The “Not So” Hidden Gem of Europe: Prague
“The City of One Hundred Spires” is like the inside of a music box – it is vivid, enchanting and its melody will forever be stuck in your mind. From the very first moment, Prague will grasp you in its welcoming embrace and leave you out of breath. The city offers a captivating mixture of comfort, culture, night life and architecture. Getting lost there is a desired escape from time and reality.
It was not my first time in Prague, although every visit is different from the other. Undoubtedly, the tourists here can rely on the fact that the city will always succeed in surprising them.
Prague’s traditions and true charm have lived through aggressive wars and today the city is a living example of every single time period in history. However, you can clearly see the pain of time, especially in the Jewish Quarter (“Josefov”).
Looking at the architecture, it flows from gothic to contemporary. It feels like you entered a time machine. The medieval buildings and the horse-drawn carriages can be seen all around the city. On the other side, the modern art and shopping streets continue to remind you that you are still in the 21st century. But still, visiting Prague is like a fairytale.
An iconic place in the city is the Charles Bridge. Crossing the Vltava river, you will find yourself stopping at every step, because of the view, because of the intriguing street artists and musicians, or simply because someone asked you to take a photo of them.
Heading towards the Old Town Square, every hour the tourists enjoy the spectacle of the Astronomical Clock and then fight through the crowds to sit in a pub with a good view and a Czech beer in hand. What you cannot miss during your tour is the Prague Castle, which is looming over the city, almost reaching the clouds. Within it you can find the St. Vitus Cathedral which will grab you with its Gothic architecture.
An important part of Prague is the controversial work of David Černý. His rebellious, yet amusing public sculptures, are to be found all over the city. The “Horse Statue,” which represents an ironic version of St. Wenceslaus riding a dead horse, and the giant babies, crawling up the Zizkov TV tower, are just a small part of them.
Although these are the main attractions in Prague, the essence of the city can be felt only in the tiny streets, where the culture truly reveals itself to you. The John Lennon graffiti wall and the tiny antique shops are just few of the many hidden treasures of the city.
Even though Prague is most famous for its architectural beauty, fascinating culture and history, the city can also enchant you with its beautiful nature. A walk to Petřín Hill, the biggest park in Prague, will leave you tired, but deeply satisfied. The wooded paths, the mirror maze, the mystical creatures’ museum and the rose garden there are not to be forgotten. In addition, from the mini version of the Eiffel tower on top of the hill, you can soak up the panoramic view of the whole city. Without trouble, you will find how fast the city grows on you.
Also a must, while in Prague, is the Czech cuisine. I was left completely astonished by the traditional flavors. Starting with breakfast and coffee, “Coffee Lovers” in Old Town offers a variety of cakes, sour pies and sandwiches; their “Medovnik” (honey cake) is a favorite. Walking towards the Castle District, the smell of cinnamon and sugar will distract you from your way to the top. On either side of the small streets, locals make the famous “Trdelnik” pastry.
And when the time comes to enjoy a proper Czech meal, the “Kolkovna” restaurant near to the Old Town Square will charm you with a historical atmosphere and with the best traditional food. You
cannot say you have been to Prague, if you have not tried “Kulajda” soup, the main dishes – “Guláš” and “Svičková” and “knedliky” (dumplings) on the side.
But Prague does not go to sleep after dinner. The city will strike you with its vibrant nightlife – from enormous clubs to small cozy pubs. A fine blend between the two for me was the “Harley’s Bar,” just about two minutes away from the Old Town Square. It is a perfect place to let some steam off– an underground rock bar with great cocktails and a barman’s fire show.
Essentially, getting to know Prague does not hide only in tour guides and recommendations. Here you have to roam around without a purpose, without looking, so that you can find your own piece of heaven in the city. What makes Prague so unforgettable is that it has a story to tell and you do not merely become a reader, you also become a character in it.