With a penchant for incredible beer and Gothic architecture on almost every corner, Prague has been on my travel list for a while. So when it came to treating Kasha to a surprise birthday weekend away, I knew this was the perfect chance to get all romantic in the Czech capital.
After revealing I had plans for a weekend away together, I kept the destination secret, maintaining a frustrating air of indecisiveness about anything to do with the getaway, deflecting questions and keeping Kasha on her toes by suggesting she pack both swimwear and a warm winter coat.
When we finally reached the airport (I did finally concede at this point and tell her to pack for cold conditions) I broke the surprise to her, to much fanfare including: a full brass band covering Jeff Buckley hits and a flock of dancing wildebeest.
On this trip we encountered two things in abundance, beer and architecture. So I decided to pitch the two against each other and see what came on top. Would the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral find itself superior to the abundance of golden Pilsner? Or would the mighty tankards of amber gold be decidedly more enjoyable than the grey walls of that look out onto the city? Read on to discover the shocking truth…
Charles Bridge & Prague Castle
To get to Prague Castle you can embark on a short walk from Old Town, which will take you across the glorious Charles Bridge – a must-see spot in the city. Lined with Gothic statues and jazz musicians this popular walkway is the perfect spot for a few cheeky selfies.
At the end of the bridge, you can climb a panoramic observation tower to get fantastic views of the New Town. It’s pretty cheap, and the helpful signs help you identify important buildings in the distance (great for getting that all important shot!).
As you stroll through the New Town towards Prague Castle, those with keen noses (or hungry bellies) will no doubt note the constant presence of a peculiar looking snack called Trdelník. Be warned, this rolled pastry coated in sugar is incredibly delicious, so ensure you have some hot wine to accompany it otherwise your other hand may get cold as you wolf it down like a hungry hungry hippo.
Somehow – completely unlike us – Kasha and myself arrived at the gates to Prague Castle exactly when the changing of the guards was taking place. While this event happens every hour, there is an especially elaborate ceremony every day at the stroke of midday, involving many flags, flamboyant marching and even a brass band.
Needless to say, it was fantastic, but for those at a height disadvantage (like Kasha) you may want to arrive a little early as it gets very busy and a little difficult to see from the back of the crowd.
The behemoth castle that overlooks Prague is by far the most important thing that every visitor to the city simply has to visit. What few fail to mention is that you can see all of the exterior of the castle without paying a single penny, but if you do want to explore the inner sanctum of this historical complex, the price is pretty reasonable.
At the ticket desk we were advised that the best pass for us was Circuit B (CZK 250), which covered: St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower. In my mind, there is absolutely no point going for Circuit A or C as this ticket covered absolutely everything we wanted to see , and even lasted the whole weekend. You can see the range of tickets for yourself here.
Frustratingly, many of the exhibits do not allow photography – for whatever reason – so, below you can get an absolute eyeful of the stonking great big beast that is St Vitus Cathedral; a building that dominates the skyline of Prague.
Taking almost six centuries to complete, St Vitus Cathedral is the pride of the Czech Republic, and has been used as a coronation venue for Czech kings and queens. This Gothic masterpiece with its raised towers spiking into the air truly is magnificent.
Thankfully the interior is just as breathtaking, as you can see below. Note: I love the guy with the big red nose in this photograph.
Lokal & U Tří růží
For those regular readers of this blog, you may have noticed there is a decidedly beer related theme running through it. I love beer, dark, light, brown, amber, chili-infused you name it I’ll drink it. So when the time came to explore the various beer halls and breweries I was tingling with excitement to taste the famous Pilsner Urquell.
Our first boozy stop, Lokal was a favourite with the locals (hence the name) and served some of the best Pilsner in town. To go into detail, the restaurant is one of the few places that serves tankove pivo or unpasturised beer and its quality is supervised by beer master Lukas Svoboda.
What was unique to Lokal, which I didn’t see elsewhere in Prague, was serving the beer at different levels of head; as you can see below. I opted for a classic dark beer to start, which was rich with smoky and bitter notes while the second beer was half foam; making it wonderfully creamy and perfectly balanced, a real amber gold delight.
The food, a selection of Czech dishes, was simple yet delicious, especially considering the reasonable prices. Every table was packed here, so make sure to book ahead if you’re eating.
The next stop was U Tří růží, a restaurant and brewery located in the historical centre of Prague, not far from the Old Town. As our hotel was just down the road, we had wandered past this place, with its gleaming copper tanks and inviting warm glow, a few times before stepping in.
This establishment has been deemed a monastic brewery by the Dominican Order, and serves six delicious beers, all made using traditional techniques that date back to the 15th-century.
The beer here was slightly more expensive than it was elsewhere in the city, perhaps due to proximity to the Old Town no doubt, but nonetheless was one of the cosiest spots in the city to hunker down a mouthful of the god’s nectar.
Other than Lokal, I found this brewery/restaurant served the finest and freshest tasting beer on tap. You could taste the gentle hops, subtle smoked malts and fruity aromas with every sip.
So, the time has come. Who will be crowned the winner?
Charles Bridge Vs Lokal
This is a pretty easy decision. While Charles Bridge was a great connection between the Old and New Town, the bridge was overcrowded with hawkers and tourists. You would have to wake up at silly O’clock to get the bridge and it’s magnificent statues all to yourself.
Lokal on the other hand surprised me by being the perfect gem we had both hoped we would discover. The beer was phenomenal, the service was attentive and the portions were hearty.
The people of the Czech Republic drink more beer per person than any other country in the world, fact. I don’t think a single Czech person could be mad that I chose a well poured, frothy glass of Pilsner over a walk across Charles Bridge, beer is a massive part of their heritage too!
Prague Castle Vs U Tří růží
A tough call this one. On the one hand we have the mighty Prague Cathedral, pillar stone of the Czech identity and the most fun I’ve had inside castle grounds since I was a child.
On the other hand I really love beer, especially monastic beer…
Winner?…. Prague Castle
Yes the beer was amazing but nothing on this trip compared to the vast sprawling complex that makes up Prague Castle. It’s the very cornerstone of the Czech identity and contains some of the most significant cultural buildings in the country.
From sipping the finest beers to standing in awe of the various architectural wonders, Prague is a spectacular destination to visit. What are your favourite spots in Prague? I have a feeling I’ll visiting the gorgeous city again soon so comment below with your best Prague tips.
Need some more beerspiration? Check out my walk along London’s famous Bermondsey Beer Mile.