Stroll through the “City of a Hundred Spires” and you’ll feel the draw of its bohemian seduction in a fairytale setting. From the secret spot you should search for in the Church of St. Nicholas to going down the rabbit hole with an Alice in Wonderland cocktail, here’s how to explore the splendor of Prague in 48 hours.
My friend Kerry and I arrived in Prague mid-morning. First stop was Questenberk Hotel, a 4-star boutique hotel just a short walk from the Prague Castle, Strahov Monastery, and Old Town. The 27-room hotel is in the Prague quarter called Hradcany, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I immediately fell in love with this hotel housed in a building from 1620. It has wonderful views of the city including Petrin Park, the biggest park in Prague. Our room was charming and actually larger than many other hotel rooms I’d stayed in Europe. I particularly enjoyed the airy lounge where they serve complimentary tea and coffee, cookies, scones, and other delightful treats.
After checking in, we walked over to Prague Castle, but the crowds sent us in search of a great spot for lunch instead. As we strolled along several streets between Prague Castle and our hotel, I was immediately struck by the intricacies of the architecture in Prague. We decided on Uzavešenyho Kafe and were able to snag a table outside. Their delightful terrace has an expansive view of Petrin Park and Strahov Monastery. I lunched on a spinach and cheese crepe while Kerry went for the chicken schnitzel. I washed mine down with a Czech cider, which was a perfect complement to the savory crepe. It was a fabulous introduction to dining in Prague.
With our tummies full, we set off to explore. Leave the high heels at home. You need comfy shoes to traverse the cobblestone streets of this city filled with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches, and interesting shops and restaurants in its different districts. It was the intoxicating sweet smells of gingerbread galore that drew us into the Gingerbread Museum and Shop, not far from where we had lunch. Bakers all over Czech Republic have their own unique technique for baking and icing gingerbread. From the gingerbread men to gingerbread houses, everything in this museum and shop is handmade. Fresh off a sugar rush, we darted in and out of several boutiques as we strolled along the steep and narrow streets in storybook setting of Lesser Town.
The Czech capital is filled with stunning sights and buildings like the Prague Castle, Old Town Square, and Charles Bridge. Even more stunning is the endless church spires piercing the sky. Prague is called the “City of a Hundred Spires” from 19thCentury Mathematician Bernard Bolzano’s count. Today’s estimate of spires in the city is closer to 500. Our first stop into one of Prague’s fairytale churches was Church of St. Nicholas in Lesser Town, the most famous Baroque church in the city built in the 1700s. The impressive dome and bell tower are what you’ll notice first when you walk up to the church. The monumental interior is a superb example of High Baroque architecture. You will keep saying, “wow” over and over as you take in the grandiose beauty of the stunning church filled with enormous stone pillars, painted naves, gold statues, and intricate paintings literally everywhere you look. There is an airiness to the dark dome as the light streams through the large windows. After walking through the entire main floor, I headed up sixty stairs to explore the gallery. As I was chatting with a security guard, he asked if I wanted to know a secret. Saying yes, he proceeded to show me something special with one of the paintings in a gated-off room. There’s a painting with a foot that looks like a 3D illusion. Guess you could say I found out a secret in the Church of St. Nicholas.
Next stop was the Lesser Town Bridge Tower built in the late 14thcentury. It is the main pedestrian gate to Lesser Town. Head up the 138 steps inside the gothic monument to take in a panoramic view of the city. Once back down on street level, we waded our way through the crowd on Charles Bridge over Vltava River. The historic stone bridge was built from 1357 to 1402. As you walk across to Old Town, you see 30 statues carved from 1683 to 1928 to decorate the bridge. The bridge was packed that afternoon, so we decided to save exploring it for the next day. Once in Old Town, we saw a Thai foot massage place and both of us were all in for some TLC for our tootsies. If you’ve never had a Thai foot massage, do yourself a favor, get one. Your feet, ankles, and calves will thank you, especially after a day of walking in Prague.
We hustled back to our hotel for a quick change for a performance by the Parnas Ensemblein Lichtenstein Palace. In a quaint setting, the string quintet took us on a lyrical journey through well-known works by Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, and others. The performance started with a selection from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Their encore performance of Leroy Anderson’s “Plink Plank Plunk” brought laughter and cheers.
Here’s a quick clip from “Plink, Plank, Plunk.”
Hungry after the concert, we sat outside at Pod Veží Restaurant by Lesser Town Bridge Tower. We had top notch service from our waiter named Lukas as we noshed on baked goat cheeseand risotto with vegetables. We capped off the night laughing and sipping wine with a lively group of Norwegian men as we devoured a delectable baked pear strudel Lukas insisted we order.
The next morning, we decided to take a leisurely breakfast in Q15, the restaurant in Questenberk Hotel. While waiting for our scrumptious omelets, we nibbled on fruit, cheeses, salmon, and pastries from their beautiful continental buffet. This was truly breakfast with a view as the sun streamed through the oversized winds opening up to breathtaking views of the city and Strahov Monastery.
Day Two was spent walking all over the city. We headed over to the Prague Castle, a complex dating back to the 9thcentury, but the crowds caused us to go with plan B and head over to Old Town. As we walked across the iconic 14th-century Charles Bridge, there where artists, musicians, and vendors selling their wares scattered along the bridge. One note – the bridge is a known pickpocket zone so make sure to hold purse a little closer and be alert in the crowd. We did take some time on this trek across Vltava River to admire the 30 stone statues on the balustrade of Charles Bridge. Most of the sculptures were erected in the late 1600s and early 1700s and represent various saints and patron saints worshipped at that time. Once across the bridge, we headed over to see the Astronomical Clock. The 600-year-old clock mechanical face is a must see. The clock tower was under construction while we were there but that didn’t stop the crowd from being filled with oohs and aahs while staring at the medieval astronomical clock. Normally When the clock strikes the hour (between 9am and 11pm) the procession of the Twelve Apostles goes into motion. The astronomical clock also has a calendar dial and astronomical dial. There is the legend of clockmaster Hanus was going to make an even grander clock in the 15thcentury until Prague Councillors blinded him so he couldn’t finish. Allegedly in revenge, he damaged the astronomical clock, so no one could repair it. But, in 1961 an old document was discovered saying the clock was made by Mikulas of Kadan in 1410. We trekked the cobblestoned streets of Old Town Square and did self-guided tours of three churches, each vastly differently from the other. When in Prague, you have to have a beer and there’s no better place than Old Town Square. We found a table outside, so we could people watch as we sipped a Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first pale lager.
We spent the next couple of hours wandering streets by river popping in and out of shops and churches. By then it was mid-afternoon, and we were hungry for lunch and we headed to the Strahov Monastery. The Premonstratensian monastery was founded in 1140. As was common with European monasteries, they brewed their own beer. We headed over to the restored 17th-century Klášterní pivovar Strahov(Strahov Monastic Brewery), which dates back to around 1400 A.D. We enjoyed a well-deserved pint after hiking up to the brewery perched high on a hill.
With the Prague Castle high on our must-see list, we realized we were close to closing time and headed over there. We couldn’t get into the cathedral, even though I did sneak a peek through a cracked door, but we did enjoy wandering the grounds including listening to Ave Maria through a keyhole as the classic was being performed as part of a concert.
We walked through the castle grounds to where it flows into a neighborhood by the river. We grabbed a tea from a quaint bakery and strolled through a market that was going on below the Charles Bridge. After walking for miles that day, we were ready for a cocktail. The story of the Alchemist in Prague dates back to when Rudolf II was head of the Roman Empire and was tempted by the liquors served up in the Alchemist’s home on Provaznická Street and eventually revealed the secret of his treasure. For each libation, the alchemist would hide a secret ingredient at the bottom of the drink, making each one unforgettable. The Alchemist Bar, in the legendary home, was our choice to go down the rabbit hole, which I did fittingly with the “Alice in Wonderland” cocktail. The stunning cocktail served up in a crystal glass was the epitome of where bohemian meets fairytale in Prague. While sipping our cocktails, the Guardian of the chest, which looked like a grim reaper to me, came up to us with a treasure chest. During the reconstruction of the house, they found an old chest under a loose plank on the second floor. Inside was a dusty set of tarot cards owned by the original alchemist. He had shared the secrets of the emperor’s treasure among the 26 characters of the old tarot cards. We had to “Choose Your Fate” and picked cards as we sipped our cocktails.
Breakfast was so divine at Q15, we decided to eat there again for our last morning. We savored the moment sipping coffee and mimosas as the sunlight gradually drenched the room. We had a few hours before heading to Munich, so we queued up at the Prague Castle before they opened. Seems fitting Prague Castle was our last stop in this storybook city. We toured the breathtakingly stunning Cathedral of St. Vitus. The gothic cathedral is the crowning jewel of Prague Castle. From there we toured St. George’s Basicila, which is one of Prague’s most significant Romanesque monuments and second oldest church in the city. As we rushed to take in as much of the Prague Castle as we could, our final tourist fury in the city was magical. I felt like it was Prague’s way of making sure we return to this city where bohemian meets fairy tale.