Prague: A Perfect Pre-Christmas Getaway
Prague, a charming city with a maze of markets, tasty treats and amazing architecture it is the perfect pre-Christmas getaway. The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is known as the city of hundred spires. In Prague you will find medieval buildings, a labyrinth of cobbled lanes and magical Christmas markets. So follow your nose and have a pre-Christmas getaway in Prague.
In Prague’s Christmas markets you will find filling food, hot wine that fills the air with a sweet smell and coffees that provide comfort from the cold. At the cheap price of 45 Czech koruna you can buy hot drinks and wines flavoured with blueberry, honey and others to wash down the freshly prepared hot dogs, crepes, doughnuts and gingerbreads. Walking past a pig roasting on a rotating spit and chestnuts roasting on an outdoor wood burner, I knew I was at a real Christmas market complete with handcrafted decorations, toys and souvenirs. The best examples of Christmas markets I found in Prague were at Wenceslas Square, in the Old town near the Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock – a must see.
Trams are a handy way to get around the city, with many routes and tram stops situated within the centre and the inner city districts like Holešovice – where my sister and I stayed. It is less than a 10 minute tram ride away, and a working class district originally. Holešovice has a bohemian scene with pubs providing real Czech food, and the Albert supermarket, where we shopped alongside the locals.
When using the trams I must warn tourists that there is a local law that prohibits people from riding the trams without a ticket. As we had just arrived, my sister and I didn’t know where to get one and thought you could buy them on the tram. But we soon learned when the ticket inspector came and asked for our tickets, and we were fined 800 Czech koruna each for not purchasing one. So before you step on a tram buy a day pass for 110 koruna, or a ticket from the ticket vendors or newsagents. Insert it in the yellow machines when on the tram, as you can also be fined for not having it punched.
The metro is the most recent form of transport, and was brought to the city in 1974. It serves 61 stations over 3 lines: A, B and C, and is the most efficient and user friendly mode of travel within Prague.
The city sightseeing, hop on hop off bus is another way round the city and will give you an informative tour of the city from the comfort of your coach seat.
Walking is probably the best way of seeing the sights of the city, but you will need a good pair of walking boots or trainers and wrap up warm in the winter as it’s cold.
Start at Charles Bridge, which curves over the Vltava River and paves the way to Prague Castle. This is thought to be the largest castle area in the world, with three courtyards and two churches (the Church of the Virgin Mary and St Vitus Cathedral), complete with stone altars and stunning stained glass windows. It is worth the slightly steep climb up. On the way you will come across quaint gift and book shops, markets, and panoramic views of the city. The castle dates back to the 9th century and is home to the President of the Czech Republic. It is well guarded, with three uniformed guards marching routinely round the entrance. From the top you will see the terracotta topped buildings, church spires poking into the sky and modern office buildings that tower above the traditional buildings in the east of the city.
If you want to get away from the chattering crowds and noise from the bustling city then take the funicular railway up the hillside to Pedrina. It’s the most peaceful part of Prague, with a garden maze and mirror maze exhibition. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is like being in the last part of the triwizard tournament! There is also an observation tower that looks like a mini Eiffel Tower, so if you haven’t been to Paris yet this will give you a taste.
Prague has no shortage of museums for you to wander into and out of the cold. My twin and I went to the Film Effects Museum tucked under Charles Bridge–there is a sign for it on an archway above a cute cobbled lane. The museum highlights the work of Karel Zeman, Prague’s legendary filmmaker. There you can read and see the techniques he used to make his films.
We also visited the Museum of Architecture and Civil Engineering, which provided an insight into how the city was built, and the history of some of its most recognised landmarks.
Prague is also home to the largest Lego Museum in Europe–the city’s landmarks are recreated in Lego form! It is suitable if you have children with you or you want to relive your own childhood. There is a five metre replica of the Charles Bridge made entirely of Lego within its fascinating collection of 2,000 models.
There is also the Museum of Communism, which tells of the Czech Republic’s communist past, when it was Czechoslovakia. It offers tourists multi-media displays and artefacts about Czech history from 1948 to 1989.
With art painted on some of the building facades of art nouveau design, Prague offers a free exhibition to its visitors. The best examples are within the Old Town, especially the Municipal House, with its gold features and paintings of naked woman.
There are also many theatre and dance shows in the city, which is the perfect way to spend an evening after a hearty meal of goulash and beer (I recommend the Czech beer Pilsner Urquell). I went to the Black light Theatre, which can be found in the street directly across from the start of Charles Bridge. The show, ‘Aspects of Alice’, was a whimsical and enchanting adaption of Alice in Wonderland. The story was told through a unique light display, mute actors and spellbinding music and dance. The performance really captures the essence of Prague–a city still in touch with its historic and medieval past, but moving forward.