47,124 steps, 20.33 miles, 109 floors –
That’s how you explore a city in a day. I had always wanted to go to the magical “Adult Disneyland” of Europe, so my college roommate and I decided to make that a reality this summer. We had both been exploring other countries beforehand and planned to meet up in this picturesque city on a Thursday evening in August.
I flew in first that afternoon and after exchanging my Euros for Czech Koruna, hopped onto the subway towards a rooftop spot a friend had recommended. I exited on a stop fairly closeby and wandered through the streets for a little before heading up to a restaurant overlooking the city. At T-Anker Rooftop Lounge, I tried a cheese, bread, and pickled onions snack while looking over a map to plan out the next day’s activities. Afterwards, I walked around some more and found the famous Franz Kafka moving statue surrounded by a street performer band and their crowd.
When my roommate arrived, we met up at our hostel, Mosaic House and were very pleased to find how clean and nice it was – it pretty much looked like a hotel. After locking our suitcases under our beds and checking out the bar and lounge inside, we walked over to dinner at U Fleku, famous for its traditional Czech food and beer. We sat down at a long community style table and were immediately brought the Fleku Double Dark Lager Beer, which was delicious. I ordered the “Flekovsky Gulas” (beef goulash and bread dumplings) and my roommate tried the Svickova Na Smetane (double cream steak with bread dumplings), as well as being served medovina, a honey alcohol shot to go with the meal. Not only were the food and drinks delicious, but the atmosphere was so lively and friendly, making us feel right at home in the Czech Republic. The bill came to 783 koruna – which was our first real shock into how drastic the currency exchange rate is – since that was only around $36 USD.
The night continued towards Dlouhá Street, an area full of bars and clubs that had been recommended by some locals we had met back at the hostel. We chose the Roxy and started out in the lounge bar with a White Russian and cider beer, surrounded by walls full of projected images from a fireplace to bear rug. We became friends with a group of British people and all headed in toward the actual Roxy club together, making it inside before the cover charge started. The scene inside somewhat resembled a club rave, with a DJ playing electronic house music over a sprawling dance floor, accompanied by strobe lights. We didn’t stay too long because of our upcoming tightly packed day and walked back through the cobblestone streets of the old town, Staré Město, with tall towers and buildings lit up against the night sky.
Ready for our long 20 mile day ahead, we started the day off at a local spot for brunch – Lokal – which we ended up having to run our way to in between spouts of rain (which wasn’t the best time in sandals.) It was well worth it though, as we sat down to raspberry and orange soda beers, accompanied by an appetizer of fried cheese and unlimited potatoes. The buttered chicken breast and mushrooms that we split really hit the spot and we soon started our way off through Staré Město. We hit some touristy to-dos, such as the James Dean cafe and the astronomical clock, which were full of tourists from all parts of the world, as we had anticipated.
Following our “local youth map” we headed towards the river through Josefov, the Jewish quarter, and were humbled by the sight of the Jewish cemetery, the Spanish Synagogue, and the area as a whole. Upon reaching the Vltava River, we were met by paddle boats, restaurant boats, and good old fashioned motor boats. Making a pit stop at the Beer Museum, we ordered $6 beer flights, making sure to try their renowned blueberry beer, with my favorite being the Porter Dark Lager.
Afterwards, we trekked through the sea of people onto the Charles Bridge, full of vendors selling souvenirs from photographs and drawings to jewelry of all sizes and colors. On the Mala Strana side of the river, we roamed around and checked off trying Trdelník from our list. Also known as TRDLO, this spit cake is made of rolled dough and covered in sugar – I ordered the cinnamon one. What we didn’t expect was all the bees who had made their home on the dough rolling station, but no one else seemed to be phased by it.
Soon, we made our way to the legendary Lennon Wall, ever-changing with new additions of colorful graffiti and positive life quotes. After taking some obligatory tourist pictures in front of the wall, we headed to the beautiful Vrtbovská zahrada on the slope up Petrin Hill. This Italian High Baroque style garden had a magnificently painted sala terrana building with an open face overlooking a collection of vases and statues of the gods, spread amongst the most stunningly colorful flower beds and sculpted hedges.
We climbed to the top of the garden to gaze upon the rooftops before starting the extremely long climb up Petrin Hill (which we later found out was the longest way possible, as most people drive up it). After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the Petrin Lookout Tower, resembling a mini Eiffel Tower, ready for the 360 degree view we had been waiting for. It was so breathtaking being able to see the entirety of the city and its surroundings – and well worth our workout to reach it.
The Castle District was up next. Although the beer garden at the Strahov Monastery was closed, we were able to see the incredible Prague Castle and massive gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, as well as wander by the Lobkowicz Palace and Wallenstein Gardens. Although I wish we were able to spend more time around here, getting to see all the architecture and beauty of Prague was such an amazing experience.
As sunset was approaching, we strolled through Letenské Sady (Letná Park) and came across a scene that looked like it was out of a movie – young people of all ages hanging out on the rooftop of this huge stone structure, drinking, eating, and playing music while looking out over the park view of the city. We reached the Letná beer garden and grabbed a table before ordering some chicken kebabs and beer to watch the sunset over the river. It was the perfect ending to a day in such a sensational city before it was time to gather our suitcases en route to our train to Budapest. I can’t wait until next time, Prague.