Exploring Prague,'The Golden City' of the Czech Republic

Charlotte Booy Howlett shares her guide to the 'Golden City' of the Czech Republic; Prague!

Charlotte Booy Howlett
28th February 2020
Following the January exam period, my boyfriend booked us a trip to Prague for a well-deserved holiday. Famous for its autumnal-coloured gothic buildings and beer brewing heritage, a quick city break to Prague is definitely one for the bucket list. Easily completable in a day or two, here is my insider guide to The Golden City’s daytime and night-time to-do’s... 

Prague by Day

Navigating Prague

Prague is an extremely walkable city and many of its major attractions are within comfortable walking distance from each other (10-15 minutes max). Walking is definitely the best way to discover the city’s many famous and hidden gems! However, if you are like me and have accommodation located outside of town, Prague’s public transport is amazing; reliable, clean and cheap! By purchasing one ticket, whether it be valid for 90 minutes, 24 hours or 3 days, your ticket gives you access to all of the trams, buses and metros throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased from the automatic machines at the entrance of all metro stations, at some tram or bus stops, and at tabáks (tobacconists). Always remember to validate your ticket at the start of your journey in one of the validation machines because checks are carried out regularly by ticket inspectors. Top tip: I do not recommend using the taxis available in Prague, as many tourists are victim to scams and highly inflated taxi prices.

Charles Bridge

Image Credit: Charlotte Booy Howlett

The best way to kickstart your day is waking up early and heading to one of the most iconic bridges in the world: Charles Bridge. Built over 600 years ago, the beautiful gothic bridge is home to many statues of saints and religious scenes. Midway across the bridge is the brass Lorraine Cross, of which is said that if you make a wish at the cross, your wish will come true within the following year! However, since sauntering across Charles Bridge is everyone’s favourite activity, the bridge is usually flooded with buskers, hawkers, and tourists. Therefore, I recommend going to the bridge at dawn for the perfect Insta shot!

Prague Castle

Charles Bridge connects the Old Town to Prague Castle. No city break to Prague would be complete without a trip to the castle. Built in the 9th Century, covering an area of 70,000 square metres, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Open daily from 6:00 – 22:00, entrance to the castle is free! However, many of its attractions keep different hours and charge an entrance fee. If you are a fellow student on a tight budget like myself, I would recommend seeing St. Vitus Cathedral first. Located inside the castle walls, the Cathedral’s architecture is a blend of Gothic, Neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Such beauty is not to be missed! Meanwhile, Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) is another charming part of the Castle complex. This small lane is lined with tiny, colourfully painted historic houses that are built directly into the castle walls. The scenery looks like something out of a medieval fairy tale! 

John Lennon Wall

Image Credit: Charlotte Booy Howlett

Before climbing up to the castle, take a detour to the famous rebellion John Lennon wall. Lennon was a powerful symbol of non-conformity for young people throughout communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. As a result of his assassination in 1980, his fans were inspired to scrawl portraits and messages across the wall near Maltese Garden to air their grievances. Despite being repeatedly painted over by the communist police, messages, poems, song lyrics, flowers and portraits quickly reappeared as fans repainted over the wall. Even to this day, the John Lennon wall continuously undergoes changes! The original portrait of Lennon is long lost under the layers of graffiti artwork, however the John Lennon wall is the one thing to see every time you visit Prague due to its continuously changing narrative.

Old Jewish Cemetery

Once you’ve crossed back over the bridge, make your way over to the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Historically, Prague had a somewhat large Jewish population and presence in the city, leaving their indelible mark on the city’s history. However, the Jewish were confined to a small part of Prague town and therefore had minimal space for a cemetery. According to Jewish traditions, remains could not be moved so due to the restricted land available to them, they moved the headstones up and buried more people on top. The result is thousands of tombstones crammed into a small area in the centre of Prague’s Jewish Quarter. Open Sunday – Friday from 9:00-18:00, the extraordinary cemetery and adjoining museum are worth a visit while in Prague.

Astronomical clock

If you have completed your excursion and are on your way to Old Town for a spot of lunch, visit the world’s oldest operating astronomical clock. Every hour, 12 apostles pass through the window above the astronomical dial. However, make sure to get there at least 5-10 minutes before this happens if you want to get a good spot for photos as the square becomes very crowded, very quickly! Afterwards, I recommend popping into one of the many outside restaurants located on the square for some Goulash and dumplings, all washed down with a classic Prague Pilsner! 

Prague by Night

The classic Prague pub crawl

Renowned for their consumption of beer, Czechs know how to host a pub crawl. Voted best crawl in the city for over 10 years, the Drunken Monkey Pub Crawl is one of the most popular pub crawls in Prague. Running every night of the year, the Drunken Monkey Pub Crawl features a 2-hour open bar session, drinking games such as ‘flip cup’ and giant jenga, and offers free t-shirts and headbands with your entry free. This recommendation is for lads/ladette holidays! Although you may feel comfortable in the hands of your host and accompanied by a large group of likeminded strangers, be aware of your alcohol consumption whilst partying in Prague and stick with your mates.

Welcome back to medieval times! 

Alternatively, we spent an evening in Prague indulging in a five-course medieval banquet! Such a feast was accompanied by entertainment, including a historical concert, sword fights, belly dancers, snakes and a fire show. Meanwhile, we ‘sipped’ on an unlimited supply of beer and red wine! The banquet was located in a basement cellar, with vaulted ceilings, ropes hanging from thick wooden beams, iron chandeliers and beer barrels strategically placed around the room for decoration. Seated at a sturdy wooden table and bench, the room lit solely by candle light, we were encapsulated by the most perfect romantic atmosphere. Although there are other medieval experiences available in Prague, I highly recommend the tavern ‘U Pavouka’, who truly transported our senses back to the Middle Ages. Costing 1190 CZK and just a minutes’ walk from Prague’s Old Town Square, this experience is not to be missed. 

Wine and dine on the Vltava

See Prague from a different perspective and embark on a river cruise along the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic. There are various tour options available, catering for a variety of different travellers budgets. They often are 2-3 hours, with a hot and cold buffet, whilst some include live entertainment on board. Take in the floodlit beauty of Prague’s skyline by meandering alongside Prague’s famous Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Vyšehrad, and the Rudolfinum. However, this is definitely a summer vacation recommendation!

The Anonymous bars

There are two anonymous bars located in Prague. However, unless you know they are there, they are easily missed. Inspired by V for Vendetta, the original Anonymous Bar is housed in a converted stable house in Prague’s historic Old Town. All of the bartenders wear Guy Fawkes masks, whilst the drinks menu can only be revealed to its customers under a blacklight. All of the cocktails come with a theatrical presentation, however if you order the ‘Hot Fawkes’, prepare yourself for a personal fire show before your cocktail is served. Alternatively, if you choose to visit Anonymous Shrinks Office, prepare to be confused! 

We entered the bar, welcomed by only one other customer and a barmaid. Wondering why we bothered to make a reservation in the first place, the barmaid gave us the instructions to press a red button located 2 metres down the hallway. This is when a secret door revealed itself, opened and we anxiously walked in and down the stairs. Now we realised why we made a reservation! Crowded with customers, chatting over quirky jazz music, we were shown to our seats. Our suited-and-booted waiter handed us the menu that consisted of about 10 inkblot paintings. The aim is to pick the inkblot that most relates to you and as a consequence you will receive a drink based on your ‘personality’. Although I was initially skeptical, the drink I received nailed my character to a T. Although the Anonymous bars are quite expensive in comparison to the remainder of Prague’s nightlife, I have never had experiences like these before. 

The authentic Czech experience

Czechs are famous for their beer production and consumption so, obviously, we visited the Prague Beer Museum. The Prague Beer Museum offers two locations; one in Vinohrady and the other in Old Town. We visited the museum in Old Town, where the museum walls are plastered with photographs and memorabilia of the Czech Republic’s beer culture! Whilst traditional Czech pubs feature a menu with only a few regional beers, the Prague Beer Museum was the first pub to offer 30 beers on tap from microbreweries all around the country. Luckily, once you’ve completed your tour of the museum, you get to sample four of these beers in exchange for your purchased ticket. We were given a pale ale, pilsner, a ruby red ale and a dark stout. We continued our beer extravaganza onwards to Old Town Square where we sat outside with blankets under heated lamps, drinking our fifth and final beer of the day. Our authentic Czech experience was complete!

If you’re planning on visiting Prague yourself, hopefully this itinerary will keep you busy for your trip. To get all the info you’ll need to prepare before you head off on your travels, find travel information on Prague here.

Feature Image Credit: MurderousPass from Pixabay

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