The next two days whilst in Prague were spent on taking day trips to other cities in the Czech Republic (respectively, Karlovy Vary and Olomouc– more on them in later posts). However, I made sure to save my last full day for Prague, so as to see as much as I could before I had to return to France.
Heading out of my Couchsurfing host’s flat around 9:00, I decided to take the tram to Prague Castle, as it would’ve taken at least 40 minutes otherwise on-foot (and I wanted to maximize my time as much as possible that day to explore). Hopping on the tram, I ended up going two stops over my intended one, which resulted in me having to walk a bit over to castle hill.
All the same, I arrived and went to the ticket office to purchase my ticket to access the ground’s sites– there were two circuit options, and I opted for the one which included the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane. Due to some event going on, the former wouldn’t be opened until noon that day, but fortunately the ticket allowed me to come and go whenever. With that said, I first entered St. George’s Basilica, the oldest-surviving church on the castle grounds dating back to the early 10th century. The interior was quite minimal, and the frescoes themselves deteriorating from centuries of wear and tear– however, it left the mind up to imagination, as I could envision just how grand it must’ve been back in the day.
Following the visit of the basilica, I headed to the Golden Lane, which is actually not golden, but rather a cluster of cute, colorful houses lined up along a narrow, cobblestone lane. In fact, it got its name from being the living quarters of goldsmiths during the 17th century, and one of the houses had belonged to the sister of Czech writer Franz Kafka. It was quite charming, although the houses themselves are souvenir shops today. #commercialism
Shortly thereafter, and I made my way to the Lobkowicz Palace, where I paid 200 koruna (about 7€) to visit it. I’d heard about this privately-owned family museum from a cruise program about two years prior, and I was interested in seeing what it was all about. One thing to know is that, at first glance, the galleries might not seem as interesting as you might think– especially if you’ve visited the grand palaces like Versailles or Schönbrunn, the Lobkowicz Palace pales in comparison to them. However, what makes it stand out is its history, as many of its art collections had been removed or stolen during WWII and the Cold War– since the 1990’s, the family has made great attempts to recover everything, which continues to this day. Going through the galleries, then, you can admire just how much they’ve done in the last three decades, all the while being perfectly-located with views of Prague down below.
It was nearing lunchtime when I finished my tour of Lobkowicz Palace, and I was keen on getting food at Lokál U Bílé kuželky, one of the two traditional pubs for solid, decently-priced Czech meals. I’d tried the other location, Lokál Dlouhááá, back in 2015, so I wanted to go to the other one. The place is similar to a Polish milk bar, where you order your food and eat it in a cafeteria-like setting. Considering that I was eating solo, I picked a smaller table off to the side, where I enjoyed my smažený sýr (fried cheese) and grog. Made for the perfect warm meal on a chilly January day, and it gave me the fuel to continue exploring for the rest of the day.
After lunch, I made a quick visit to the Prague Metronome, which is semi-functioning but otherwise serves a hangout spot for youths with a decent view of the Old Town. I returned to the Prague Castle complex, which by then was after twelve o’ clock, so I could access the St. Vitus Cathedral. Considering that I didn’t visit it last time I was in Prague, I was extremely glad that I did this time. The interior just about blew me away with its towering nave, decked out in bright stained-glass windows from floor to ceiling. Definitely was the highlight of my visit on the castle grounds, and it’s worth a pop in when in Prague.
Exiting the castle grounds, I stayed on the castle hill as I made my way over to Petřín, one of my favorite spots in the city. Along the way, I made detours to Novy Svet, a tiny picturesque neighborhood that one could consider as being “off-the-beaten-path.” With its narrow streets and quiet atmosphere, it’s a refreshing break from the crowded, touristy center and with a couple of cute restaurants and cafes to boot. I also returned to the Strahov Monastery library, this time paying the full admission for photo permissions, and I happily shuttered away at the glorious interior of book-filled rooms.
I finally arrived at Petřín, where I saw the eponymous tower (resembling that of the Eiffel Tower) and strolled a bit through its park, which was peaceful and offered a good vantage point of the city. Likewise with Novy Svet, it’s a solid place to visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of touristy areas, all the while appreciating its beauty.
My final stop in the afternoon was at the Vyšehrad, which is a fort located on a hill across the Vltava River. Much of its main grounds are in ruins, although it still contains a cemetery and the Church of St. Peter and Paul today. The latter was especially a lovely surprise, as I was in love with its colorful doors– the afternoon sunlight gave them an almost-Byzantine look, which was the highlight of my visit, as it’d taken me nearly an hour to reach there on foot.
There was an hour left until sunset, and I wanted to capture Charles Bridge lit up at night, as I couldn’t do so during my last visit. However, it wasn’t quite dark enough when I arrived, so I ended up just heading to the Lesser Town Square across the bridge to meet up with my Couchsurfing host to get dinner– however, we had a sort of miscommunication, as we ended up missing each other, so I ended up just getting dinner by myself at the Georgian restaurant he’d recommended me. I never had Georgian food before, so I was excited to see how it was. I ordered lobio and khachapuri, which are bean soup and a cheese-stuffed pastry, respectively. I found the meal hearty and relatively well-spiced (especially with the lobio), and I was pretty satisfied with it.
Once I finished eating, I headed out to Charles Bridge to capture photos of the iconic monument– it was finally dark enough to do so. With Prague Castle illuminated behind it, the scene was absolutely lovely, to say the least. From there, I headed to an absinthe bar (funny enough, the same one I’d gone to during my first visit in 2015) where I got a shot and a mixed drink– again, neither of them did anything for me, and they were quite sweet, but in any case, I tried absinthe again.
Before returning to my host’s flat, I scoured the streets for a cafe that served medovník (“honey cake”). I found one which did, and I took it to-go for breakfast the following day. It turned out to be heavenly, as it was absolutely layered with buttercream and sweet, crumbly goodness– definitely worth a try while in the Czech Republic!
I returned to my host’s flat around 21:00, and I rested for the remainder of the night. I left the following morning around 10:00– after saying goodbye to my host, I headed to the main railway station where I caught a direct shuttle to the airport, and from there, I caught my flight back to Lyon. Upon landing, I had to wait about two hours in the airport until the shuttle back to my city arrived, as the best timing was like that, but eventually, I made it back to my flat in the evening.
Overall, it’d been a busy, but also surprisingly refreshing visit to Prague for a second time this January. I managed to see pretty much the major attractions, all the while adding a few new places to the itinerary. My stay was pleasant, and I’d love to return to Prague once more sometime in the future– after all, there’s this sort of magic that continues to draw you back, again and again.
I’ll be recapping the day trips I took from Prague in the next few posts, so stay tuned!