Plentiful PragueBy Charlotte Downes -
My better-travelled friends were very excited for me as they told me how Prague is a beautiful place full of interesting things, best experienced by just wandering about the city. I was told it was a small - easy enough to walk from one side to the other - but there was so much to do and see. My friend and I grabbed all the leaflets from our hotel and tried to decide what we wanted to do first. Our conclusion? Everything.
I immediately felt the pressure to get everything done, and was on a mission to make the most of the holiday. But this can take a lot of the fun out of it: exploring against the clock, rushing around, and feeling disappointed when the days don’t include as many museums as you intended. This frantic approach to high-octane tourism gets tiring very quickly, meaning it’s no longer possible to walk anywhere.
We found a cure for this. Prague, more than any other city I’ve visited, is a place where you can see everything and do nothing. We started with the walking tour to get our bearings and a sense of the city. This introduced us to the elaborate history as we glimpsed the places we may want to explore. This wiped out my leg strength and brain capacity for one day so we returned to our Botel (Boat Hotel) to rest before the opera in the evening. For only fifteen euros, we got to see inside the beautiful opera house and watch one of Mozart’s compositions in a venue in which he conducted. History, culture, and a nice sit down. Just what I needed.
The following day we planned to take the afternoon walking tour of the castle and cathedral, so we devoted our morning to the boat tour. We enjoyed beautiful views of Prague’s sights from the water, were taken to new places, and got to learn more about the wonderful city over some gingerbread and a drink – all very civilised. I wasn’t overly enamoured with the castle tour but I think this was partly because tiredness and general anxiety were making me irritable. I would recommend researching the castle from one of the cute nearby pubs we discovered at the end of our visit, and exploring for yourself. I cannot speak for the paid entry parts of the cathedral but to just have a look inside, the churches around the Old Town Square are much more impressive if compromises have to be made.
Charles Bridge was day three’s mission; walking over the bridge and back again meant that we could look at statues on both sides of the exhibition. The bridge is the largest outdoor sculpture gallery in Europe; something which we should have taken into consideration before visiting! I wanted to take my time and savour each statue, pretending I could read the Latin inscriptions and making up a story for each saint. This took ages and, with a bridge, after a certain point you can’t just wander off and come back later without getting rather wet. However, crossing the river is a good excuse to enjoy a drink in Malá Strana to refresh you for the return trip.
A big part of city life is the food and drink. We had a traditional meal served over Czech folk music and dancing with unlimited beer and wine: tried different cakes and pastries, enjoyed a tucked-away restaurant by Wenceslas Square where drinks are delivered by model railway and I ate goulash from a bowl made out of bread before eating the bowl itself!
Despite taking things slowly and my concerns towards missing something, by our final day we felt we had seen most things we wanted to. We sat in the Old Town Square and watched the world go by until we could no longer resist the lure of the land train. We saw even more of Prague – the Jewish Quarter, the pubs and restaurants on the way up the hill to the castle – again without any effort or hassle. Finally, we decided we might as well have a look in the two big churches and I was absolutely blown away. I will say no more – spoilers!
Prague is a beautiful city and can be enjoyed at any pace you like, taking all the tours in one day, or spending ten days there and taking excursions outside the city. But above all, it is a place where you can enjoy every corner of the city regardless of your personal mobility requirements. Travelling by train, boat, Segway or even horse-drawn carriage, Prague is the perfect place to absorb some history and atmosphere in all sorts of stress-free ways.