"Jolene, wheres are you visiting again?"
"London, Prague, Lisbon, and Barcelona."
"What's in Prague?"
"I don't know, but I plan on finding out."
This was a real conversation that happened before I left on my 4-country adventure (technically 5 if you count Toronto). Prior to this trip being real, Prague was the first destination on our wishlist, so we had to make it happen.
Monday, November 21
On a rainy Monday (Alexa, play Rainy Monday by Shiny Toy Guns), we left London and landed in near-freezing Prague. Weather showed it had snowed the night before, so we braced ourselves as we entered the cooler temperatures.
My first impression of Prague was definitely a positive one. The airport was calm, organized and easy to navigate. My general impression of the Czech people was also calm, lowkey and understated. We took public transportation to our apartment, located in the heart of Old Town.
Everything was fairly easy until we actually got to the center of the city. Let's just say cobblestones are romantic and beautiful until you have to drag your luggage over them! Despite our laborious trek over uneven streets in a completely foreign place (at night!), we made it safely to our apartment. Between frustrated sighs and sharp exhales in the 30 degree weather, I was already impressed by the European fairytale-like quality of the surrounding buildings.
The night was fairly young and because I knew we had limited time in Prague, I made sure we started our adventure immediately. We didn't have to adjust to any jetlag (the time difference was an hour), and it became clear very quickly that Prague is a very walkable city. With our bags deposited and no worries on the horizon, I easily shed my travel stress and ventured into the city.
We had dinner reservations (as per usual, all of my food-related adventures will be documented in another blog), and after we were full and warm, we walked to the famous Charles Bridge.
I may not have had the same kind of breathtaking reaction as I had when I'd seen the Tower Bridge in London for the first time, but the Charles Bridge is definitely a majestic landmark that commands attention. I'd read that "even in winter the Charles Bridge is always crowded," but that turned out not to be the case. We had the bridge almost entirely to ourselves, which was the perfect way to spend our first night in Prague.
Prague Castle was lit up on one side of the river, opposite the sparkling lights of this fairytale European city. I felt like I couldn't see much, but I got very excited for our next morning. While we headed back to our humble apartment, we stumbled across a crowd gathering. I looked up and asked Jennifer, "Is that it? Is that the clock? Like the clock?"
It sure was. Our Airbnb was about a 5-minute walk from the very famous Astronomical Clock.
Our timing was impeccable - a few minutes after we arrived, we got to see the Clock in motion. Since it was fairly late at night, the crowd was small and we had no issues finding a prime viewing spot. If I'm being honest, it was underwhelming. If I go back, I want to visit the inside of the clock and learn more about it so I can appreciate it.
We had only been in Prague for a couple hours and I learned a very important lesson: most of the places on our itinerary were seriously walkable.
Tuesday, November 22
Our first full day in Prague greeted us with gray skies, low temperatures, and oddly relaxing adventures. Despite how much I love London, I realized that even through our fun adventures I felt like I was holding my breath while we were there and it was time for me to really exhale.
Prague was the perfect city in which to exhale, both literally and figuratively. Walking across the Charles Bridge once again was meditative - this time we could observe the surrounding areas and gush over the sprawling red roofs. It felt like we were in a postcard.
We crossed the bridge (which was empty again) and continued our walk in search of breakfast on the way to Prague Castle. We did not have plans to actually go inside the castle, but our journey to the grounds was full of wonderful shops, picturesque streets and beautiful scenery. There is something about Prague that truly makes it pleasant to walk through, even in the cold.
We sought refuge from the cold in a cozy cafe and warmed up with a fresh breakfast before continuing our walk. In some cities, a 30-minute walk won't get you far, but in Prague it took us all the way from Old Town, across the river, and up to Prague Castle.
Our peaceful walk became a little more laborious as the incline steepened and we ascended the castle's hill. Lactic acid burned in our quads, but once we glanced at the view, our huffing and puffing ceased.
We entered the castle grounds after a brief security check and a lot of "ooohs" and "ahhhhs" at the view. We did not have tickets to enter the buildings and exhibits, but I still enjoyed taking in the castle grounds, including a very impressive cathedral and fun gift shop.
We did have to be at a specific meeting place at 10:30AM, so we decided to leave the castle grounds and start heading toward the meeting point. The walk was an additional 25 minutes and we were more than happy to get our steps in before eating a lot.
On our way, we came across some wonderful views of the city. With each new angle we fell more and more in love with Prague.
Before long, we were back on the other side of the river and met up with our group for the eating tour, which took us through even more of the city.
The tour ended in the early evening, giving us time to prepare for our nighttime activity: a dinner cruise.
The buffet was hardly memorable; there were a couple Czech dishes but much of the food was generic. It wasn't bad, but what was lovely was the entire experience. The boat was nearly empty, as I imagine this is not a popular winter activity.
The boat was entirely covered so the temperature was comfortable. We received a welcome glass of champagne/sparkling wine and had plenty of space to relax for 3 hours. I loved watching the gorgeous buildings go by as we slowly floated down the Vltava River. There was also a winter event going on on the riverbank, giving me yet another magical Hallmark movie moment.
Coming from our fast-paced adventures in London, I surprised myself when I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise.
Wednesday, November 23
I woke up with bittersweet feelings on our last full day in Prague - I was excited for more adventures, but also prematurely sad about having to say goodbye.
We had a Michelin-starred reservation at 11AM, so everything until then was fair game AKA we had no real plans.
Little did Jennifer know, I had been conspiring with a mutual friend (Lily) to make plans for her to join us. She's always been much closer to Jennifer, so we kept our little meetup a secret. I told Lily to meet us near the Astronomical Clock and it resulted in one of the funniest reunion moments!
And of course, to continue our impeccable timing, we watched the Clock in action once more.
After our mind blowing Michelin meal, we set out for more adventuring in some areas we had not previously visited, including a very cute gingerbread shop I had read about.
Still on a high from our meal, we bought cute gingerbread souvenirs for our friends back home, and then I dragged my friends across town to a very specific photo booth I had read about.
Again, Prague being so walkable, we were able to walk to our next destination very easily and enjoyed the accompanying scenery. We crossed a different bridge and approached the popular funicular at Ujezd Station up to Petrin. Keep in mind, we were visiting Prague during a pretty cold, grey time. Our tour guide for the food tour actually discouraged us from going up to Petrin, since the lush greenery would be absent. However, I really wanted to go, so we went.
Despite the drag skies and bare trees, I actually thoroughly enjoyed our adventure up the hill. Once we found the station, everything was pretty easy to figure out. We purchased our roundtrip tickets at a kiosk in the station and hopped onto the funicular.
For some of you, the word 'funicular' is new - they are defined as "a cable railroad, especially one on a mountainside, in which ascending and descending cars are counterbalanced."
I'd purchased Petrin Lookout Tower tickets ahead of time, which turns out was not completely necessary. I'm not sure if this is standard for the colder seasons, but Petrin was very empty when we arrived. Lily was able to purchase her Tower ticket and we were ready for the view from the top!
Well... we thought we were ready until we were told the elevator was broken and we'd have to walk up to the top.
I'm not going to lie to you and say "the ascent was much easier than we thought it would be!" because it wasn't. It was horrible, but it was worth the views.
Similarly to the Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Lookout Tower has levels - the first major observation deck is outside and has wonderful views of Prague. The next observation deck is indoors and offers even more sweeping views.
By the time we finished the climb, night began to fall and we could see Prague starting to twinkle in the dark.
The walk down was considerably more dizzying than the walk up, but our knees and quads were grateful.
Despite the darkness, the night was still young and we had some time before our dinner reservation. I suggested we try the mirror maze located next to the Petrin Lookout Tower. We paid cash at the door, not knowing what to expect - tourist trap or interesting attraction?
In my opinion, the mirror maze was worth it. It might not be the most exciting attraction in Prague, but I really enjoyed the laughs and interesting photos!
Overall, I'm grateful I decided to stick to my guns and see Petrin. Understandably it wasn't as beautiful as I'm sure it is in the spring and summer, but I enjoyed experiencing these Prague attractions and seeing more gorgeous views.
It was our last night in Prague and we had one final dinner planned at Ginger and Fred, located in the famous "Dancing House." Our meal was full of tasty bites, good drinks and more laughs. It was the perfect way to end a soul-cherishing time in such a wonderful city.
I'd like to think that every city I visit teaches me something. Prague taught me to slow down. Sometimes I feel like I am constantly scrambling to do everything when I am traveling. In Prague, things just weren't frantic and we were able to really take the time to enjoy simple things, like a beautiful view or a hot drink in a historical cafe. Prague is a city I would absolutely love to visit again, in any season. I sincerely hope I have an opportunity to go back one day!
Have you ever been to Prague? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,