Hello avid travellers! Going to the Czech Republic for holidays and need inspiration and tips? Read on.
Last winter I traveled solo in Prague for 5 days, and here is my travel diary.
January 3, 2016. Arrived safely in Prague in the middle of the night at a bus station with unknown whereabouts.
I took the evening bus from Vienna and arrived around midnight at the bus station in Prague. I figured out after I got off the bus that the station was not centrally located. After some asking and poking around, I found where to take the subway heading in the direction of my hostel. Be ready with coins! The ticket machines at the subway station were apparently pretty old and only worked with coins. Even worse, I didn’t have any Czech crowns on me then, but there was a convenience store inside the bus station that received Euros and they were happy to give you back the change in Czech crowns. I got off the subway in the middle of nowhere (again). With the help of a nice local gentleman, I was directed to take the tram and he even looked out for me when it was time to get off! Nice people. And so, I arrived safe and sound at my hostel.
I stayed for 2 nights at the Little Quarter Hostel, located near the Prague Castle. It was a really decent hostel, and freaking cheap too. I paid around 8 € per night for a bed in an 8-bed dorm. The showers were clean, and towels and linen were provided for free. A bit noisy though, but if you’re not a light sleeper it shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately I came down with a serious bout of flu on my second day, so on the third day of my stay I moved to a hotel at the centre of Prague’s Old Town for a better night’s sleep. Hotel Rubicon Old Town was a pretty nice hotel, and the breakfast was really good. But it comes with a price, 30 € per night for a room. You might want to book rooms at the topmost floors though, since I could hear drunk people walking by after parties at dawn (my room was on the 2nd floor). lol. Still, it was a good stay I would say.
January 4, 2016. Free walking tour.
My first morning in Prague began with a free walking tour operated by the Sandeman Tour. Brian was our guide, and he was nothing short of awesome! He filled our tour with interesting and fun facts on the city’s amazing history, spicing it with smart jokes along the way. Include this walking tour on your Prague to do list, and I promise you wouldn’t regret it. You get to know locations and the history behind the famous landmarks, and also other hidden treasures you would never know existed. First thing on my itinerary every time I visit a new city is to join a free walking tour. Helps with getting a sense of direction and you can return to the spots anytime later for a more thorough visit (and selfies).
I went for lunch with a Singaporean friend I met during the tour at a local restaurant in one of the little winding alleys of Prague’s Old Town. Restaurant U Svobodných Zednářů had good food, and I liked the atmosphere inside the restaurant. Especially since it was snowing pretty bad by then, the coziness of the place probably doubled. lol. I don’t remember the exact name of my dish, but I am sure I had bread dumplings with some type of marinated meat in gravy. We also had fried cheese for a side dish, and it was divine. I believe the price was not expensive for restaurant standards, because otherwise we wouldn’t have dined there (being the financially deprived students we were. lol). Anyway, I would gladly recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting Prague.
We spent the rest of the day visiting the Dancing House and the Vyserhad Castle. Too bad it was a foggy night then, otherwise the view of Prague and Vltava (The river that runs through Prague) from Vyserhad Castle would’ve been fantastic.
January 5, 2016. The Prague Castle and Christmas market in the Old Town Square.
During my second day, I was down with the flu, but I managed to make a visit to Prague Castle in the afternoon. The area consisted of several cathedrals, including the famous St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace and the Golden Lane. I only entered the St. Vitus Cathedral and none of the other buildings there, but if you want to and are wondering about the entrance fees, you can read them here. A picturesque view of Prague is another treat waiting for you when you visit Prague castle.
Since it was just after Christmas and New Year’s, the Christmas market in the Old Town Square was still bustling with pretty red wooden stalls selling local food and handicrafts. For dinner, I tried a dish which was some sort of potato mixed with fermented cabbage (sauerkraut). Have to sadly admit that it wasn’t my kind of thing. lol. My tip though, if you happen to visit the Christmas market in Prague, do take notice and be extra careful when buying food (especially the ones with prices based on weight) since they tend to be expensive compared even to fine dining places. For your reference, my cabbage and potatoes cost me 300 Kč (around 11 €)! I know. My awesome lunch the previous day wasn’t even half as expensive. Do freak out and be extra vigilant when you visit the market. Fortunately, the hotdogs and mulled wine in the market had reasonable prices.
January 6, 2016. Revisiting landmarks and paying a visit to the ones I haven’t seen.
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, I headed out to the Charles Bridge, or in the Czech language, Karlův Most. The bridge connects the Old Town to Lesser Town (the side of the river where my previous hostel and Prague Castle is located). The cobblestone bridge is beautifully lined with baroque statues, mostly depicting Jesus Christ and saints. One famous statue is that of St. John of Nepomuk, a priest and martyr who was thrown off the bridge under the reign of King Wenceslas IV. Touching the small golden cross on the plaque marking the place where he was thrown (to the right of the statue) is said to grant your wishes in one year and one day.
On the way back, I stopped by a candy store on the road leading to the bridge (on the Old Town side). It was basically candy heaven! They had the weirdest combinations of flavours and it came in all sorts of shapes and colour. The frogs and bananas in particular were pretty realistic. I also liked how they placed the candies in wooden barrels. The best part of it all, they tasted fantastic! Don’t be afraid, you won’t end up with a bogey flavoured one.
I walked back to the Old Town Square after finishing the bridge to witness the medieval Astronomical Clock when it strikes the hour. At every strike of the hour, small windows on either side of the clock opens to reveal the 12 Apostles. A skeleton with a bell in its hands, a Turk shaking his head, a miser with a bag of money and Vanity looking into a hand-held mirror are animated into life as the Apostles parade. A golden rooster then crows and a bell rings, marking the end of the procession. Pretty cool thing to see. It gave me the chills of medieval feels.
Hungry after strolling around, I had a lunch of potato pancakes accompanied with fermented cabbage from one of the Christmas market stalls. Too bad it was cold, would have tasted pretty decent if it were warm. However, it was a nice afternoon to be walking around town accompanied by Christmas music in the air.
I strolled around revisiting the places I went with the walking tour to take more pictures, and guided myself through the expensive shopping streets (window shopping is the best indeed! lol). Before going back to the hotel and calling it a day, I stopped by to get the worldly famous Trdelnik, or ‘turtle neck’, a Czech delicacy never to miss (picture below). They are loaded with sugar and they are awesome (seriously)!! They even have Nutella-filled ones. Life is perfect.
January 7, 2016. Kutna Hora tour and the Black Light Theatre.
Hello morning! I had signed up online a few days before for a tour to the town of Kutna Hora, just one hour outside of Prague (also arranged by the Sandeman tour). Ever heard of the Bone Chapel or Sedlec Ossuary? Yes. Kutna Hora is the place. The Bone Chapel was built in the 15th century, and its basement was used as an ossuary for bones from the cemetery beside it. In 1870 the bones were moved into the chapel. More than 40,000 real human skeletons were used to decorate the Bone Chapel. It may sound like an eerie place, but weird enough, I wasn’t freaked out in the slightest. Maybe I was even peaceful inside on the contrary. Fascinating place and experience.
Another landmark we visited during the tour was Saint Barbara’s Cathedral, a massive Neo-Gothic church named after St. Barbara, a patron saint for miners. Kutna Hora was famous for its silver mines in the medieval times. We also visited the Italian Court, which served as the royal mint (a place where silver coins were produced) during the middle ages.
We had a late lunch at a ‘medieval’ local restaurant and pub. The interior was awesome! Long wooden tables, stone walls, lit fireplaces, and waitresses dressed in medieval attires. Definitely recommended. If you take the tour, the guide will take you there for lunch anyway, no worries! I had soup in a bread bowl accompanied by mulled wine, and it was lovely.
If you were wondering, the Kutna Hora tour costs 22 € for students (including all transportation and entrance tickets), and it was more than worth it. If you travelled the same route on your own, I assure you that you will end up spending way more.
We returned to Prague in the evening, and I was really lucky to have met a Chinese friend during the tour. She asked me to watch the Black Light Theatre together (yeah. I was so ignorant I didn’t even know it was a thing in Prague. lol). We watched the show at the Black Light Theatre Srnec, the first Black Light Theatre in the world. It was pretty expensive (500 Kč for students, equals to around 18.5 €), but it was the coolest thing ever! Totally worth it. Save up some money and include the show in your Prague itinerary 😉
January 8, 2016. John Lennon Wall.
My last morning in Prague arrived, and I was finally greeted by clear blue skies and sun after four days of snow. I met up with my Chinese friend for our last stop in Prague, the John Lennon Wall. It was fascinating to see the wide stretch of wall filled with messages written by people from places all over the world. Too bad we weren’t that prepared in bringing our own paint or markers to leave a proof of our visit. lol. But anyway, we said our goodbyes (sobs) and that was my last stop before I ran (literally) to catch the subway and bus to the airport. A little secret here: I asked the lady at the subway ticket desk, and she said that the subway tickets can be used for the bus to the airport too (as long as it is within the time limit stated on the ticket), so I didn’t pay anything more for my ride to the airport.
I have to say that amongst all the cities I have visited during my travels in Europe, Prague is definitely the most surreal. Walking the streets of Prague gives you a dreamlike vibe, sort of like being thrown into a fairytale set in the middle ages where time apparently stops. Even more so since I was there in winter, with snow dusting every rooftop and landscape. It is a beautiful city, and what’s even better is that stuff is cheaper in Prague compared to most other European cities. Pack your bags and visit Prague! 😀
And to my lovely readers, thank you for spending time reading this post! xoxo