April 14-17, 2022
After hosting one of Andy’s friends — our first visitor of the year — for several days in London, the three of us headed to Prague for the long weekend over the Easter holidays. Prague had been on our shortlist for a while and we had a fantastic weekend (despite British Airways delivering my luggage a day after we arrived) exploring the rich history of the city and its beautiful architecture — and drinking plenty of Czech beer. The city is also famous for its Easter markets, which were nearly as large as the Christmas markets I’ve visited in other cities and made the whole city feel like a celebration.
Prague’s architecture is particularly impressive because most of its historic structures escaped the destruction of World War 2 and the overall damage to the city was minimal compared to most of the other European capitals. We stayed at a fantastic Airbnb in Old Town (Staré Mesto), which is the medieval part of the city that is still the lively and cobblestoned hub for most visitors. Our host was wonderful and the location couldn’t have been better for exploring the city. Most of the major attractions, including the ornate Prague Astronomical Clock and the 14th-century church of Our Lady Before Týn, as well as the largest Easter market in the city, are all located in Old Town Square, which was less than a 10-minute walk from our place.
We kicked off our first day by exploring the largest ancient castle complex in the world, Prague Castle, which occupies an area of nearly 750,000 square feet on the opposite side of the Vltava River from Old Town. Given our lack of knowledge of even the most basic Bohemian history and politics, a lot of the historical significance was lost on us, but it was still absolutely beautiful and incredibly impressive that so much history is in one place. Additionally, the complex is so large that it’s really more like a neighborhood than a standard tourist site, which meant that there were plenty of options for browsing artisan stands and shops, as well as food and drinks. We bought our entry tickets in advance with Get Your Guide, which saved us both time and money (they were ~$11 each).
After stopping for a few beers at the Strahov Monastery Brewery, which is located within an actual 12th-century monastery, we made our way across the Vltava River to Old Town Square via the famous and statue-lined Charles Bridge. Although the bridge and Old Town Square were incredibly cool and historically important, they were both so packed with tourists and gimmicky vendors that made it a bit challenging to really enjoy our walk and the surrounding area in general. Thankfully, we had dinner reservations at Nejen Bistro, a wonderfully charming and high-quality restaurant located away from the main tourist drags.
We knocked out most of the key tourist sites on our first day and so we spent the majority of our second day in the Vinohrady neighborhood within the districts of Prague 2 and Prague 3. Královské Vinohrady, which literally translates to “Royal Vineyards”, is named for the vineyards (some of which are still in production) that were founded by Charles IV in the modern-day area during the second half of the 14th century. It’s now a mainly residential district full of beautiful old trees and pastel-colored Art Deco buildings, and we found it to be much nicer, quieter, and more charming than Prague 1. We particularly enjoyed PARK Riegrovy Sady, a beer garden in one of the most beautiful parks in the city, and the dinner we had at Kro Kitchen.
If you’re planning a trip to Prague, click here to access and download my Google Maps list of saved locations.
Food & Drink
- Nejen Bistro: We had a phenomenal dinner at this intimate and beautifully decorated restaurant with a hyper-local, meat-heavy menu and wonderfully crafted wine list. The service was fantastic and the food was even better — especially their somewhat-loose interpretation of a burger and “home fries”. This was the nicest meal we had, but I still don’t think it was more than ~$35 per person.
- Kro Kitchen: There are two locations of this tiny restaurant known for its rotisserie chickens and pork knuckle (a local specialty) served in a variety of sandwiches and grain bowls with unexpected sauces and sides (kimchi, peri-peri sauce, etc.). It was all SO good, and the restaurant itself was very cool and modern — and played nothing but early 2000s music, which was a nice bonus.
- PARK Riegrovy Sady: Surrounded by chestnut trees in one of the most beautiful and famous parks in the city, it has a spectacular view of Prague Castle and the Lesser Town, decent-quality food trucks serving a range of cuisines, and plenty of options for cocktails and wine (including a Champagne bar) in addition to local beers.
- Strahov Monastery Brewery: Fairly close to Prague Castle is a craft brewery located within a Premonstratensian abbey that was founded in 1142 and now has a lovely restaurant, courtyard, and beer hall serving its Saint Norbert beer (named after the founder of the Premonstratensian Order). The monastery complex is gorgeous and the beer was excellent — it felt much closer to an American-style brewery in terms of selection and ambiance. They also had an awesome gift shop that had really cool t-shirts.
- Grand Café Orient: The recently restored café on the first floor of the famous Dům U Černé Matky Boží (House of the Black Madonna) prides itself on being the “only Cubist café in the world”. The décor is beautiful — especially the light bulb-shaped staircase — and the menu had lots of options for breakfast, lunch, and coffee.
- Café Louvre: This centrally located, Austrian-style café originally opened in 1902 and was frequented by the likes of Einstein and Kafka during its heyday. After being shut down by the Communist regime, it reopened in 1992 and now serves decent breakfast, lunch, and coffee.
- Lokál Dlouhááá: If you want to try authentic Czech cuisine, this is the place to go. In addition to brewing their own beer and using meat from their own butcher, all of the hearty dishes are made with local ingredients, which makes it a bit easier to tackle the mountain of food you’re bound to be served at any Czech restaurant.
- Pivnice U Kata: A traditional brewery and pub close to Old Town Square serving cheap beer. It’s nothing special, but it was an excellent option compared to the overcrowded and overpriced restaurants in the area.
Activities & Attractions
- Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle): Built in the 9th and 10th centuries, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. There was SO much to see, so we really just focused on the highlights: the gigantic, Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the beautiful, Romanesque Basilica of St. George, and the medieval Old Royal Palace and its Vladislav Hall, which is still used for inaugurations. Despite knowing next to nothing about Bohemian history, it was well worth the uphill walk to see such a beautiful and historic part of the city.
- Charles Bridge: This medieval and picturesque stone arch bridge spanning the Vltava River connects Prague Castle and Old Town. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Gothic bridge’s walkway contains an avenue of 30 Baroque-style statues and statuaries erected toward the end of the 17th century. Although views from the bridge (and the bridge itself) were very beautiful, the bridge was absolutely packed with tourists, vendors, and street performers so we only walked across it once.
- Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square): The historic square in the Old Town quarter of the city is located just beyond Charles Bridge, and contains a number of beautiful historic buildings and monuments. Highlights include the 14th-century Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Baroque St. Nicholas Church, and the Prague Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj), which was first installed in 1410 and is now the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still in operation. We visited over Easter weekend, which was particularly exciting because a traditional Easter market with local food and craftsmen was set up in the square.
- Václavské Náměstí (Wenceslas Square): Although it’s less a square than a boulevard (it’s 750 meters long), it’s one of the main city squares and the commercial and cultural center in the New Town. One end of the street is dominated by the neoclassical Czech National Museum and a gigantic statue of Saint Wenceslas (AKA “Good King Wenceslas”), and there was a decent Easter market set up here, too, when we visited.
- Local Artists: This is the best place to buy decent-quality, locally made souvenirs and gifts in the Old Town area, which is crowded with tacky shops (and people).