Prague, Czech Republic

If Prague isn’t on your bucket list of places to visit in 2018, 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 and 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, and countless church spires, Prague’s beauty, romanticism, and charm will take your breath away. Not to mention the picturesque Vltava River, with Charles Bridge and 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, and Renaissance architecture is incredibly unique, and 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. I promise you won’t regret planning your evening dinner and drinks around this!

Old Town Square

The Charles Bridge with Prague Castle in the background

One of the many beautiful views of Prague and the endless red rooftops

There is no better time to visit Prague than in the fall!

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

Views from Prague Castle

Hidden gems on every corner in Prague

Exploring the cobbled-stone streets of Prague in Castle Quarter

Stumbled upon St. Wenceslas Vineyard, the only winery in metropolitan Prague

Views from St. Wenceslas Vineyard

Prague has the most beautiful sunsets

The Dancing House of Prague. There is such diverse architecture throughout all of Prague — from the Renaissance to modern times

 Evening stroll along the Charles Bridge

 Evening stroll through Old Town Square — Tyn Church

 No visit to Prague is complete without stopping at the astronomical clock, dating back to the 1400s.

Prague is incredibly cheap!
The Czech Republic is a relatively new country — the Soviet Communists left in 1989 and independence was established in 1993, when Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Slovakia and 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, and 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), and a nice bottle of wine about 160 Koruna ($8). Lodging is also incredibly cheap. We snagged a great deal on an AirBNBapartment, steps away from Old Town Square for about $80/night. The apartment was in a pre-war building with so much character and history, and the unit itself was spacious and we loved being able to open the windows to listen to the church bells and 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!)

Our first traditional Czech dinner at U Tří růží

 No visit to Prague is complete without a chimney cake!

Prague’s historic gardens and parks are truly it’s greatest treasures.
There are over 200 historic gardens and parks in Prague, and each offer breathtaking views of the city. Some of my favorite included the Palace Gardens below Prague Castle, Petřín Hill, Letna, Wallenstein Gardens, and Vysehrad. I think these photos speak for themselves 🙂

Climbing to the top of Petrin Hill 

The cobbled-stone streets from Petrin Hill to Castle Quarter

 The view from Letna Park

Letna Park

Views from Vysehrad — a historic fort built in the 10th century. Prague Castle in the background

 Fall in Prague

Chotkovy Sady — the first public urban park in Prague, founded in 1832

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

Breakfast at Cafe Savoy. The hot chocolate was out-of-this-world amazing

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 and 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 and powerless to further occupation. Top Czech government officials fled Czechoslovakia, and when the citizenry broke out in demonstrations protesting Nazi occupation, thousands were sent to concentration and labor camps. Time and time again, the Czech people took an active stance against the Nazis, only to face brutality and 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, and by 1942, Jews were sent to concentration and labor camps. By 1945, only 14,000 Czech Jews survived. It wasn’t until May of 1945 that Prague and Czechoslovakia were liberated from Nazi control.

Alex and 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.

 Powder Tower — a medieval gate to the city of Prague. Important meeting location during World War II

The Golem of Prague — the story kept the Gestapo out of the Jewish Temple during World War II and spared the synagogue from destruction

Prague Jewish Memorial Plaques — the plaques give the name and year of birth of the person, and the date and location of death. You can find these plaques throughout Prague

Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius — the assassination spot of Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking German Nazi and main architect of the Holocaust

 The underground tunnels of Prague — the location of the last resistance of Prague during World War II

 The underground tunnels of Prague — the location of the last resistance of Prague during World War II

And, 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, and 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, and murdered. Privacy became a thing of the past; homes were searched; and 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.

Memorial to the Victims of Communism at the base of Petrin Hill. The statutes appear further decayed the further away they are from you, symbolizing how political prisoners were affected by Communism. 

 The Museum of Communism

 The Museum of Communism

 The Museum of Communism

The Museum of Communism — a quote by former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel

Velvet Revolution Memorial — this plaque displays the symbolic hands of revolting Czech students. Communist rule in Czechoslovakia ended in 1989.

There is Czech beer everywhere.
Czechs consume more beer per capita than any other country in the world. And 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 and foamy, and Pilsners are a staple of Czech culture. You can find a brewery on almost every corner, and beer gardens are also very popular. Be sure to check out the beer garden in Letna Park!

Definitely stop by Pivovar Strahov Brewery, one of our favorites

Another brewery near the Strahov Monastery

 Letna Park Beer Garden. Amazing views of the Vltava River and Prague

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, and 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, and 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.

Drinks at Hemingway Bar — Absinthe, Christmas in Havana, and The Light Side

 Blood Transfusion at AnonymouS Bar. After a drink or two, ask for the special menu!

Enjoying drinks at AnonymouS Bar with our friends from Munich!

Cocktail therapy at AnonymouS Shrink’s Office. You order drinks based off the Rorschach test. 

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