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Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. Besides, it is the 13th biggest city in the European Union and Bohemia’s historical capital. This city is situated along the Vltava River and has an estimated population of around 1.3 million people (the metropolitan region has an estimated 2.7 million people). Prague has a temperate climate (warm summers and chilly winters). The Czech Republic was formerly part of a country called Czechoslovakia (a Communist nation). Czechoslovakia dissolved in 1993. Two independent nations were formed (Czech Republic and Slovakia).
There are no direct flights from Philadelphia to the Czech Republic. I had to fly to Frankfurt (Germany) and then fly from Frankfurt to Prague. Prague was on my travel bucket list ever since I saw the video for the song “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS. The video was taken in 1988 when Prague was still part of the communist Czechoslovakia. The video was shot mostly around Old Town Prague (Staré Město pražské). In the video you can see the famous Charles Bridge, the Jewish Cemetery and at the end of the video, you get a sneak peak of the “Old Town Square”.
Where should you stay in Prague?
Old Town Prague (Stare Mesto) and the neighborhoods close to it are the places where you should look for accommodation. The Old Town (the medieval part of Prague) is fairly big and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it also have a very medieval feel to it. The Old Town is fairly flat. But once you cross the Charles Bridge it gets a little hilly (Hradcany & Letna). Stare Mesto, Hradcany and Letna are my favorite places to stay in Prague. Old Town, Hradcany and Letna are also very picturesque.
I found Prague to be an expensive city overall compared to other Central European cities. I once stayed in a hotel about a block from Charles Bridge outside Old Town. The rate was about 100 Euros per night and my room was only slightly bigger than a standard American walk in closet!!
Neighborhoods of Prague.
- Hradcany & Letna: A visit to Prague won’t be complete if you do not enjoy the city’s scenic views from the hills. The hills stretch out from North to West, presenting the most spectacular green gardens, cobblestone streets, bridges connecting the river banks, and copper cupolas. The city has a rich history. Furthermore, waking up to the historic Czech ruler’s seat, amusing Saint Vitus, and the Prague Castle staircase is breathtaking.
- Josefov: Josefov was historically and still is home to the Jewish community in Prague. This neighborhood has Synagogues and a very important Jewish Cemetery. Some streets in this part of Prague are very narrow (You can touch both sides as you are walking. This area reminded me of Naples, Italy). I could feel the rich history as I was walking through these streets. This neighborhood is full of museums, antique bookstores and kosher restaurants.
- Mala Strana: Mala Strana is one of the most attractive and oldest neighborhoods of Prague. This neighborhood is charming and calm, and you are likely to find ponds, peacocks around parks, hidden gardens, and fruit trees. Mala Strana hosts the Czech parliament, making it one of the safest areas in the city. This neighborhood is also the place for tasty traditional meals and some of the finest Czech beers.
- Stare Mesto: Stare Mesto is likely the most attractive neighborhood in Prague. One outstanding feature is the Krizovnicky Square that overlooks the Charles Bridge. It is a historical neighborhood with churches and Gothic houses, stone towers, and cobblestone streets that blend with modern designs. The neighborhood is home to international clothing brand lines, dance clubs, restaurants and bars that breathe life into the city. Stare Mesto has a vibrant night life.
What to eat and drink in Prague?
When in Prague you have to drink beer, Pilsner in particular. The Pilsner is one of the most famous types of beer in the world. The name Pilsner comes from the town of Pilsen, which is about 40 miles from Prague. Pilsner Urquell is probably the most popular beer in Prague.
The world famous American beer, Budweiser, has connections to the Czech Republic as well. Budweiser is a lager and is named after a town called Budweis, which is about two hours from Prague. As an American, one of the things I appreciate about bars in Prague is that most of them do not play music or TV a lot. A bar is a place for conversations. However, outside the bars, an average American is much more “talkative” (for a lack of a better word) than an average Czech.
Prague is also known for its Czech dishes. These are mostly traditional foods, with versatile flavors such as fruit dumplings, traditional roast pork, sauerkraut, and apple strudel. Some of the popular food items in Prague are:
- Chlebicky: Chlebicky is the most popular snack across the city. It is a traditional dish, made of toasted or baguette-like bread.
- Schnitzel: Schnitzel is, let’s say, the staple food in Prague, prepared mainly during dinners or lunch. It can be breaded chicken or pork, often served with creamy mash or potato salad.
- Trdelnik (Chimney Cake): Chimney Cake is undoubtedly one of the finest snacks in Prague. This snack resembles the Chimney cake, as it is made of yeast dough, which is rolled out first before wrapping it around a metal or wooden stick.
Best places to Visit in Prague.
- Old Town Square & the Astronomical Clock: This square is situated at the heart of the medieval Old Town. This area serves an excellent meet-up point for both locals and tourists. Here, you will also see the Old Town Hall, a historical building built in 1338. There is a great-looking clock outside of this hall, often referred to as the Astronomical clock.
- Prague Castle & Picture Gallery: The Prague Castle is the biggest castle in Europe. The building is also the most outstanding historical site of this beautiful city. It was initially used as a home for Roman Emperors and Bohemian kings. Today, it acts as the president’s office of the Czech Republic. There is a popular Prague picture gallery hanging within this castle, with some famous collections.
- The Powder Tower: Built around the 11th century, the Powder Tower was one of Old Town’s thirteen medieval gates. Around the 18th century, this tower was used as the city’s gunpowder depot. Although it’s no longer in use as the gunpowder depot, it is an important historical site.
- Charles Bridge: Formally called the Stone Bridge, the Charles Bridge is a significant historical feature that crosses the Vltava River. Before 1841, it was the only bridge connecting the Old Town and the surrounding neighborhoods. This bridge features 30 statues of attractive, traditional lanterns and saints.
I enjoyed my visits to Prague and I would definitely visit again. However, I found Prague to be slightly on the expensive side. Also, I would put Prague in the same category as Barcelona or Madrid when it comes to safety. You have to be careful with your belongings. Pickpocketing is common. There was also an attempt to mug my friend who was traveling with me. This happened a block from the Old Town Square.
Have you visited Prague? What was your experience like?
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