Prague – The Golden City

Having only briefly passed through the city on my way to Budapest, I arrived back into Prague’s Hlavna station onboard the Hungaria from Bratislava (read about that here) with a couple of nights stay planned in the city to explore. Known as the ‘Golden City’ or the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, the historic centre of Prague has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992.

Prague’s Hlavna station

Arriving just after 1400, my first stop was to check into my hostel and dump my bag and so it was downstairs to catch line B of the Prague Metro for a few stops before then jumping on one of the city’s 22 tram lines. As with Budapest and Bratislava, Prague offers a wide range of tickets for its public transport, including 24hour (120czk, £4.10) and 72hour (330czk, £11.25) tickets. These tickets allow travel on any type of public transport with unlimited journeys during the time period they’re valid for. The only bus they aren’t valid on is the Airport Express bus that connects the airport to Hlavna station.

Having dropped my bag off, I decided to head to the western side of the city, with a couple of destinations in mind to spend the afternoon and evening exploring. My first stop, not far from Anděl metro station, was Království Železnic, or Kindgdom Railways, an extensive collection of model railways spread over multiple floors. A bit like a smaller version of Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland, Kingdom Railways is open from 0900-1900 every day with admission costing 260czk (or just under £9). You can also get a 10% discount on entry if you have a Czech Railways (CD) ticket valid for the day of your visit.

Just a small part of Kingdom Railways

In total Kingdom Railways has about 600m2 of model railways, spread across five layouts. There is a small layout in the ticket area, with three further layouts as you first enter the underground exhibit space. Of these three, two are completely fictional layouts, whilst one is based on a small Czech town in the 1980s. On the lower floor of Kingdom Railways is the largest layout, covering 460m2 and includes model versions of 6 regions of the Czech Republic.   

Having spent an hour or so exploring Kingdom Railways and discovering the hidden ‘easter eggs’ throughout the models, I headed back outside deciding to explore some more of the city and so headed back along one of the tram lines for a few stops to Újezd. Újezd is home to the lower station of Prague’s funicular railway which connects the western bank of the Vltava with Petřín hill, the summit of which sits almost 200m above the river.

Prague’s Funicular

The funicular railway runs every 15 minutes and journeys are included in the 24hour and 72hour public transport tickets, and of course I had to take a ride up to the top. Journeys on the funicular take just a few minutes and at the top you can explore Petřín’s gardens, visit the observatory or climb to the top of the Petřín tower. Unfortunately, I timed my visit just wrong with the tower closing just as I arrived and the wooded hillside blocking any good views of the city, so after spending half an hour exploring the snowy gardens I jumped back on the funicular ready to find some food.

One place I’d found whilst researching the city online was a takeaway restaurant located not far from my hostel. In a city with thousands of restaurants and takeaways there was one specific thing that caught my attention with this takeaway, the name, with Fat F*ck Burgers (without the asterix) certainly catching the eye. Unfortunately, the downside was that this place was a nightmare to find and I ended up heading back to my hostel and ordering my food via Wolt. Whilst the food was quite expensive as takeaway burgers go, it was absolutely excellent and if you’re staying in the Holešovice part of the city I’d certainly recommend it.

I was greeted by a very snowy Prague on my first morning in the city

After a few episodes of Parks and Recreation and a good nights sleep, I was ready to explore the city on the one full day in Prague. Heading back out to the end of the road, I jumped on the first tram to arrive and spent ten minutes looking out the window before I realised I’d caught the wrong tram and wasn’t heading towards the city centre. Thankfully the next stop was an interchange with line B of the metro and so I was soon back on track to the city centre.

The main plan for my morning was a walking tour but with an hour or so before that started, I decided to wander through the quiet, snow-covered streets. With snow starting to fall quite heavily again, I decided it was time for breakfast and so headed into Pausesteria, a coffee shop about halfway between the Klementium and Astronomical Clock. After a much-needed coffee and some delicious berry topped pancakes, it was time to head back out into the snow and explore the city.

Pancakes and Coffee at Pauseteria

Regular readers know that I love a free walking tour, and so booking one during my stay in Prague was a must! Having decided on a 2.5 hour tour of the Old Town, I headed to the meeting point outside the Rudolfinum concert hall to meet my guide and see how many others would be on the tour. Once our group of six had gathered, our guide for the morning, Sarah, introduced herself and we headed off into the Old Town.

Heading first to Old Town Square, we learnt a bit about the history of the city and the 15th century martyr Jan Hus as well as seeing the site of the former City Hall which was burnt down by the Nazis a day before the city was liberated during World War 2. Just around the corner from the Old Town Square we also took a moment to admire the engineering marvel that is Prague’s Astronomical clock.

Prague’s beautiful Astronomical Clock

Installed in 1410, the Prague Astronomical Clock is the oldest clock still in operation and along with the time also shows the position of the sun and the moon in the sky whilst the calendar dial also shows the month. Along with the Astronomical Clock we were also shown the historic building addresses, displayed using pictures painted onto the external walls, allowing the illiterate to find the correct building.

The final part of our walking tour took us into the city’s Jewish quarter, which includes the Old New Synagogue, built in 1270 and is Europe’s oldest active synagogue. We were also shown a ‘stumbling stone’, a small brass tile set into the cobbles to commemorate Max Eckstein, a Prague local who was murdered during the Holocaust. The stumbling stones, or Stolperstein, are part of a wider project which has now seen more than 75,000 tiles installed in cities, towns and villages across Europe to commemorate the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The Old New Synagogue

Arriving back outside the Rudolfinum, I had enjoyed the walking tour so much that I decided to change my plans for the afternoon and booked onto the other tour running that day, a walking tour of Prague’s impressive Castle complex. But before that it was time for lunch and following a recommendation from Sarah, headed for an Italian restaurant in the Jewish quarter. Opting for a meal of mushroom soup and carbonara, I soon warmed up after a cold morning of walking and felt refreshed and ready to go again for the afternoon.

I’m not going to go into massive detail about the Castle walking tour, but I would certainly recommend booking onto it and being guided around the largest castle complex in Europe. The tour once again starts outside the Rudolfinum and heads along to Charles Bridge before crossing the river and catching a tram up the hill to the Castle entrance. As with the Old Town tour, the castle tour takes about 2.5 hours with stories and anecdotes making the history even more intriguing.

Prague’s Castle complex also includes the city’s cathedral

The other advantage I find of taking walking tours is the recommendations that the guides provide. Sarah, our guide for both tours, has set up and email address which automatically sends you a ‘useful info’ email which includes a link to a map of recommendations. Using this, I decided to wander back through the old town, pausing to take some night-time shots of the castle, and headed to U Vejvodu for dinner.

With this being my final main meal in Prague and also on my trip, I decided to go with my usual choice of meat and dumplings, although this time with a twist as U Vejvodu had an option to have a selection of the different types of dumplings rather than just one. With another very delicious, filling meal and a couple of beers finished, it was time to make my way back across the city to my accommodation to get a good night’s sleep ahead of the travel day ahead.

The illuminated Castle complex with Charles Bridge in the foreground

During my stay in Prague I also had breakfast at La Bottega Di Finestra and on the first night of the trip had dinner at Bredovský Dvůr before catching the sleeper. Both of these were also great places to each at, although La Bottega Di Finestra was a bit more expensive than most places. All in all I had an amazing time in Prague and there’s so much more to see, do and explore within the city so I definitely want to go back!

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