“You know, I think you will love it. Prague is a beautiful city, you might not want to come back…” my friend’s voice was still playing in the back of my head as we landed at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport.
I looked out from the window of my seat as the friendly cab driver picked us up from the airport. November had been a relatively warm month in London. In comparison, Prague was misty and foggy.
There was a haunting beauty from everything on display as the florid sculptures from Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque buildings poked out behind the heavy fog. They made me wonder about the various tales and histories behind each of these buildings representing the myriad of architectural styles, co-existing side-by-side.
I made my way to our pre-booked apartment on AirBnB, where the friendly owner Kamilia showed us around the bright, modern, minimalist designed apartment in an affluent neighbourhood. I was happy to hear that we were close to a designer shopping street and various choices of bars, pubs, restaurants.
We arrived just after 12 noon. After I quickly dropped off my bags, I couldn’t wait to head out and explore the town. Armed with a relatively battered and marked up map from the extensive research I did before the trip and a Czech phrase book, I headed towards my first priority of the day – lunch!
I heard a lot about the culinary delights of this town and was looking forward to try some local specialty. First stop, a short walk away from the apartment I was staying at, is Nostress (get it, no-stress!). A highly recommended fusion restaurant by locals. By day, it also served as a photo gallery and exhibition space for young Czech artists!
Lucky for me, I arrived at mid-week, which meant that business lunches were being offered in all of the top restaurants. For a 2 course business lunch I only paid 350 CZK, which was the equivalent of about £11! That was a bargain.
Did you know that Prague is the 6th most visited city in Europe? So I found out that winter months were the best time to come to Prague. The city was in low tourist season. However with the upcoming holiday season, the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square were filled with cabin stalls selling various traditional Czech snacks, mulled wine, and crafts. I had to admit my weakness for Christmas market stalls!
I watched these crafty vendors skilfully rolling dough around a wooden stick and baking them over the open coal fire. They told me that these were called trdelniks, a traditional snack from Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Of course, I couldn’t resist to try some myself. These also worked great as finger warmers! 🙂
I found a traditional Czech toy shop on my way to see the local night market. These beautifully crafted wooden puppets reminded me of the famous children’s tale Pinocchio.
A short stroll across the Vltava river was the famous Charles Bridge. This was the only means to cross the river until 1841, which served as an important link between the Prague Castle at the North of the river to the Old Town in the South. Despite the days getting dark very early at 4:00pm, the Prague Castle, Charles Bridges are illuminated by the lights and its reflections mirrored against the river. Such breathtaking views! It was moments like this which I was reminded of why I loved travel.
At the end of the bridge, there was a collective jazz band made up of a group of senior citizens. They were producing beautiful music, dancing, singing and clapping their hands in the freezing night air and oblivious to the passers by. At that moment, history seemed to have stood still, with the past, present all merged into one. I shared a special moment with the city, the passers by, and this talented group of artists.
After a long day of sight seeing, we made our way towards the next restaurant find of the day. Cerney Jelen is a great modern Czech restaurant located between the Old Town Square and a medieval customs house called Ungelt.
It had a beautiful interior, which felt like we were dining in a Summer garden. There were pots of fresh flowers hanging on the walls and rows of daffodils next to our table. Definitely added to the romantic factor of the trip!
The venison goulash, with ginerbread dumplings, and chanterelle stew were delicious. And if you have any space left in your appetite, the dessert menu is a must try! I recommend the vairhona chocolate fondant.
One place I definitely wanted see was Petřín Hill. It is covered almost entirely by parks and offered an amazing 360 degrees panoramic view of Prague and its colourful red rooftops.
There was an observation tower in the park at Petřín Hill. Even though it was built as a mini version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, but don’t let the small size fool you. It offered a superb view across all of Prague (considering it is a 60m tower sitting on top of a 130m hilltop).
Make sure you wrap up warm during this time of year. I was thankful to have brought my furry hoodie with me on this trip!
To continue my food journey in the Prague, I decided to stop by La Veranda, an elegant dining room tucked away behind the InterContinental Hotel near the Old Town Square (and somehow overlooked by visitors, but very popular with the locals).
The quality of the cooking was superb. My starter of salmon and swordfish tartare was amazing and tasted like a seaside affair.
The day concluded at the foot of the Prague National Theatre. This majestic building at first glance was unbelievably bright with gold ornaments at the crown of the building. Baroque styled statues surrounding the rooftop and beautiful carvings can be seen from top to the bottom. This is the national pride of the Czech people and definitely one I can not forget.
The next day, on the way back to the airport, I looked through the photos I had taken during this trip. Despite being a short and sweet trip in a beautiful city, it had left a long lasting impression for me. Definitely one to be added to my ever growing “to return” list!