Prague will always hold such a special place in my heart for so many reasons, but the biggest of which: it was the first international destination I went to totally solo. As I type that I find myself not being able to pull the smile off of my face. If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought I would be doing when I was 28, traveling solo through Europe was likely not at the top of the list (even though deep down I knew I wanted it to be.) Mostly because I didn’t think it was a possibility, so I didn’t “let” myself think about it. Note to my 18 year old self: STOP DOUBTING YOUR DREAMS.
Fast forward ten years, and here I am, doing just that. WHAT THE WHAT! I ended this trip feeling incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to go explore another part of this big world we live in. Prague will forever be a treasured destination to me because it pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. I’ll be writing a whole post dedicated to travelin’ solo as a female through Europe soon, but before we dive into that, I have to spill all my juicy tidbits about the city that allowed me to check the “travel independently in a foreign country” box right off my bucket list!
So, why Prague? I actually was a bit surprised how many people asked me this before I left. Prague has long been on my list of “must-visit” European cities. I feel like it might get over looked sometimes due to the cliché notion that certain Eastern European cities are somewhat seedy. Prague, which resides in the Czech Republic, couldn’t be further from that thought. I had heard nothing but amazing things about this magical city, and I couldn’t wait to explore it for myself. Huge shoutout to my sis-in-law who gave me killer recommendations for my short time there! So what really drew me to Prague, you ask? I’m so glad you did!
Prague is as architecturally stunning as it is historically rich. More on the history in a minute, because I have to just swoon for a sec on how gorgeous the architecture is here. I’m a big design nerd, and seeing the centuries old buildings here was something to behold. I could (and did) wander around this charming city for hours on end, despite it being cold AF, rainy, AND snowy. Honestly, y’all know how much I love the sun but the almost eerie vibe the gloomy weather gave Prague made it just that much more magical. Speaking of vibes goin’ on here, this place was just screaming HP vibes. HP=Harry Potter for all you muggles out there. It felt very Hogwarts-esque walking around. Will I always relate the places I go to as things that could be “Harry Potter-esque?” Yes. Rhetorical question. The answer is yes.
Prague has had quite the tumultuous past. I could dive into it and keep going for hours, but I’ll spare you because this post will already be ridiculously full of juicy info (but Lonely Planet has written allllll about it right here). The neighborhood that stood out the most in this city, and will stay with you long after you leave: The Jewish Quarter. This is something I truly think everyone should see. Fair warning, this part of your trip will leave you with a very heavy heart, but it also just puts into perspective the unfathomable things this area and these people went through in semi-recent history. It’s remarkably preserved, because Hitler planned to utilize this area to showcase as a “museum of an extinct race.” It is devastating, bone-chilling and tragic. Eye opening, heartbreaking and humbling. And something that everyone should experience. Speaking of experiences…
What To Do
Join the Free Walking Tour
The free walking tour is something that almost every single person who went to Prague had recommended to me, so I felt like I had to do this! If you’re only there for a few days (like I was) this is such a great way to get perspective on the city as a whole. I’d recommend doing this on the front end of your trip so that you can go back to places you want to revisit while you’re there. It’s incredibly informative, not too lengthy, and did I mention the best part? It’s F-R-E-E. Holla! While they say the best things in life are free…that’s not always totally true. So this isn’t actually totally free. The guides don’t actually get paid by the company so they do solicit tips at the end, but if your guide does a great job, they deserve a tip anyway. So bring cash with ya! It’s so worth it. I learned so much about the history of this resilient city during this tour and could have soaked up so much more!
Wander Through Time in Old Town
I don’t know if I’ve ever truly felt more like I was walking back in time than I did while I was walking through Old Town in Prague. Every cobblestone alley seemed to be more magical than the last, and I was absolutely swept up in the charm of it all. The colored houses and store fronts. The music playing in Old Town square. The buzz of people truly loving and living life. It was one of those moments that I just wanted to bottle up forever so I could go back and visit it again and again. Old Town is also a perfect central point in the city, with tons of hotels, and happens to be where I stayed. As this was my first time traveling solo, I wanted to pick somewhere that I knew would be lively at night so I’d feel comfortable walkin’ back in the dark. Granted it got dark at about 6 PM sooooo, that thought went out the window. I did feel beyond safe the entire time I was there, and would definitely recommend this a place to get some much needed shut-eye!
The Astronomical Clock of Prague is also on everyone’s must see lists in the city. Unfortunately while I was there, the bad boy was totally under construction (wah wah) but it gives me a valid reason to go back again! It’s worth stopping by even if it is under construction just to sneak a peak, and to watch the splendor of this medieval astronomical clock (one of the oldest in the entire world) do its thing.
Head Over the Charles Bridge
This bridge is probably one of the most well-known landmarks in all of Prague. It connects Old Town to Malá Strana and gives you a proper view of the whole city so you can really get your barring’s. PSA: as with any touristy destination, all the restaurants right near the water (i.e. close to the bridge) are going to be the priciest. Head in a few blocks and you’re in for a true treat. End PSA. The Charles Bridge, which finished construction in 1402 (CASUAL) is an iconic site in the city, and definitely can’t be missed! I mean come on, you’re walking on a bridge that’s been around for over 600 years! Enjoy it. Embrace the slow stroll. Take your time walking across. Depending on what side you start on, it will drop you off in two of the best neighborhoods in the city: very close to Old Town or right in Malá Strana.
Grab a Pint of Pilsner
A visit to Praha is not complete without a pint of pilsner, the signature beer of the region! Pilsner Urquell is brewed in the Czech Republic, and it feels wrong to not imbibe as the Czech’s do! If you’re there during the summer, head to one of the city’s many lively and rowdy beer gardens for a memorable experience you won’t soon forget (or who knows…maybe you will!) If you’re there during the bleak winter months like I was, head to the coziest brew house you can find and snuggle up in the warmth. Both equally delicious memories, I’d say!
Get Lost in Malá Strana
The other neighborhood you need to find yourself lost in: Malá Strana aka “Lesser Town” aka “Could Not Be Less True” Okay that last one was just my opinion. Opposite Old Town, on the other side of the Charles Bridge, lies Malá Strana. A neighborhood so charming, you’ll find yourself getting gloriously lost in it’s twists, turns and alleyways. I so loved walking through these cobblestone streets and soaking up every ounce of it I could. Plus, it will lead you straight to…
The Lennon Wall
Yes, The Lennon Wall. I must say this was one of the most memorable parts of my trip to Prague. It was a particularly rainy day, I was starting to feel a bit frozen, when I turned the corner and what did I see before my eyes? This beauty. Even better? The first thing I saw on this traditionally graffitied wall was a giant message that read: GO COUGS. I instantly started laughing (by myself…drawing odd looks from passerbys) because I just knew this was the work of my alma matter, a WSU Coug, and suddenly the world didn’t feel so big and I had a piece of Pullman in Prague with me. I of course know that there and tons of schools with the cougar mascot, but none in the world who rock the “Go Cougs” quite like WSU. I posted a photo of said message, and the sweet gal who wrote it reached out to me to let me know she was indeed from Wazzu. Oh man, I love you Cougs. And also, I love you Prague. Okay, since I’ve already taken you on that massive tangent, let’s go back to what The Lennon Wall is. This wall is a vibrant display of messages, of hope, of inspiration and imagination. It’s constantly being painted over by new artists, so the chances of it looking the same if you return again are slim to none! Still, for me it will always be rockin’ The Cougs somewhere deep down.
The Prague Castle was really the last historical spot I visited while I was in the city, and I must say, I may have saved the best for last. I really missed Zach in this moment because his “ism” when we travel is to head somewhere to get the best viewpoint in the city, and Prague Castle definitely hits the mark, there. In no place does Prague feel more like a Fairy Tale than staring up at Prague Castle. It’s been around since the 9th century (!!) and has the history to prove it. Head here for your dose of whimsy, history, imagination, and killer views.
Hit Up Café Savoy
This gem of a location I fo’ sho owe to my sister in law. This was the best meal I’d had in a long time, and some of the most delicious coffee. While you’re in the Mala Strana area, head to Café Savoy for a meal. I popped in for breakfast and got the MOST scrumptious french toast, but their menu is killer no matter the time of day. The inside of the restaurant is also so dang stunning, with a gorgeous chandelier that totally sets the tone, and the ability to see the chefs actually making your meal if you sneak downstairs. If you’re looking for the ONE place you should eat in Prague, look no further. This is it.
Chow Down on a Trdelník
Ah, the Trdelnik. The quintessential Czech dessert (that actually wasn’t even invented by the Czech’s per a knowledge bomb from my tour guide.) Before I went I saw photos of these fluffy delights plastered everywhere, and knew I had to try one of these sugar bombs for myself. Essentially, these are doughy pastries topped with cinnamon and sugar and hollowed out. Then if you really want to get crazy like I did you can add ice cream, and instantly regret it because it’s snowing outside. It’s like going to Paris and not getting a crepe, to Mexico and not getting a margarita, or to Barcelona and skipping Sangria. You just have to do it. So lean into the flakey goodness and embrace the Trdelnik.
The Nitty Gritty
Stay in Malá Strana or Old Town
The good news? Lodging in Prague is really, really affordable. I stayed in the heart of Old Town and it was less than $60 USD a night for a decent spot. This obviously wasn’t the Ritz, but it was perfect for me and my solo travel needs. The room was actually huge, which was a pleasant surprise. Granted, it was a family owned operation and when I showed up to check-in, no one was actually there and the hidden door was locked. So I walked across the street to the nearest pub, asked if they spoke English (thankfully…they did. The majority of people do in the heart of the city). They then gave me a cold beer to welcome me to the city, and the keys to my room because their friends and neighbors the innkeepers were out for the afternoon. Oh Prague. I just love you.
You Can Walk Everywhere
Prague has public transportation that’s quite simple to navigate in the form of a tram that runs throughout town, but honestly I didn’t even take this one time despite the weather being less than ideal. Prague is super walkable, and part of the fun of exploring a new city is getting lost in the cobblestone alleyways along the way. I stayed in Old Town and it never took me more than 15-20 minutes on the long end to get where I needed to go. So depending on your travel-isms, it’s there if you need it, but you can definitely get by without it!
Don’t Use a Currency Exchange on the Street
I was warned a bit about this prior to going, but man, the “no fee currency exchange” places were everywhere! Avoid using these at all costs as they’re a huuuuge scam. Find a Bank ATM and get cash out there, you can also do this at the airport but the exchange rate will likely be a bit higher. It’s nothing to fret about, but just something to keep in mind. Another note, many establishments in Prague are cash only. While many do take card, it’s helpful here to have some cash money on ya always.
You’re welcome. Cabs exist, too (obviously). But if you want to know what price your signing up for–I wholeheartedly recommend jumpin’ in an Uber! I took one from my hotel to the train station where I was catching a bus to Munich (more on that so soon!) and it was super convenient. If you’re reading this a year from now, just remember to check on your app prior to betting on the availability of said Uber. Cab and Uber strikes happen often in Europe, better to be safe than sorry!
Prague was one of the most historically rich places I’ve ever been, and I can’t wait to go back in the summer one day to soak up that amazing Czech culture while getting a much needed dose of Vitamin D. Have you been to Prague? Want to go? On your bucketlist? Drop all your Prague knowledge on me in the comments, or come hang with me over on the ‘gram!