I had been in Krakow for a few months and, being in Europe, I wanted to take advantage of the countries around us. Poland is in a pretty awesome position for just that. Just across the border and a few hours away was the hip and beautiful city of Prague, Czech Republic. A friend was visiting Prague from the State on a business trip/holiday, so I thought, why not?
I booked myself in with Leo Express, a Czech transportation service, which I would highly recommend. A six-hour journey overall, there is a two-hour bus journey from Krakow coach station to Bohumin, Czech Republic, where you hop off and take the four-hour train onwards to Prague. It’s super smooth and easy, and comes at a reasonable price. The service is lovely and there is some good grub on board.
Arrival and first night
After meeting up with my friend and checking in at the hotel, we got some fancy drinks at the bar downstairs then went for a night time stroll around the area. For the first two nights, we were staying in old town, right in the centre, on the east side of the river.
We walked around some of old town and its main streets, then looped around by the river. Prague had a distinct Eastern European vibe to it, not dissimilar to Krakow, although the streets were wider and the buildings bigger and grander. I heard snippets of language that sounded so similar to Polish – dobrý and Děkuji I could translate as good and thank you.
It was St. Paddy’s Day! A bright, sunny day in March, we set off to do some more exploring. We perused market stalls and checked out some amazing architecture. The Powder Tower or gate is a towering gothic structure that acts as an entrance into the Old Town from the New Town. Inside the square was the Astronomical Clock, the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still under operation.
We headed across the river to the Pražský metronome, a large metronome with a great lookout spot. You pay for the view in the many steps up to it!
It’s not a trip to Prague without seeing the Charles Bridge and John Lennon Wall, of course. Of the many, many bridges along the river in Prague, the Charles Bridge is the most famous and it’s not hard to see why. It’s intricate, religious, gothic, and beautiful, covered in the statues of 30 different saints. The John Lennon Wall was just as cool as we were expecting as well. Covered in graffiti and messages of multiple languages, you could stand and read it for ages. People were in St. Paddy’s Day cheer and there was a busker singing The Beatles.
Don’t forget to check out the surrounding area. The riverbank was romantic and picturesque, with a great view of the Charles Bridge in the background and some hard-ass swans and ducks nearby. There were also some creepy baby statues by Czech artist David Černý, whose work you will find dotted all over Prague.
Next, we checked out Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral inside, where we encountered an ungodly amount of Koreans! Having both previously lived in Korea, we knew Prague was a hotspot for Koreans to go on holiday, and it was lovely hearing the familiar Asian tongue again. There they were in full force, cracking out their pre-packed tupperwares of kimchi and posing for photo after photo.
There were many paid visits you could choose to explore the castle, but we went the cheap route of exploring the grounds for free and wandering inside the cathedral.The cathedral itself is huge and fairly difficult to get in one photo, try though we did.
We had done a lot of walking, so it was time for a beer. We met up with a melee of Europeans – Czech, Romanian, Austrian – at a beer house and drank the night away.
We were leaving hotel and checking into a hostel across town. We decided to move and experience of a different area in Prague, so we chose Dakura Hostel on the other side of the river. It was cheap, cheerful, and definitely no frills. We got some pretty cool shots on the way, too.
The area we were now in was called Mala Strana, a sort of bohemian district known for its absinthe, located on a hill (much to my displeasure). But, with my friend’s connections in Europe, we ended up hanging out with a local who picked us up in his car and showed us a whole other side of Prague. As welcoming and kind as most Eastern Europeans I have met, he took time out of his day to show us some amazing sights. Driving way outside of the city, he took us to a lookout point most tourists don’t go to, where we had a view over the whole of Prague.
After the view, we stopped in for some homemade alcohol at our new Czech friend’s place, which was extremely potent! A little tipsy, we took the metro over to Vitkov Hill, full of monuments and statues dedicated to the honour of Czech soldiers, including the famous Czech general Jan Žižka. Once it got dark, it was the perfect time to check out the view from Žižkov Television Tower, which was also covered in more of those creepy babies.
To round off the night, we did what everyone does at least once in Prague – drank absinthe. I hadn’t realised how complicated absinthe could be, and it turned out we needed guidance and instructions from the barman. And it was like drinking fire, by the way. Alcoholic, licoricey fire.
Waking up in our orphanage-like hostel, we scratched our heads for things to do, as we seemed to have covered everything suggested online and in guide books. If I were to recommend Prague to somebody, I would definitely suggest two or three days as plenty to see everything. With an extra day, we took it easy and explored Mala Strana.
It turned out the area was a cool place to wander around aimlessly. We stopped by cafes, ducked into quirky shops, saw the beauty of Loreto Church, and found another great spot to take photos (along with all the other tourists) and have a refreshing cider.
Mala Strana is definitely the spot to pick for your accommodation in Prague. Since it’s not in Old Town, it will be cheaper, but there are plenty of hidden gems in this area. Plus, with all the steps and hilly streets your bum will certainly get a workout!
Around dawn, I left my hostel and trekked across Prague to get to the train station and catch my Leo Express back to Krakow. I could have got a taxi, but a) I like to save money where I can, and b) despite hating early mornings, a solo walk in the early hours is a great way to collect my thoughts, wake my body up slowly, and see a place like this one last time, without all the tourists.