Prague, the picturesque capital city of the Czech Republic, is a place that had long been on my travel bucket list – and I finally went to see it this week! Riley and I were only there for a few days (with Riley working for a couple of those) but we managed to cram a lot into 24 hours of exploring this iconic city together.
Among the more famous historical sights, there is a particular modern place of interest worth visiting, the Nationale Nederlanden building or “Dancing House” (click on map below to enlarge). This was our first stop on our tour of the city, and only a short walk from the apartment we were staying in. The building itself contains office spaces, a gallery and restaurant, with a terrace on top from which you can observe the whole city. However, you can admire the bizarre architecture from the exterior and get that “leaning tower of Pisa” photo opportunity, pretending to dent the building with your own fist or foot.
From there, we walked north along the river to the old town, stopped in at a “fill your own bag” sweet shop (of which there are a few around), and paused in the Old Town Square – something that looks right out of a fairy tale and is a must-see. We were fortunate enough to experience Prague coming to the end of their tourist season so the place wasn’t overly heaving with tourists. If you went in June/July time, however, I think it would be a very different story.
If you’re looking for something a little different (and, happily, free) to experience in the town, then head to the Prague City Hall. Inside is a little hidden gem in the form of a Paternoster elevator. Now, you might be thinking, what on earth would make an elevator remotely interesting (it’s the little things in life, right?). Well, this particular 20th century elevator is doorless and it doesn’t stop or slow down. You don’t see many of these around anymore, having being banned due to safety concerns, but they were once fairly common in Europe and remain a lot of fun. For those brave enough, ride the elevator all the way to the bottom (or top) where it suddenly gets quite dark, shakes, and rumbles as it slides sideways, continuing on its infinite loop.
You’ll find these lifts if you turn right as you enter the City Hall, and follow the hallway round to the back. Alternatively, enter through the rear of the building and you’ll be faced with the lifts straight ahead. Well worth 10 minutes of your time having a go on this if you’re in the area.
Our next stop was to try some of Prague’s Chimney Cakes, or Trdelník. For this we headed to Good Food Coffee and Bakery on a narrow street off Karlova in the Old Town. The snack itself is made from a rolled, sweet dough wrapped round a stick that is then grilled, cooled and filled with things such as ice cream or whipped cream. You’ll be spoiled for choice but there is an array to match your Instagram feed. I tried the Chimney Devil with activated carbon ice-cream and coconut – going for appearance over taste was probably a regrettable choice but I did get some nice snaps. Maybe go for the Chocolate or Raspberry options if you’d like to enjoy your cake as well as Instagram it.
We then crossed the historic Charles Bridge before ending up by the “Piss Sculpture”. Installed in 2004 by Czech artist David Černý. This odd statue shows two men peeing into the outline of the Czech Republic. Perhaps even more odd, the sculpture is interactive – you’ll notice the hips of the men and their members moving to change the direction of the flow of water. If it tickles your fancy, there’s a phone number near by (or you can find it online) and you can text in a message for the men to write out in the water with their “pee”.
After enjoying a refreshing Aperol Spritz in a local cafe, we then headed up the slope to the palace/castle complex for a wander round outside and to take in one of the most stunning view points overlooking the city, found here, right by Starbucks:
We headed back to our apartment from there, swinging by the John Lennon Wall before going out for dinner at the Terasa U Prince rooftop terrace – a beautiful place to spend any amount of time overlooking the Old Town whilst enjoying a meal or drinks. From the desert menu, I’d highly recommend the Zesty Lemon Sorbet with optional vodka to finish off the evening.
Avoid getting a taxi anywhere at all costs, especially to and from the airport as drivers charge a small fortune and will even then likely bump the price up knowing you’re a tourist – expecting you to be none the wiser! Our primary method of getting about (besides our own legs) was Uber – well worth downloading the app if you haven’t already for your travels. We were able to get around for less than half the cost of a normal taxi this way. For a trip from the airport to town, we were quoted 800 czech koruna (which is around £28) for a 30 minute ride whereas our Uber only cost us about £12 for the same trip!
Be prepared for vendors trying to get more money out of you. Unfortunately this happened on numerous occasions to us (and friends). Asking for a hot dog from street vendors only to find they’ve just added 100Kč claiming that the price is different than the one on the board for no apparent reason, or adding an extra beer to your bill that you didn’t order, when out with friends, hoping you wouldn’t notice. Fair enough – these could be innocent mistakes – but we saw it happen once too often, so it’s worth being aware of.
The city can be viewed at its finest at dawn or dusk. The sun casts a beautiful glow on the city as it rises especially, plus, you’ll find the town much quieter and the streets free of people for some stunning shots. If you can get your self somewhere in view of Charles Bridge looking east – even better!
Be aware of scams and pickpockets. Like with most European cities, pick pockets can be rife in heavy tourist areas so watch your belongings when you’re out and about. Avoid currency exchange places too as these have hidden commissions and hardly ever exchange with the rate advertised (see this website for more information on exchange scams)
Lastly, take the time to just wander. Prague is a beautiful city, with many hidden gems and viewpoints to be discovered. Its one of the cheaper European cities to enjoy too, and coupled with elegant architecture, and delicious food and drink, it is a fantastic destination for anyone’s travel bucket list!