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Prague is a city where the weathered walls of medieval and gothic structures mingle with the liveliness of modern living. Between the piercing spires and cobblestone streets, there are many vibrant shops and eateries to get lost in. After spending some time here, it’s hard not to become enamored by Prague’s authentic and unique charm.
After spending Christmas in Vienna, we came to Prague to celebrate New Year’s. We took a train from Vienna to Prague, and I splurged a little on business-class seats for my husband and me. These tickets came with a private coupe, comfortable seats, and a welcome glass of prosecco. While this sounds bougie, the price for both of us was only about $100. Considering this was a 4-and-a-half-hour train ride, the luxury of privacy and comfort made the expense worthwhile.
Once we settled into our hotel, the Prague Marriott, we explored the Christmas market in Old Town Square and the surrounding area. The Christmas market was absolutely magical and oozed a nostalgic aura. For the next 4 days, we would find ourselves marveling at the beautiful Christmas tree in the center and tasting different foods from the local stalls. We especially love the roasted ham they churn on an open fire throughout the day and the dumplings.
This was the night we also saw the Prague Astronomical Clock for the first time. I had always admired this clock from pictures online, but being able to bask in its presence was surreal. The golden details were stunning, and every time we walked past it during our stay, we always paused to admire and notice new motifs that we hadn’t before.
The following day, after breakfast at the hotel, we went to our beer spa reservation. This is a popular tourist activity in Prague. While I knew we would receive a private room to bathe in, I was surprised at how large and detailed it was. There were two generously sized tubs made out of wood with personal beer taps attached. There was also a large bed topped with hay in the corner, and a faux fireplace lit up the dim room. It felt very medieval. When the assistant left, we undressed to get into our baths, which began bubbling with warm water, yeast, and hops. The taps had a choice of light or dark beer with no limit on pours. Within our hour reservation slot, we most definitely got our money’s worth in beer.
After washing up and sobering up from the spa, we headed to our dinner reservations at a swanky, fine-dining restaurant called Mlynec. We were fortunate enough to be seated with a view of the Charles Bridge. As we dined on various tartars, soups, meats, and desserts, we gazed out the window at the iconic landmark. Every bite I sunk my teeth into was exceptional, and the service was stellar. For the price, this dining experience was a great value.
The next day we went on the Medieval Underground and Dungeon Tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this tour, but I was surprised by what I learned. As it turns out, Prague has many hidden cellars, basements, and streets from long ago that used to be at ground level. Because the city is prone to flooding, they have essentially built on the old roads and buildings to increase the elevation. During this tour, we dove deeper into the history and saw remnants of the original roads, buildings, and homes from the 12th and 13th centuries.
After this, we popped into a quick-service restaurant called Meat Vandals. We didn’t read the reviews before going in, so we were ecstatic to find that the food was exceptional. They had various types of smoked meat like pastrami, pulled chicken, and sausages but with a tangy twist. The dishes often included toppings like kimchi or pickled vegetables. The pastrami sandwich was so good that we ordered another one to share.
Later that afternoon, we explored the streets until our dinner reservations at U krále Brabantského. What makes this restaurant so unique is that it has been in continuous operation since the 1300s. The restaurant feels like you entered a portal to medieval times with dark rooms and wooden tables lit up by candlelight. I had the honey-smoked ribs, which were slide-off-the-bone tender and sweet.
Day 4 (New Year’s Eve)
The next day was New Year’s Eve, so we took it easy that morning with a stroll along the Charles Bridge and some souvenir shopping. The streets were lively with other tourists and street performers with accordions and other instruments. One of my favorite aspects of walking through the streets was seeing the juxtaposition of cheerful people in contrast to the darkened architecture of the city. Walking around on the bridge indeed emphasizes that.
That evening, we attended a New Year’s party at the hotel we were staying at. With our tickets, we received unlimited beer and wine, a table reservation, entertainment, and access to the dining buffet. The dining buffet was the most extensive spread I had ever seen. There were options for every type of meat, dozens of sides, finger foods, and a plethora of desserts. My husband and I had a fun evening of drinking, eating, and dancing. We even taught an older Dutch couple how to do The Macarena! This party is a must-do if you are in Prague on New Year’s.
After our fun New Year’s celebration, we slept in and rested before our Taste of Prague food tour that afternoon. This tour included tastings at 4 different restaurants around the city. We tried many traditional Czech foods like pickled cheese, sausages, fish, slow-cooked meats, potato soup, and pastries. I tried foods I wouldn’t usually order, and I learned a ton about the food culture in Prague. It was a fantastic way to experience the city and an even better way to end the trip. I will be sure to book more food tours in other cities I visit from now on!
Overall, Prague is one of the best cities I’ve been to while living abroad. Even though we didn’t get to see all the sites, I left feeling content in all that I could experience and am already planning to go back in the summer. Even though the city carries dark, medieval history, today, it’s youthful and vibrant, making me eager to spend more time here.