Impressions of Prague

Prague certainly met or exceeded our expectations. It’s been a hot spot for tourism for years, and the city did not disappoint. The architecture, the culture and of course the delicious Czech pilsner all lived up to their billing and left us wanting more. Instead of a long rambling detailed post about Prague, I figured I would stick to the main points, because who doesn’t love summaries?

Prague is pretty. Like, really pretty.

The city managed to escape World War II with almost no damage, losing a total of five buildings during its only bombing (the Allies thought they were bombing Dresden. Whoops). Due to that, it is one of of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Like Vienna, Prague also had a growth spurt during the Baroque era of architecture, so many buildings have that over the top detailing that makes it look like Liberace consulted on the design.  Old Town Square, Republic Square, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge. The list of beautiful structures and squares never ends. For me, Prague rivals Paris and Vienna for pure architectural beauty. Around each corner and down every narrow alley, a new building will pop into view that makes you stop and stare.

Prague is cheap. Not Southeast Asia cheap, but definitely Europe cheap.

After living in London for the past six months, we have been forced to adjust our perceptions of costs and value (only £4 for a beer, what a find!). Going out to dinner and drinks rarely costs under £50 and the Tube is not exactly the cheapest metro in the world. To compare, we took a bus and metro to go from the airport to Old Town in Prague for £1.98 for both of us, which is less than the cost of the cheapest fare on the Tube for one person. Beers rarely exceeded £1.50 and were normally around £1, our hotel in Old Town Square was only £50 per night with a nice breakfast each morning included. Our most expensive dinner was £20 including tip, tax and pint after pint of Czech pilsner. Adjusting back to £12 cocktails in London just seems mean.

I never knew so many varieties of gut filling dumplings existed

Bun dumplings. Bread dumplings. Potato dumplings. Bacon dumplings. Bacon bun dumplings. Light is not the way to describe Czech cuisine. Carb and animal fat heavy is more accurate. Every plate of goulash, or sausage, or braised fatty pork was finished with a flurry of steamed little little nuggets of dough that sat like bricks in your stomach. Light and flavourful Asian-style dumplings these are not. One restaurant even had all-you-can-eat dumplings on the side, which is exactly as appetising as it sounds.

Beers on beers on beers

We drank a lot of beer. The Czech people in fact are by far the biggest beer drinkers in the world, with the average citizen consuming over 150 litres a year (beating the next countries in line – Germany, Ireland – by nearly 50 litres). The Czech Pilsner the country is known for is clean, refreshing and delicious. They go down easy. Maybe too easy.

After drinking a few pilsners, we signed up for a beer tour through Sandeman’s tour company. What I thought would be a two hour tour perusal of a few 0.15l tastings turned into a four hour adventure, ending with pints in an underground Communist bar and a slightly foggy morning. Thank god we had a solid base of dumplings to survive the onslaught.

Prague is a must for anyone who likes food, beer, history, classical music, or architecture.  If you find zero interest in any of these, then you are probable a hermit.  It’s also great for visitors that appreciate a good value and like a certain non-intimidating foreignness that comes from a combination of a crazy complex language but everyone also speaks perfect English. Nothing to be scared of here, folks. You have about 5 years before the local currency goes the way of the Dodo and is replaced by the decidedly expensive Euro. So get on Kayak and book your flight!

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