Tag Archives: weekend

Prague: Practical Info

And now a bit of practical information about Prague!

Getting to Prague from anywhere in Europe is easy. The city is well connected by air with most large European cities and cheap flights are widely available. Once you land at Václav Havel International Airport, the cheapest way to town is bus 119 to the metro stop of Nádraží Veleslavín, from where you can catch Metro A (various stops in the Old Town). 32Kč is the cost of the ticket, a standard 1.5hr public transport ticket. Another option, a bit more pricey (60Kč) and not any faster, is the Airport Express Bus to the main train station (Hlavní nádraží). From here you can catch the Metro or buses to anywhere in the city.

Moving around Prague: I’d recommend exploring on foot. Most tourist attractions are within walking distance and this is always the best way to explore a new place!

Where to stay: I stayed in a hostel 5 minutes away from the Old Town Square. It’s the most touristic area and even though I usually prefer quieter areas, being so central was very convenient. And I loved going for a stroll to the main square in the evening! But there are many more options available, from budget accommodation to luxury hotels. Check out TripAdvisor or Booking.com for some good deals.

Tourist Information Centre: The main one is located in the Old Town Hall and is open 365 days a year. More details available here.

Currency: The Czech Republic is not in the Euro-zone, instead the Czech koruna (Kč) is used. 1 Euro will get you around 25 Kč, you can check current exchange rate here. Many restaurants and hotels may accept Euros but the change will always be in Czech koruna.

Language: If you don’t understand a word of any Slavic language (like me), don’t worry! English is widely spoken/understood in Prague. But learning a couple of words of Czech won’t hurt.

 

Na shledanou!

Prague: How about the food?

I found eating out in Prague very cheap (250-500 Kc per meal, often including dessert and a soft drink) and I really enjoyed trying a few different restaurants with traditional Czech food.

Most Czech dishes are very meat-based and contain also dumplings, with some added cabbage here and there. Probably not the lightest meals but very tasty!
My meat feast over the long weekend started with a delicious venison guláš, served alongside with bread dumplings.

Venison guláš

The following day I tried a “farmer’s plate” with pork meat, grilled sausages (grilované klobásy), bread dumplings, potato dumplings, cabbage and gravy.

All-pork farmer’s plate

It was then time for a basic beef guláš in a cheap cafe’, and on my final day some roast duck with dumplings and cabbage.
All food was really good but I particularly enjoyed the venison guláš and the all-pork dish.

And for dessert? I recommend trying the trdelník, a traditional rolled pastry coated in sugar and sold in street stalls around Prague. But don’t fall for the tourist varieties filled with all sorts of sweet things, from chocolate to ice cream: the classic version, empty inside, is the best one!

Trdelník

Prague: The Castle and Malá Strana

As you walk across the 14th-century Charles Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe and a landmark of Prague, the castle complex and mainly the two towers of St. Vitus Cathedral will catch your attention.

Prague castle: The largest ancient castle in the world, you can easily spend half day exploring this complex, made of several buildings. The Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest and most important church in the country, is stunningly beautiful. I could have stayed in for hours admiring the stained glass windows and the lines of the vaults. I then wandered into the Old Royal Palace, with its multitude of diverse rooms, and the Basilica of St.George, the oldest surviving church building in the castle complex. The Story of Prague Castle permanent exhibition has a very interesting collection of items related to the history of the castle, as well as photographs and informative panels. The last section included in the full tourist ticket for the castle complex (ticket A, 350 ) is Golden Lane, a street originally built in the 16th century and whose houses are now mainly souvenir shops.

The district south of the castle is called Malá Strana (usually translated as Lesser Town) and is characterised by baroque buildings and colourful shops.

One of the most beautiful sights in Malá Strana is St.Nicholas Church, with its distinctive dome. Built between 1704-1755, this church features beautiful stained glasses and frescoes. The main fresco is currently under restoration but the church is definitely worth a visit.

Petřín hill: Covered in parks, it is a nice place to relax. You can reach the top via a funicular railway or, as I did, you can walk up the hill using the various paths and stairs. The Petřín lookout tower at the top of the hill is a 63.5-metre-tall steel-framework tower built in 1891 and resembling the Eiffel tower. Initially used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower, it is now a tourist attraction. You can easily climb its 299 steps to the top for a 360-degree view over Prague. Next to the tower don’t miss a visit to the Mirror Maze for a bit of entertainment: the mirror images can be quite funny!

At the base of Petřín hill is the Memorial to the victims of Communism, a group of seven bronze statues that commemorates the victims of the communist era 1948-1989.
A few minutes away is the so-called John Lennon wall: supposedly a tribute to John Lennon, this wall covered in colourful graffiti and writings mainly from fans has little artistic quality and there are much better graffiti elsewhere in Prague (and in many other cities). Worth checking out if you want to tick the box, but not much else.

You can then return to Staré Město crossing the Legion’s bridge (most Legií) for more views of Charles Bridge and the Castle from the distance.

 

Prague, finally!

In my school years, Czechoslovakia was one single country.
Back in those days, the geography of Eastern Europe was quite different from what it is now, and mass tourism was largely unknown.

Fast forward 2-3 decades and the young countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia – born in 1993 from the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia – are now popular destinations for tourists of all ages. With Prague, the Czech capital, one of the most visited capital cities in Europe.

So why was Prague still missing from my travel CV?
“You have travelled so much, and you haven’t been to Prague?!” was the usual surprised comment from my friends.

So it was time to do something about it. As usual, a bit of a late decision, with flight and accommodation booked just over two  weeks before departure and no other planning done…but not much planning was actually required.

Follow me for more posts and photos of my trip to Prague!

Hippie Copenhagen: Christiania

Christiania is an entirely different world in that Amsterdam-looking part of Copenhagen called Christianshavn.
Surrounded by a long wall completely covered in graffiti, the only external sign that something there is “different”, this hippie community-turned-tourist-attraction maintains a relative amount of autonomy within the municipality of Copenhagen. A sign at the entrance simply states “Christiania”. The other side of it, which you see as you exit, states “You are now entering the EU”.

pusher street christiania copenhagen denmarkSo-called Pusher Street (officially named Green Light District) remains the main drag, with hash and skunk weed on sale in makeshift stands. Multiple signs warn the tourists that taking photographs here is not permitted, as buying and selling hash is still illegal in Denmark.

Creativity dominates in Christiania. Colourful houses built in interesting architectural styles are seen everywhere. Street art, installations, cultural activities, music events. You name it.

Christiania Copenhagen lakeThere is even a lake!

And yes, there are a lot of dodgy-looking characters walking around so I wouldn’t recommend a visit after dark, but I would definitely encourage everyone to experience the spirit of Christiania when visiting Copenhagen.

A short break in Copenhagen

Say “Copenhagen” and everyone immediately thinks of the Little Mermaid.
And admittedly that was the only attraction I had planned to go and see, not having spent a single minute in planning my impromptu citybreak to the capital of Denmark. So unlike me. The TripAdvisor guide I have downloaded on my phone will come in handy once I reach Copenhagen, I thought. And I was right.

mermaid copenhagen denmarkSo back to the Little Mermaid statue. This icon of the city is definitely overrated. Placed on a rock at the far end of the main promenade, a good 25 minute walk from the main tourist sites, it is not as visible as I expected. Swarms of tourists surround it and cause huge amount of frustration to any photographers. Dislike.

But once you have overcome the mermaid disappointment, you will soon realise that Copenhagen is a great city to visit over a long weekend.
The majority of tourist attractions are within walking distance from one another, but if you get tired easily there is a fairly good metro network that will come to your aid. Boat tours on the canals that cross central Copenhagen are another good way to get around, offering a different view of some of the main sights.

Here are my picks, in no particular order:

#Nyhavn: the old harbour area, characterised by picturesque colourful houses and boats. And lots of nice (yet expensive) cafes along the waterfront. Great area where to hang out at any time of the day and night.

#Christianshavn: south of the harbour, this part of town reminded me of Amsterdam, with its canals, boats and colourful waterfront houses. Very pretty.

#Christiania: crazy place but interesting to visit (lots of graffiti and street art too). This is a hippie community that maintains some autonomy and is famous for its Pusher Street (no photos are allowed there!). A sign on your way out advises you that “You are now entering the EU”….

#Climbing to the top of the Church of Our Saviour: great views of Copenhagen from above. Only slim people can make it to the very top as the staircase gets very very narrow.

#Rosenborg Castle: up until 1710 this was the royal summer residence. Beautiful castle with interesting collections, including the Danish crown jewels.

#Amalienborg Palace: the winter home of the Danish Royal family, it consists of four palaces surrounding a central courtyard. The changing of the guard takes place here everyday at noon after a march across the city centre.

#Lego Store in Strøget (Strøget is the main shopping and pedestrian area): a bit of a childhood weakness, but I couldn’t resist entering and buying a little souvenir there…

#Happy Wall in Kongens Nytorv: this is a piece of interactive art in one of the main squares in the central part of town. Brainchild of artist Thomas Dambo, the wall consists of nearly 2000 wooden boards that can be flipped to change color. Everybody who wants can in this way create patterns, animals, words or statements. Great to watch as passers-by stop to let their imagination run free!

#Walking along the waterfront: great way to enjoy the laidback atmosphere (and the great weather I was blessed with).

#Smørrebrød and Danish pastries: yum! Smørrebrød is a traditional Danish lunch and is basically an open sandwich (try the one with smoked salmon and cheese!). Danish pastries are absolutely delicious and come in loads of different varieties. Unfortunately for all my readers, I was too busy eating and forgot to take photo evidence of the food ;-)

More about Copenhagen will follow!