A whistle stop visit to PraguePosted on: 05 December 2019 by mars webb
Mars Webb swaps Belfast for old town Prague for a pre-Christmas break that focuses on food and shopping. Quelle surprise!
I have never travelled to Eastern Europe and after promising our lovely au-pair who we loved dearly that we would come and visit him, I booked flights to Prague from Dublin airport via AerLingus at the end of the summer holidays.
I love flying AerLingus, always friendly, no fuss and rarely late, the flight was just over two hours. Our friend Vladi met us at the airport and we travelled via bus and train into the city centre where our hotel was which was quick and easy to do.
We didn’t have much time in Prague, so we dropped off our bags at Hotel Golden Crown which was very centrally located on Vězeňská street in one of the oldest parts of the city. It’s literally right opposite the famous Head of Franz Kafka or called the Statue of Kafka by artist Jaroslav Róna, which is a stainless streel face that rotates.
Our room was spacious with a camp bed for our teenager daughter and it had lovely facilities with bathrobes, slippers, tea and coffee and a well -stocked bathroom. Although it’s in a busy location the rooms are quiet and great curtains/blinds to block out the lights. The hotel location was brilliant, we walked everywhere. The breakfast was just okay, not my favourite to be honest and they could improve their coffee which was weak.
The day we arrived it was turning dark, so we took to the streets quickly to explore as we had a dinner reservation for 7pm.
A grand and majestic city. The buildings are just beautiful, the architecture in Prague is stunning and the city was lit up beautifully with Christmas lights in many of the shops. Literally wherever you look there is incredible architecture. The National Museum, The Powder Tower and the Municipal House, The Castle to the modern Dancing House. Wherever you look there is the most incredible buildings and the Old Town Square is incredible with so much on offer which I talk about later plus the beautiful Kinsky Palace.
The shopping is fabulous in Prague which pleased our teenager daughter with Sephora and Bershka which we don’t have in Belfast. There are lots of lovely little mini shopping malls and we walked up Wenceslas Square, which is the main shopping street where the National Museum sits gracefully at the top overlooking. They were celebrating 30 years since the Velvet Revolution when we arrived so light and candles were being lit.
You have to use the Czech Crowns which I couldn’t get my head around how much things cost. All the designer shops are in the Old Town near the Jewish Synagogue called Parizska Street which has Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Prada, they are all there.
There really are some beautiful squares in Prague but the one with the moving clock, knows as The Old Town Square which is just stunning, and it is the biggest square in Prague. The Church of Mother of God before Týn, is a fairy-tale gothic church which is beautifully lit up at night and stands tall at one end of the Old Town Square and you then have the baroque St Nicholas’ Church whose interior was inspired by the chapel of St. Louis-des-invalides in Paris and has delicate stucco decoration but we only glanced in as there was a concert going on.
Our first only full day we headed out and got the Petřín Cable Car which takes you up to The Petřín Tower. In hindsight I’m glad we caught this instead of walking up there as we did over 33,000 steps on our full day in Prague and it is a steep climb. The Petřín Lookout Tower is a 63.5 metres tall steel-framework tower and was built in 1891. It resembles the Eiffel Tower and was used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The view is stunning, 360 views of the city and you climb up the stairs one side and come down the other side and it has two observation decks. Definitely worth doing and a highlight of our trip plus it also has a lovely café called Café Re:public at the bottom to enjoy beautiful views over the city.
From the Petřín Tower we walked down to Prague Castle which is the largest castle complex in the world I believe, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We decided not to go in which was a shame, but we wanted to wander around outside instead. The buildings consist of various architectural styles from Romanesque-style buildings to 10th century right through to gothic. The Cathedral of St Vitus from the outside is majestic and I would have loved to have gone it but so much to see.
In the grounds of the Castle there was a sweet little Christmas market with food which was wonderful to sit in and enjoy a glass of hot wine or beer and the food looked great.
From the Castle we headed down and walked across the Charles Bridge which crosses the river Vltava. It is beautiful during the day but even more so at night. The architecture and the colours of the buildings in Prague are vibrant and the city looks ever so pretty. The views are fabulous but sadly there is quite a lot of people begging with pets which I found very sad to see. Do go to Na Kampě it is located under the bridge on the Kampa Island and it felt like we had arrived on to a movie set it’s gorgeous with historic buildings.
The first night we ate at La Finestra in Cucina, an Italian restaurant and the food was exquisite with excellent service. We had the Frittura mista di mare (Assorted fried seafood) which was cooked to perfection and they also had a special seasonal truffle menu which my husband tried with Langoustine ravioli with charred onion dust and butter emulsion which was superb. I enjoyed the Pumpkin risotto with fermented wine juice and dehydrated ricotta which was exquisite albeit served a little cold. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed her dry-aged steak and said the mash was divine. Deserts were wonderful and overall would highly recommend this restaurant by chef Tomáš Juřík's.
We had lunch at Hergetova Cihelna, restaurant which despite the reviews we found the staff and service excellent. We decided to try a Czech dish, so we went for the Duck Leg Confit with potato dumplings, spiced red cabbage, thyme jus which was delicious. I wasn’t a massive fan of the dumplings, but the dish tasted delicious. The views at this restaurant are stunning you are literally sitting looking out at the Charles Bridge and the prices were reasonable so it’s definitely worth a visit. That evening after our friend left us to head home and we hadn’t booked anywhere so we checked out TripAdvisor and weirdly we all fancied a curry so walked to Sangam a wonderful curry house with rave reviews and had a few different curry dishes which were delicious and the service was attentive.
Finally, our daughter wanted to try a Trdelnik, (sweet pastry, rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix) with ice cream, hot sauce and strawberries. We bought if at a street vendor who sadly was beyond grumpy and rude which was a shame, but my daughter thoroughly enjoyed it although I thought the ice cream inside tasted very artificial.
A beautiful, majestic city and we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit and it was wonderful to meet our old friend after so many years who actually told me he lived in Bratislava not Prague which was rather embarrassing but never mind, as it now gives us an excuse to head there next. As much as we loved Prague, I am glad I went but I don’t want to go back again as there are so many other great places to explore.
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