To say I’ve got the travel bug is an understatement. Since visiting Paris last April, I’ve been a little obsessed with Europe. Roomie and I timed a vacation this year at the end of my marathon training. He backpacked through most of Europe in college so we decided to choose 3 cities had not previously visited, Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
Our first stop was Prague, which is the capital of the Czech Republic. Unlike other Central European capitols, Prague escaped the bombs of both world wars making it one of the best preserved. After surviving 4 decades of communism, it is now a booming and affordable tourist destination. The architecture is romantic and breathtaking, and the food was surprisingly very good.
We stayed right in Old Town, the city center at the Design Hotel Josef. It was an easy transfer from the airport on a public transportation bus and roughly $4 USD. After a red eye flight that I managed to wiggle in an hour or two of sleep, we checked in and headed immediately to a yummy lunch spot around the corner.
I researched for a light lunch cafe near our hotel and found Bistro Sisters cafe. They served traditional Czech open-faced sandwiches called chlebicky featuring a variety of flavors. The best part was that the total for the two of us was less than $10 with drinks.
They had gluten-free and vegan options as well as meat-eating specialties. Unfortunately, we got in too late for any tours on our first day but planned to book a bicycle tour of the city first thing Friday. Until then, we explored the city and got familiar with our bearings.
I received many recommendations for restaurants and one of the most popular was a vegetarian restaurant called Maitrea. I wasn’t going to force roomie to eat gluten free vegetarian cuisine in a meat and potatoes loving country but he agreed to visit this one given it’s reviews.
This eggplant dish was so delicious and my favorite among the items we ordered, the spinach crepes were second. Many of the dishes had tofu or fake chicken which I’m not huge fan of but the dishes were fantastic regardless. I would highly recommend checking out this place! The prices were also extremely affordable making it even better.
We signed up for the Praha Bike Tour and grabbed a quick breakfast at the Bakeshop before hand. Unfortunately, this looks better than it tasted… But it was still good. Roomie and I split the quiche and then he got a delicious croissant and I got a yogurt parfait. The place was big, bright, fresh looking and smelled great. If we had more time, I would have ordered some fried eggs with toast vs items from the grab and go section.
Roomie and I love biking around foreign cities. We used the city bike shares in Paris and in London. While Prague did not have them, we did enjoy the bike tour. It allows you to cover more distance in less time and is a great way to get in a little exercise.
We also visited the Jewish Quarter during our bike tour which was incredibly moving and upsetting. We did not have time to go into the museum later which I regret. Hitler wanted the Jewish Quarter to be a “Museum of an Extinct Race” and as a result many Jewish treasures from all over Europe have been preserved here.
In addition to the many historical sites, we were also shown a public pieces of art that are on display throughout the city. The John Lennon wall was a place for the Czech’s to expression their grief after Lennon was murdered but also against oppression and the communist government that controlled their country. It is now a tourist destination and great place for a picture.
When it comes to vacation, I love sitting on the beach with a margarita as much as the next basic bitch, but there is something about these countries that have such deep history that fascinates me. It’s the only time I don’t think about work, working out, or what I eat and actually take a break. It also makes me appreciate my country and government despite recent news reports.
After visiting “healthy” places on day one, we began to indulge in Czech specialties. Did you know that Budweiser is originally from the Czech Republic?
After sightseeing for the day, we took a break and enjoyed a couple dark beers and sausage at an outdoor beer garden. This variety tasted like Keilbasa. I don’t normally order sausages for my snacking pleasure, but when it Prague…
We also visited the Prague Castle and the Castle District. I loved this part almost as much as the food. We toured a palace, church and torture chambers that featured armor and things used to punish prisoners. The sites were great but I was not in love with the audio guide which cost more than the admission ticket. I would pass on it if you are reading this and planning to visit. It was super dry, long and very factual based. For example, years things were built and by who which you can read on plaques throughout.
I imagine the man that wore this called himself Birdman. Looks comfortable, right?
I really loved the castle district. I’m intrigued by kings and emperors. It is always a treat to see where they lived back in their heyday and sad to see how unfair they really were to their people.
More Food, Less Pictures
We had one of our favorite dinners of the entire trip at Cafe Savoy. We could not get in for breakfast so we attempted it for dinner and it was outstanding. You probably don’t need a reservation for dinner, but you must make one for a weekend brunch in advance. I forgot my camera but I got the duck with dumplings and it was delicious.
We also had dinner at a very nice Japanese restaurant called Sansho that felt a little fancy to whip out the camera. It was a tasting menu of 6 courses that we loved but it was not the most Czech cuisine we could have had but we both loved it. It came highly recommend by Ashley, and she never steers me wrong.
At night, we visited the Hemingway Bar which was a little sleepy for our taste and requires a reservation. We stopped at the club with 5 stories and quickly realized we were too old. Our waiter at Sansho suggested a few spots which were hidden “gems.” The bar felt like it was an illegal warehouse party down in a basement. It was dark and smokey with live music. The first two people we saw were college aged and stumbling, struggling to stand up. As we got further inside, the crowd was older and more relaxed. If you like live music with a large dose of smoke, it was awesome. We stayed for a beer to continue our pub crawl. It was a very local atmosphere but we heard a few people speaking English.
My favorite late night spot was called the James Dean Bar. I know, how could I go to an American bar? It was all locals though and awesome. They played oldies, 80’s, and Pop2k music. Upstairs looked like a 50’s diner, and downstairs looked like a secret basement club. While in the club part, MmmBop came on at about 1am. I of course danced enthusiastically along with the rest of the locals.
The next morning, I needed our hotel’s pricey but delicious brunch.
It even had a station to make your own fresh juice!
Before planning our vacation, I didn’t know very much history about Prague but it looked beautiful and according to exchange rates, it was a good time to go! Between the three countries we planned to visit, they all spoke three different languages and do not understand each other! To even communicate with their neighbors, many speak English. For example, if someone from Prague visited Budapest, they would speak English or potentially German which is the language they speak in Austria. This made our trip very easy to communicate. The only struggle was the lack of credit card machines. Many places only take cash. Knowing how much to take out but not take too much was a fun game we played and left with about a dollar worth of coins. This kept us from staying out too late our last night.
The public transportation was very reliable and fast in Prague. We used it a bunch but walked mostly as the city is very walkable if you stay in Old Town. We walked to O’Papa the morning of our departure to grab breakfast. O’Papa is Prague’s version of Pret A Manger. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are owned by the same people and then made our way to the train station to depart for Vienna, a 4 hour train ride.
Prague was so pretty, it felt like Disneyland to be honest. There were a ton of tourists. We tried to stay away from the tourist traps and I think did I pretty good job.
To Be Con’t…