If you remember about two months ago I posted about Vienna. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written a new post, but then again we’ve been in a whirlwind since then. As promised I’ll update you on our life adventures after Prague.
Since Prague was the last city on our journey through Europe, we decided to stay in a hotel instead of an apartment. For our previous cities, we mostly rented apartments through Airbnb because it was useful to have a washer and dryer and some kitchen space in a lot of cities. In Prague we decided it might be nice to have someone make our bed each day and get a free breakfast (included with most reservations). The Design Metropol Prague is a modern hotel in a good neighborhood with an incredible view from the roof deck. It’s outside of “Old Town” or District 1 which is where a majority of the tourists flock but on a major street near public transportation.
We didn’t waste much time before we headed out in search of dinner the night we arrived. Michael had some recommendations from co-workers for a few nice restaurants to try so we made our way to one on the list that was fairly close to the house. Nota Bene was a fantastic first choice. The restaurant is small so reservations are recommended, though I think we may have taken the last non-reserved table available that night. They serve a handful of local beers on tap with a couple of taps reserved for foreign beers they like. They are constantly rotating their selection and they offer pairings with your meal. There is also a bar in the basement where you can sip beers with bar bites like burgers and sausages. Their food philosophy is Nose to Tail (or whole animal cooking) and each dish had complex flavors but was incredibly simple at the same time. Michael and I had quite an assortment of meat heavy foods starting with a rabbit paté and smoked trout with lentils. I had a piece of “tuna” (actual name for fish was probably lost in translation) for my main and Michael feasted on wild boar with mashed potatoes and a sauce that made you want to lick the plate. Both were delicious and accompanied by good local beers.
Too stuffed from heavy foods to even consider dessert, we walked around town a while before heading back to the hotel. There was an Octoberfest happening along Václavské námestí which is a wide boulevard in district 2. It smelled like Chimney Cakes (remember my obsession from Budapest?) but we were too full to eat any!
The next morning we went in search of coffee. We walked along the Vltava River and crossed a bridge to the west side. Our day plans were mostly to stay on that side of the river and be tourists. Café Lounge was a great find. We had small breakfast with our coffee before heading to Petrin park. The park is humongous. It also requires a lot of climbing to get to the top (or you can take the funicular for a fee) which is about 130 meters above the river (that’s 425 feet or the equivalent of climbing a 35 story building). The paths to the top wind through orchards and natural planted areas, some parts are shaded and some are in direct sun. It was a chilly day but we were both warm by the time we made it to the top. At the top there is a cheesy tourist trap they call the “Little EIffel Tower” which used to function as the city’s main television and radio transmission tower until the early 90’s. You can pay to walk to the top, though I imagine the view is not much different than the photo below.
From here we walked along the hill to the Strahov Monastery complex (there is an amazing library here you can pay money to see but not photograph) and then on to one of the most touristy places we’d been on the trip, St Vitus Cathedral. The church is located in the castle complex and has intricate stained glass that paints the stone interior a variety of colors. It’s not surprising that there were thousands of people roaming around it.
After all of that walking we were ready for some nourishment. Sausages and beer? Yes Please. We found U Tří růží which is a very old brewery in Old Town. It has ties to a monastery and you can watch the brewmaster work while having a drink. After some shopping (we were still attempting to find something to bring back for Michael’s Grandparents) we headed to the Estates Theater and saw a ballet. Prague has a very large performing arts community with gorgeous buildings, and performances are actually affordable. So affordable we had box seats for the ballet.
The next morning we traveled to Mamacoffee which was just up the boulevard Václavské námestí from where they had the Octoberfest the other night. I fell in love with the way many countries in Europe serve coffee and begged Michael for some cute trays so we could do the same at home. We didn’t end up getting silver trays (a smart decision), but I do think some of the American coffee shops should look to this model of serving coffee with a little biscuit or sweet and a small cup of water. It’s perfectly refreshing and the biscuit is not gigantic, but a nice gesture. We walked to see some more touristy things like the Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock. If you plan to go to Prague, take the advice of one of my sister’s best friends and walk the Charles Bridge at Dawn. Otherwise you’ll be harassed by street vendors who set up along the edge and annoyed by the shear number of people you encounter. Probably same with the Clock. The earlier the better if you want to watch it cuckoo. We had some seriously thick hot chocolate (the kind where they melt chocolate with a tiny bit of steamed milk) and it’s delicious and makes your heart smile. We peeked into the Jewish Cemetery but decided not to pay to go on a tour.
Since we had nothing else planned for the afternoon, we walked up to Letná Park (home of the giant Metronome) and read and napped in the grass. The Prague Beer Muzeum was next up on the list. Not your typical museum, this bar is packed with locals and tourists all looking to try a new beer. Michael and I each did a tasting of 5 after reading through a large binder of beer descriptions and asking the waiter for recommendations. It was a lot of fun and we each found a few we liked. That night we had dinner at the Blue Wagon, a very modern restaurant with delicious, simple food. The waitstaff was very attentive and knowledgable about their wine list. They sent out an amuse bouche prior to our dinner which was fantastic also.
Our final day was very random and relaxed. We had coffee at another Mammacoffee in the same neighborhood as the Blue Wagon and we set out in search of thrift stores. Prague has a large assortment of thrift and antique stores. Some remind you of the local Goodwill, while some have amazing collections. We ended up bringing back some weird drawings and an old book binding with a knight fighting a two-headed dragon that someone had tuned into art. If we had the space I would have brought home a taxidermy animal head too! We had lunch at Dish, a gourmet burger restaurant, and found out where Prague had been hiding it’s hipster crowd. Burgers were great. Sometimes you just want a burger (please no excuses for going to American fast food chains in other countries, there are plenty of local places to try!). After our morning of shopping, we spent the afternoon on a boat tour of the Vltava River. It was great until the sun went down and we headed back against the wind. It was nice to see the city from a different perspective and the tour was peaceful with only a handful of other guests on board.
By the end of this trip we were ready to come home. Just over four weeks of traveling across Europe takes a lot of effort mentally and physically. I am so glad that we decided to make this adventure together. We chose September because the weather was going to be nice in almost every city and we avoided summer tourism. We had a lot of help planning our trip, so a BIG THANK YOU to friends and co-workers who gave us great suggestions for places to eat, stay and see on our journey. Before traveling through all of these cities, it had been almost eight years since Michael and I shared an adventure in Europe as young college students in love. It makes me incredibly happy that we have the means to do things like this (though, not very often) and that we both enjoy travel and a little bit of the unknown. Michael is an amazing travel companion, though I wish I would have stolen his camera more often to prove he was there too… I can’t thank him enough for documenting our travels through his amazing photography and for his man-sense of direction (never trust me with a map). I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed recounting it. Thanks Michael for making this happen and sharing this experience with me!
If you just stumbled on the series, be sure to check out the rest of our adventures through Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris Part 1 and Part 2, Budapest, and Vienna! You can also find a short write up Michael and I did for Delighted Magazine about our favorite cities (starts on p. 58). As always feel free to check out the rest of our Prague photos on Michael’s Flickr. Thanks for reading!