So as most of you will probably know, Sam and I got married just over two weeks ago. To get away after the wedding, we decided to spend a few days in one of our favourite cities: Prague. We hadn’t been there in about three years, but we had fond memories of this affordable and stunning city.
The last time we visited, it was mid-winter and we acted like a pair of typical tourists, visiting all the classic tourist sights, going to a cheesy (but still fun) medieval tavern, and indulging in what we now know are tourist traps and scams – the trdlo’s you see everywhere? Not Czech apparently, and massively overpriced!
So, this year we did things differently, we made an effort to avoid the main tourist spots and create an alternative bucket list for Prague, filled with delicious food and sights off the beaten tourist track, and thank god we did. In the middle of August, Prague was swarming with people, I’m so thankful we stayed away from the city centre and tried to see more of Prague as the Czech’s see it. So if you too are visiting Prague, buckle up and check out my alternative bucket list for a different view of this beautiful city…
SAMPLE VETRNIK’S AT CAFÉ SAVOY
If you’re looking for a traditional sweet dish to sample, look no further than the vetrnik. This Czech delight is made up of choux pastry with vanilla cream, caramel-flavoured whipped cream and a caramel glaze. Sounds good, right? Café Savoy offer both full-sized or miniature – be brave and order the full size, because oh my word it is worth it. Yes, it’s sweet, yes, it’s indulgent, but these light choux pastries are so damn heavenly. While you’re there, make sure you take a trip to the toilet (stick with me here) as, right next to them, there is a massive floor-to-ceiling window looking down on the pastry kitchen. Watch the Café Savoy team create vetrniks, eclairs and other patisserie before your very eyes!
VISIT VYŠEHRAD FORTRESS AND EAT LOCAL
While everyone else is trudging up to Prague Castle, avoid the crowds with a walk around Vyšehrad. This lesser known fortress has some stunning views over the city and is much quieter than the castle. With a cathedral, elaborate graveyard, gardens, and walls that show Prague from every angle, this fortress is well worth a visit, plus you can walk to and from it along the banks of the river. After you’ve taken in the view, head back down the road to nearby restaurant U Kroka, which serves local Czech food at very reasonable prices. This was one of the first meals we had in Prague and it was some of the best traditional Czech food we ate all week. I highly recommend the boneless pork knee in dark beer sauce – beautiful, slow cooked meat, rich sauce and fluffy potato dumplings is Czech food at its finest!
TAKE A FOODIE TOUR WITH TASTE OF PRAGUE
This was a highlight of our trip, and it set us up to ensure we ate and drank well the entire week. The team at Taste of Prague are all big foodies, and what started out as a blog has turned into regular food tours around the city, showing tourists where the Czechs like to eat, lesser known districts, and parts of Prague you’d never normally see. Our food tour took us to an open sandwich deli, an incredible butcher, a “meat and doughnut” shop, an ice cream sandwich parlour, and two restaurants. All our food and drink was included, along with the amazing company of our tour guide Karolina, who left us with the Taste of Prague foodie map and guide book, where there are tonnes of restaurant, café, bar and shopping recommendations. Worth every penny and a fantastic way to see and learn about Prague and its wide-ranging foodie scene.
DRINK BEER AND EAT CAKE IN JIRAK
If, like me, you’re a fan of farmers markets, Prague is a great city to visit. It has four major markets, the down side being that three of them only operate on weekends. We were there Monday to Friday, so we decided to head to the Jirak Farmers Market, which runs from Wednesdays. It is quite far out of town, but we quite enjoyed getting away from the hustle and bustle for an afternoon. The farmers market itself is quite small, but is situated in a lovely park and contains lots of fresh produce, amazing coffee by Kavovy Klub and an amazing range of cakes and bakes. Once you’ve wandered the farmers market, head across the street to BeerGeek, a beer bar which has 30 different craft beers on tap, plus numerous bottled beers. This place is perfect for the craft beer aficionado, with almost all the beers coming from the Czech Republic’s up-and-coming craft beer industry.
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO KARLŠTEJN
When it comes to day trips from Prague, you’d be surprised at how many different options there are, you can even visit Germany! The most popular trip tends to be Cesky Krumlov, but it’s better as an overnight trip and can be quite touristy. Instead, we decided to visit Karlstejn, which is the closest castle to Prague, and takes just 40 minutes on the train to get to. The village below the castle is small and simple, but the castle that presides over it looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s a fair hike up to the castle, but once you get up there, you can take a tour of the main castle rooms and hear more about its history, dating back to the 1300s.
SIP CZECH WINE AT BOKOVKA
Generally, Prague is known for its cheap and delicious beer, but what about us wine drinkers? I really struggle to drink beer, wine is always my drink of choice, so when we discovered a tiny little Czech wine bar tucked away in a courtyard, I was thrilled. It’s very atmospheric and dimly lit with candles, every wall filled with bottles of wine, with outdoor seating covered with fur throws and red blankets. The staff are very friendly and will help you find the right wine for you, whether you’re after a glass or a bottle, red or white. We shared a bottle of Czech white which was beautiful, slightly sweet but also dry. They also offer charcuterie boards of meat and cheese, or, for a real treat, order yourself some hot food from the incredible butcher, Nase Maso, next door, and they’ll bring it round to Bokovka for you to enjoy with a bottle of Czech red – just make sure you check with the wine bar staff before you do.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
The last time we were in Prague, we probably fell for a lot of tourist traps, and didn’t really consider where to eat before we came out, but armed with my Taste of Prague guide, we never had a bad meal all week. For cheap, classic Czech pub food, you must visit Lokál. They have a few locations across the city, all very much like large beer halls, with fast and furious service. It’s always busy, so if you haven’t booked, prepare to wait, it’s worth it. Their fried cheese is a wonder to behold, and they will continue to bring you beer automatically until you tell them to stop.
If you’re looking for a little sophistication, visit one of the city’s Michelin star restaurants, like Field or La Degustation. Field offers a la carte, and was one of the most unusual meals I’ve ever had, while La Degustation offers a set menu of eight courses. For something a bit different, visit Sansho. This Asian-fusion restaurant gave us the best meal of our week, and that’s saying something, but holy cow it was incredible. For a la carte, visit at lunch time, as in the evening it’s a set menu of six courses. We didn’t see a menu, we just asked for no raw fish, and our dishes were just described at the table as they were served. Highlights were soft shell crab sliders, octopus satay, pork belly and watermelon…basically all of it. Go and eat there. If you don’t you’re stupid.
I could keep going on about Prague and all the amazing things we saw, tasted, and drank while we were there, but you’ll probably start drifting off. We had an incredible week of food and drink in Prague, we saw parts of the city we’d never seen before, and most meals cost about half the price they would in the UK. Seriously, if you’re looking for a foodie city break, Prague is an alternative and incredible choice.