24 April 2017

Prague City Guide


Hello everyone!

Holly & I recently went to Prague for a few days with a friend of ours and we had so much fun! Although we were there for 4 days, we only had 2 full days to explore the town. In this post, I'll put together everything we did each day we were there, including pictures, ticket prices and transport.

First of all, the reason we chose Prague was mainly because it was our cheapest option. We found flights at around £50 each, and the AirBnb we found (here) came to about £65 each total. I exchanged £175, which at the time came to around 5 600 Kč (Koruna) and I barely spent £70 during my whole stay there, even though I thought I had spent lots on exhibitions & entry fees.

  • Where to stay

Hotels can be pretty expensive in Prague so I highly recommend looking at other options if you're on a tight budget - our AirBnb was located around 15 minute walk away from the famous Charles Bridge, in zone 5. We also crossed a number of hostels throughout Old Town, (the most touristy part of Prague) so there are options available for all budgets. 
Our AirBnb was is a really convenient location, with a tram stop just around the corner & a little Tesco corner shop literally a 2 minute walk away (yes, it was quite weird seeing a Tesco in the Czech Republic!) The apartment was good for the price. Basic, but had everything you needed in terms of kitchen utensils etc. It had one room with a double bed and one double sofa bed, and since it was located on the 5th or 6th floor it was quiet and had a lovely view of the pastel coloured street we were in. Unfortunately the only pictures I have are of us in our pj's, so I'm just going to leave the link for the AirBnb here so you can see it for yourself! 


  • Where to go

Pražský hrad - Prague Castle


The Prague Castle is located on the west side of Prague, on a hilltop, offering the most spectacular views of the town below. Thought to be the largest castle complex in the world, it has been standing for over a thousand years and is a World Heritage Site. It has met considerable changes throughout it's time, and today it is a large ensemble of palaces, religious sites and more modern buildings. It's has been the seat of the President of the Republic since the founding of the independent  Czechoslovakia in 1918. There is a huge space in front of the Castle, which feels so open because of how high up it is.



The Castle is definitely worth a visit because of it's rich history, however some areas left me a little underwhelmed - such as the Powder Tower & St George's Basilica, however there is so much to see there that it's a perfect 'rainy day' kind of day. The Old Royal Palace was one of the places that stood out the most for me: the Vladislav Hall is something straight out of Tolkien's imagination (I felt like I'd stepped into Rohan), and the St Vitas Cathedral is spectacular on the outside and quite pretty inside too. 


The famous Golden Lane, a narrow lane with small houses lining one side of the street is picturesque but absolutely packed with tourists and school kids, however you're able to see the inside of the houses to give you an idea as to what living there was like. Two of the houses were inhabited by famous people such as Madame de Thebes, a clairvoyant who saw the defeat of Nazi Germany and consequently tortured to death by the Gestapo. There was a long corridor that ran behind the houses, which held hundreds of war memorabilia: suits of armour dating back centuries, intricate weapons that I had never seen the likes of before, a torture chamber completely filled with chilling torture instruments and even a place where you can shoot a crossbow. I should mention that this corridor / area is a very confined space, and wouldn't recommend it to anyone who suffers from bad claustrophobia - at one point we were held up in a narrow corridor for 5-10 minutes because of the huge number of people inside. 



Another highlight of the Castle was the Rosenberg Palace, which appeared to be overlooked by most visitors. We barely crossed anyone during our visit, having most of the rooms to ourselves. There isn't lots to see, however it's a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of other areas of the castle. Originally the residence of the noble Rosenberg family, it was rebuilt in the 18th Century by Maria Theresa and called the Institute of Noblewomen: a shelter for poor or widowed noblewomen. The Chapel is stunning: the ceiling 3 stories high, with small balconies on one side of the room. A giant circular mirror in the center of the room allowed a finer look at the stunning art & architecture that covered the ceiling. The palace also offered beautiful views of the Prague skyline, away from the cold wind outside.


I do suggest giving the Castle a visit, but to do a little research beforehand. There are different tickets available, one which grants you access to all of the buildings, another which only allows you to visit the main ones. We took the full price ticket which cost us 350Kc, which came to around  £10. However there is a student discount which took 50% off! It did get quite busy there even though we went in the morning, so I suggest getting there early (it opens at 6am most of the year) to avoid the crowds. 


  • Strahovská Knihovna - Strahov Library

We spent most of the morning at the Castle, then made our way to the Strahov Monastery. Unfortunately the Monastery was closed due to repairs, however we were still able to visit the famous Strahov Library, home to the Theological Hall & Philosophical Hall. I had seen lots of pictures and was eager to see it with my own eyes.

The Strahov Library is considered to be one of the most valuable and best preserved libraries in the world. The halls themselves are simply stunning: built in the late 18th Century, the Philosophical Hall contains 42,000 volumes.  The interior was installed in 1794, in an early classicist style. At 2 stories high, it has stunning ceiling frescoes and a emits a surreal atmosphere, like something from a book.


The Theological Hall dates back to 1671, built in the Baroque style. The ceiling frescoes remain the most eye-catching feature, with stunning soft blue & yellow tones covering the entire ceiling. Like the Philosophical Hall, every single wall is home to hundreds of books lining every shelf from floor to ceiling, with several Earth Globes forming a line in the center of the beautiful room.


Although I'm happy to have seen these stunning rooms with my two eyes, it can be a little deceiving. The truth is, you can only admire the halls through small doorways - craning your neck so you can take as much of the stunning interior in as possible. Take into account that you won't be the only person in the doorway either, you'll be shoulder to shoulder with other admirers. Although I understand the importance of protecting such historic sites, I thought it was a shame to pay an entrance fee & photography licence to then see so little. If you aren't too worried about seeing this place, you may want to rethink visiting as it's a way to walk from the town Center (a 15 minute walk from the Prague Castle, around 25 minutes from the Charles Bridge). It is however something that you will probably only visit once in your life, so definitely worth the visit - I'm very happy I got to see it!

  • Menší Město Pražské -Mala Strana


Mala Strana is one of the most historic districts of Prague. Sitting between the Prague Castle, Petrin Hill & the river, it's full of little intertwining streets, restaurants and shops. It get's busier the closer you get to Charles Bridge, but it's nice area to walk around & admire the lovely architecture on every street!

  • Karlův Most Charles Bridge


The medieval Charles Bridge is one of the most famous places in Prague. Connecting Mala Strana to Old Town, the bridge first began construction in 1357 and finished at the beginning of the 15th Century. With a looming, dark tower on either end, the bridge is lined with dozens of religious statues and offers a stunning view of the town skyline. It's a tourist hotspot, with little stalls and artists lining both sides of the bridge. You will probably have to cross it at some point during your stay, and it's definitely worth it. It's incredible to think how many people have walked across it, and what a feat it was when it was first built! I would suggest getting there in the early morning if you want to take pictures!

COLLOREDO-MANSFELDSKY PALAC - COLLOREDO MANSFELD PALACE


This breathtaking 18th Century Ballroom was possibly the highlight of our trip. Located mere meters away from the Charles Bridge on the way to Old Town, this hidden treasure is easily overlooked. With the rain and cold biting at our bones, we saw the word museum and headed straight towards a normal looking building to see what the museum was all about. Admission was free, we got our tickets and climbed several flights of stairs. The first area is a collection of rooms, deprived of furniture yet beautiful. High windows, creaky floorboards and a dusty, authentic smell.


The best preserved room of the palace is the ballroom on the other side of the building, reached by walking through several other rooms. The dance room was built in 1736, and the ceiling has been left untouched since it's creation: something very rarely seen in Europe. The incredible well preserved high baroque interior is simply breath-taking, with a ceiling fresco depicting the Olympian Gods, and a giant chandelier. The Palace has been owned by several noble families, such as the Colloredo-Mansfeld family. It is widely believed that Mozart himself has stood in this very ballroom, having often visited Prague during this time and likely invited by the noble family to perform.


I could have stood in this room for hours, admiring the sheer beauty and magic of it. There was a small feeling of melancholy to this palace, although well preserved and still maintaining it's authenticity, the signs of decay were obvious in some rooms.


Needless to say every other church and building fell short in comparison, not only because it was simply stunning, but because it was free and empty. We only crossed one other visitor during our time there. The only downside to the Palace was the people working there, they weren't very warm or welcoming which unfortunately tainted our visit. I believe there is talk of a renovation of the Palace, so it may be closed for some time, so ensure you check online beforehand!

  • Staré Město pražské Old Town: Square, The Astrological Clock  & Tower


The Old Town square is beautiful space in the center of Old Town. Although it was pouring down with rain while we were there, it didn't dampen it's beauty: there are several churches encircling the space, with lots of food stalls in the center. It's very easy to get lost on your way there, the hundreds of small narrow roads that twist & turn constantly can easily make you loose all sense of direction, so make sure you have a map and an idea as to where you're going before you set off! There are lots of hotels & restaurants here, including antique shops and much more. 


Staroměstsky Orloj - The Astronomical Clock & Tower


I was very excited to see the Astronomical Clock, being the oldest working astronomical clock in the world. The stunning mechanical instrument was built in 1410, and every hour crowds gather to watch the little Apostles perform. Unfortunately there was construction work happening at the base of the tower, so an ugly barrier ruined any chance of getting a pretty picture. It's a beautiful and magical piece of engineering and definitely worth a look!


There are several tickets available for the Tower tour: you can simply get a ticket to climb the Clock Tower & see a lovely birds eye view of Prague, or you can see get a ticket which includes access to the Clock Tower, the Chapel & the underground site. I would highly recommend climbing the Tower & going on a guided tour beneath the Clock Tower. The Tower itself offers beautiful views of the Town Square and of Prague, with orange roof tops stretching out to the horizon in every direction. Unfortunately the Town Hall was closed that day, but after a while we were able to go on the underground tour. I would suggest checking online beforehand in case any places are shut!

When you first buy tickets, make sure you ask when the next guided tour for the underground area in your language is - this information is not displayed anywhere at the Information desk, As soon as you buy the tickets, ensure you go straight to the first floor to register for the tour in your language: every half an hour, a new tour begins. Unfortunately it is not clearly stated when you buy tickets, so we waited 40 minutes to go on a tour only to discover that we had to register beforehand. This won't be much of a problem if you're not tight on time, however if you have to wait an hour - two hours for a tour in your language then it may be extremely frustrating for those who can't, therefore wasting money. The underground area was fascinating. Part of it was actually a home on what used to be the ground level, before they raised it several meters due to flooding. There are several prison pits and at the end, a large room which used to be a storage area or workshop. It also gives you a chance to walk on a real, medieval street, offering a small detail of medieval daily life. 


CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS, OLD TOWN SQUARE


Unfortunately we didn't get many pictures of the Church of St Nicolas - located behind the clock tower in Old Town Square, it has to be one of the most beautiful churches I've ever stepped foot in. With it's large white arches, giant chandelier and many ceiling frescoes, it was hard to take it all in. There are many churches in Old Town which are free to enter, but unfortunately every single one we entered was chained off, meaning you could but observe the interior only from a small space by the entrance, which was as usual crowded with tourists. 1 of the richest churches I have ever seen also located in Old Town, didn't allow any photography whatsoever, which is a shame as the beauty of it was absolutely worth capturing on camera!


Josefov - Jewish District


The Jewish District is a short walk away from the Old Town Square. There are several tours available, we chose the ticket that would grant us access to all the museums and synagogues.  I had heard of the famous Old Jewish Cemetery beforehand (Starý židovský hřbitov) but everything else was a mystery to me. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the Jewish Town Hall, which is one of the few such buildings in Europe to have survived the Holocaust. The Old Jewish Cemetery was very eerie: home to thousands of graves, all overcrowded with some over 12 layers deep. The Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasov Synagoga) was very moving: once a synagogue, in 1958 is was transformed into a memorial to the 77,297 Czech Jews killed during the Holocaust. All the walls inside are covered lists of the victims, with their name, date of birth & death. As we were short on time we only visited a few of the synagogues and halls, but it's worth visiting just to learn more of this historic part of Prague.



Other places to see: John Lennon Wall, Church of Sv Jakub ( by far the most stunning church I have ever seen, despite there being gates inside so we couldn't fully enter) Royal & South Gardens (we saw from afar but didn't have time to explore)

Please note that a lot of the Churches are gated off inside, so you can only admire them from behind bars. Some forbid photography!
  • Where To Eat
The restaurants we ate at weren't that amazing, after being on our feet all day we just wanted to sit down somewhere and just order anything. That being said, we had looked up a few cafes beforehand which we managed to find - and they did not disappoint.

Grand Cafe Orient


Located in Old Town, this cafe has a very sophisticated feel to it. With a cubist interior, the atmosphere of Grand Cafe Orient is very elegant. As we drank our tea & ate our pancakes, the smartest couple I have ever seen walked in. The middle aged man, wearing a three piece suit, hat and large overcoat straight out of the 30's.The elegant pair entered the room, and together they removed their hats and placed them on the clothes rack. The woman, equally well dressed with a 1930's day dress and jacket, perfectly fitted with a beret was classic elegance incarnate. Needless to say we felt extremely under dressed after they showed up. and I had to stop myself from twisting myself to get a better view of the couple! The food was really nice, a bit more expensive than other cafes but worth it, and the customer service was excellent!


CAFE EBEL

Initially planning on going to the cafe next door, this one seemed more appealing and welcoming. Cafe Ebel in the heart of Old Town has a very cosy and homely feel to it, filled with students and adults alike. Not only was the interior pretty and not too expensive, but I had the most delicious slice of blueberry cheesecake! The customer service was also really good - all the staff spoke English which was very helpful, as we regrettably couldn't pronounce a word of Czech! 



PRAGUE TICKET PRICES 

It's always difficult to set a budget when you're going somewhere you've never visited before, so we thought we'd list all the ticket prices for all the places we visited, so you have an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind if you're a student and you present your student card, you're entitled to 50% off most of the prices!

Currency Rate - April 2017

Tourist hot-spots:

Prague Castle: 350Kc (£11.08)
Strahov Monastery: 240Kc (£7.60) + 50Kc (£1.58) photography licence fee
Astronomical Clock Tower, Chapel & Underground area: 220Kc (£6.96)
Jewish Quarter : ticket to see all areas 330Kc (£10.44)

Public Transport: 

Here's a link to the official Czech Republic page which lists all the passes and tickets available for public transport: click here 


For a single trip ticket for use on any/multiple types of transportation: 

Adult 30 min ticket: 24 Kc (£0.76)
Adult 90 min ticket: 32Kc (£1.01)

So if you're taking public transport into Prague centre from the Airport, you will only need one ticket which you will use on the bus, tube, and tram.

Food prices in Prague

On our first day we had big late lunch in a simple but nice restaurant near Strahov Monastery: 

1 bottle of still water: 40Kc (£1.27)
1 veggie burger which chips: 180Kc (£5.70)

As you can see eating out in Prague is extremely cheap, though we didn't bother researching restaurants in advance, we went to places which were close to the centre and looked pretty decent/not over the top. It was nothing special but still very nice - We barely hit the equivalent of £10 for every big meal!

To see the AirBNB we rented for our trip: click here

So there you have it! We hope you enjoyed reading our Prague City Guide, we put all the relevant and most helpful information we could think of, but please don't hesitate to ask us any questions!


Holly & Summer x

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