Praha, the capital of the Czech Republic and former capital of the Roman Empire, is a majestic city. Its rich history, architectural wonders and narrow cobbled streets make for a magical city break.
My fiancée and I were taking our, now accustomed, May holiday. Our Prague Airport Transfers (highly recommend) taxi whisked us through the outer reaches into the city centre, passing the Generali Arena, home to AC Sparta Prague where Thierry Henry famously became Arsenal’s all-time leading goal scorer. You’ll be glad to know Prague history goes back further than Henry’s brace in 2005.
Prague’s location at the centre of Europe has been of strategic importance politically, economically and, most obvious, religiously. Despite Czech citizens being the second least religious in Europe you’ll find Catholic and Protestant Cathedrals dominating the skyline. Not only was Prague the former capital of the Roman Empire but the home of Jan Hus, a key predecessor to Protestantism.
For centuries Josefov was nothing more than a Jewish ghetto. Situated in the low level elbow of the Vltava river, Jews experienced a shocking existence in Prague. Unfortunately a Jewish holiday meant that we were unable to visit the Old/New Synagogue and Jewish Museum. We were able to view the 13th century synagogue and the cemetery through iron gates. The Old Jewish cemetery is a shocking spectacle with thousands of gravestones crammed together into a confined space.
Prague Castle doesn’t, on the face of it, look like a castle. Perched on a plateau it is the official residence of the Czech President. Do not be fooled by the queuing, you will not be charged to walk around the Castle grounds. The queue is for security checks only. If you want to visit The Royal Palace, Golden Alley and The St. Vitus Cathedral then visit one of the information points around the castle route for tickets. In contrast to perhaps the world’s most famous castle (in my home city of Edinburgh) tickets are good value.
Ensure that you visit Prague’s Town Square at the top of the hour to witness the chimes from the Astronomical Clock. Once is enough for Europe’s second most disappointing tourist attraction. You can visit the picturesque Church of Our Lady before Tyn for free, just be prepared to leave a small donation.
When you’re on a budget with a wedding approaching every getaway is a luxury. Fortunately my fiancée and I have been treated to a long weekend in Spain and now 5 days in Prague thanks to family so far in 2017.
Prague itself is well priced. An evening meal for two at the stunningly located Marina Restaurant will cost around £30. With the majority of restaurants, bars and cafes providing inattentive service, Marina was not in keeping with this apparent theme. It’s a perfectly romantic setting to host any holiday ending meal.
Elsewhere, if you’re in a rush, be on your game to ensure your order is taken and your bill delivered before the day is out! You’ll experience poor service more often than good service around Prague’s city centre restaurants and bars.
The Vltava river is not just there for your viewing pleasure. You must take advantage of the boat tours offered by local operators to enjoy a beer whilst sailing through the arched bridges. If you’re feeling adventurous then hire a pedalo from one of the stations on the riverside and take a paddle on the river for yourself.
Always carry a bundle of 10kr. coins. That’s my motto. You’ll need every last one for the appropriately translated “toalety” (toilet), even in places where you’ve purchased something.
Amsterdam has chip shops galore, Prague has Trdelnik openings on every corner. You won’t be disappointed with this delicious sweet pastry.
If you’re worried by the phrase book – don’t be. I can’t believe I’m about to admit that you’ll get by just fine with typical British ignorance. Czech’s aren’t fans of vowels and some words are almost impossible to pronounce. In fact they get annoyed when you try and immediately beat you to the English language translation. But if you feel uncomfortable about arriving without the basics then you’ll soon be on familiar territory when someone says ‘hello’ before you even start on ‘dobry den’.