Prague. In the run-up to Christmas. Pure magic.
It was a place I was destined to visit – one of those European cities that tugged at my imagination for as long as I could remember, helped in no small part by this:
However, this video was shot years before the Iron Curtain fell, and Prague is now infamous for its booming tourist trade. We thought we’d see if it was any less crowded in mid-December. At 11 pm on a chilly Monday night, we had Charles Bridge almost to ourselves. I feel like that might not happen in July. But who knows?
If you’re a fan of Christmas markets, you won’t be able to take many steps (in December) without running into one. The biggest is in the Old Town Square, complete with a huge, stunning Christmas tree. Writing this in mid-January, I’m beyond ready to retire Christmas for several months, but Heather from four weeks ago was suitably enthralled. Paper cups of ubiquitous hot wine were involved.
A city break is always helped or hindered by the hotel. In this case we hit the jackpot by booking a room at Hotel U Páva. It was a reasonably priced, comfortable room, in a quiet location that couldn’t be better. It was mere steps from Charles Bridge, and it turns out all of our favourite discoveries were within a stone’s throw as well.
Always love the professional photos found in travel magazines:
- Condé Nast Traveler – 15 photos that will make you want to visit Prague
- Travel + Leisure – Prague is a real-life fairy tale and these photos prove it
And I haven’t given my boy Rick Steves a shoutout for a while, so if you have 25 minutes…
Food and Drink
Prague is so walkable that I was reluctant to make reservations anywhere and figured we’d just look for places to eat as we went along. Metres into our first walk from the hotel we saw a burger place, StreetBurger Bistro that looked promising – one of the best burgers I’ve had in ages. Across the street was an excellent cafe called Bakeshop, and Vinograf, wine bar was around the corner. We didn’t make it into the very busy wine bar until the final hour before our airport transfer from the hotel, when it was early enough to be almost empty. Perfect for a final, peaceful drink before the bright lights and organised chaos of the airport.
There’s always the feeling that if you come across great stuff before you’ve had much of a chance to explore, you should carry on and see what else is out there. But if you stay at the same hotel, these places, plus an amazing English bookstore, Shakespeare a synové, are all within 160 metres.
Wandering around was a top priority. We were there for three days, which gave us plenty of time to hit everything on our must-see list without rushing. We spent a few hours in the Museum of Communism and the Kafka Museum, neither exactly uplifting and fun, but well curated, informative and thought provoking. Prague Castle was a delight, but bring along coins in either the local currency or Euros in case you need the loo. The price of admission does not include toilets in these touristy times.
Sometimes we headed away from the really old parts of town for a bit of a palate cleanser, ending up on modern shopping streets around Můstek metro station. All the big names are there, so if you end up in Prague before Christmas, you can even get a bit of shopping done!
And finally, dotted around the city are David Černý’s awesomely quirky sculptures. You could, I suppose, seek them out in your wanders, but we found most of them by chance. I’ve always loved how Europe mixes old with new, modern with traditional, and humour with gravity.