Destination: Prague, Czech Republic
Recommended Airlines: Ryanair
Accommodation: Grandium Hotel Prague https://www.hotel-grandium.cz/en/
Attractions: Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Jewish Quarter, Petrin Tower, Petrin Funicular, John Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, Kampa Park, Head of Franz Kafka, Zizkov TV Tower, Umbrella Man, Dancing House, Man Hanging Out and St Vitus Church.
Overall Experience Rating: 🎒🎒🎒
Without a shadow of a doubt, Prague has to be the cheapest country I’ve visited to date. Particularly with my 2020 financial goals in mind, this was exactly the kind of trip I needed to kick-start my new year. In relation to the UK and GBP, Prague is close, cheap and cheerful, making it the perfect long weekend getaway for families, couples, groups and solo travellers alike. If you can brave the bitter temperatures (as low as -5 degrees) as I did in January *laughs in Elsa from Frozen* I’d recommend visiting Prague in winter, as it’s absolutely beautiful (especially if you’re lucky enough to get some snow). Fun fact #1: I love a winter vacay; I’ll look for any excuse to put on a colourful turtle neck, jump into my uggs, and drink excessive amounts of hot chocolate.
Aside from those reasons, the festive season also tends to leave everyone’s pockets/purses rather dry, so it’s nice to have a close following trip to a destination that won’t further break the bank. Plus, because the winter months are typically considered Prague’s off-peak travel season, tickets are even cheaper than normal. Essentially you’d be getting even more for your money. That being said, you could visit Prague in any season and I reckon it would still be massively affordable in comparison to other European cities.
Our pilot was definitely doing the in-air equivalent of speeding because the flight from Stansted to Václav Havel was about 1 hour 15 minutes; we landed way ahead of schedule and I wasn’t even remotely angry about it (as much as I love flying, I get extremely restless). The public transport journey from the airport to my hotel (in the city centre) took all of 40 minutes and was really straightforward.
All you need to do is get the 119 bus to ‘Nádraží Veleslavín’ (the last stop) and then hop onto the metro (line A) all the way to ‘Muzeum’ (alight for the National Museum) and there you are, in the stunning heart of Prague. I bought one ticket for 32kc and it covered tram, bus and metro for 90 minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… a bargain.
Alternatively, there is the AE bus (Airport Express) that will take you directly to the city centre, this service is ran by an independent company and tickets are 60kc. I personally didn’t let them rob me of my coins, but you know, each to their own.
You could also get an uber – the city centre is only a 30 minutes’ drive from the airport. My cousin’s flight got in a few hours later than mine that evening, so she opted for this.
Hotel Grandium, a beautiful 4-star hotel just a stone throw away from Wenceslas Square in Prague city centre (close to every shop and eatery you could think of). For 5 nights with breakfast included, for 2 people, our stay came to the not-so-grand total of £358.22p. I’d give the location a solid 9.5/10, cleanliness 9/10 and general value for money 8/10. The hotel was also (relatively) newly refurbished when we visited, so that was an added bonus. Their thematic use of glass and mirrors throughout the entire building was very aesthetically pleasing; it looked and felt like money, honey. Breakfast was served daily from 6:30 am – 10:30 am, with complimentary wine offered upon entry. Over the duration of our stay, the hotel staff were consistently helpful and very attentive to our needs. I absolutely would not hesitate to stay there again.
Well, you guessed it. The Astronomical Clock is exactly that… a clock… of rather epic proportions. It’s situated in the heart of Old Town and is considered to be one of Prague’s most important landmarks. Every hour between 9 am to 11 pm, a free “show” is on for members of the public. A word to the wise, please go to this “show” with absolutely no expectations, so that you won’t be disappointed by the reality.
Inspired by the iconic French monument, this 64 metres tall steel structure was built on Petřín Hill in 1891. Its strategic location provides an incredible birds-eye view of the entire city.
The tower has a large circular staircase of about 300 steps running through it. There is a lift, but oddly enough, you have to pay extra to use it (as if it’s an additional service lol). At the time of my visit, a regular ticket was 150kc and one with lift access was 210kc. The lift itself is a claustrophobic nightmare; it fits about 5 people (including the lift operator) and ascends/descends in a way that makes you feel very uneasy. Honestly speaking, it’s not the most accommodating space for those with physical disabilities.
I also must flag that you need to pay for your ticket(s) in Czech cash. Luckily there is an ATM just outside the ticket booth, but to avoid the realistic possibility of that machine being broken when you visit (as I always say) acquire local currency before you even fly out – save yourself the wahala.
A cheap and cheerful mode of transport between the top and bottom of Petrin Hill. Please note that the ticket machines at the funicular station don’t have card reading functionality, so take cash, more specifically coins.
John Lennon Wall
A vibrant mural dedicated to popular hippie and Beatles legend, John Lennon. The wall is covered in song lyrics and colourful messages of hope, peace and political protest; it has supposedly been populated with such graffiti since the ‘80s.
Considering all the chaos Covid-19 is currently causing, now would be a good time to listen to ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by the Beatles. May it be a reminder that the world will overcome this awful pandemic and the sun will shine again, in Jesus’ name – amen!
Charles Bridge and the Powder Tower
From its cobbled streets to its pointy buildings, Prague’s Old Town has a very palpable gothic ambience; at the same time, the entire area features a lot of religious symbolism, particularly in the form of statues. Practically speaking, Charles Bridges simply connects two parts of the city that are separated by the river, but metaphorically speaking, it’s also the point where both previously mentioned themes beautifully collide.
The Powder Tower, distinguished by its dark brown hue, is one of the original 13 gates into the old town.
Head of Franz Kafka
A mesmerizing 11 metres tall kinetic sculpture of Bohemian writer Franz Kafka, by Czech artist David Cerny. The head is comprised of 42 rotating mirror panels and is estimated to be around 36 tons. You can find this piece sitting just outside of the Quadrio shopping complex, in Prague city centre.
This striking contemporary building is the brainchild of architects Vlado Milunic and Frank Owen Gehry. The Dancing House, officially known as “Fred and Ginger”, sits on the corner of a busy junction by the Vltava River; it’s predominantly a commercial building, however, there is a publicly accessible restaurant at the very top. Apparently, the bar’s external terrace offers views for days.
I clearly spent way too much time around my American cousin, because I’m really out here using Americanisms for fun. Anyways, here are some nice places that you can dine at:
Fun fact #2: I adore Italian cuisine (namely because I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with carbs, but that is beside the point right now) this restaurant’s: location, food, service, interior design and vibe was all exquisite. If you’re planning a trip to Prague, please make a note to visit… by fire by force. The cherry on top is that despite how bad and bougie this place looks/feels, it’s pretty affordable. We couldn’t believe how little we spent on our meals and cocktails that evening.
Fun fact #3: I have a teenie tiny bit of a sweet tooth… and although Trdlo isn’t a restaurant, trdelník has to be one of the top 2 things my palate experienced whilst I was in Prague. But the gag is, it’s not number 2.
Trdelník is a delicious Czech desert – a grilled pastry cone coated in sugar, filled with melted chocolate, mounted with ice cream and topped with a strawberry (in the shop it’s called a “Frozen Queen” or #5 and costs 150kc). Whew chile, your taste buds will be blessed, but brace yourself for an almighty sugar rush after.
If you’re ever on the hunt for some traditional Czech food in Prague, look no further than good old fashioned pub grub. At Kulatak, I had one of the nation’s specialities: roasted duck (¼ = 600mg) with bread and potato dumplings, and a side of braised red and white cabbage (249kc). It was advised that such a meal was best accompanied by a pint of Pilsner beer.
As much as I’m always down for the culture, I had to pass on that suggestion… I’m more of a fruity cocktails/sweet white wine/rum and mixer kind of babe, okay? You would literally need to pay me to stomach any kind of beer… and that’s on period.
Although there were a few strong flavours in play, the meal was tasty and very filling (the portion size was out of this world). The only con was that this particular restaurant was quite far away from our hotel.
We actually ended up eating dinner here by accident… but won’t the Lord always do it?! This remix of plans worked in our favour because the restaurant we originally had in mind was absolutely heaving, whereas this alternative spot was super chilled out. After a long day of gallivanting the city, the latter is truly what we needed and God knew that.
Thai Noodle Bar Modry Zub
I can’t even lie, I was ready to cancel this restaurant within moments of stepping into it. Firstly, the waiter was very rude to us and secondly, there was a dog the size of Mufasa sat by our table. Fun fact #4: domestic animals and I categorically do not mix. I don’t like to deal with them roaming freely on the street or on public transport, talk less of inside a restaurant.
The only redeeming quality of this place was the fact that the food was delicious. I’m quite biased though, I love Thai food in whatever region of the world I’m in.
To conclude, if you’re going to visit Prague in winter, be prepared for a race against the clock. There are much less hours of daylight (the sun set around 4/4:30pm daily) so try to leave your hotel earlier-ish in the morning, to see as much of the city as you can before dark. If you’re not a morning person (I totally understand, I’m not either, especially not on holiday) just stagger out what you want to see across the afternoons. It is doable, simply because the majority of monuments are in close proximity to each other. With this in mind, try and secure accommodation in the city centre, you’ll barely spend money on transport.
Although we can’t hop onto planes to travel just yet, you can still plan a trip for the comfort of your own home. That way, you’ll ready for when the world regains some normalcy.
Until next time guys, keep well and stay safe xx