Best trips for January: Prague, Czech Republic
About this time last year, my boyfriend and I booked a (very) cheap deal for four nights in Prague. I’d always wanted to go, the castles and churches around the city reminded me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a world in which I found myself, as a child, every time I closed my eyes. The only thing holding me back was the now pretty ubiquitous drunk Brits abroad, gorging themselves on 50p pints and abusing similar priced women.
It was skin-pinchingly cold, the sort of still freeze that means your feet become about as dexterous as hooves. It was quite a pain (literally), but it did mean the city was in down season. The cobbled streets were blissfully quiet compared with the knightmarish summer rabbles seen on various Sky docu-mockeries. This is almost certainly why there are so many mind-blowingly cheap deals.
We stayed in a hotel a short tram ride from the city centre and packed in as much as was humanly possible in our six days there. We drank and ate a lot (oh come on, it’s a holiday) and visited pretty much all of the main tourist attractions. However, one of the best things to do in a city like Prague is just drift. The streets are teaming with art and music to stumble on: a swing band in the Old Town Square, giant brass babies in the park, a row of softly glowing yellow penguins standing to attention in the Vlatva river.
I’d also recommend escaping the city for a day, a holiday from a holiday if you will. We took a train a few hours out of Prague to Sedlec Ossury – a church decorated entirely with human bones – in the small, and almost deserted, town of Sedlec.
Prague at this time of year is wonderfully romantic, yet not soppy or boring. Our trip, including: flights, hotel (4 nights), food, drink and activities (public transport, entry fees, etc.) came to less than £300 for the two of us, which is just about cheaper than a good night out in London. This also includes taking a lump of cash out on our last day to see a puppet show that turned out to be closed. Instead we, of course, had to go to the pub and spend it all.
Usual tourist stuff: Prague Castle, the views from the top of St Vitus are worth the hundreds of steps; Charles Bridge; the Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock; the Jewish Cemetery, where I made a rash joke about religion and then my camera broke, make of that what you will; Wenceslas Square; the Kafka museum; take a funicular to the Petrin viewing platform; see a puppet show; the Lennon wall; eat goulash with giant dumplings; there are also countless gold-clad churches and museums to visit.
Best picks: browse the huge book superstores in the new part of town, the changing of the castle path guard, it’s so reminiscent of Wizard of Oz, Sedlec Ossuary and Kutna Hora.
Best food and drink: hot wine, it’s common across eastern Europe, but it’s so good it makes the red nose and numb fingers worth it; the Cubist themed Grand Cafe Orient; dinner and wine at quirky Italian restaurant Giovanni’s (with great vegetarian options); the dimly lit and smokey writers cafe, just as you’d imagine writers lairs should be.
To avoid: the strange, tasteless TV dinners at Gopal veggie restaurant; street sausages; restaurants on the Old Town Square, especially if a tout tries to draw you in – they’re usually expensive and play awful David Guetta-esque tunes.
This is a video I took of an old hurdy gurdy busker, I was totally entranced by him. It’s so raw and just amazing.