5 Essential Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Prague
When my friends and I were planning our Euro road trip we had to choose between spending more time in Prague or Budapest. I reached out to my FB friends to get their opinion and it was spilt relatively evenly. I ultimately chose to spend more time in Budapest because it seemed like it had way more to do. That meant we had 2.5 days to get a taste of Prague's grace.
Here are the top 5 things I learned that you should know before your visit:
1. The best time to experience the Charles Bridge is at sunrise.
We arrived in Prague, during a rainy evening, but that didn't detract from its romantic fairytale vibes. Charles Bridge is Prague's oldest and most famous bridge that spans the Vltava river. We walked the bridge shortly after arriving and of course it was overrun by tourists. I convinced my friends to get up at 4:30am so we could walk the bridge during sunrise and in peace. Low and behold, there were only a handful of people there, most of them were couples taking wedding pics. Walking past the 30 statues of religious figures on Charles Bridge during sunrise was a therapeutic experience for me.
Pro tip: Don't put love locks on the bridge, they will be clipped by the end of the day.
2. If you have a nut allergy, make sure you mention that when you buy a Chimney.
Eating a Chimney is a must do in Prague! Chimneys, locally known as Trdelník are a Central European pastry that is made with dough and sugar. You can fill it with different toppings. Mine was filled with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Some places make chimneys with walnuts, which may not be apparent on the cone, so make sure you mention your nut allergy when you order.
3. For the best pictures of the Prague Castle: Get low & close.
Prague Castle is a complex of beautiful palaces, courtyards, museums, and cathedrals. It is the biggest ancient castle in the world and home to the current Czech President. St. Vitus Cathedral (pictured above) is the most recognizable in the skyline. To capture the intricate details of the castle it is best to get really close shots and low angles. These techniques work really well when there are a lot of tourists around. Shout out to my friend Jacek for his picture-taking skills and patience! The last picture was taken with him on the ground. It gives great perspective and cuts out unnecessary people in the picture.
4. Bring a permanent marker with you to write on the John Lennon Wall.
The John Lennon Wall is a tribute to John Lennon and his ideas of love, peace and freedom. It also represents rebellion against Prague's former communist regime. When John Lennon was murdered someone painted a picture of him on the wall and then people kept on adding various Beetle's quotes and lyrics to the wall. No matter how hard the government tried to keep the wall "clean" graffiti constantly came up. Unfortunately I didn't have a permanent marker or spray paint. I wrote a message with a pen, which I'm sure is washed away right now. But it was still a memorable experience.
5. Beware of restaurants with pretty views.
If you take anything away from this article it should be this: Pack snacks in your bag when you are planning on spending hours sightseeing. I say this because being hungry leads to poor life decisions like running into the first restaurant you see. In our case, we knew we wanted to eat somewhere with a river view, which led us to the ultimate tourist trap, Certovka. It is conveniently placed next to the Narrowest Street in Prague which is a highly visited sight. Besides the spectacular view, this is the most basic restaurant ever! The service was horrifically slow. The bread was stale and the waiter laughed when I told him so and the food had no flavor. Go down the narrowest street, but don't go into that restaurant to eat.
Here's a glimpse into the other sights we explored:
The Astronomical Clock
In Old Town Square, you will find the popular medieval Astronomical Clock. Every hour tourists gather around the clock to view 12 apostles moving along the window above the astronomical dial.
Old Jewish Cemetry
I really wish we had time to properly explore the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Jewish Quarter. We only caught a glimpse of it from the exit. It is one of the most prominent sites in the Jewish Quarter, as it is one of the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world. Space was limited, so the bodies were buried on top of each other with graves piled up to 10 deep.
David Černý's Statues
We stumbled upon this statue outside of the Franz Kafka Museum. It's one of mastermind Czech sculptor, David Černý's statues. The men are standing in a pool in the shape of the Czech Republic and are spelling out messages with their pee. The next time I visit Prague, I will be sure to intentionally seek out the rest Černý's sculptors.
Day trip to Kutná Hora
On our way to Budapest, we took a highly recommended day trip to Kutna Hora. We visited the UNESCO Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady (row 1 above), the Sedlec Ossuary- Bone Chapel (row 2 above), and the Church of Saint James (row 3 above).