku. It’s the oldest and largest brewery restaurant in Czechia, with huge beer halls where everybody sits together and they serve traditional food and non-stop beer on tap. Entertainment includes accordion players, cabaret and drunken tourists.
During our meal, we got talking to some Slovakians who, from what we could understand, had come over to Czechia to support a friend competing in a basketball match. Judging from their lack of sobriety, they had been there a bit longer than us and weren’t likely to make it to the morning match!
After the delectable food and dessert, we shared some traditional shots of Czech alcohol with our new friends. This included Becherovka and a strange honey liquor which was rather sweet, but nice (and only £1 a shot!).
Impromptu house party
Full up, and somewhat tipsy, we wandered off in search of a club called Palac Akropolis, only to find it doesn’t open on Friday nights. So instead we bought some drinks from the store and headed back to the apartment to research alternative night time entertainment.
Our neighbours seemed to be having quite a party next door, so we decided to take our drinks and see if we could join them! Fortunately, they were very accommodating, and probably just happy we weren’t coming to complain about the noise. It turns out the apartment is actually their office and they were having their annual office party, complete with alien-themed decor and a DJ!
We partied with them until about 3 am, made some new friends, and then, feeling a bit woozy, decided to stumble home to bed.
Zizkov, wine, and a night at the Roxy
First thing Saturday morning we paid a quick visit to the nearby Prasna Brana, or ‘Powder Tower’, which has an extremely thin winding staircase to navigate, but offers some great views of the city from the top. Certainly worth the visit and takes less than an hour, so if you’re ever in Prague, don’t miss it.
Zizkov, in the south side of town, used to be a communist strong-hold and is now popular with students and alternative types. It also, apparently, has the most bars per street than anywhere in Europe. Maybe these only open at night though, as it was quite dead when we got there around lunchtime. We did, however, find a quaint little wine festival with a stage hosting traditional live music. We sipped some vino and danced a bit to an accordion and xylophone band made up of what seemed to be three farmers.
Later, we headed back to town via the main square and had a look through some curio shops, one of which had a ‘husbands chair’. The proprietor informed me this is where I could rest while Anna browsed!
That night we headed out to the Roxy, a nearby club I had read about online. On arrival, I overheard a South African accent and struck up a conversation with a couple from Cape Town who had just moved to Prague. We spoke for a bit about job prospects and living in Prague, and they both seemed quite happy about the move. We danced for a few hours to relatively decent house music and then briefly considered going to check out Palac Akropolis. Deciding instead that we were both quite tired and hungry, we grabbed some late night fast food and hit the hay.
The New Town Brewery and Astronomical Clock.
On our last day, we wandered around a bit more to see any sights we had missed and ended up, by pure coincidence, at the famous ‘Novomestky Pivovar’ or New Town Brewery. We enjoyed a beer tasting of their four different beers, including a ‘sparkling champagne beer’ – rather strange tasting! The food, again, was lovely, despite being all very similar by now – always meat, potatoes and sauerkraut. This time we mixed things up a bit by adding what must surely have been a duck made in heaven.
After lunch, we crossed the Charles Bridge one last time, then finished off the evening with mulled wine and apple strudel. On the way home, we passed the famous Astronomical Clock, which up until now, had been under repairs.
Konec! (‘The End’, in Czech)
All in all, I think Prague is quite an amazing city and exceptionally affordable by European standards. A weekend is enough to see all the main sites, but I will definitely be back – if for nothing else, the wonderful food and beer!
For more on medieval European cities, check out: Krakow, Poland