To lead off our time in Prague, we had the most seamless and pleasurable ride with LeoExpress from Krakow to Prague. There was even an easy change over from bus to train in the tiny town of Bohumin and the train included a beverage and an attendant catering to our train car. (I almost forgot to mention how great it was riding with this company and I’m not even close to getting anything for mentioning their name, that’s how good the ride was).
Moving on…in a travel planning cram session a couple days before heading to Prague, I was putting together a sort of itinerary while browsing a handful of travel blogs and travel sites. All I knew ahead of time was the name and it’s an “old city” (as if saying old really means anything when traveling Eastern Europe). As I was reading, I came across a few posts that mentioned going to the opera in Prague. Whitney had going to the opera on her NYC bucket list, but we couldn’t get ourselves to fork out the cost of an NYC opera. However, when I checked the prices in Prague it was very reasonable and I snuck this surprise in to our stay in this city. Basically our time in Prague almost revolved around our night at the opera. Here’s how it went.
We arrived in Prague late in the afternoon from Krakow and checked into our Airbnb about a 10-15 min walk from Old Town. It was a unique loft to say the least, but it was cheap and the location was excellent. Having run out of clean clothes, our first stop was the laundromat. Then we grabbed a little Asian take-out and settled in to our apartment to watch a couple old episodes of the Bachelorette (we still needed to finish Jojo’s season).
Having had a number of incredible walking tours in Krakow, our first excursion the next morning was a free walking tour with Sandman’s. We walked down through Wenceslas Square and into the center of Old Town. It took a little bit of work and latching on to free WiFi at a nearby Starbuck’s, but we finally located our tour group just as they were leaving the square.
Our guide happened to be from the USA and was leading his very first tour group alone in Prague. I can’t say it was great considering how incredible the ones in Krakow were, but it did hit all the highlights on Old Town and was filled with some good information to keep us entertained (it only lacked the jokes of a seasoned guide that keeps us listening).
The tour ended along the edge of the river looking across at the Prague Castle and downstream to the Charles Bridge. From there we headed across to explore the castle grounds. Castles of this era were not built like the medieval fortresses we’ve come to think of when we hear the word castle. Instead, they are more spread out with multiple buildings making up the palace grounds.
We hiked across and up the hill where it sits, passed through the castle walls just as the rain started pouring down. We waited it out a little bit then carried on until we neared St. Vitus Cathedral. We were able to enter the Cathedral into the foyer area to see the beauty inside with glorious Christly figures and bright stained glass windows. As usual, we chose not to pay to enter further and see the various chapels, but it was an option for a few Euro. Next, we headed out of the castle walls to wander through the nearby gardens. With the passing showers, the park was nearly empty, giving us time to wander almost alone…a romantic stroll through the gardens.
By now it was about 2:30pm and we had yet to have any lunch. We ended up stopping at one of the first places we saw after crossing back over the river into Old Town. Strangely, it was an overpriced Cuban restaurant, but the food was great in the lovely tourist trap. With rain showers coming and going we decided to focus on something else…it was time to find some “fancy clothes.”
Let me remind you, we had tickets to the opera the next day and only had the worn-out clothes of a backpacker to get us through. Without spending an arm and a leg, the only other option was hitting up a thrift store.
This was a first for us both and wasn’t really on any bucket list I’ve ever had. However, I needed to look good, and Whitney couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity for “new” clothes. I had looked up a number of thrift stores nearby, and we wandered our way through the area until we successfully found what we were looking for. Slipping into someone’s old shoes as I was trying on my “new” outfit was a little awkward, but they fit perfect so that was it.
Next stop the barber shop. I handed the keys to the apartment to Whitney and headed into a nearby shop. Expecting to be walking into a budget friendly shop, I ended up walking into a place that I would expect in NYC. Once in the door I was committed. I asked if they could fit me in now, but apparently they required appointments. The manager asked his barber while I waited in the lounge next to the bar. I wish I had taken a picture to show the type of place I wandered in to. Anyway, the haircut was excellent for the unexpected expense of about $25, but I looked good so that’s all that mattered.
The next morning we got up extra early to head to snap a few photos of the Astronomical clock and walk across the Charles Bridge while hopefully beating the crowds. There were definitely a lot of people, but certainly less than would be coming in the next couple hours. The views up and down the river were lovely, while simply being up and out of the apartment early felt great. Ok, maybe I was feeling great because that night was the surprise Opera night I put together. Either way, we were on track for a great day.
After making our way across the Charles Bridge, we walked through a handful of smaller streets until we were at the Lennon Wall. Since the 1980s this wall has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs. Today, it represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.
Next, we only had a couple of things that we wanted to do before getting ready for the big night. The first thing was simple, get Whitney the small fruit basket she saw during our walking tour. Check.
Next make our way to Old Town Hall to climb the Tower, our newest hobby. We got our tickets, and headed to the top. It was packed with people at the top, but we slowly made our way around the 360 degree views. It was a nice bird’s eye view from the top in the center of town, but do your best to avoid this place at midday.
We headed home from there to get all “fancied up.” I looked up Strelecky ostrov, a beautiful waterside restaurant, for dinner before the Opera and off we went. The restaurant sits on one of the small islands in the river looking across at the Narodni divadlo (National Theater). Romance was in the air with the lovely view in the quiet riverside restaurant with calm jazz music playing in the background. I couldn’t have asked for a better pre-theater dinner.
Now, it was the main event. We were there to see “The Bartered Bride,” a comedy that kept us entertained. It was of course done in the local Czech language, but there was a small projection screen with English and German subtitles to help us follow along. Whitney and I absolutely loved it and will, without a doubt, see another one next time we travel to this part of the world.
Our night wasn’t over at this point. After the opera, we walked into downtown to check out Black Angel Bar at the recommendation of our friend Nate of passportandchill.com. He reminded us a handful of times that we must check this place out and we are glad we did. This is an underground establishment with tons of unique character. They have some lovely handcrafted cocktails developed both with and without alcohol. It was the perfect way to cap off our romantic evening in Prague.
For our final day we considered taking a trip out to Kunta Hora to see Sencles Ossuary, also known as the Bone Church, with walls lined with the bones of people that died in the plague. However, we ending up deciding to slow down a little and sleep in instead. Once we got moving about midday, we grabbed some pizza a few blocks away. Between slices of pizza I looked over the little itinerary I made and saw a few things we could check out. (Our itineraries are usually a list of things we may or may not see, but could check out if we like).
We finished lunch and headed to Petrin Hill. This park had so much to see and we could have spent a day or two wandering the area to see it all. It reminds me a little of New York’s Central Park with many different places to go, from the Carousel to the boathouse, to Belvedere Castle. As soon as we entered the park we found a map and picked out a couple of things we wanted to see. From there we set off to see the rose gardens and later the Petrin Tower.
We snapped a few pictures of the rose garden then lined up for tickets to climb to the top of the Petrin Tower. At late afternoon, the sun was behind us and we were able to look out over all of Prague. We pointed out many of the places we had visited while getting one last overview of the city.
Prague is a lovely historic city that certainly lived up to hype. Unlike many other European cities we’ve visited, it was almost completely spared of the destruction during World War II, keeping the old world character that we love and that it’s famous for. Whitney and I both had an incredible time touring this city and will return one day even if it’s just passing through to see another Opera.
Until then we are back on the move with Vienna in our sights!