After Amsterdam a few years ago, Paris more recently, it is in Prague that this ritual of spending the end of the year holidays in a European capital continues.
I loved the atmospherethe atmosphere that prevailed in Amsterdam at that time of year with Christmas markets, outdoor rinks, decorations and I hoped to find the same atmosphere in Prague and I was not disappointed!
Lucie and I arrived in Prague at the end of the day on December 25, with a stopover at Bordeaux-Brussels and Brussels-Prague.
From the airport, the fastest way to get to the city centre is to take the bus and then the metro.
When leaving the airport, you can buy the ticket in the arrival hall at the ATMs.
The ticket costs 26 CZK (1.15€). If, like us, you take the 119 bus (every 15 to 20 minutes, the journey takes about 20 minutes), you should get off at the last stop named Dejvická. Then, you must go to the metro to take line A which takes you downtown in a few minutes.
During these 4 days, we stay in an apartment, Central Spot Prague Apartment, located only 200 meters from Wenceslas square and its Christmas market. The Place de la Vieille Ville is about a quarter of an hour’s walk away. The apartment is on the top floor, it’s a right-angled studio, but it’s still 31 square meters, which is more than comfortable. There are four single beds in the room (so two of them have been placed side by side). There is also a kitchen to cook for yourself (given the price of restaurants in Prague, we finally never used the kitchen).
We paid 110€ for 3 nights, which is quite affordable especially in the middle of the tourist season.
Immediately after dropping off our things in the apartment, it was impossible to resist the urge to go to the discovery of the city at night (yes, the sun sets very early in December…).
Two minutes after leaving, we are already in the heart of the 1st Christmas market, the one on Wenceslas Square. Some wooden huts coexist at the top of the square and each cabin houses a stand of local specialities, some edible (yum !), others not.
Smells mix and our taste buds suddenly wake up! We haven’t eaten much since we left Bordeaux.
It is in one of these cabins that you can be tempted by chicken skewers with paprika. After having visited about ten stands, one thing is clear: the undisputed star seems to be the sausage.
The stomach being again well filled, we resume our walk towards the Old City and only 2 minutes later, on the same Wenceslas Square, another Christmas market awaits us, this time a little more illuminated and especially with a large Christmas tree 🙂
Moreover, on this subject, a special mention for Christmas decorations on Wenceslas Square: the garlands lit in the trees, they shine with a thousand lights, it’s superb! This second market is a little more frequented and lively than the first (the first is more of an annex than a market itself).
We resume our walk towards the Old City Square when suddenly our eye is attracted by a beautifully lit façade, it is the Prague Powder Tower which delimits the New City of the Old City. That’s good, that’s where we want to go.
Adjacent to the tower is the Municipal House, a superb Art Nouveau building in the centre of which you can admire a superb mosaic.
We finally arrive on the Old City Square, it is huge, it is lively, it is illuminated, there is a Christmas market with in its center, a immense fir tree that sparkles to the rhythm of a music. The facades of the buildings surrounding the square are very nicely lit, it’s neither too much nor too little, it gives them a mysterious look.
The Old Town Christmas market is very lively with its several-metre-high Christmas tree that lights up to music.
What impressed me the most since the square was the view of the church of Notre-Dame du Týn. Its two bell towers culminating at 80 m in height impose it. Night lighting gives a soul, a particular aura to the church façade. This reinforces its gothic and mysterious aspect, and it is almost frightening at the same time.
On the Christmas market, we walk from stand to stand in search of our next culinary cracking when suddenly we see it, there it is, “roasting” above the embers, the famous trdelník ! The trdelník, keskecé that?
Behind its rather barbaric name (even barbaric), trdelník is a traditional sweet pastry very popular in the Eastern countries.
It is a kind of roller whose dough is similar to that of the brioche, but it is very sweet. In Prague, you can see them on every street corner, always surrounded by a pestle and cooked over the embers as they turn – a bit like a roaster.
It’s definitely a killing! We also tasted the Nutella stuffed version and it was a delight.
A culinary revelation: the trdelník!
After this very enjoyable (and appreciated) culinary experience, it is difficult to resist the desire to take a look at the star of the Old Town. This is of course the astronomical clock. It’s true that this clock is impressive. It contains an astronomical number of details in both its upper and lower parts. The place is very touristic so don’t be surprised at times to see 50 or more people in front of the clock. All come to see “the show”.
Every hour until 9 p.m., the clock comes to life ! The skeleton wields an hourglass and pulls a rope. Then the windows open, and the twelve apostles begin to scroll slowly.
A quick look at the time to see that the walk was longer than expected. It’s time to go to bed so we can be ready for the next day.
The astronomical clock is undoubtedly the star of the Old Town Square
When I woke up, first observation, I rarely slept as well while travelling, the bedding and duvet of our apartment, it is velvet!
This morning, we leave for the Old Town Square to admire it during the day, this time. As a result, it is also an opportunity to review the buildings encountered on the way.
Seeing the city by day reveals an obvious fact that we had not seen the day before: the majority of buildings are pastel (pink, blue and yellow for the most part). The façades are almost all coloured, but the whole remains homogeneous and it is often at the service of architecture (which always reveals many details, it is exciting to observe them). The Old Town Square is also very lively during the day with the lively Christmas market.
Once on the square, it is an opportunity to take a quick tour of the place and see the colourful facades reveal all their details. Some of these facades have very beautiful frescos (the latter sometimes decorate the entire facade). We pass in front of the astronomical clock which is still as successful as ever.
We decide to take a little height in order to have a view over the whole square and even over the whole Old Town.
To contemplate this view, you have to climb to the top of the tower of the Town Hall (on which the astronomical clock is located) !
Location : ochre building to the left of the astronomical clock (when facing it)
On-site price : 250 CZK (about 10€)
Mobile network rate : 210 CZK
It is possible to book your queue seats on the Internet (just show the electronic ticket from your smartphone).
There is a QR code to flash at the entrance of the building that sends you to the mTicket portal and you can pay directly for your tickets on your smartphone (210 CZK, it’s cheaper!).
From above, the view is spectacular ! The whole city is revealed under our feet, we also have a breathtaking view of Prague Castle, which is located 1.5 km away. Our eyes are lost on the heights of Prague, we quickly notice the omnipresence of orange roofs and we contemplate the small alleys that intermingle up to the Vltava and the Charles Bridge.
The most surprising thing is still the absolutely surrealist colour of the sky ! It was noon when I took these pictures… Totally crazy, it looks like a sunrise!
The Old Town Hall Tower, one of the most beautiful views of Prague
In the afternoon, change of atmosphere, we visit the old Jewish district Josefov.
This kind of place requires us to be able to project ourselves into the place as it once was, to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere. It is quite difficult in this district since there are not many old buildings left. From the former Jewish quarter, there remains the cemetery, the town hall and especially the former synagogues, the Old-New synagogue, the Pinkas synagogue, or the splendid Spanish synagogue, built in the 19th century in Moorish style.
The old Jewish Josefov district is a place steeped in history
We have taken the ticket giving access to the Jewish cemetery and all the synagogues except the Old-New Synagogue (see box below). It was clearly the Spanish synagogue that enthralled me the most about the beauty of the place.
However, the most historic places are the Jewish cemetery and the Pinkas synagogue, in which the names of nearly 80,000 Jews killed by the Nazis were hand-written on the walls. The Jewish cemetery is impressive for its bewildering entanglement of tombstones. It is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe, with about 12,000 tombstones.
Access to the Jewish Quarter is free, but access to the inside of the cemetery as well as to the inside of synagogues is subject to a charge.
There are several types of tickets:
- A ticket “Prague, Jewish Town” (Prague Jewish Town) which gives access to : Synagogue Maisel / Synagogue Pinkas / Old Jewish cemetery / Synagogue Klausen / Ceremonial hall / Spanish synagogue / Old and new synagogue + temporary exhibitions at the Robert Guttmann Gallery
- A ticket “Jewish Museum In Prague” which gives access to : Maisel Synagogue / Pinkas Synagogue / Old Jewish Cemetery / Klausen Synagogue / Ceremonial Hall / Spanish Synagogue + temporary exhibitions at the Robert Guttmann Gallery
- A ticket “Old and New Synagogue” (Old-New synagogue) which gives access to : Old and new synagogue + temporary exhibitions at the Robert Guttmann Gallery
Tickets can be purchased at the Jewish Museum’s Information and Booking Centre, the Spanish Synagogue, the Klausen Synagogue and the Pinkas Synagogue.
Ticket rate “Prague, Jewish City” : 530 CZK (about 20€)
Price ticket “Jewish Museums” : 350 CZK (13,50€)
Ticket rate “Old and new synagogue “ : 220 CZK
Please note that if you book your tickets via the official website, you will need to present a printed version of the ticket at the entrance.
As nightfall begins to fall, we head towards the Vltava to to admire the setting sun from the Charles bridge. From the old Jewish quarter, we decide to go through the pont Mánes (Mánesův most in VO) from which the view is breathtaking on the Vltava and on the Charles Bridge already crowded. What about the view… the pictures speak for themselves… The main advantage of admiring the sunset from this bridge is that it is deserted and you will therefore be at peace! We will soon realize that the same cannot be said of the Charles Bridge, far from it!
As night falls very, very quickly, we hurry a little to get to the Charles Bridge before it gets dark. We cross part of the Malá Strana district, it looks really cute, but not the time to stay long, especially since we plan to visit this part of Prague the next day.
Barely 10 minutes later, here we are finally on the famous Charles bridge and I insist of course the famous…
Famous and known, he is! A little too much, by the way! The bridge is literally full of people ! It is a huge crowd that crosses it in a continuous flow both in one direction and the other (which is frankly painful since you must be careful not to catch someone coming in front of you…).
The Charles Bridge has a very special atmosphere, but it is a victim of mass tourism
If you can, I advise you to opt for a visit at sunrise, because at sunset, it’s really complicated!
Despite the crowd, it is obvious that the Charles Bridge seems timeless, it has a particular atmosphere that does not leave you insensitive.
What is most surprising the first time is that a bridge of this size (500m long and 10m wide, excuse the little!) is entirely pedestrian.
Its magnificent statues (very blackened) which decorate it all along, its streetlights, its towers which carry it at each end reinforce its mysterious, gothic and a little scary side (especially at nightfall).
There is no need to say, the panorama from the bridge is still exceptional !
After 500 m of stitching in the compact crowd, we arrive in the small alleys of the Old City, also black with people… I feel like I’m part of a pilgrimage, everyone had the same idea as me. The small alleys of the Old Town are hyper cute, there are some small shops that are clearly worth a visit !
We close this busy day with a visit to the Christmas market, chicken skewers and trdelník on the menu!
Already on the 3rd day in Prague, a busy day on the agenda: we visit the other side of the Vltava River, i. e. the Prague Castle and the Malá Strana and Hradčany districts. Besides, it makes me think that there is a point I haven’t mentioned yet: Prague is a city on a human scale. We did almost everything on foot and only took the metro once at that time, because the line brought us directly from our apartment to the castle.
Prague is a city where everything can be done on foot
The castle, for those who do not know it (and I was part of it), is a collection of buildings, palaces, churches, courtyards and gardens, it is not just one building. Basically, it’s almost a neighborhood with streets. Before visiting it, I had always naively told myself that it was a single building, a bit like the castles of the Middle Ages.
From the castle, the first thing that strikes you right away is the unpregnable panorama over the Vltava and the whole city (especially over the Malá Strana district).
The second thing I noticed before entering the castle grounds was the low attendance. We had taken our tickets online (circuit B with several monuments, see below) to avoid the queue at the ticket office. We arrived at 9:30 am, there is a small security gate to pass (search) and there is absolutely no one there. I thought to myself at that time that it would be surprising if it lasted long given the crowd on the Charles Bridge the night before (and I was right).
We start by heading towards Saint-Guy Cathedral and guess what we come across: a Christmas market, of course!
Otherwise, what about the cathedral Saint-Guy? That it is, without a doubt, the symbol of Prague, with the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square!
The cathedral majestically overlooks the city so that it is visible from anywhere in Prague (this is not quite true, but not far away). Its dimensions are monumental : more than 120 m long and almost 100 m high ! The work took 600 years, realize that!
Saint-Guy Cathedral is majestic, it is even visible from the Old Town on the other side!
The entrance to the cathedral is free, but you will have to stay at the entrance, you will not be able to go to the bottom of the cathedral and go around it. It’s a pity, because the interior is worth the detour, I loved the play of light through the stained glass windows as well as the “aerial” gallery of 21 busts all around the cathedral.
The most impressive room in the cathedral is La chapelle de Saint-Venceslas. The room is absolutely immense, each side of the chapel is fourteen meters long. A tomb is placed on a base decorated with precious stones. The whole chapel is decorated with magnificent wall paintings.
The buildings surrounding the castle walls were gradually built over the centuries and now form the seat of the new President of the Czech Republic. Two guards are stationed in front of the main entrance and change every hour. At noon, the next generation is a little more advanced, with a fanfare and trumpets.
The visit continues with the former royal palace which was once the seat of the dukes and kings of Bohemia. The visit is very interesting with a special mention to the Vladislav room. It is simply the largest interior (empty) that I have ever seen! Hang on tight: 62 meters long, sixteen meters wide, thirteen meters high! The room is topped with an absolutely remarkable vault.
The former royal palace houses the largest interior of the medieval period: a 62 m long room!
After an overview of the basilica Saint-Georges (special mention in the apse), we tackle the Ruelle d’Or. The name makes your mouth water!
La Ruelle d’Or is a narrow ruelle bordered by colourful houses that resemble doll’s houses (or Hobbits).
Why is it called that? They were in fact goldsmiths, who took refuge there to escape the taxes imposed by their guilds in the cities of Bohemia. The inside of the houses is quite cramped, we pass from one to the other by a long footbridge on the first floor. The contents of the houses trace life in the alley over the last five centuries. All the plays tell the story of real people who lived in these houses.
Some houses have handmade souvenir shops such as wooden toys, puppets, pewter figurines, pottery, jewellery…
So ends our visit of the castle which took us a good half day (about 3 hours). As I leave the castle grounds, I think back to what I said to myself that very morning: will there be people at the entrance? Bingo, at the security gate, a tail of several tens of meters formed… There must be at least a 45-minute wait to get home. So if I have any advice for you, go early in the morning !
If you have the opportunity, do not miss the visit of the jardins du Château (they are only open in summer season, from early April to late October). For us, in December, it’s all over….
Entering the “castle enclosure” is free, you can stroll through the alleys, see the changing of the guard, briefly enter Saint-Guy Cathedral, but access to the interior of most buildings is charged.
Please note that entrance tickets are valid for 2 days (the day of purchase and the following day).
There are several types of tickets:
- The circuit A that gives access to : Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Alley, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle History Exhibition, Powder Tower, Rosenberg Palace
- The circuit B that gives access to : Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Alley, St. Vitus Cathedral
- The C circuit that gives access to : Exhibition Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral, Gallery of paintings of Prague Castle
Tickets can be purchased at the Prague Castle Administration’s information centres on the castle’s 2nd and 3rd courtyards and at the ticket offices located in Slevárenský dvůr, in the Prague Castle painting gallery, in the Old Royal Palace and in the Golden Alley near the Daliborka Tower.
Price for “circuit A” ticket : 350 CZK (13,50€)
Price for “circuit B” ticket : 250 CZK (10€)
Price for “circuit C” ticket : 350 CZK (13,50€)
It is also possible to book an audioguide in 7 languages (including French): 350 CZK for 3 hours / 450 CZK for the dayBook my tickets via Tiqets
The visit is over, it is already past noon, the time for us to go back down to the Malá Strana district to have a bite to eat. The opportunity for me to say that Czech gastronomy is not exceptional, on the other hand I am much more convinced by Czech beers ! And also by their ridiculously low price (about 2€50 per pint)!
Czech beers are excellent, local gastronomy a little less…
On digestion, there’s nothing like taking a little height! Let’s go up to the top of the Lesser Town Bridge Tower, the tower that supports the Charles Bridge on the Malá Strana side (and on the other side of the shore, it is the Old Town Bridge Tower). When we arrive on site, we scan a QR code that sends us back to the mobile booking site. 2 minutes later, we present our electronic tickets from the smartphone and here we are on the stairs (it is of course possible to buy tickets at the ticket office).
The advantage is that the place is not very touristic and offers another aerial view and a different perspective on the city. The tower is not very high, but the climb is quite folkloric since it is done using stairs a little steep.
Location : from the Charles Bridge on the Mala Strana side
Tariff : 100 CZK (about 4€)
Tickets can be purchased at the tower ticket office.
Otherwise, there is a QR code to flash at the entrance of the building that sends you to the mobile portal and you can pay directly for your tickets on your smartphone (and present the electronic ticket at the entrance of the stairs).
At the top of the tower, it is another exceptional panorama that is available to us. The opportunity to realize once again the tourist impact of the Charles Bridge…
We continue our discovery of the Malá Strana district by following the Vltava river in the alleys. I really liked this neighbourhood very much, I sometimes had the impression that I was in a period neighbourhood, it is authentic and very quiet. The low presence of cars, the omnipresence of pastel-coloured facades, the multiplication of very quiet cobbled streets, the presence of a bucolic park overlooking the Vltava, in short there is everything to feel good about.
I loved the Malá Strana district, both authentic and very quiet
The time is already well advanced, it is time to go to the starting point of the rest of our day: the tower of Petřín. On the program: climbing!
Finally, it was a day when we spent our time taking height, having our heads in the clouds. The expression “to take height” takes on its full meaning at Petřín since the steel tower (which looks a little like a miniature version of our beloved Eiffel Tower), with a height of 60 metres perched on the important hill of Petřín, makes it possible to reach an altitude comparable to that of the Eiffel Tower, 324 metres above sea level.
So, from Malá Strana, you have to climb the top of the hill first and then hit the 299 steps of the tower (and not one more)…
In other words, from here, the overall view of the city is impressive.
The Petřín tower offers a 360° view of Prague and its surroundings
Arrived at the top, we stay a few moments to enjoy the 360° panorama on the surroundings.
Location : at the top of the hill of the same name
Tariff : 150 CZK (about 6€)
Tickets can be purchased at the tower ticket office.
The only district that has not yet had the right to visit us, we will walk at night in the quartier Hradčany, next to the castle. I have a little trouble figuring out what to think about this neighborhood, maybe because I saw it at night. This district is a bit like the continuity of the castle, the streets seem to lead straight to the entrance of the castle and some imposing buildings would have clearly had their place within the castle walls.
The return to the Old City makes us pass through the Charles Bridge again this time completely in the dark night. And then I found him downright creepy with his blackened statues that look threatening. But I love the atmosphere that emerges from this bridge, you really have to see it at different times of the day. Especially since there were far fewer people than during the day.
Before going home, take a well-deserved nap, a little detour to an address that was recommended to us, la boucherie Naše maso. It is a rather special butchery since, in addition to being a traditional butchery, it also offers burgers made on site during meal times, with, as you can imagine, the excellent meat.
Honestly, it’s a slaughter! You will rarely have the opportunity to have a burger with a burger like that (except homemade of course or in a gourmet restaurant).
Small stopover in Naše maso, a butcher shop that makes burgers on site
Prices are not given (for Prague, I mean) since the cheeseburger is at 175 CZK (about 7€) and the Wagyu burger at 325 CZK (12€). Of course, the address is quite successful so a little waiting may sometimes be necessary.
Surprise upon awakening, the last day will be under the rain with a temperature of 3° (the question is: are we going to have snow?). No predefined program for these last moments in Prague, we will just stroll around the city. When you leave, you get so cold that you decide to take refuge in a Starbucks, just to warm up a little. It was in this Starbucks where, when placing the order, Romain (my first name) became Homer on the cup (and yet the Starbucks cashier made me repeat it!). I had used my most English accent (i.e. not much haha).
It must be said that, under rainy weather, the city still loses a lot of its charm:(
We take a look at Franz Kafka’s bust>, an imposing structure 10 m high and 45 tons high. The steel plates that make up the bust continuously rotate in order to disengage the face by period. It’s pretty cool to look at.
Then we spend part of the day walking along the Vltava with the discovery of Slavic Island (Slovanský ostrov) arranged in a vast park that houses the Žofín palace.
From the island, you can enjoy a very beautiful view of the multicoloured facades of the buildings along the shore. 300 m away is the dancing house (Dancing House), one of the most original buildings in Prague. It is surprising, since its very modern and rather eccentric style contrasts with everything we have seen in the city so far.
How to leave Prague without a last panoramic view of the Vltava with Prague Castle in the background?
The snow is finally starting to fall, it’s time for us to go back to France!
Official tourist portal of Prague
Book Central Spot Prague Apartment on Booking
Here is a video retracing these four days spent in Prague (feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel, it would make me extremely happy !):