Prague A Family Vacation Must
Prague is a favorite European city to anyone that has traveled to Europe. Is the city of Prague as amazing as all the people say it is? When someone thinks of a major “must see” city in Europe, you think of cities like Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Venice. Prague does not typically come to mind since it was part of the Eastern Bloc countries that were off limits to Westerners during the Cold War. Now that it’s part of Eastern Europe and open to the world, Prague is a gem that has become a major destination you don’t want to miss. On a recent trip to Europe, during a family vacation, we decided that we had to go check Prague out and see it for ourselves.
We got to Prague from an easy, couple hour, train ride, using our Eurail Pass. We traveled from Vienna Austria on a Czech train operated by České dráhy (CD or Czech Railways). The Czech trains are very nice, clean, comfortable, and efficient. Upon arriving, we immediately noticed that Prague is a large city mixed with both old and new. It feels very Czech filled with picturesque old European charm, but with some remanence of the Soviet era influence.
We decided to stay in an apartment near to Old Town Square. Renting an apartment is a great way to feel more at home during a multi-day stay. You get a better feel for what it is really like to live there like a local. You also get the benefit of having a washer and a full kitchen. It’s nice being involved in the local culture not so much in a touristy hotel, but actually living in the city like a Czech person. We use online services like Airbnb, HomeAway, and FlipKey because they all have great reviews and are very reliable and safe. Staying in the heart of Old Town Prague was amazing because we stayed right in the heart of the city’s culture and were walking distance to just about everything. As long as you’re in relatively decent shape and have a good pair of walking shoes you can get to just about anywhere with an easy walk. Some of our favorite sites were Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, and most of all the Prague Castle.Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole, is now at the top of our favorite Europe destinations Click To Tweet
Getting around on public transportation is very easy. If you have any difficulty navigating or figuring out which streetcar to get on, just ask a local for some help. The Czech people are very friendly and they will go out of their way to help you get where you want to go.
It was surprising how inexpensive Prague was. There was a wide variety of shopping, great local transportation, and amazing food! One of our favorite finds was a great little breakfast café and bakery right outside of our apartment. We would pass the café each day as we walked out to go explore the city. Thinking of cafes and food, one of the greatest surprises in Prague was the food. I was amazed on how awesome and flavorful Czech food was and how inexpensive it was to eat out. When you think of food from Eastern European countries typically bland and boring comes to mind. In Prague this is not the case. The aroma of Goulash with meat so tender it melts in your mouth, the fresh breads, and especially the beer. The Czech Republic drinks more beer per capita than any other country in the world! Yes, even more so than Germany. Food in Prague is just flat out amazing.
Our first stop was Old Town Square, which is a wonderful area filled with history, rich architecture, and great restaurants. Must of the square dates back to the 14th century and immerses you into the Old World Europe charm. In the heart of the square is a “must see” attraction. A medieval astronomical clock, called the Prague Orloj is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, built back in 1410, and the oldest one still in operation. You can’t miss it with a crowd gathering around every hour on the hour, to see little figures come out moving to the music of the clock chimes.
…we decided that we had to go check Prague out and see it for ourselves!
Next was a visit to The Charles Bridge, a famous historic bridge, that crosses the Vltava river connecting Old Town to the Prague Castle and surrounding areas. They started building it in 1357 and finished sometime in the early 15th century. The Charles Bridge was the only bridge over the river and became a major gateway for trade from Eastern and Western Europe. Now it’s a pedestrian only bridge that is filled with street vendors, interesting statues, and tourists galore. It has been known to have an occasional problem with pick pocketing but is relatively safe if you use common sense. We found the hype about pick pocketing a bit over exaggerated. You’ll enjoy the vibe and the vendors along the route. It also sports some of the most amazing views of the river and the city as its backdrop.
The highlight of our visit to Prague was definitely the Prague Castle. To get to Prague Castle, which is up on a hill, we took the streetcar. It was very convenient and easy to get to with no problem. It was much easier at the end of the day to walk downhill back across the Charles Bridge and to Old Town Square for some dinner. To see the Prague Castle and all that it has to offer give yourself a full day. It’s filled with a lot of different attractions to see and is fun for an individual traveler or the whole family.
The “Changing of the Guard” at the Prague Castle is a “must see.” It’s much like the well-known “Changing of the Guard” at Buckingham Palace in London. The Czech military still guard the Prague Castle and perform a show at the main entrance during their version of the changing of the guard. Be sure to check the schedule before you go. If you enjoy this ceremony you absolutely want to see the military procession and marching band perform in one of the squares located inside the castle property. Done with precision, the guards put on a great show.
If history is your thing then check out The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert, generally referred to as just the St. Vitus Cathedral. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral within the walls of the Prague Castle compound. This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in the Czech Republic. It contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. It’s truly an amazing and beautiful structure to walk around and explore.
Our kid’s favorite find in the Prague Castle was by accident. There is a medieval armor museum in an area of the Prague Castel called the Golden Lane. You go through a little door and up some tight stairs to a second level that is filled with amazing surprises. The museum spans the second floor of a row of old buildings and is rather large. There are some of the most amazing medieval artifacts, collections of armor, weapons dating back to times of BC, and tons of other artifacts. There is even actual armor and weapons that have come from Jerusalem during the time of Christ’s time there. The Armory is a must for any history buff and the kids will love it!
Cities like Prague are slowly becoming a more popular destination than the typical tourist destinations of Europe. We honestly had not put much thought into visiting Prague, but curiosity got us and we are so glad it did! Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole, is now at the top of our favorite Europe destinations. Whether you are a solo traveler or on a family vacation, you should seriously consider Prague as a “must see” destination. It will definitely surpass your expectations and become a city on the top of your European vacation list.