Prague is a city full of beautiful architecture, friendly people, interesting and delicious food, and miles and miles of history. I grabbed the opportunity to go with my mom on a retreat when I was 17 weeks pregnant. We stayed in a beautiful countryside home on the outskirts of Prague that we had to drive to on a bus, during a snowstorm, on a “two-lane” dirt road, that here in America would be considered one lane. It started our week abroad on an adventurous foot!
I didn’t realize before we left that English is actually very common in the Czech Republic, it’s even taught in schools right alongside Czech. Being first-time international travelers, this made navigating in a new country a lot easier. They also drive on the right side of the road, so there was no backward feeling related to that either (which I was kind of looking forward to). You’ll want to take note that any public restrooms (aka not inside of a hotel or business) will require you to pay to use them. It’s not a lot, but you will want to make sure you have some change on you. I paid a lot of attention to this since I was pregnant and not about to be denied use of a bathroom.
There are a lot of delicious foods and some that I wasn’t so keen on. They have a very salty cheese called Balkánský sýr that I highly recommend staying away from, unless you’re into chewing salt licks. They use a lot of game animals in their cooking which could be good or bad depending on your opinion of the strong gamey flavors. Trdelník, also known as chimneys, were my absolute favorite! They are a rolled dough pastry that makes a tube and is usually coated in cinnamon and sugar. You can get them filled with Nutella, cream, nuts, and a variety of other sweets, or filled with more savory options. We quickly decided the unfilled, traditional trdelník was our favorite – I ate one every time we came across a shop or cart selling them. I highly recommend trying hot chocolate as well if you visit in the colder months. You’ll either come across hot chocolate that is a similar consistency to what we have in the U.S., but considerably less sugary, and in my opinion much better, or you’ll come across what amounts to a melted chocolate bar in a cup. You should definitely have both!
The buildings here are old, I mean really, really old. There are hundreds of castles dotting the cities and countryside. While in Prague, you’ll be right near Prague Castle which is in the heart of the city. It is huge and absolutely breathtaking. The stained-glass windows, sky-high vaulted ceilings, and the ornate architecture are truly something to behold. Be prepared to have a lot of people around though as this is a very popular tourist spot. Also in the heart of Prague is the Old Town Hall with the worlds oldest, still functioning astronomical clock. It draws a crowd too, but it’s worth braving the people to see. If you’re into the gothic architecture that is very present in this part of the world, make sure you add Church of Our Lady before Týn to your itinerary. It’s one of the neatest churches I’ve ever seen and about as gothic looking as it gets. Lastly, don’t leave Prague without taking a stroll across the Charles Bridge. It gives you a different vantage point to see the beautiful city, it’s quiet as you walk across the river, and there will be different people with their little makeshift stores set up along the sides for you to browse. All of these places can be seen going on a day walk around the city, depending on how long you plan to stay at each place.
If you want to see another amazing castle (think more along the lines of Disney princess instead of gothic architecture) and are willing to travel about an hour and forty five minutes outside of Prague, put Hluboká nad Vltavou Chateau on your list. It is a gorgeous, white, towering castle at the top of a hill, surrounded by beautiful grounds. It’s astonishing and easily makes up for the drive to get to it.
I have to admit though, my favorite part of our visit to Prague wasn’t actually Prague. It was the adorable medieval town of Český Krumlov, two hours outside of Prague. It also has a castle right in the middle of town, a river running right through the middle of everything, and beautiful old architecture, it’s just on a smaller, more intimate scale.
If you need any more convincing that this is a place you want to add to your travel list, go around Christmas time so that you can experience the Christmas Market, both in Prague and Český Krumlov. There are so many vendors with beautiful, handmade goods. You’ll find the best souvenirs, Christmas presents, and tasty treats there. The atmosphere is almost magical. You could spend all day at the Christmas market, not regret a minute of it, and want to go back the next day!