Getting to Prague
Flights to Prague operate regularly out of London Heathrow with carriers such as Finnair, British Airways and Ryanair. The flight time to Prague from London is about two hours; which is very reasonable if you are planning a long weekend. I would recommend getting a taxi from the airport. You can book a taxi through www.suntransfers.com who I have always found reliable and good value. Our journey took about thirty minutes to the Art Deco Imperial Hotel and we checked in and were unpacked within an hour of stepping off the plane. A taxi was the right option for our trip as our flight arrived late so, a quick check in and sleep was at the top of our agenda.
If you don’t fancy the cost of a taxi then buses and trains are available. For more transfer options check out, https://www.prg.aero/en/transport-airport.
Where to stay
Our trip to Prague was a surprise for my 30th birthday last summer so, the hubby went all out and booked the Art Deco Imperial Hotel. The Art Deco Imperial is a 5* luxury hotel only a five-minute walk from the old town area. Knowing that all things Art Deco & Art Nouveau bring me joy; this original 1914 building was the obvious choice for our stay. My husband won some serious brownie points as the original features and quirky embellishments throughout the hotel were totally captivating; the main staircase is just gorgeous and a real focal point.
The Art Deco Imperial Hotel is also home to Café Imperial. The café has been the most popular Grand Café House in Prague for over 100 years. Boasting stunning Art Nouveau tiling and a mosaic ceiling, it is a charming spot to have breakfast. Lunch and dinner are also offered; so even if you aren’t a guest of the hotel there are plentiful opportunities to sample this famous hot spot.
Where to eat
Prague has hundreds upon hundreds of fabulous eateries serving excellent local food. It is worth trying to get off the beaten track for eating in Prague. Often, like most cities, end
up paying too much for satisfactory food. Alternatively, you end up eating food purely made for tourists meaning you miss out on the good stuff and miss the chance to experience the real culinary landscape of the city. Prague plays brilliantly to its heritage and you can easily find a tavern serving good beer and copious amounts of meat. We opted for a food tour on our last day. It was such a perfect way to experience restaurants and local producers that we would never have found on our own. For the full write-up and information on our Eating Europe: Prague food tour check out this post https://takemefarandaway.com/2018/10/07/coming-soon/
What to do
Finished in 1475 the Powder Tower; affectionately named as a nod to its past as a gunpowder store marks the start of the Royal Route to Prague Castle. The Powder Tower was a bit of an accidental first stop on our first day. Typically, we like to have a wander and general mooch around before committing to specific sites or attractions. However, as we approached the tower the huge wooden and iron-studded door was ajar revealing a set of narrow windy steps. The exciting unknown beckoned and before I knew it, I was firmly committed to my ascent up the tower.
Be warned there are a lot of steps and they do get pretty narrow as you climb. If you do struggle with stairs, you might want to give this a miss as there isn’t much stopping room to catch your breath.
That being said, the views from the top are fab. The city stretches out in front of you in all directions and is a great way to orientate yourself with the local landmarks. To access the top part of the tower there is a 100CZK charge but it is well worth the price for the view waiting for you at the end.
Be aware that the powder tower will be closed for renovation until August 2019.
Gallery of Art: Warhol, Dali & Mucha
On each of our weekend breaks, we often take the opportunity to visit the national gallery or museums of modern art. Upon seeing a flyer for a Warhol, Dali and Mucha exhibition at the Gallery of Art I eagerly handed over the 170CZK entrance fee and made my way to the top floor. The exhibition was laid out over three floors with each dedicated to one of the three artists.
Before the exhibition, I was familiar with the work of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali but Alfons Mucha was a pleasant surprise and for the hubby, Dali and Mucha were a new offering. I think of the three exhibitions it was Mucha’s I enjoyed the most. Mucha’s work is gloriously intricate and romantic conjuring nostalgia for a time and era that I have never experienced but can only imagine. I also found it fascinating learning about his professional relationship with actress Sarah Bernhardt and seeing his designs printed on the earliest Czechoslovakian stamps and banknotes.
The three artists are very different making the whole exhibition considerably varied. From Andy Warhol’s pop art, original Dali prints and sculpture to Mucha’s stunning Art Nouveau designs this exhibition is well worth an hour or two of your time.
Museum of Communism
This one was a bit of a curveball for our trip. My husband who does no research, planning or preparation for any adventure had one request whilst in Prague; a to visit the Museum of Communism. After a short afternoon beer-inspired nap, we made our way to the museum which was only a two-minute walk from our hotel.
I am ashamed to say that I knew relatively little about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia following the Second World War up to 1989. The museum was well laid out and incredibly informative. I am one of those people who go through a museum reading most of the information but also getting distracted by other pictures, artefacts and colourful displays. My moth-like nature was no trouble here. My eyes were glued to every plaque. The information is presented over two floors and describes the politics, economics, the media, police and what life was like for everyday people under communist rule.
We spent over two hours devouring the information in total silence. Only once we emerged into the sunshine did we debrief on the experience. Having a starting point of limited knowledge on this period in time, the Museum of Communism was an informative, sensitive and truly excellent presentation of the life of Czech people during communism.
Entrance to the museum is 290CZK for an adult ticket and the museum is open every day from 9 am -8 pm.
Our second day was devoted to exploring Prague Castle and the castle complex and a full day was definitely needed!
The walk up to the castle complex took around twenty-five minutes from our hotel. We arrived around 10 am and would definitely say that the earlier you arrive the less you’ll have to queue. Queueing took to get into the complex took approximately fifteen minutes but it doubled in size whilst we were waiting.
Tickets for the castle complex vary depending on what you want to see. We opted for circuit A as it offered access to the majority of attractions in the complex.
We started our tour of the complex with St Vitus cathedral. Upon walking through the impregnable wooden doors, we stepped into the nave of the cathedral and basked in glorious technicolour. Sunlight streaming through the stained glass and the soaring heights of the vaulted ceiling was truly awe-inspiring. After a good half hour absorbing the delights of the cathedral, we checked out St Georges Basilica, ‘The story of Prague Castle’ exhibition, Rosenberg Palace and Old Royal Palace. The story of Prague Castle exhibition gave a fascinating insight into the development of Prague Castle and its grounds over the years also the history and background of the city.
Our final adventure of the day was Golden Lane also known as the Street of Alchemists. Sadly, this last part is pure myth. Emperor Rudolf the second did have alchemists working for him however they occupied more discreet rooms in the castle complex. However, all is not lost as Golden Lane did house the Royal Goldsmiths during the 17th Century.
Golden Lane is a small street constructed after the northern wall was built in the 16th century originally for the castle guards. The dwellings in Golden Lane are modest and
are the final reminder of the small-scale buildings which existed in the castle complex. The dwellings were inhabited by castle defenders, servants and tradesmen until World War Two.
Some truly remarkable people chose this small section of the castle complex for their homes. Famous inhabitants included Franz Kafka, Madame De Thebes and Nobel prize-winning writer and poet Jaroslav Siefert.
It would have been easy to spend another hour purely immersing myself in Golden Lane and taking in how each little home was set up to reveal its former life.
John Lennon Wall
After reading various posts and recommendations I decided that I couldn’t visit Prague without a stop at the John Lennon Wall. After a speedy breakfast, we ventured out into the thirty-degree heatwave to find the wall. The wall is located in the old town on Velkopřevorské náměstí, 100 00 Praha 1, not far from the Charles Bridge.
Despite the early hour of our visit, I was expecting to find new-age hippies singing of peace and love against a backdrop of Lennon inspired graffiti. What I discovered was the opposite. Yes, there was someone singing ‘Imagine’ but it felt out of place juxtaposed against mindless images and random offensive graffiti. Regrettably, I felt disappointed as I scoured the wall for what lay underneath; there were snippets of Beatles lyrics and an image of Lennon himself but it seems that the original purpose of the wall and message it was designed to give is long gone.
However; disappointment aside some of the graffiti is pretty cool and it made for not only a lovely walk but some interesting pictures.
If you have a demanding schedule then I wouldn’t worry too much about carving out time to visit the John Lennon wall, I reckon we were only there for around ten to fifteen minutes. I’d like to think that some of the random offensive graffiti which was there on my visit might be repainted and replaced by something a little more akin to the message of peace, love and freedom of speech; so, if you do visit please let me know.
Letna Beer Garden
Prague is known for its beer gardens and rightly so. There are some fabulous beer gardens dotted around the city. We opted for one of the bigger and more well-known ones, Letna. The Letna beer garden is situated at Letenske Sady 341 just across the Stefanikuv Most bridge. After a short yet steep walk, our trek was rewarded with picture-postcard views over the city and the river. After a long day checking out Prague Castle a cold beer and a gorgeous view was just the ticket.
Museum of Alchemy
I am definitely one of these people who strongly feel that their letter to ‘Hogwarts’ was lost or mislaid by a slightly wayward owl. A small part of me holds some hope that although thirteen years late my owl could show up at any given moment, I am a dreamer and a fantasist. I love losing myself in fantasy novels and quite often find myself snooping around unknown places in the hopes of discovering a concealed door, untrodden path or mysterious and mystical item. Who doesn’t love a mystery! In my head I am Lazlo from ‘Strange the Dreamer’ by Liani Taylor; a fabulous book if you’re looking for some holiday reading! So, when I read that Prague was home to a real-life alchemy laboratory from the 16th Century I jumped on it!
After locating the unassuming shop front, I secured places on the next available tour and waited for it to start. My husband took some convincing that this would be an enjoyable experience and not simply a tacky show for tourists. I am pleased to say that he was most certainly won over!
All-access is through the organised tour so it is worth checking this out first to avoid disappointment. The tour lasts 30 minutes and starts every half an hour.
Without giving too much away the tour shattered all my expectations and I left me fizzing with excitement to seek out my next mystical adventure. The guides brought the whole story to life and had I been sitting I would have been on the edge of my seat.
The whole experience felt genuinely magical, it’s hard to describe and If you fancy extending your magical experience you can snap up your own alchemical elixir in the shop!
Our three days in Prague were fabulous, although it felt as though I had only scratched the surface of this fascinating and history-laden city. I would love to visit in the winter and check out the Christmas market but also venture further afield. Inspired by our food tour guide Neil I have been firmly sold on the beauty of Moravia; so, it’s safe to say I will be back.