We spent a week in Prague, making it the longest leg of the trip, and also the place we stopped over Christmas. It's also home to the nicest and cheapest hostel I've ever stayed in. We had painted ceilings, heated floors, and hairdryers in the bathroom for about $15 a night. It was crazy.
Since we were there such a comparatively long time, it's hard to know where to even begin with a "city guide." Instead, I'll just mention some of the places and things that burn the brightest in my memory. I have to say, get yourself a city map and do the touristy things. Check out the Astronomical Clock, walk around the Jewish Quarter, explore St. Vitus and the castle. Taking a walking tour might not seem thrilling at first, but I've found that it's a good way to orient yourself to a city, learn where things are and a little history about the place. It's a good foundation to start your exploring on. Prague's Old Town might actually be the most touristy place I've ever been, and every day a slew of companies doing free walking tours depart from Old Town Square. We did the Sandeman's tour, the company with the red umbrella, and really enjoyed it. But you don't need me to tell you about the big obvious things, so let me tell you about the little ones we did.
FUNHands down, the coolest thing we did during our stay here was a puzzle room. The entire concept was new to us (apparently they are all the rage in Budapest), but on our first night at our hostel we ended up talking to some of the other people in our room and they told us about a game where you get locked in a room for an hour and have to figure out how to get out. My first thought was along the lines of "Are you out of your gourd?! No way am I willingly getting kidnapped in a foreign country." But that's actually not what it is. Instead it's like a mix of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, National Treasure, and the Davinci Code. You do get locked in a room, but you're racing yourself to figure out clues and solve a puzzle that will unlock the door before they just let you out at the end and you lose the game. We did it in a four person team with two of our hostel roommates, and had a blast. The room we went to was based on some Prague historical lore and the story of the Golem, so it was set in the 15th century. We had a walkie talkie connecting us with the woman on the other side of the door so she could give us hints when we skipped a step or made something too complicated. We made it out in an hour and three minutes, and we were only ten minutes behind the fastest group she'd ever had. It was such a fun way to spend an afternoon, and didn't feel touristy at all, which turned out to be a challenge in Prague. Check out the Puzzle Room!
FOODLet's talk nosh. Since K and I were there over Christmas, Old Town Square was packed with the Christmas markets, and we ate a lot of trdelnik and other Czech goodies from there, like ham and haluski. But in terms of restaurants, there are two cute ones I can recommend.
Cafe Alchemista is located up the big hill from Old Town. It's a sweet, small vintage styled cafe and tea room. We heard about it from one of K's friends who had spent a semester in Prague and told us we had to go there and try the medovnik, or honey cake. We each had a coffee (which is confusing to order abroad when you only speak English. People always thought we wanted espresso. No complaints either way.) and a slice of the honey cake and the special Christmas cake. Both were delightful, and the cute server in his Christmas vest was fun too.
Ristorante Rugantino was a place we were introduced to through one of my friends who is doing his year abroad in Prague. We met up briefly on our first day in town, and his last before he flew home to the UK for Christmas. This place is an ultra modern, minimalist Italian restaurant. It's run by a family from Italy and they had colorful lunch specials which looked lovely on their all-white dishes. It was also one of the only places we ate anything green during our stay, so it felt a little like an oasis of nutrition amongst all the starch and meat.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Cafe Louvre has great cake too. Go endure the crowd, feel a little like you're in the Grand Budapest Hotel and eat the Large Chocolate Cake. Sweet lord.
THEATREK and I are theatre majors, right? So naturally we wanted to see as much theatre as we could during this trip. And theatre tickets in Prague are dirt cheap. We went to the opera for $10 total, and the National Theatre for $5 total. I don't mean each of us paid $5 for our tickets, I mean they were $5 in all. FIVE DOLLARS. And we got to sit in these absolutely stunning old buildings, one of which was the theatre where Mozart himself directed the world premiere of Don Giovanni. WHAT.
But I'd be willing to argue that the work being done there now is just as stunning as the history it holds. We saw a Czech-language production of Othello and it is easily one of the best shows I have ever seen. We had been slightly worried about going to see a play in a language we didn't understand, but we needed have been concerned at all. It was so visually-arresting, and the acting was so great that all we lost in the story-telling were a few of the jokes. But we laughed and got dewey-eyed alongside everyone else for the majority of the story, just like the rest of the audience. If you're curious, watch this trailer and see a little of what this production looked like. I couldn't recommend it more.
BOOKSIn terms of things that are permanently there, the Globe Bookstore was a really fun way to spend a couple hours. It's an English language bookstore near the river, with a cafe and free wifi that ensures you can comfortably hoard yourself away in a nook for an afternoon. It has plenty of Prague standards, so you can read about the place you're staying in, or they have more popular titles as well. They also host live music and shows, but we weren't able to make one of those, partly due to the holiday season.
ARTAs for museums, they aren't free like the miracles that make up much of the UK, but some cheap and really high-quality ones include the Mucha Museum and for modern art lovers, the Museum Kampa. Mucha is quite small, but for devotees of art nouveau, I'd recommend it. And Museum Kampa is about $2 entry for students, so worth a look around. When we went they had a really interesting exhibit on a collage artist named Jiri Kolar, who I'm glad to know about now.
On the whole, Prague is a really beautiful old city. It's kind of overrun by tourists and stupid crystal souvenir shops, but the real gems make it worth a serious visit. Walk around, eat, watch street performers on the Charles Bridge, buy some things you might regret, get harassed by proprietors of marionette shops. This has been a crazy long post, but only because I have a lot of great things to say about this city!
Next up: a day in Kutna Hora.