Prague fulfills what I imagined to be THE picturesque European city. From every intimate encounter with a street corner to the broad views from one of many overlooks, I often exhaled a wistful sigh as my eyes laid upon what fell before them. Up until the moment I entered the historic city of Prague, San Francisco was the only city with views that could take my breath away at any time.
But now there is Prague. And with Prague entails a sprawling fairytale city, adorned with edifices from before the time Christopher Columbus set sail to discover the New World, sprinkled with diverse and trendy restaurants and cafés, and bursting with crowded energy. Prague reminds me of San Francisco, but with so much more history.
Thanks to TripAdvisor, I found a year-round campground (with RV facilities!) and hostel, Sokol Troja, just 20 minutes north of Prague. At 100 Kč ($4) per person and 200 Kč ($8) per camper per night, it was a deal. We spent two nights at Sokol Troja and took the bus and metro daily into Prague. Cheap and convenient!
First, we wandered through the city streets, crossing and turning throughout the pre-grid structure of the ancient city. Somehow we ended up at Republic Square, which looked like the center for shopping malls. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t just shopping malls. The buildings that served as a backdrop for the square were stunning, along with the talented street performers. I dubbed my favorite street performer “Bubble Boy.”
Not far from the Republic Square was the YMCA, where there is a well-kept secret: a free paternoster elevator, one of the last in the city and in Europe. These elevators ceased production in the 1970s, and most remaining paternoster elevators today exist in Western Europe. When in use, they move in a loop without stopping, can hold up to 2 passengers, and passengers step on and step off at any floor. Chris and I took a joyride in the elevator.
Then we wandered over to St. Agnes Convent:
And from there we decided to follow the Charles River all the way to the old and famed Charles Bridge.
Thick, early evening crowds prevented us from crossing the bridge, but we knew we would return early the next day to spend more time in the area.
We soon found ourselves in the Old Town. Clearly this was Fisherman’s Wharf to San Francisco as the Old Town was to Prague. Money changers, touristy junk for sale, hustlers, and shoulder-to-shoulder tourists swarmed through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. However all the rancor was for good reason. I couldn’t stop gazing up at the looming architecture, at that distant church, or that clock tower…
Oddly enough we arrived just 3 minutes before the hourly camaraderie of the astronomical clock. This thing dates from 1490!
Our evening was filled with more wandering throughout the streets and admiring buildings and churches, and it ended with a heavy Czech meal and cheap beer.
We started our second day in Prague bright and early with a first stop to the Vysehrad fortress. Bound by massive walls, this fort had it all, even a Gothic church.
From the top of the fortress we leisurely made our way down to the river and strolled along the waterfront toward Charles Bridge, admiring the architecture along the way.
Then we crossed the Charles Bridge, which was fairly empty in the early morning.
Not long after crossing the Charles Bridge we devoured a filling brunch at Café Savoy, a popular spot among locals. The service and presentation were remarkable. Nothing could beat their soft-boiled egg. AND they had their own on-site patisserie!
After resting our legs at brunch we made our way up the hill to the Petrin Tower. I believe there is a lift, but I recommend strolling up the hill. It wasn’t steep at all, and plenty of benches lay scattered throughout multiple paths for everyone to rest and enjoy the views!
Beyond the Petrin Tower was the Strahov Monastery, which boasted my favorite views of the city.
The Strahov Monastery was stunning too.
Down the hill from the monastery was Novy Svet street, an adorable, romantic, cobblestone street that leads to the famous Prague Castle.
Finally, we made our way to Prague’s top attraction: the Prague Castle and St. Vitius Cathedral. From afar the castle/cathedral complex was clearly the landmark of the entire city, bursting high into the sky from any viewpoint and sticking out clearly in all pictures. Little did I know that the Prague Castle is the largest medieval castle in Europe! One would assume that the majority of a visitor’s day would be spent walking the massive city that encompasses the castle, but no. The castle is a city in itself. There were several paid options for tours, but we opted to explore the free areas.
Palace guards at the castle gate–yay tourist shot!
St. Vitius Cathedral:
Walking around the cathedral:
We exited the castle, strolled through Letna Park, and took in the views. From the hill, there were numerous spectacular vantage points of the castle and the Charles River.
After strolling through Letna Park, we crossed the bridge back into the city. Again, another excellent view of the castle from the bridge:
Obviously, we rushed through Prague with only two days, but we at least got a general taste of Prague. Normally, I’m not much of a city person because I find many cities to be the same. But not with Prague. Like in San Francisco, a stroll along the perimeter of the city grants breathtaking landscapes and views that not all major cities have. The striking difference between Prague and other cities is the fairytale cityscape, silhouettes of antiquated churches, and the medieval castle. Prague is truly a magical city.