It took us over two years, but after a warm-up trip to Budapest, we finally made it to the jewel of central Europe’s tourism crown: Prague. The City of a Hundred Spires is a charming mix of amazing architecture, adorable squares, and incredible views and has an impressive history stretching back over 1,000 years. Unlike some other cities in the area, Prague was spared the worst of the Second World War which explains why its medieval look and feel are intact. For our three-day visit, we stayed in an Airbnb in Malá Strana on the west bank of the Vltava River just a short walk from the iconic Charles Bridge.
We stuck around our home base the first day. We stopped by St. Nicholas Church on our way toward the castle but unfortunately scaffolding in the interior blocked most of the beautiful paintings that adorn the ceiling. We stumbled on the Church of St. Thomas as we continued our walk which, though not as grand, was at least not under construction! Our last stop before the castle was at Wallenstein Garden, perfectly manicured gardens outside the home of the Czech Senate that offer some nice views up toward the castle. After heading inside to ride out a brief hailstorm we finally made our way up to the castle via Staré Zámecké Schody (you can also cut up to a path through vineyards from here).
Prague’s castle complex is made up of a series of buildings. The grounds are free to enter (you have to go through some light security) and you can buy a two-day combination ticket once you’re inside the walls. There are a few different options depending on what you want to see. We opted for the more complete “Circuit A” tickets. Tickets in hand, we headed for Golden Lane, a crooked cobblestone street tucked in the back of the complex built in the 16th century to house the castle guards. Its current name comes from the goldsmiths who inhabited the buildings in the 17th century. The street is a very popular attraction that immediately loses its charm with the large crowds; we would recommend visiting first thing in the morning (which we came back to do the following day!).
St. George’s Basilica was next up. It is not grand, but it’s 1,000 years old and has a calmingly simple interior. It was very relaxing to sit in the pews and watch the parade of visitors quietly circle the place. St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica’s showoff neighbor, is right across the way and has much more majestic appeal. We walked into what we thought was the entrance and confusingly paid an extra fee having thought entry was included in our ticket. We quickly realized we had just bought tickets to climb the tower, so we went with it and were rewarded with beautiful views over the city! Once back on the ground we found the actual entrance to the church and spent some time appreciating its vivid stained glass.
After a walk through the Old Royal Palace and a snack of chimney cake from one of the market stalls, we briefly exited the castle grounds to walk through the Royal Garden (check out the unmarked building with the geometric designs covering its exterior). We re-entered the castle to walk through the square housing Kohl's Fountain and then exited again toward Hradčanské Náměstí. From here we took a short walk to a series of small cobblestone streets around Nový Svět. It was so nice to get away from the crowds, especially after the castle, and see some of the lower key areas in the city. The area is sprinkled with small cafes and just oozes charm. Our loop back toward our Airbnb took us past the Loreta church complex and Černín Palace and down Loretánská and Úvoz.
One of Malá Strana’s most striking features is the 400-foot tall Petřín Hill. The park offers an expanse of green space right in the city and also provides stunning views of Prague. We walked up from the southeastern corner, along and past Hunger Wall to Petřín Tower. The Eiffel Tower lookalike is visible from many points in the city and offers a panoramic viewing platform. We walked off the hill through the northeastern corner which is covered in attractive apple orchards. Kampa, a canal-hugged island along the west bank, is just across the way from here. We took a loop around and then cut over to the Lennon Wall, a place where the youth would air grievances during communism. There is a unique communal energy pumping through the area and there was even a guy playing Beatles’ songs while we were there. If you head north from here, under Charles Bridge, you’ll get to a cute shopping area on U Lužického Semináře and Míšeňská where we found our souvenir for the trip (check out The Chemistry Design Store, Nostalgie, and Shakespeare & Sons).
Stayed tuned for our second post which will cover our time spent in Prague’s old and new towns!