Vítejte v Praze! One of the most unexpected places in our recent Europe trip turned out to become one of the most wonderful places to visit. I don't profess to be an expert (I could barely speak Czech!), but I highly highly recommend you add this to your list of places to visit. Prague is a wonderful, underrated place with a violent but beautiful history. It doesn't get much better than medieval buildings with radical WWII history, Art Noveau, several years of communism and religious upheavals. If you're not quite convinced yet, read on! I wish I could write everything down here!
Getting around Prague is relatively easy--their trams are always on time and simple to navigate, and everything a tourist would ever want to see is walkable. But there are a lot of gimmicky ways to go around--most people are buying into segway tours, and more tourists love that they can rent a vintage car with a driver for 2,000 crowns (roughly Php 1,000) for for people for a whole day.
We stayed in the St . Nicholas Residences, part of the St. Nicholas Church in Prague 1. It is still one of the best places we stayed at on our trip--lack of air conditioning aside. It doesn't get more central than Malostranske, and the walk home was always beautiful!
Sights: St. Nicholas Cathedral, Charles Bridge, Lennon Wall, Cihelna for the view/ cool drinking place, The Kolonada Cafe across Kafka Museum, LOKAL!!!
Our favorite eating place/pub was definitely Lokal! It was always filled with expats and local, drinking cool Czech beer from the tap (with reserves in the ground floor!). Their food was pretty good too--I was a big fan of their Prague Ham with Whipped Horseradish Cream. And beer with orange soda is fantastic! Who knew?
Another cool place to hang out in is Containall, a lot with a single container van that serves drinks. It's located in a parking lot by the river, giving you a small beach, a fantastic view of the Charles Bridge, and an ultimately cool place to hang out.
Every tourist's first place to visit. When I came here, I looked around and asked my sister just how dark Prague's history was. There are medieval buildings right across each other, with a smattering of Swiss-style murals and French art deco. Add really weird (and I'm talking a black man in a tutu without a shirt not dancing to music) performers and a lot of tourists, and you've got yourself a pretty unforgettable place.
Sights to See: Old Town Square, Chrám Svatého Mikuláše (the protestant Church), the Mucha Museum (STILL CAN'T BELIEVE WE DIDN'T GO IN!!), The Astrological Clock, Church of Our Lady before Týn,
Before I digress too much, I HIGHLY recommend you joining the Free Sandeman's Old Town Tour, which starts every 2pm at Old Town (look for the red umbrella!). We got Sarah and her adorable Charles II puppet doll, possibly the best tour guide I have ever encountered. She really loves Prague, and was so knowledgeable! She was able to give us all the history without being too overwhelming. Our three hour tour was worth every second and extremely extensive--everything in the Old Town made sense, and I finally discovered why Prague was the way it was. Plus she was very helpful in finding places to eat and how much things were. :)
In an effort to escape the heat, we went into Coffee Lover's Cafe on Kaprova street (from the Kafka Cafe, turn left), for really good coffee and honey cake, and the best white chocolate/coconut cake of all time. It's based on a Prague chocolate bar whose name I can't remember, but make sure you don't miss this cool cafe!
THE JEWISH QUARTER
It is with a happy note that I say that the Jewish Quarter is alive and kicking (if you join the walking tour you will find out why), and is in fact one of the most expensive places in Prague. Almost all of the synagogues are owned by the Jewish community, and every spot you visit is steeped in history.
If you're interested in the Jewish experience in WWII, our tour guide highly recommended the museum. There's a gallery there that hung up the artworks of kids from concentration camps, which is heartbreaking as it is sad. And hearing the story of the Jewish cemetery alone makes you want to curl up into a ball.
One of the most beautiful synagogue in Europe is right in the heart of Prague. The Spanish Synagogue had the most gorgeous details, and they had concerts there of hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, Fiddler on the Roof and Hallelujah. It made me fall in love even more.
Don't be fooled by the beautiful Gothic cathedral in the distance---the St. Vitus Cathedral is only part of the massive area of Prague Castle. It's the biggest castle complex in the world, and we spent an entire day going around its nooks and crannies. We accidentally got off on the wrong train stop (or was it the right one?) and we ended up strolling the Royal Gardens before entering the main complex. We recommend doing the same.
We suggest going as early as possible! The influx of people is no joke, plus you still need to buy tickets from the office across the Cathedral. We also recommend grabbing an audioguide--there's a deposit required, but there's rarely information posted, so it helps make sense of things in the castle complex.
Here's a sad fact about Prague--despite their strong starts in Christianity, Protestantism and Jewish reiligions, most of the churches are losing money because everyone's becoming atheist. So they do a lot of things to raise money. One of those includes having classical concerts. We caught one at St. George's Basilica late in the afternoon, and it was AMAZING. It was such a wonderful experience! Plus students get discounts, yes!
We recommend you start from the Golden Lane, have lunch at the Lobcowicz Palace Cafe (for fantastic views!) Visit the Women's Orphanage, and make your way to St. Vitus. You're saving the best for last, essentially.
Hard to believe that this church was made around the same time as the Notre Dame. Vitus is MASSIVE and scary from the outside, but the inside is cool and bright. With the audio guide, there's a lot of information to find out.
Make sure you Czech this wonderful city off on your bucket list (see what I did there?)