“The ancient splendor and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fade.” – Richard Wagner
Prague is a city that feels almost untouched by time. Instantly you are swept up in its magic. Its gothic architecture, baroque buildings, medieval old town. Sure, you can see the same type of architecture in other cities throughout Europe, but not on the same scale. In fact, nothing really compares…
We had been looking forward to an adventure in Prague since we moved abroad to Salzburg. Every single person we talked to about the city would light up instantly as they remembered their Prague experience.
So what better way to spend my last birthday in my 20s, than getting lost in the romance of this medieval city? And with the purchase of our new car and Prague being only a 4 hour drive, it would also be our very first European road trip!
4 Days of Falling in LOVE…with Prague
Day 1: Road Trip, Prague’s Old Town and Magnificent Views
As expected, our road trip to Prague started off later than we’d planned for. We were so excited to pack the car with delicious snacks for the journey that we lost track of time. It was our first road trip since we moved to Austria in our newly purchased VW, so the fact that we were driving already meant LOADS of excitement.
What’s really cool about living in Austria is that 5 minutes on the road and you’re instantly relaxed. When we lived in DC, we had to drive about an hour on major (and traffic filled) highways before we felt that way. This drive to Prague consisted of mostly 2-lane roads, hitting small towns and villages along the way.
After about 2 hours of enjoying the scenery, we drove over the border into the Czech Republic. Now that was an AWESOME feeling…
Our first moments in the Czech Republic
We’ve flown and taken trains into other European countries before. We’ve also driven to Germany, but never have we driven across a border into a new country with a completely new language and culture. When we crossed the border into the Czech Republic, it instantly felt like we were in another country. I know for Europeans that’s no big deal, but for us Americans who only really drive from state to state or maybe into Canada, this was a REALLY exciting moment!
The first thing we did when we crossed the border was find an ATM and a place to buy a SIM card. This is pretty much our standard routine whenever we visit a new country. The SIM card for directions and internet and the cash so we can control our budget and avoid using our credit card. After we found our first 2 items, we continued our drive.
The Adventure continues…
During our journey, we passed more than a few Czech cities that we jotted down for future travels. After all, that’s why road trips are so amazing – you discover new destinations along the way. New places that inspire you.
As we were dreaming of future trips, all of a sudden, we were in the outskirts of Prague. We drove for about 20 minutes longer (with a little bit of traffic) and instantly, we completely understood why everyone loves this city.
Staying in the Karlin District
Our Airbnb was in the Karlin district of Prague, which is about a 30 minutes’ walk to Prague’s Old Town. There are great restaurants in this area, and there’s also FREE parking, which was important for our trip. The apartment was clean and spacious with a nice little kitchen and easy access to the street.
The area was close to all the action, but also provided peace and quiet when we needed it. After we checked in and dropped off our bags, we headed out – straight to the old town.
Prague’s Old Town Square
Our expectations for Prague’s Old Town were high. And it surpassed everything that we imagined. It’s not just some tiny street or even a section – it seemed to go on FOREVER!
Since we were there in March, we passed a few Easter markets, which were scattered everywhere throughout the city. We grabbed the most delicious pastry of all time (the Trdelník!) and a juicy, flavorful kielbasa and enjoyed our 2 snacks as we continued exploring until we reached the Old Town Square.
The entire square in the Old town was decked out for Easter too! The markets were still in full swing. Music, food, colorful decorations. It was really magical, especially with the beautiful Gothic buildings surrounding it!
Prague’s Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock
The Old Town Tower was our first site to check off the list. We’d heard about the awesome views, and as you might have read with our Paris post, we love starting our trips by seeing the city from above. It allows us to get a feel for the city we’re about to explore.
There are a few options at the Old Town Tower when it comes to tours. We decided to do a complete tour of the old city walls and the panoramic view of Prague at the top, which cost 180 CZK each. The tower ticket can be used once, at any time of the day, but the tour of the walls is timed. So, right before our tour of the walls, we took the elevator up for the panoramic views…
Now, just some advice: The top of the Old Town Hall Tower is beautiful, BUT it will also be packed. Mentally prepare yourself before you hop on that elevator. There are pretty narrow passageways and since its right in the center of the city, there will be lots of tourists. Be patient! You can see the entire city from all angles, which is worth the struggle to walk the terrace. They also point out where the sites are, so it’s a great way to get your bearings.
After snapping as many pictures as we could, we headed down to see the famous Astronomical clock, which operates every hour (9am-10pm).
Then it was time for our our tour of the Old Town Hall. The tour takes you through the historical halls and the underground. You learn all about the history of Prague and the events in WWII that affected the Town Hall’s structure. It was all very interesting and totally worth the small cost.
Saint James Basilica and the Charles Bridge
After our tour, which took about a 45 minutes, we were off. We stopped at St. James Basilica, because cathedrals in Europe are always a must – and ended with a sunset at Charles Bridge.
Seeing the Charles bridge sparked SERIOUS curiosity and excitement for Day 2, since we would be exploring the world that exists across the bridge tomorrow!
Mlejnice for an authentic Czech dinner
For dinner, we chose a restaurant called Mlejnice because of its awesome reviews on Trip Advisor, so we knew it would be delish. We were exhausted from our first day and just wanted to relax, get a drink and eat delicious Czech food.
We asked our waiter what the most authentic dishes were, and per his recommendation, ordered beer cheese with fried bread (awesome!), goulash in a bread bowl (SO tasty!), and [a mountain of] ribs. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. The entire meal (with 2 drinks) came to only $35!
After that, we strolled back to our apartment and retired for the day. We couldn’t wait to see what amazing adventures Day 2 would bring…
Day 2: Prague Castle, Monastery Beer, and Sunset strolls
Day 2 started off rainy, so we decided to take an Uber to the Prague Castle, hoping it would be perfect for bad weather. We grabbed a coffee at the Starbucks located in the castle complex and enjoyed a beautiful view of the city (seriously this Starbucks has one of the best views of Old Town!) as we sipped our lattes and discussed our day.
We were supposed to leave Prague the next day and continue on to Poland, but as we talked about everything else we wanted to do there, that decision quickly changed.
With the weather not being ideal for our last day, it just didn’t make sense to leave Prague. The coming weekend was supposed to be warm and beautiful and there was still so much to see. We easily could extend our stay at our Airbnb and get the most out of our visit instead of leaving early Saturday feeling like we missed so much. Decision made! We would stay in Prague for 2 more days.
With the pressure of seeing everything in 24 hours off our shoulders, it was time to enjoy Prague castle…
The Prague Castle Complex and St. Vitus Cathedral
The first thing we did during our visit was walk into St. Vitus Cathedral, a building that dominates the skyline everywhere in Prague. It is the largest cathedral in the city and has a incredible history.
A ticket to get into all the main attractions at Prague Castle (Circuit A) cost 350 CZK or about $15 and is good for 48 hours. We usually shy away from spending this kinda money, especially with a tight budget, but Prague Castle was an exception. We wanted to know the history and learn about what we are seeing instead of just passing through.
With a Circuit A ticket, we could get into the:
- St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace
- Exhibition “The Story of Prague Castle”
- St. George’s Basilica
- Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower
- Powder Tower
- Rosenberg Palace
After our tickets were purchased, we followed signs for a monastic brewery we’d read about for a nice cold beer. As we strolled, we realized just how MASSIVE the Prague castle complex is. Going for a walk is such an adventure!
There are tons of hilly streets, narrow staircases, shops, cafes and restaurants. The area reminded us of Montmartre in Paris, but instead of a neighborhood perched on a hill, it was a castle complex perched on a hill (AH-MAZING!)
We followed the Monastery Beer sign and ended up at a restaurant called Peklo. It looked tiny (which was confusing since we were expecting a beer garden), but we decided to check it out anyways. Then we walked in and there were just stairs down…
From our experiences in the past (like in Strasbourg), any restaurant with stairs down in a medieval city is most likely a seriously awesome cave restaurant. And sure enough, WE WERE RIGHT! Peklo Restaurant used to be a wine cellar from the 12th century that King Charles IV created after he brought back grape vines from Burgundy. They had vineyards right above and a wine cellar below, which is where we were eating!
We found a table that was literally in the nook of the cave and sat down for beer and food! We both ordered blueberry Monastery beer – subtly sweet and so easy to drink. Then we ordered pork knuckle and baked goat cheese salad. The pork knuckle had crispy and flavorful skin and the baked goat cheese with candied walnuts arugula and tomatoes was simply perfection.
And all of this deliciousness cost only $35 all together! The great food coupled with the unique environment made this meal the best $30 we’ve ever spent. Clearly, we didn’t make it to the brewery (which we saw was just up the street), but sometimes the best discoveries are made when you’re not expecting it!
After lunch, we continued strolling and found ourselves in Petrin Park overlooking the city. We were perched high above the Old Town Square which gave us a beautiful panorama. There are also places to have a drink and admire the views, so be sure to stop for a glass of champagne.
At this same park, we saw the mini Eiffel Tower of Prague or Petrin Tower in the distance. We decided to pass on Petrin Tower. Simply because there are views everywhere in Prague, but it was cool even to see if from afar and kind of funny that it literally looks like a mini Eiffel Tower.
An Evening Stroll on the Charles Bridge
Our path back down from Petrin park led us to the Charles Bridge where we enjoyed the sunset and the scenery surrounding us. There’s handmade jewelry and art sold along Charles bridge, which was an exciting discovery for me, since I LOVE fun jewelry. It’s my favorite souvenir and general life accessory, so of course I had to purchase cool aluminum earrings (for only 6 euros).
The night ended at a great Hookah Bar where we sipped tasty drinks, relaxed and felt 100% content with our adventure so far and our decision to stay in Prague for 2 more days.
As we retired for the evening, we prepared ourselves (and our stomachs) for Day 3 – when we’d spend four amazing hours eating our way around Prague with Eating Prague Tours.
Day 3 – The Golden Lane, Eating Prague, and Paddle Boats
Today was all about the food! We absolutely love trying new and authentic food when we travel, so a food tour seemed completely necessary. We decided to join Eating Prague on a 4-hour eating frenzy and dive into Czech culture through its traditional food.
The sites at Prague castle open at 9:00am, and food tour started at 12:30, so we had a few hours to explore. First stop…
The Old Royal Palace
The Old Royal Palace only takes about 30 – 45 minutes to see. Right when you enter, you walk into the Vladislas Hall or the ceremonial hall, which combines both Gothic and Renaissance architecture. My favorite room was the New Land Rolls Room whose walls and vaulted ceilings are painted with the coats of arms from those who held positions in the royal court.
After the Old Royal Palace, we headed to St. George Basillica, which is the oldest surviving church from Prague Castle – dating back to 920!
The Golden Lane
Our last stop before we spent the rest of the day eating was the Golden Lane, an ancient street in the Prague Castle Complex. This turned out to be one of our favorite sites in Prague! Not only because it literally looks like a fairytale, but because its history is so fascinating. These little tiny colorful homes used to house workers of the castle. Alchemists, seamstresses, goldsmiths, psychics.
As you’re walking through the Golden Lane, you can imagine what it was like living there back then! Each home is set up authentically, depending on the trade each person practiced. My favorite was the royal psychic. There was an entire room dedicated to where she did her readings. It was the tiny bohemian house of my dreams!
What’s really crazy is that the last person to leave these homes was in the 50s! To think that people lived there from a time of kings, queens and knights right up until the 1950s. Although if I had a tiny fairytale house surrounded by that much history, I wouldn’t want to leave either!
Medieval armor galore
On the Golden Lane, there is also a medieval museum of armory. It was one of the biggest collections we’ve ever seen! A room with every helmet imaginable. A room displaying every suit of armor. A room with weapons that I never thought existed! AND you can even pay 3 bucks to shoot a crossbow (SOLD!)
They also had medieval music playing in the background to add to the experience, which prompted Erin and I to engage in spontaneous medieval interpretive dancing when no one was watching… (at least I hope no one was watching!)
This museum was by far one of Erin’s favorite buildings. First of all, he’s obsessed with knights and life in medieval times. Second, he plans to have a hall decorated with multiples suits of armor in our own future home one day, so it was great inspiration…
Aside from the museum and the authentic homes, some of the tiny houses have been turned into gift shops – a perfect place to gather your souvenirs. The famous little blue house on Golden Lane was not only the quaintest house on the quaintest street it the world, it also sells beautifully handcrafted gifts made by handicapped children. We found an awesome mini replica of Golden Lane that we instantly purchased.
Eating Prague Food Tour
After we wrapped up trip down Golden Lane, it was time for our FOOD TOUR. We’d prepared our stomachs for 4 hours of Czech food and could not be more excited! After all, what better way to discover more of a city you’ve just fallen in love with than eating ALL the delicious food it offers?
Eating Prague took us to 6 different restaurants that we would have NEVER discovered on our own. You get sucked into all the tourist traps when you travel, so eating like local made us feel at home in the city. We went everywhere from a traditional Gingerbread shop called Perníčkův sen to a restaurant built into a medieval bell tower (Zvonice).
The food was amazing. The information was incredible and the company could not have been better!
We were able to see the entire city, and try new foods that we would’ve never tried on our own. (Read all about our experience here!)
Paddle boating on the Vltava River
After our day of deliciousness, we took a walk to the Vltava River in Prague with our new friend, Auburn, from our Eating Prague tour (another expat from the USA!) Together we rented a paddle boat, taking in the sites on the river for only 250 czk! And our Saturday night in Prague did not end there…
It was Captain Candy time. Captain Candy is a candy store in Old Town Prague with barrels and barrels of candy in every corner. And it’s all really unique candy that we hadn’t seen before. This was a highlight of the day for my mature husband. He literally lit up when we walked into this place – just like he was 5 years old! AND of course when we walked out with 5 bags of lose candy (and $15 later) too…
We skipped all the way to Gran Fierro with our friend Auburn again for some wine and tapas. The rest of the night was spent sipping delicious red wine, chowing down on some serious tapas and chatting about life.
Meeting people is always our favorite part about traveling, so this night was truly one of our favorite moments of the trip! It’s amazing how quickly you can connect with someone who also moved abroad. It’s like you instantly understand each other. And now we have a new friend who can come and visit us in Salzburg too!
After this epic evening, we headed back to our apartment. Day 4 was our last day, and we had to make the most of it.
Day 4: The Jewish Museum, the Lennon Wall and Our Departure
It was our final day in Prague, so we set our alarms for 8am to get an early start on our last day of touring. We still had some of Prague’s most famous sites and our travel checklist for the day was ambitious (but possible!)
The Jewish Quarter
After a stroll through the Old Town, we ended up at our first stop – the Jewish Museum. This is a really special part of the city. The Jewish ghetto in Prague was preserved by the Nazis during WWII. Why? Because Hitler planned to make a museum of the extinct race and selected Prague as the location…
Despite the terrible and tragic history, visitors today are able to visit and appreciate the history here, which is not common throughout Europe because of the tragedies of war.
For 300 CZK per person, you can see the old Ceremonial Hall, multiple Synagogues throughout Prague, the WWII memorial and the Old Jewish Cemetery. The museum in the ceremonial hall shows the vast history of Jewish people in Prague along with their traditions that have lasted throughout so many ages.
An emotional WWII memorial
The Pinkas Synagogue was converted to a WWII memorial for Jewish Czechs whose lives were lost due to the Nazis. They have the name and date of death for every single person that was killed. Over 70,000 people. And then on the top level they have artwork from children who were shipped to Jewish ghettos and concentration camps. It was moving to see the war through a child’s eyes.
The Old Jewish Cemetery
After that, it was time for the Old Jewish cemetery, which is the largest surviving Jewish cemetery in Europe and one of the oldest in the world. This cemetery was active from the 1400s to the 1700s. There are 12,000 tombstones, but almost 100,000 bodies buried here. It is one of the most important historical monuments in Prague and a definite must on your sightseeing to do list.
The Lennon Wall
For a little lighter tone, we then left the Jewish Museum and headed straight for the Lennon Wall. Since the 1980s during the communist regime, the Lennon Wall has been covered in uplifting graffiti. With messages of happiness and positivity.
Dozens of people line up daily to take pictures in front of wall with friends and loved ones. You can write or even spray paint on the wall to leave your mark in Prague. It’s like a moving piece of artwork that changes constantly. A reminder of how beautiful this world really is.
After we got our fair share of pictures and left our mark on the wall, we headed for the Charles Bridge for one last walk and one last Trdelník (filled with strawberries, Nutella and whipped cream of course!)
We were sad to say goodbye to Prague, but knew we’d be back. After all, it’s just a quick 4 ½ hour drive from Salzburg, so any weekend can be a Prague weekend!
Day 4 concluded our trip to Prague, but not our trip to the Czech Republic. We decided to make a stop in Tabor, Czech Republic for the night. To experience more of this beautiful country, outside of the big city. And like Prague, it left us wanting more!
A Valuable Travel Lesson During our Trip to Prague
With every trip we take, we learn something else about the way we travel. And Prague was no exception!
We booked this trip with our tourist hat on. We wanted to see as much as we could possibly see in one long weekend, even if that meant us driving an extra 8 hours out of the way to stay somewhere for one night…
Initially, we were going to stay in Prague for 2 nights, drive to Wroclaw, Poland for 1 night and then stop back and stay in Tabor, Czech Republic on our way home. 3 cities, 4 nights and almost 18 hours of driving. Why did we think that was a good idea? I guess we didn’t expect to love Prague as much as we did.
But racking up countries and not experiences is not the type of travelers that we are. We always enjoy staying longer than recommended, even in the smallest cities that are considered just day trips. It’s easy to forget that when you become destination hungry. I want to see MORE. Do MORE. Check another country off our list.
When we realized that 2 nights in Prague would leave us feeling empty, we had to reevaluate. 48 hours simply wouldn’t do Prague justice and 1 night certainly wouldn’t be enough to appreciate Wroclaw, the top cultural destination of Europe for 2016. We had to extend our trip and cancel Poland all together.
Sure, we might have lost some money with our late hotel cancellation in Wroclaw, but look how much we gained. Now we feel like we truly know Prague. A city impressed us for 4 days straight and still left us wanting more.
This lesson is one that many people learn the hard way, but also one that can be prevented.
When you’re planning trips throughout Europe, try not to think of the number of countries or cities you’re checking off. Think of the experiences you’ll gain when you give each city the time it deserves. What you can get from slower travel is something far more beneficial than simply passing through.
Our lesson learned in Prague will forever change the way we organize our trips in the future. Prague taught us that our appreciation for the little things in life carries through to how we travel. Checking sites off a giant list will never be satisfying for us. It’s the moments in between that matter, and those are only granted when you have the time to appreciate them.
Surviving Europe Exclusive Czech Republic T-shirt
Now it’s time to show your love for the Czech Republic AND for our site by purchasing one of our Surviving Europe: Czech Republic t-shirts! Every time we take on a new country in Europe, we create an exclusive Surviving Europe tee to represent that country. Each shirt is designed with one flight path, mapping out the most popular sites or symbols of each country. Grab yours here and get ready to be the most stylish traveler out there!