Let’s Go Prague 2018!
Why Prague is the Hot Destination for 2018
If you are still trying to figure out your summer vacation plans for 2018, Prague is one hot destination you should consider.
Clients often ask me why Prague? Is there enough to do in Prague for a whole week? Will kids or teenagers get bored in Prague? What does Prague really look like? What is the food like in Prague?
Here’s the run down on why Prague is the hot destination for 2018 and why now is the time to jump in on this deal.
While London, Paris, Spain and Germany have been hammered with bad press around terrorist attacks, Prague remains one European city free of such scary news.
Prague is a walking city and they guard their historic monuments just a fiercely as they did when the Huns invaded during the 13th century. The Czechs will proudly remind you to not mess with the Bohemians.
The pedestrian areas are surrounded by barricades and buildings, so it’s a safe and relaxed atmosphere. You are likely to see armed guards or tanks around the Prague tourist areas, unfortunately the new norm for Europe.
The only thing to watch in Prague, like all cities in Europe, are the pickpockets. My article on how to protect yourself from pickpockets while travelling in Europe, has some quick tips on avoiding this common nuisance.
If there is a city with more gothic architecture than Prague in Europe, I have not seen it. The other nice thing about Prague’s gothic monuments is you can walk right up to them and touch the old bricks, literally. You can climb the 14th century towers on the Charles Bridge or even the 15th century clock tower in the Old Town Square (Stare Mesto). You can imagine the sound of footsteps from monks or knights 600 years ago who climbed the towers to ring bells or fire arrows at approaching enemies.
At the St Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle you will see more gargoyles than you will at the Notre Dame in Paris. Climbing the steep spiral staircase inside the Prague Castle is not for the weak of heart, but it’s a view unparalled to any other. Don’t forget to bring your best travel walking shoes.
Prague escaped massive bombing during WWII. This preserved architecture from the 10th through the 20th century that is missing in most other parts of Europe. The site of this diversity of historical monuments and building is both breathtaking and mind blowing.
Prague is not cheap like it was before joining the EU, but compared to Paris or London, it’s a bargain.
On the ground prices are cheaper with food, drink and souvenirs being less expensive. Hotel rates are about 1/2 the price of Paris. The Four Seasons Hotel with a gorgeous view of the Castle is around $550/night in summer. Compare that to the Four Seasons in Paris at double the rate or more of $1,300/night.
Mandarin Oriental in the quaint Mala Strana district is also half the price of the Mandarin Oriental in Paris.
If you want a unique boutique hotel experience there are a plethora of unique hotels like the 5 star Luxury Collection Augustine hotel where monks still make their own beer in the cellar. If you are looking for a bit cheaper, there are plenty of interesting and upscale 4 star boutique hotels in historical buildings in and around the castle or on the famous Old Town square, some at 200/night or less. You won’t find anything that interesting in Paris at that price, even on airbnb.
Czech beer is some of the best on the planet, with Budovar claiming the recipe for the original Budweiser beer. Pilsner beer is another great beer that was given birth in Bohemia. It’s very reasonably priced and you can enjoy the taste wandering the streets by foot and grab a bratwurst from a nearby street vendor while you are at it.
There are a few brewery bars you can visit in an underground ‘Pivovar’ (Beer Pub). These are teaditional Czech pubs in the cellar of old buildings buildings where you can try several beers on tap and for a great price too. Most pubs have the traditional Czech foods like goulash or fried cheese that are worth a taste. There is even the Pilsner beer museum in Old Town where you can try several beers on tap and eat light snacks.
Or try out the Medieval dinner with waiters dressed in authentic armor (or lack of it) who slam beer down the table like they did back in the day. Added entertainment with sword fights, fire dancers, belly dancers and other craziness.
Prague has a whole host of cool shops to visit. Bohemian crystal is a bargain with prices being half that of what you find in the US. The Czech Republic also mines most of the world’s garnet, so a pair of earrings or a nice garnet ring is a bargain.
The medieval shop Botanicus, right behind Old Town Square’s Tyn Church, is a very popular place to pick up apothecary style bottles with bath salts or aromatherapy bath oils and soaps.
Wooden toys and chocolate candy are in abundant supply. Be sure to grab a bottle of Becherovka, the local aperitif, by which the Czechs claim is a health cure for everything due to it’s secret herbal formula. Red Bull and Becherovka is a local favorite at the dance clubs.
You can also get a rare glimpse into European Jewish history.
Synagogues in Europe were all but wiped out during World War II. Prague has the only gothic Synagogue and an ancient Jewish cemetery that is spooky and fascinating at the same time. Browse a host of souvenir shops with miniature golems.
Prague invented the story of the Golem to prevent pograms during the superstitious Black Plague when the locals blamed the Jews for the spread of the disease. The golem was rumored to come out at night and protect the streets from anyone out to harm the local Jewish population.
In the old Jewish quarter there are little shops and outdoor souvenir booths selling the golems and other cool Jewish trinkets worth a look.
Prague has an edgy artistic side and an underbelly of trendy bars and eateries that may surprise you.
There are even trendy cafes where the avante garde writers like Kafka used to hang out like Cafe Louvre which retained it’s style and even it’s cash register from the early 1900s.
Up near the castle is a medieval dinner and show where they serve up beer and rustic game foid like wild boar and venison wearing armor and swords.
Street performers abound and clubs on the river or in undetground cellars make Prague very popular for the millenial crowd. Prague is famous for it’s trendy nightclubs and bars.
Other Fun Stuff to Do
You can can ride a paddleboat on the river, visit a nearby ‘Haunted Prague’ museum, watch a wooden puppet show, brave the creepy ‘Medieval Torture Museum’, take a ride in a red convertible car or hop on a horse drawn carriage ride.
Walk up to the Prague Castle and check out St Vitus Cathedral. Inside visit the catacombs to see the remains of the famous King Charles.
Half the sites in Prague are named after Karlov (Charles) who is responsible for the famous Charles Bridge, Charles University and most of the prominent gothic buildings around the city.
There are also river cruises all day and a sunset cruise with dinner and or drinks. The castle lit up at night is a real treat from a comfy seat on a riverboat.
The Kingdom of Bohemia (as the Czech Republic was known up until the 16th century) was the center of the Holy Roman Empire for years. Wandering through ancient churches and small museums is another interesting adventure.
Then wander back into the Old Town Square, watch the 15th century clock, better known as the Prague Astronomical clock, for a big show every hour as the saints march in a circle and a skeleton of death rings a bell to count the hours like he has for over 600 years.
Then have a seat at a sidewalk cafe and try another delicious Czech beer. Fun!
Cool Day Trips
The Czech Republic is a small country but it has nearly 2,000 castles to boast. Once the great Bohemian Empire, later a part of the Hapsburg Empire, history left behind more castles and palaces than you can hope to visit in this lifetime.
My favorite day trip is the 18th Century town of Karlovy Vary. Karlovy Vary is more well known as the former famous Karlsbad Spa where Mozart spent his final days. It’s a picturesque town with pools of mineral springs where tourists sample the salty mineral water from 18th century ceramic sipping cups and stroll along the small river in the center of the city.
You will also see some very interesting and unusual architecture, as well as some buildings you might recognize from the James Bond movie, Casino Royale.
The Karlstein Castle is less than an hour from Prague and the memorable medieval city of Cesky Krumlov is a few hours drive south. You could also go try a day trip to Budovar, the home of the original Budweiser beer.
Food, Music, Drinks, Massage
Still looking for something to do?
Find a garden outside and drink some more beer. You can eat some goulash, then head over to Obecni Dum Cafe to see the unique Art Neaveau architecture not found anywhere else in Europe. Or just around the corner, find yourself transported to the 1920’s at the Cafe de Paris and taste their ‘Paris Cake’, a recipe preserved from 1904.
There are free concerts in old churches, or you can catch an opera at the old Estates Theatre Opera House where Mozart performed Don Giovanni. This theatre was featured in the movie Amadeus. You will feel like you jumped off the train of time, right into the 18th century.
Tired from all that walking and eating? There are plenty of nice Thai massage shops to balance your chi and restore your weary feet.
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