Aha! Praha: The magical city of Prague
June 22, 2016.
Prague, Czech Republic.
The fairytale town of spires, cobble-stoned streets and riverside cafes. In my opinion, Prague is peak Europe. It’s everything that the continent stands for, and has to offer – in one place. How ironic then, that the EU regulated currency, Euro, is not generally accepted here. They have their own: Czech Koruna. Truth be told, I’d been waiting for this leg of my trip since a long time and frankly, Prague did not disappoint. So, without further ado, let’s get busy wandering through the streets of the Czech capital.
But before we explore the city per se, a shoutout to the crazy hostel that is the Madhouse Prague. Oh boy, what an embodiment of energy & enthusiasm! It is everything that you’d expect out of a hostel – a solo traveler’s dream. The friendly staff treats all the guests as one big family. We had house dinners, group outings, games night, hostel pub crawls and the likes. I was fortunate to forge some life-long friendships in the process.
Coming to the city, I started the proceedings from the Old Town Square – the central point in Prague. Spent some time there checking out the immediate surroundings before venturing into the interior streets. You’ll notice something peculiar during your time here. As you stand at the Old Town Square, you’ll immediately be transported to the 19thcentury. Not the least due to the horse-driven carriages driven around the area, enhanced by the gothic styled structures surrounding them.
While there are various means to get around, the Segway being one of them, I would highly recommend exploring the city on foot. It allows you to soak in the atmosphere and get a feel of the place. The Clock Tower makes for a nice sight while you’re here. Don’t miss the hour mark of this massive relic from the past. A free walking tour is highly recommended.
The next sight is Charles Bridge. Marvel at the wonderful sculptures that adorn the bridge, while enjoying the variety of talent on display – street artists. People painting portraits, dishing out tunes on their saxophones, enthralling crowds with their magic – you’ll find the entire range. Pick your choice! Moving further, check out the Fred & Ginger Building, also known as the Dancing House. They’re 2 buildings built in such a way that they resemble 2 people dancing. (Hence, named after the 2 famous dancers – Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers).
Onwards to what is probably one of my favourite place in the city: The incredible hilltop Strahov Monastery & Library. Firstly, the main hall of the monastery and library in itself is absolutely stunning. But more beautiful is the view of the city from the hilltop. It is breathtaking. The beer garden brewery of Strahov, situated at the edge of the hill is a cherry on top. They have some very good ales (ask the volunteers there to guide you through choosing your favoured version).
Reminiscent of the East Side Gallery in Berlin (aka Berlin Wall), Prague has its own version of a graffiti wall – the John Lennon Wall. Complete with its own rich history, the Wall, said to be the means of protest against the then rising communist regime, has proved to be an expression of art in reform (something that we desperately need to learn in this increasingly divisive world, today, more than ever?) The best part is that you can buy spray paints and create your own graffiti on the wall upon special request!
Well, we can’t have a European city without its share of castles, can we? The Prague Castle. Built in the 9th Century, it is the official office of the Czech President. It’s a massive structure with an intricate gothic décor. And while Strahov sits on one hilltop, the Prague Castle sits on the other side of the valley on another hilltop. Which makes it ideal to get some wonderful overhead city views. How I wished I had a drone to capture the panoramic shots (please gift me one)!
TIP: Get some brilliant shots overlooking the city from the open-air Starbucks near the entrance of the Prague Castle. You can thank me later.
The city has a sprinkling of parks & gardens too. Letna Park is one of the biggest parks around here and it gives you an expansive view of the Vltava River flowing through the middle of the city. The Petrin Garden is another such wonderful park, complete with rosariums (rose beds) and funiculars (cable cars).
But enough about the sights, let’s talk about the party scene here. In a word, bonkers. I highly, highly recommend the Drunken Monkey Prague City Pub Crawl, to kick things off in style. Drunken Monkey is the oldest pub crawl and has thrived through the years. It’ll give you a good taste of how the city shakes a leg. Apart from that, if you’re into old rock, retro or really like good music, you should definitely head to the Lucerna Music Bar (sworn by the Madhouse Prague staff). But if you’re more into the latest grooves, hip-hop and pop, don’t miss out on the Karlovy Lazne Nightclub.
The East European food has its own set of delights. Prague is synonymous with 2 things: the Palacinky & the Trdelnik. While Palacinky are Czech pancakes (very different from the French ones), Trdelnik is the traditional rolled-up pastry. But even apart from these two, there are a host of things you should definitely try (preferably from street stalls or food trucks): The Smazeny Syr (fried cheese), Knedliky (dumplings), Kulajda (cream & potato soup) and Chle Bicky (Balkan sandwich).
Lastly, Prague is also one of the best places to experience adventure sports in Europe. The skydiving in Prague is a must-do. I highly recommend it and have even shared my entire experience here in another post: https://www.final-boarding-call.com/blog/i-jumped-off-the-plane-in-prague ; Apart from that, you can get good deals for fly-boarding too. A very interesting escapade is the Prague gun range. If you’re interested in guns, ammunition or have every played Call of Duty / Counter Strike, you may want to visit this place. You can fire all sorts of assault rifles including AK-47, M16 Carbine, Uzi and even the Dragunov Sniper Rifle! Sounds exciting? Once you get your adrenaline pumping, you can cool down at the quirky beer spa!
In essence, Prague is the whole package. It has something for everything – which is why it is understandably one of the most loved cities in the world. Stay tuned as I share my thoughts on more such expeditions. Till then, hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me (vicariously) to this brilliant city. If you did, do check out the blog posts too.