Beer. Architecture. Repeat. To Bohemia, and beyond!
Everyone I spoke to before going to Prague raved about how much they loved it, and SPOILER ALERT: I am about to do the exact same. This city is unique, and truly has something to offer everyone. I had plenty of time to plan this trip, so when we set off for our weekend, I was feeling like my itinerary was the bomb.com. Let's see if you agree!
From our spot in Germany, Prague is reachable by plane, train, and automobile. We chose the third option, which is actually quite rare for us. The only negative thing I am going to say about Prague is that parking is horrible. I know that's a common factor in Europe, but it's a common trend here even more so than usual. One rule of thumb: even if your hotel advertises parking, call and see if you need to reserve a space, ask how many spaces they have vs. how many rooms in the hotel, and check out google maps to locate a possible parking garage nearby, just in case. Speaking from experience here if you can tell. Now that I have that out of the way, let's talk sights to see.
A small enclave of Prague is the Josefov, or Jewish Quarter. This now-posh area is lined with upscale designer boutiques, so it's hard to imagine it was formerly a Jewish ghetto. In this neighborhood you will find a handful of Synagogues, Franz Kafka's birthplace, and the Old Jewish Cemetery (apparently no one came up with a fancier name for that one); the area is surrounded by the Old Town neighborhood.
One staple of Old Town is the Astronomical Clock, installed as part of the Town Hall in 1410. This is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, and the OLDEST that is still functioning, which is good because no one likes third place, even in a clock contest. The clock was severely damaged in May 1945 during the Prague Uprising- when Czech resistance attempted to free Prague from German occupation during WWII- but it kept on ticking! Personally, I felt like the Glockenspiel in Munich put on a better "show", but I don't even have watches that last more than 5 years so I am going to stop hating on this 600+ year old clock. Another tid-bit: it's a major tourist hot spot which means sticky fingers in the crowd, so watch your wallets. You're welcome.
An oldie but a goodie, the largest ancient castle, according to Guinness World Records is the glorious Prague Castle, nestled on a hill. This sprawling complex is dated back to the 9th century, and has housed VIP's from the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, and Presidents of the former country, Czechoslovakia (dissolved in 1993). These days, the President of the Czech Republic lives here, among multiple churches, halls, residences, and gardens. Also, I wasn't joking about the hill- it will get the hamstrings burning, but great for working off some of those beer calories.
The view from castle grounds, overlooking Old and New Town in the distance.
Of course I can't talk about the Czech Republic without talking about beer, as if I didn't talk about it in other posts, right? Czechs are SUPER SERIOUS about their beer. Out of respect for their culture, it was only right for us to attend a Czech beer class and tasting in the 2nd oldest house in Prague. If you want to hang out in a house from the 1100's, and learn everything about beer from the ingredients to the brewing process, the manipulation of both, and the different beers it will yield, this is for you! We have visited breweries before, big and small, and still found more to learn in this instructional ingestion. The class itself lasted just over two hours with ELEVEN samples, two of which were full size (děkuji/thank you) along with perfect Czech cheese pairings. Leave a comment below if you'd like the name of the class. In summation: brew on, Bohemia!
After our informative class, we strolled over to an incredible underground beer
spa in Old Town. Who ever decided it was a good idea to combine these two things is my new best friend because we had SO much fun here! After robing, we were escorted to a relaxing candle lit room with a large wooden tub of warm water (C.R. is known for mineral-rich water) and a secret recipe mixture of malt, hops, and yeast, which is used during the brewing process. This mixture resulted in a soothing scent and silky soft skin. All the while, lager is free flowing because you have a unlimited tap conveniently built in right by your side. Begin: beer tub photo session! After your 30 minute tub time, you are taken to a relaxation room to enjoy a massage, and more beer, of course. We opted to visit the spa on Sunday night which was the perfect time to relax after a full weekend of touring, taking selfies, and ticking things off the bucket list.
BEER. BUBBLE. BLISS.
Such a memorable, unique, and delicious experience!
I didn't forget that I promised you architecture. I have found that many cities in Europe that I have gone to have a certain "look", and I didn't find that common thread in Prague, largely because it was hardly touched during WWII. Are you into round, Romanesque churches? Head to St. George's Basilica at the Prague Castle. Do you dig soaring spires? Good, Prague has plenty of these staples of Gothic Architecture in its many churches. Renaissance, Baroque, Cubist (this didn't really catch on outside of Prague), and even the sterile, stark construction from the Communist phase can be found here. One afternoon, we took a historical walking tour through Prague (Shout out to Sandeman's Tours), and standing on one corner in New Town you could see examples of each type of architecture, just by turning your head left and right.
As for nightlife, Prague leaves little to the imagination! We did seriously consider czeching out a crazy European club (think: Eurotrip, the movie) but unfortunately we forgot our glowsticks at home, so we opted for a few upscale cocktail lounges. With a romantic 1920's vibe, L'Fleur was easily one of my favorites. No matter what your spirit of choice is, chances are that you will have plenty of options that tickle your fancy on the cocktail menu... but if not, just tell one of the mixologists what you're into and they will be sure to create something special for you. One of my drinks involved a mini blowtorch and a spritz of rose water- no joke! Their cocktails don't only appeal to your sense of taste, but the scent, look, and feel of the glassware they serve it in is all expertly curated. If you have more simple taste for the finer things in life, this spot boasts an extraordinary champagne list. As if that isn't enough of a reason to go, the bartenders wear ascots- fancy! I should also mention that you're getting incredible cocktails without the top shelf price; I think most of ours were around $10, after the conversion rate. Yes, I am dying to go back, and yes, you should make a rez if you're planning on going- you WILL need a reservation, even to sit at the bar. Sitting at the bar is half of the fun because the mixologists really put on a show here! CHEERS!
While on this trip, we took a day long detour through the Czech countryside to Kutna Hora, which you can read about HERE. Kutna Hora is Prague's little brother, with rich history and one of the coolest (and creepiest) churches in the world.
PS: Fellow Texans, I know what you're thinking, and YES, I went on a search throughout the city (aslo Yelp and TripAdvisor) looking for kolaches. After much disappointment and some obligatory additional research, I came to the realization that I wouldn't be able to get a "hot chubby" kolache while in Prague, though the pastry does indeed originate in Central Europe. The comparable pastries in Prague are more a semi-sweet dessert type, not so much the sausage and cheese filled bundles of glory that keeps us lined up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Congratulations, Czech Stop, you do indeed still hold the title for best kolaches in the world- in my humble opinion.
So, what's on your Bohemian bucket list?
BON VOYAGE, BABES!