Czech Republic’s capital city – Prague wasn’t nicknamed the city of a hundred spires for no reason. From atop, you can see the city’s view and design spread out in gothic and neo-gothic spires. I loved Prague for many things, like its beautiful wide streets in pretty cobble-stoned roads that reminded me of the nice streets of Paris.
My first time in Czech over last December was amazing and unforgettable! I was extremely impressed by the Czech’s embrace for the Christmas spirit, the country’s beauty, its historical sites, and the people’s pride in their cultural heritage. So I compiled 10 things you should do, and places to visit while in Czech. Have fun!
1. Explore Prague
You will be blown away by the Old Town Square, the heart of the city laced with colorful baroque buildings and gothic churches. Check out the gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the St. Nicholas Church. Don’t miss Prague’s Orloj medieval astronomical clock located on the Old Town Hall. It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operation.
2. Visit Prague Castle
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world as declared by the Guinness Book of Records. Occupying an area of almost 70, 000m, be prepared for a good walk up the road leading to the castle. On the way, check out small touristy shops – it’s much fun with company. The castle’s grandiose space includes several palaces, gardens and museums.
Exploring its entirety is like a walk through architectural styles and the history of medieval times. This is also the official residence of the President of Czech, I am surprised that they still let tourists in. The castle has actually been a seat of power for olden kings and emperors dating from the 9th century, and apparently some jewels and treasures are still kept within a hidden room inside it. We are lucky to bump into the Changing of the Guards ceremony upon arrival at the castle.
You must also check out the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral and Romanesque Basilica of St. George just by the castle! So magnificent!
3. Walk through Charles Bridge
Lined with statues of Catholic saints, a walk through the Charles Bridge, especially a night, is a haunting beauty to revere. We walk through the bridge on a perfect Thursday late night after leaving one of the most epic night-outs of 2016. It’s so surreal, romantic and also funny because of sliding ice – we literally keep catching each other’s fall 🙂 Crossing Prague’s Vltava River, the bridge is 621m long and nearly 10m wide. Its construction began in 1357 under King Charles IV, finishing in the beginning of the 15th century.
4. Check out the Dancing House
If you’re into cityscapes, check out Fred and Ginge Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašín Embankment. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996 by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. At the time of construction, its non-traditional design situated close to an area with traditionally designed buildings in baroque, gothic and art nouveau style was controversial. It remains famous for the establishment’s support for arts and culture, and its slanting design depicting a lady dancing with a guy in fancy hair.
5. Sample Jazz & Opera
Go to an opera and if you can, watch Rusalka. I am told it’s always showing at least every month or two. David, Tomas’ brother has invited me to Hudebni divadlo Karlin to watch Rusalka 🙂 I am extremely lucky to catch one of the most successful Czech operas. The storyline is based on a water nymph named Rusalka, who falls in love with a human being who happens to be a prince. She wants to be human and live on land so as to be with her prince, naïve and unbeknownst to the dangers of transforming, human evil and sin—it’s just a beautiful tale of catastrophic love.
Rusalka’s actors and opera singers are above exemplary. I am also amazed by their costumes – worthy of high budget fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings. It was by far the longest (3 hours) and best piece of music and theatre I’ve ever watched.
For some nice live Jazz music and the best cocktails in the world (I am not joking), visit Jazz Dock. It’s made of a glass building making nighttime feel trippy if you look out into the river, reflecting in.
6. Channel Bohemianism
I am Bohemian at heart. This gives me so much pleasure in breaking down the origin of Bohemianism, and how it relates to the Czechs. Bohemia was the largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic so in a broader meaning it’s correct to refer to the entire Czech territory as Bohemia. In the history of European Bohemianism and French imagination, literary bohemians were associated with roving Romani people, believed to have originally come from Bohemia.
South Bohemia in Czech is a dream destination for holidays and countryside life. We take a road trip to the south passing through picturesque rural towns with frozen forests and roads, painted and covered in ice. We end up at the whimsical town of Český Krumlov – Google images.
First we spend a night at Krumlov Tower just next to the castle. On the second night we spend at a beautiful bungalow deserted in the forest.
It’s a fairytale.
We enjoy Krumlov’s tiny and hilly spiraling streets and alleys. We also dine at a lovely little medieval restaurant, aptly old school themed from the décor, menu to the physique of the waiters and their dress code.
Krumlov was a movie.
It doesn’t help that during Christmas, Czech’s national TV plays fairytales and films shot at Krumlov castle. If you want to relax and have some good fun time with friends and family in Czech – you must travel to Český Krumlov. You might be lucky enough to see the cute Czech bears of Krumlov castle. Sad we didn’t see them – they were always sleeping.
7. Visit Červená Lhota château
While in the South, check out the famed Červená Lhota château. It stands pretty in its renaissance building smack in the middle of a lake on a rocky island. The lake was frozen when we visited, would be great to go back during summer time.
8. Go up the Žižkov Tower
The apartment block we’re staying at while in Prague is right next to the popular Žižkov Television Tower. On our last day in Prague we popped up the tower for some late lunch at the TV Tower’s renowned Oblaca Restaurant. Their fancy Czech Food is pricey but one thing we can’t put a tag on is the view of Prague from the restaurant – absolutely priceless! While there, try the Lamb Neck and Onions in Wed Wine. Yumm – Gulp!
9. Enjoy Christmas Markets
Whether you are in Prague, Pilsen or the South – you must walk pass by the Christmas Markets and sample their yummy Czech treats. I adored their glowing Christmas trees and hot fancy alcoholic drinks. Favourite bitings included meat loaf, hotdog, sour cabbages and the klobása Czech sausage. Most of them are open every day till late meaning you can feed your cravings anytime 🙂 While at the market, you can also grab some nice little gifts, from traditional glassware and Christmas paraphernalia, for friends and family.
10. Get your Military Gear
My general sense of style and direction is heavily inspired by the military gear and grit so when Tomas hints at what I am about to discover, I am so excited. “There is an army shop at every corner of a Czech street,” he says. From jackets, trench coats, bomber jackets, military bags, hats to grenade bags (yes!), everything in the shops is legit! We end up spending quality time in various army stores, and might have discovered one of the oldest while in Krumlov. By the time we’re done, we could be flag bearers of worldly diplomacy. I could be a Swiss Militia, Captain of a Russian Tank Battalion from 1960s, or maybe a Czech militia companion to a Hungarian commander in a German combat shirt – Tomas 🙂
BONUS: A million thanks to the Maule brothers, the best hosts who put up with my demands to be photographed 100 times a day only not to post 96% of all the pictures 🙂 My gratitude also goes to Jitka, Roman, Kuba, Dana, Honza and Chris.