Prague, the city of a hundred spires, a warren of monuments, courtyards, palaces, and towers. Cubist, Gothic, Renaissance, Classicist; or Art Nouveau, architecturally Prague has it all. A living archive of the middle ages, placid and picturesque, Prague is nothing short of arresting.
Prague Castle, dating from the 9th century, in the Hradčany district, is the largest castle complex in the world. Time worn in places, yet stately, Prague Castle houses an intriguing mix of historic buildings. The main attraction is St Vitus Cathedral, the result of more than a thousand years of architectural development, it’s a striking example of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture. ‘Bohemian Crown Jewels’, watch towers, fortresses, the pomp and ceremony of the changing of the guard. With its grandiose halls, and Italian Renaissance gardens, Prague Castle is extensive, and if you visit you’ll find a day of “oohs” and “aahs” can be spent there.
Other must sees, are the famous Charles Bridge, dating from 1357, the National Gallery, home to one of Europe’s most extensive and esteemed art collections, and the Municipal House, considered to be the finest example of Art Nouveau design in the city.
Happily, the Czechs still cling to their traditions, and those that travel to Prague would be missing out if they didn’t try them. Traditional Czech food has a bad rap, but it’s not just Goulash and dumplings! Though on a cold winters day a piping hot bowl of Goulash is just the ticket. If you’ve a sweet tooth try ‘Trdelník’, a delicious Slovak rolled pastry, served warm and topped with a sugar and walnut mix. Snack on ‘Chlebíčky’, a sort of open faced bite sized sandwich, topped with anything from Lobster paste, ham, capers, or pickles, the choice is yours. Savoury lovers should try ‘Kulajda’, a velvety smooth mushroom soup, with a little dill, vinegar, and topped with a poached egg. The undisputed king of Czech dishes is ‘Koleno’! The dish of cavemen, it’s a huge platter of fall off the bone, melt in the mouth pork knuckle. Marinated in dark beer and herbs, served with an assortment of pickles and condiments, its packed with flavour, and even better when washed down with a few pints of Prague’s famous ‘Pivo’, or beer.
Speaking of ‘Pivo’, Prague’s ‘Beer Festival’ should not be missed, a two-week extravaganza held in May, with an array of traditional food, beverages and entertainments. If you’re labouring under the impression that a beer festival in Prague will be overrun with Brits on stag weekends, you’d be wrong! Prague is no longer a go to city for stag parties, neighbouring Bratislava, Riga, and Vilnius is where you’ll find inebriated nearly weds these days. However, what you will find at a beer festival in Prague, are Czech chaps doing something called the Verbuňk! The Verbuňk, a sort of wild beer fuelled writhing to music Czech men bust out without warning, in a bid to tempt and attract nearby women! It’s terrifying, completely endearing, and is a UNESCO protected tradition.
Prague is vibrant, liberal, cosmopolitan, and laid back. Yes, it’s a city of culture steeped in history, but it’s not a museum, it’s a living breathing work of art, and well worth a visit.