From Budapest, we took a train to Prague, in the Czech Republic. While we booked a private car, first class, the system did not put us all in the same private car, which made the journey less enjoyable until we resolved the issue (who’d have thought a first class booking for a family of three would put us in two different cars).
Our train arrived so late almost all the restaurants had closed. We asked our hotel concierge where we could grab dinner and he kind of shrugged and said it was probably too late to find anything but kebabs or maybe pizza. While we weren’t pleased with his lack of empathy, as it turned out, we did find a kebab place still open, and enjoy some exceptionally mediocre dinner before bed.
Following that, we had two full days to explore the city, and I was determined to get the most of out of them. Prague’s architecture had made it a high priority on my list for a long time, and it did not disappoint. Prague ranks right up there with Vienna as one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.
The Lucerna Passage runs under the Lucerna Palace, connecting a cinema, arcade, and different streets. What’s more interesting is the nest of cafes and restaurants inside the passage, and the unusual sculptures decorating the interior—such as St. Wenceslas.
Perhaps the most famous of the main squares in the New Town, Wenceslas Square is named for St. Wenceslas, the same guy on the upside-down horse in the Lucerna Passage. It’s the busiest pedestrian area of the whole city, flanked by a cool-looking museum and numerous shops.
The Powder Tower
On the boundary between Old Town and New Town lies the stunning gothic Powder Tower. It used to be a gate to what is now the Old Town. Construction began in 1475, but it wasn’t the Powder Tower then. The name actually comes from the 17th century, when the tower was used to house gunpowder.
Henry’s Tower (Jindřišská věž) is a landmark 15th century bell tower worth a look while in the area.
The Alchemy Museum was, perhaps, the coolest attraction we visited in Prague. An English-speaking tour guide took us through actual tunnels used by the famed alchemists of Prague for centuries. Because alchemy was prohibited by the Church, the lab existed beneath the front of a real pharmacy. These tunnels were sealed up when the alchemists eventually fled Prague. People forgot they ever existed. Then a flood led to the discovery of the system of tunnels, and archaeologists began an excavation that led to uncovering all this secret history. Really, really fascinating stuff.
Old Town Square
The heart of Old Town is a beautiful square rimmed by the Church of Our Lady Before Ten and the famed Astronomical Clock. We stopped in a cafe here just to enjoy the view over a cup of coffee. This is the essential view of Prague.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
In the Old Town Square lies the iconic gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Prague, you’ve probably seen this place. We weren’t able to go inside, but honestly, it’s the view of the towers that really stuns.
Prague Astronomical Clock
Another iconic must-see in Prague, the clock was installed in 1410. And it still works, making it the oldest such clock in the world.
In the evening we went out for dinner and caught a view of the Dancing House, a bizarre but compelling ultra-modern office building.
Did I mentioned iconic views of Prague? Charles Bridge spans the Vltava, connecting the two halves of the city (and the two most popular tourist areas!). Our second day, we headed here to catch the other side of Prague.
Old Town Bridge Tower
At the east end of Charles Bridge lies this amazing tower.
St. Nicholas Church
On the west side of the river, you find one of the most famous churches in a city with a lot of famous churches. The interior is actually even more amazing than the exterior.
The Medieval Tavern
On the route between St Nicholas and the Prague Castle we stumbled across a real medieval tavern still in operation. Yes, seriously. I’m not sure the medieval patrons were ordering cappuccinos like us, but nevertheless, this was an absolute gem of a find for us.
Prague Castle/St. Vitus Cathedral
While we did not realize it, Prague Castle actually has free tours. We got there later than we had hoped, and had to rush a bit to see everything. It’s another beautiful example of Czechian architecture, this one dating from the 9th century.
St. Vitus Cathedral lies inside the castle grounds. We arrived too late to go inside, but we did get to ogle the stunning exterior facade.