Close your eyes and imagine an incredibly beautiful fairy tale town. Now open your eyes. Whatever you have imagined probably does not come close this town. It is my pleasure to give you: Prague during the holidays.
Never in my dreams had I imagined I would be in such a magical city for the holidays. Between the food, the city, the decor and the culture, I was in traveler’s heaven. I had done so much research prior to my trip, but none of it braced me for the beautiful moments I experienced over the last week of 2017.
We arrived the day after Christmas and were lucky enough to see all of Prague’s holiday splendor still in place. Christmas markets were everywhere and the smell of delicious food and hot wine made me want to eat 24/7 – which I did. Christmas trees could be seen in every park and every square. I simply wanted to freeze time and stay forever in Prague. One of the first things we wanted to see upon arriving was the beautiful World Clock, but unfortunately it was undergoing renovations. It was still magnificent!
There were two Christmas markets that night. To be honest we did not know where to look at or where to start. Every booth had something beautiful for sale. The food stands were everywhere, selling authentically delicious snacks and hot wine. We tried a little bit of everything because… how can you not? “When in Prague”, right? So although we knew we had a marvelous dinner reservation waiting for us, we just had to sample the typical local holiday food. My favorite – besides the hot wine, which I will truly miss – was the “cone shaped pastry”, rolled in cinnamon sugar and filled with whatever you desired: from Nutella to strawberries and cream to plain… they had something for everyone. The Christmas decorations were beautiful and I just wish I had travelled with an empty suitcase just for them (mind you, i travelled with 3 suitcases… shame on me!).
After a quick stroll around Prague 1 and the Christmas market, we returned to the hotel to shower and get ready for what would be one of the best dinners I have ever had. We went to the Michelin Star La Degustation for a marvelous meal. Course after course we were absolutely delighted. The kitchen was totally open, located in the back of the dining room. The efficiency and calmness of each and every chef was impressive. There was no commotion, no shouting, no mess. The kitchen was spotless, clean and the chefs worked in sync like a well oiled machine. And the food? Oh the food. Simply an experience of a life time. You definitely need reservations at La Degustation. When visiting Prague, make sure to plan it ahead. You will not regret it.
During this trip, I had the wonderful opportunity to see 2 countries. The reason being is because we stayed for 1 night in Prague and then headed for 3 nights in Vienna, Austria, then back to Prague for 3 more nights. We took an express train, and in three hours we were in Vienna. Traveling by train is very simple and convenient in Europe, without the hassle of the airport madness. You can purchase train tickets in advance at the Czech Highway website (you will want to do that if you want to reserve your seats!), and tickets are fairly inexpensive. One thing to keep in mind is that the train cabins work differently than airplane classes. You have an economy cabin, a Second Class, a First Class and then Business Class. On the way to Vienna I bought First Class tickets thinking it would be the most comfortable cabin, only to learn that Business Class is the highest option. Either way, both First and Business class seats were very comfortable.
The first hotel we stayed in Prague was the Art Deco Imperial Hotel located in Prague 1 and very central to the Christmas markets and in a more touristy area. It was a very comfortable hotel and the staff was incredibly friendly. The building was built in the 14th century, and after burning down and being reconstructed it became an Inn. During World War II, it was a favorite among German soldiers, and after many renovations the Art Deco Imperial is now among the top hotels in Prague.
Our second hotel in Prague was my favorite! Augustine, a Luxury Collection Hotel is probably among the top 5 favorite hotels I have stayed. It is located in the Lesser Town district, between the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge within walking distance to the most gorgeous sights in Prague. The Augustine’s history dates back to 1284, and one of its buildings was once the 13th-century Augustinian St. Thomas Monastery. The rooms were beautifully decorated, and whenever i return to Prague, I will most definitely return to this picturesque historical hotel.
There so many amazing sights in Prague, I could write a book about it! One of my very favorite places that we stumbled upon was the magnificent Vysehrad. Once a historic fort from the 10th-century, sitting on top of a hill and overlooking the Vltava River, the Vysehrad is now a gorgeous park and the home of the Basilica S. Apostolorum Petri Et Pauli. No doubt one of my favorite places on this trip. As we climbed the hundreds of steps, I knew that whatever was on top of that hill was worth the climb.
As we approached, I was mesmerized by the beauty and peacefulness of this place. The Basilica was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever entered. The history, architecture and opulence is something that cannot be described. As I walked out of the church, after being there for a good 20 minutes, the church bells began to ring. I had chills up and down my spine. The bells went on and on, and it was a most memorable moment on the trip.
I could honestly go on and on about the Vysehrad. There was SO MUCH we did not see. Apparently, I came to find out way too late that Vysehrad has a Gothic Cellar that is now a museum, and there were tours of a complex system of Casemates and underground corridors, dating back to the 17th century, when castle troops needed to move quickly around the fort. If you are planning a trip to Prague, this is something you won’t want to miss (as I did and truly regret!).
Now on to the most famous sight in Prague: The Prague Castle. There is so much to do and so much to see there. Without a doubt, it was one of the most undisturbed castles I have ever visited. They have done a wonderful job in maintaining its authentic look and feel, without altering the inside layout in order to accommodate tourism. The hallways are still tight, many leading to corridors with no exit. From dungeons to torture rooms to armors and the Golden Lane, inhabited by the servants of the castle, you feel like you have traveled back in time. There are many different ticket options you can purchase to visit the Prague Castle, each with access to different parts of the castle. You can click here for options and pricing.
We were so fortunate to be there on the last day of the Holiday Classic Festival that took place at the stunning St. George’s Basilica. Founded in the year of 920, its romanesque appearance was constructed in 1142 after a devastating fire. We were lucky enough to purchase tickets and sat on the very front row, while listening to a beautiful concert, consisting of music by Mozart, Vivaldi and my all time favorite, the Cannon D by Pachelbel.
Oh I miss Prague… and seriously cannot wait to go back. This post would not be complete without mentioning our favorite top attractions: The “Taste Of Prague” food tour, and our visit to Prague’s Farmer’s Market. But, in order to be able to focus on those two amazing to-dos, I will dedicate a Part 2 of this post solely to go over that! You will not want to miss it, as the Taste of Prague and Farmer’s Market were our unanimous #1 and #2 favorite Prague experiences.
I hope I have been able to provide you with incredible tips and recommendations for Prague and I sincerely enjoyed reliving each and every one of those moments. I will see you back here for Part 2 so stay tuned for more Travel.Eat.Repeat!