As a Kiwi, the novelty of being a short and easy distance to a wealth of European destinations from my new home of London has not yet worn off. Honestly, I don’t think it ever will. This month I visited a popular European city and one I knew scarcely anything about going in. I left the capital of the Czech Republic as I do every new place I visit... wiser, happier and grateful for having seen another small corner of this amazing world we live in. Travel is something I find unlimited joy in – writing about travel, almost as much, so indulge me a little...
Prague is a city of many attractions, these are my recommendations if you're visiting this town in the future. Just quickly - £1 got me about 37 Czech koruna at the time of writing.
Climb the Bridge Tower (120 koruna per person)
This remarkable tower was completed in 1380. One hundred and thirty eight steps arranged in a quaint square variation of the spiral staircase take you to the top where you can admire an unbeatable lookout point from right within the city centre, on the riverbank.
Take a leisurely stroll across Charles Bridge
This 14th century icon of the historic city is a pedestrian-only bridge linking the Old Town with the Lower Town of Prague. Until the 1800s, it was the only bridge across the river Vltava. The absence of vehicles means the bridge is packed with locals selling paintings, jewellery and paintings or playing jazz music or accordions for a couple of coins. Take your time walking across this one – your surroundings are like something straight out of a fairytale.
Locals sell goods and play music all along the bridge
Eat a Trdelník (50-60 koruna ea.)
Trust me when I say, you want one of these doughy cinnamon delights in your life. Or rather, your belly. Ordering one can be a laugh – not having the faintest idea how to pronounce the bleeding thing – but hey, that’s part of the beauty of travel!
Visit Prague Castle (350 koruna for the most comprehensive package)
Founded in 880 (say whaaaat) this breathtaking architectural feat is Europe’s oldest medieval castle. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I always thought a castle was just the one big building, like the ones you see in all the films and picture books. Turns out, castles – like this one – can be massive fortified villages incorporating a whole bunch of buildings worth poking around including great halls, state apartments, churches, torture chambers (shiver) and small residences. There are a lot of ticket packages available granting access into various selections of these buildings, but we went for the most expensive one which got us in everywhere except the Treasury and main church’s South Tower. Particularly stunning is St Vitus’ cathedral, by far the hugest church I have ever stepped inside. Take my word for it when I say photos cannot possibly portray the awe-inspiring scale of this spectacular building. Tours are available for a price and are great to get a little more background as you gaze upon and walk through each building, but this is one I loved just wandering through at my own pace.
The massive Saint Vitus cathedral dominates the Castle grounds
Rays of light shine down into the church, whose awe-inspiring size I could not capture in one photo!
Side doors into Saint George's Basilica, founded in 920. Wowza.
Check out the Lennon Wall
This legendary wall came into being following John Lennon’s premature death in 1980. The singer-come-pacifist was idolised by many Czechs who painted his portrait on a wall of their capital city where there is a segment that looks like a tombstone. Previously covered with his song lyrics, political messages and symbols, the original portrait is now long lost under layers’ and years’ worth of paint and graffiti. Local authorities have attemted whitewashing on many occasions, but the following day, imagery and messages always reappear, leading them to eventually leave the wall alone for locals and tourists alike to add to its story. Pretty wicked.
Take a look at the Dancing House
A modern icon of the city, this is worth doing simply because it’s a pretty unique building, and not one you’ll soon find something similar to anywhere else!
Drink Absinthe at Hemingway Bar
This locale was a favourite of the late, great literary legend Ernest Hemingway. It has a distinctly old-world feel that made me feel like I was the protagonist in film Midnight in Paris, transported back into the golden age of European nightlife. The staff here are great and treat the act of absinthe drinking as an art form in its own right. As someone completely uninformed on the subject, it was a very educational and just downright cool experience to have.
Chilled water drips slowly into glasses of absinthe, disolving sugar on the way, and causing the drink to become cloudy.
Portraits of the author watch over patrons in Hemingway Bar
Walk up Petrin Hill
View from the top of the observation tower
This green haven rises up above the city of Prague and is loaded with history as far back as Celtic and Slavic times. The spot just feels somehow monumental, and it’s lovely to have a green area this large left unobstructed within the city. The stroll up to the top doesn’t take long. I recommend taking lunch up with you... eating while looking down on the red roofs of an ancient city below is pretty special. You can go up the Observation Deck for 60 koruna for an even better lookout. I also loved the old defensive Hunger Wall across the entire hill, and dates back to the 14th century. 6 metres wall and 2 metres wide, it’s full of mysterious little areas where it looks like there used to be doors. I know it seems silly - it’s just a wall - but it felt full of untold stories and I just loved it!
The Hunger Wall on Petrin Hill is full of mysterous features which look like the could have been doorways