I had no idea that Prague has such a big party scene before we arrived late Friday night. I mean, I knew that the city was supposed to have really excellent, cheap beer, but I pictured a laid-back pub atmosphere – not the myriad of bachelor and bachelorette festivities that we stumbled upon, the beer bike making its way around town, the t-shirt branded pub crawls, the absinthe and absinthe-flavored food shops, or the guys stationed on street corners with giant snakes for tourist photo-ops (not sure if the latter is exclusively linked to partying, but it was a new one for me either way). To be sure, the more relaxed pub scene is also alive and well, and that’s what we stuck with. But if you’re looking for something a little wilder, you may want to check (czech!) out the Czech Republic (though Gui says I might be the only one who didn’t know this already).
Of course, Prague is also overflowing with tourists for a reason unrelated to its beer supply (though I’m now a fan of the light Pilsner Urquell): It’s absolutely gorgeous. The old town is jam-packed with beautiful architecture and the view from Prague Castle looking down toward the river is beyond camera-ready. We spent the entire first day wandering around by foot, starting in the old town, then crossing the Charles Bridge to Prague Castle, then making our way back across the river to Wenceslas Square for some shopping and dinner. Our meal that night, might I add, was a total steal. We enjoyed some excellent beer and Czech food at Ferdinanda for what the cost would have been for just beer in Geneva. I definitely recommend it.
Sunday we spent the day at Prague Castle, exploring the exhibits, the “Golden Lane” of tiny colorful houses (No. 22 was home to Franz Kafka for a bit) and the beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral, and again filled our bellies with delicious food and beer: First at lunch, in a cafe within the castle grounds, and again for dinner, at an amazing vegetarian restaurant across town called Etnosvět. That night we went to see Swan Lake at the Hybernia Theatre, which was entertaining but nothing like the quality of ballets I’ve been spoiled by over the years at the Kennedy Center (I also grew up taking ballet classes so I have a critical eye).
Monday we spent the morning visiting Prague’s historic synagogues, which somehow survived the Nazi occupation, as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery. The cemetery is packed with tombstones sitting on top of layers and layers of graves because the community had such limited space to bury their dead. It stopped being used in the late 1700s. Other highlights included the interior of the Spanish Synagogue, with its intricately decorated walls, organ and stained glass windows, and Pinkas Synagogue, which is now a memorial to Czech victims of the Holocaust. The names of the nearly 80,000 Czech Jews who died are handwritten in tiny letters on the walls, organized by town. Seeing row after row of names… it’s incredibly moving, to say the least. No photos are allowed inside, but you can learn more and get a glimpse of the memorial here.
We closed out our trip with lunch at VKolkovně, where we enjoyed our last mugs of Pilsner, alongside goulash, bread dumplings, corn and potato soup in a delicious bread bowl. So yeah, our bellies were very happy in Prague.
A few other random notes from our visit:
- The sirens in Prague sound like American sirens! Not the sirens of the “Jason Bourne” variety, as my Dad calls them, that dominate Western Europe.
- Anti-Muslim sentiment is clearly visible in Prague, though our taxi ride late Friday night probably made us hyper-attentive to the graffiti and other signs during the rest of our trip. Our driver spent most of the journey from the airport to the hotel repeatedly stating that Prague is very safe because there are no Muslims there, as we cringed in the backseat. (He added that some Muslims are allowed into the country to open kebab restaurants, but that’s it). Not what I expected.
- The stairs down from Prague Castle are extremely slippery! I consider my Birks to have decent tread, but I would have landed on my butt several times if Gui hadn’t grabbed me.
The rolled pastries (Trdelník) sold by street vendors all over Prague are absolutely delicious, especially when filled with ice cream. Just be prepared to eat yours quickly if you come in the summer. They may look like they have fully enclosed bottoms, but trust me, and my shoes: They don’t.
Did I mention Prague is absolutely stunning? Enjoy the photos!
* Blog title adapted from the “Czech Me Out” slogan that is sported by tourist swag in Praha 🙂