Real talk: when we travel, Andrew is the trip planner. He does the research on the places we hope to visit, figures out what dates make sense and books the trips for us, often months and months in advance. Eastern Europe has been high on our list and with some time off over the holidays to travel, he booked us a trip to Prague for New Year’s.
Planning ahead isn’t exactly my forte. When we booked this particular trip, it felt very far away time-wise. Aside from a couple gluten-free restaurant reservations, I didn’t do much planning for this trip at all. The night before we left, in a bit of an underprepared panic, I booked us a free walking tour for our first morning there. I had no idea what we were about to discover in Prague, so a walking tour seemed a great place to start.
We set off for the Czech Republic the next afternoon. Knowing so little about Prague, it was a bit disappointing to be arriving into the city at night in the darkness. Or so I thought.
Upon approaching the Old Town of Prague, the darkness did not matter. The city was beautiful all lit up at nighttime. We put our things down at our Airbnb and headed out to explore. With the Christmas markets still on, it was an even more beautiful place to wander through.
We had a wonderful time exploring this stunning city. Here’s what we discovered in “the City of a Hundred Spires.”
Prague Travel Guide
A walking tour is a great introduction to any city, and we’ve been booking them more often when we travel. In just a couple hours, you hit the highlights of the city and get a solid historical context for the area. Another benefit is you get recommendations along the way from someone who lives in the city, your tour guide!
We booked a Discover Prague free tour, called the Royal Walk Tour. I chose Discover Prague based on its reviews. They were great and they seemed to indicate that a local would be leading the tour, not an English speaker who had moved to Prague. This was the case for our tour and I appreciated learning more about the city from someone who grew up there.
We started just outside the Old Town Square and then made our way around learning more about the history of the city. Unfortunately for us, the Prague Astronomical Clock was under repair.
The tour took us through Josefov, the Jewish quarter of Prague.
And by the Powder Tower.
Is it terrible my primary memory from the tour was being cold? That’s Prague in December for you!
Though our tour didn’t take us to this very famous sight in Prague, we knew we needed to check it out (and he recommended it, of course). Off we went and crossed the Charles Bridge on our way to Prague Castle.
It was pretty amazing how many people were on the bridge.
This bridge is stunning and is only just part of the picturesque walk up the hill from the Old Town to Prague Castle.
More of a royal compound than just a castle, this area of Prague is a must see. Offering beautiful views over the city, there are parts of Prague Castle that make you feel like you have stepped back in time.
It is free to enter and admire the beautiful buildings that make up the castle. We got tickets to go inside different areas, which featured signage in English. Our favorite part of the compound was visiting the beautiful St Vitus Cathedral.
There was a Christmas market outside (with the worlds most delicious hot chocolate!) and a band. It felt so festive!
This lovely park is located near Prague Castle and offers excellent views over the city of Prague and the castle. We entered after visiting Strahov Monastic Brewery, which was very cool because we followed old city walls to get into the park itself.
Inside the park is the Petrin Tower, an observation tower that looks quite a bit like the Eiffel Tower. The Club of Czech Tourists took a trip to Paris in the late 1800s and were inspired to build their own in Prague. You can climb it, though we just passed by.
The park features steep winding paths, so if a hike isn’t your thing there is a furnicular you can take to the top instead.
Wander around Old Town
Take to the twisting streets and wander! Our favorite moments in Prague were the ones we spent discovering what was around each corner or on the next block.
Prague was not bombed during World War II, so its beautiful old buildings remain intact. Discovering Prague’s architecture was my favorite part of the city. It is gorgeous.
We passed a marionette museum, found Christmas markets, and shops displaying their wares. You never know where your wanderings will take you in Prague.
The Christmas Markets in Prague are beautiful. The ones in London feel a little bit forced, but the ones we saw in Old Town Prague seemed much more organic.
Set against the backdrop of Old Town Square, the Christmas markets were a great spot to grab a trdelnik and a warm beverage and take in the sights.
Day Trip to Cesky Krumlov
The beautiful village of Cesky Krumlov is just three hours by train from Prague. We added this onto our trip and I’m so glad we did – it was our favorite part of this trip. A post about our side trip to Cesky Krumlov is coming next week.
New Year’s Eve in Prague
After living in Boston for seven years, it was somewhat funny to discover that New Year’s Eve in Prague was very similar from what we saw. Many restaurants and bars had special menus and cover charges and the city was filled to the brim with tourists and revelers.
Our dinner reservation fell through, so we were thinking we’d have to eat either at our Airbnb or at the Christmas markets. Some of the markets were closed, but we were able to snag a seat at a delicious Indian restaurant before the mad rush to dinner.
We checked out the Old Town Square where they had a stage and live music. Wandering around Old Town, people were setting off their own fireworks along the river and in the streets. There are lots of amateur fireworks in Prague!
Staying in Old Town is a must! This beautiful area is central to all of the sights and safe. A friend who didn’t stay in Old Town couldn’t say enough about how much he disliked the city, so I’d advise paying the premium to stay in this very central part of town.
We booked a nice and clean Airbnb near the National Theater. It was a short walk to all the major sights from here.
We loved Czech food. It is heavy and very meat-focused and it is delicious. I’ve found I’m really into the shredded cabbage situation they serve with each dish, too. I will definitely be trying to recreate some of what we tried during the rest of the cold, dark London winter!
On our walking tour we learned that many of the “traditional” Czech dishes available do not in fact originate from the Czechs, but from the neighboring areas that have influenced Czech culture over the centuries. Still, we tried the local specialities and they are delicious and exactly the kind of food you want to be eating on a cold December day!
U Tri Ruzi
Our first dinner was at U Tri Ruzi, a brewery and restaurant that Andrew booked after researching some of the best places to get a lager in Prague. The entire building is adorned in elaborate cartoons depicting scenes from Czech history. It was pretty neat!
Our food was fabulous. Highly, highly recommend this spot for the ambiance, food and, by proxy, beer!
Svejk Restaurant U Karla
We had to check out Svejk Restaurant U Karla for its gluten-free menu! It did not disappoint. I got the beef goulash with gluten-free dumplings.
Andrew also ordered a gluten-free dessert so we could share, though after getting the apple strudel, I wasn’t all that eager to, ha! It was a really lovely meal.
Pivovar U Dobrenskych
We stopped into Pivovar U Dobrenskych, a small, cute brewery, for lunch on our way back from Cesky Krumlov. Founded in 2015, it had a fresh, modern feel to it and its menu featured a lovely salad (which I did not see much of in our wanderings of Prague).
Our New Year’s Eve dinner plans ended up falling through, so we were left without a booking on the day of. Not a situation you want to find yourself in in any major city, and definitely not in Prague.
We ended up ducking into an Indian restaurant we passed by to see if they had a table for two available. They did! We had a lovely meal at Golden Tikka. Highly recommend!
The Czechs are known for their beers, so that is definitely the beverage of choice throughout Prague. There are many small breweries all through the city serving up delicious lagers and pilsners. Our walking tour guide joked about how much the Czechs like to drink, and we definitely saw some of that! Ha!
We learned during this trip that Andrew’s great grandmother came to the US from the Czech Republic and her surname was Budweiser!
If you don’t drink beer (like me) there is still plenty for you to experience in Prague. It is home to many, many excellent cocktail bars and there is an active wine scene as well.
Black Angel’s Bar
We got ridiculous cocktails at the beautiful Black Angel’s Bar. Mine was served in a treasure box and came with a gold coin for me to keep. Similar to a French 75, but with lime and saffron-infused gin, it was really tasty. Andrew got a Czech manhattan, made with all Czech liquors. Photos are not allowed, so here’s the one shot we snuck in.
U Tri Ruzi
After researching the best beers in Prague, Andrew booked us dinner at U Tri Ruzi so he could try their lagers. He got the Christmas special and it was his favorite beer he tried in the Czech Republic.
Strahov Monastic Brewery
Set in an old monastery, Strahov Monastic Brewery is at the top of the hill after Prague Castle. It is very unique and Andrew enjoyed his beer.
It was packed when we got there, so we sat outside under the heaters. It was the perfect post-castle touring treat.
Our friend Shawn, who visited London last October, happened to be in Prague at the same time and passed us on Legion’s Bridge. What?! It is truly a small world. We met Shawn for a beer at U Medvidku, a traditional Czech tavern. Andrew tried the dark lager here and he thought it was great.
For those of us who do not drink beer, even the most beery of places we visited had non-beer drink options, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Many of them serve only Czech wine, which I was excited to try. The best Czech wine I had was a red St Laurent from U Tri Ruzi.
Since we were there over New Year’s, we had to try some Czech bubbles! We got a little bottle of Bohemia Sekt for a midnight toast which was very reasonably priced. I enjoyed it and it was the perfect way to toast 2018 in Prague.
Good to Know
- Though the Czech Republic is on the Czech koruna, many, many places we visited also accepted Euro for payments.
- We found that though tipping is standard in the Czech Republic, there is not a point in the transaction of paying with a card where you enter it in, like back home. Instead, you have to tell them upfront you what you want to pay. You aren’t prompted, so you gotta speak up to not look rude.
- Nearly everyone we encountered in Prague and Cesky Krumlov spoke perfect English. Lucky for us, since we don’t know any Czech!
- Stay in the Old Town.
- As I am sure you’ll be just shocked to hear, Prague in December is cold. Bring your layers!
- Security at the airport is either at or just before your gate, don’t be alarmed when you are allowed to walk straight into the terminal.