prague, czech republic

If Prague isn’t on your bucket list of places to visit, add it now! Not only is Prague absolutely beautiful, but it has this old town charm unlike anywhere else in Europe. From the cobbled-stone streets of Old Town to the endless supply of Czech beer & goulash, Prague has something to offer for everyone. After spending a week in Prague, here are my top reasons why this should be your next European destination!

Prague is comparable to Paris in its beauty
Known as the City of a Hundred Spires, Prague is beautiful from every single vantage point. From the medieval center of Old Town to the cobbled-stone streets, walled courtyards & countless church spires, Prague’s beauty, romanticism, & charm will take your breath away. Not to mention the picturesque Vltava River, with Charles Bridge & Prague Castle looming in the background.

Prague escaped the bombs of last century’s wars, so it remains one of Europe’s best-preserved cities. The mix of Baroque, Gothic, & Renaissance architecture is incredibly unique, & there is no other place in the world where you can find such diverse artistic styles.

One of the best things to do while in Prague is to watch the sunset from across the Vltava River, as the sun sets behind Prague Castle.

Prague is incredibly cheap
The Czech Republic is a relatively new country — the Soviet Communists left in 1989 & independence was established in 1993, when Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Slovakia & Czech Republic. The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004, but maintained its own currency, the Koruna. Because the Czech Republic does not have the longstanding tradition of tourism popularity like many other Western European nations, Prague remains one of the most affordable European destinations.

Currently, $1 USD is approximately 20 Koruna, & boy, that 20 Koruna will get you far. A classic, hearty Czech dinner is about 200 Koruna ($10), a liter of beer about 30 Koruna ($1.50), & a nice bottle of wine about 160 Koruna ($8). Lodging is also incredibly cheap. We snagged a great deal with AirBNB, steps away from Old Town Square for about $80/night. The apartment was in a pre-war building with so much character and history, & the unit itself was spacious & we loved being able to open the windows to listen to the church bells & horse carriages every morning. But, hurry! It is rumored the Czech Republic will move to the Euro by 2020. (Sadly, I didn’t take many pictures of our food while in Prague!)

Prague’s historic gardens & parks are truly it’s greatest treasures
There are over 200 historic gardens and parks in Prague, & each offers breathtaking views of the city. Some of my favorites included the Palace Gardens below Prague Castle, Petřín Hill, Letna, Wallenstein Gardens, & Vysehrad.

The Czech cafe culture is real
Prague has many celebrated cafes, serving great coffee & amazing homemade cakes & desserts. The atmospheres are one-of-a-kind, & the decor can only be described as posh. With so many cafes to choose from, we had a hard time deciding where to go! But, you can’t go wrong with Cafe Savoy, Cafe Imperial, or Cafe Louvre.

You will learn World War II history you never learned in school

I’ll be the first to admit I never learned about World War II & Prague or the Czech Republic while in school. As it turns out, Prague was key to Hitler’s plans for world domination. The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, leaving the country weak & powerless to further occupation. Top Czech government officials fled Czechoslovakia, & when the citizenry broke out in demonstrations protesting Nazi occupation, thousands were sent to concentration & labor camps. Time & time again, the Czech people took an active stance against the Nazis, only to face brutality & further oppression. By 1941, there were more than 90,000 Jews living in Czechoslovakia. The Nazis forced those of Jewish descent to wear the yellow star, & by 1942, Jews were sent to concentration & labor camps. By 1945, only 14,000 Czech Jews survived. It wasn’t until May of 1945 that Prague & Czechoslovakia were liberated from Nazi control.

Alex & I joined a 2-hour World War II walking tour, which I would highly recommend! During the tour, we visited many locations associated with the dark days of the war, including the hideout of the Prague resistance in the medieval underground tunnels below Old Town.

You’ll also learn what life was like under Communist rule

Following World War II, communist parties became the dominant political party in Czechoslovakia. By 1948, the communist party had seized complete control of the country, & the first wave of nationalization of the economy took place. Almost overnight, over 95% of privately owned businesses became property of the state and basic human rights were suppressed. In the years to come, those who did not comply with socialism were interrogated, tortured, & murdered. Privacy became a thing of the past; homes were searched; & people were regularly imprisoned for filing complaints, signing petitions, or socializing with dissidents. Under Joseph Stalin, communist ideology permeated all aspects of life. Throughout the years, the Czech people continued to revolt, but it wasn’t until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that communism was brought to an end in Czechoslovakia. Democracy was finally restored.

There are many memorials, monuments, and museums in Prague depicting life under communist rule. Our favorite was the Museum of Communism, which tells the story of communist rule through photos, videos, and propaganda.

There is Czech beer everywhere
Czechs consume more beer per capita than any other country in the world. & believe it or not, beer is cheaper than water! At most bars and breweries, you can order a liter of beer for about 20-35 Koruna (about $1.50 USD). The beers tend to be lighter & foamy, and Pilsners are a staple of Czech culture. You can find a brewery on almost every corner, & beer gardens are also very popular. Be sure to check out the beer garden in Letna Park!

There is a cocktail revolution in Prague
I’ll be the first to admit I did not expect to seek out cocktail bars while in Prague. I mean, the Czech Republic is rightly known as a country of beer lovers, who consume the highest amount of beer per capita. But, there is a cocktail revolution that I happily joined.

Most of Prague’s cocktail bars are disguised as speakeasies, & the over-the-top drink presentations will keep you coming back for more. Some of our favorite cocktail spots were Hemingway Bar (one of the top 50 cocktail bars in the world!), AnonymouS Bar, & AnonymouS Shrink’s Office. Make sure to make reservations ahead of time!

AnonymouS Shrink’s Office deserves a special shoutout for its cocktail therapy. The menu is based on the Rorschach inkblot test — you select a drink based on which image speaks to you the most. Definitely unlike any other bar I have ever visited.