From seeing photos of foggy sunset bridges, hearing stories about cheap beer and late nights, and reading the words of Milian Kundera, I had a romanticised and idyllic image of Prague. And although the sunset bridges were full of tourists and the cheap beer was often in the hands of rowdy travelers, Prague was just as amazing as I expected, and full of moments of indeed feeling unbearably light.
I drove into the city on a bus from Dresden, only two hours away over the German / Czech Republic border. My first stop was McSleep Hostel, one of the cleanest and most comfortable hostels I’ve ever stayed. Usually, comfort is the most fundamental thing that you sacrifice by traveling, especially long-term. But this place counters that, and genuinely feels like a home away from home.
So chilled, so friendly, it provides a comfortable and comforting base in a strange city. The kitchen is wide and open, and guests often cook together. The rooms are beautifully decorated, the lounge is spotless and the showers are modern and top-range. Its location is perfect too – right in the center of Prague yet away from the tourist crowds of the old town.
I really loved staying at McSleep Hostel and I definitely recommend it to travelers who want a cozy and chill base in the center of Prague!
On my first day in Prague, I walked. The city is quite spread out and I didn’t yet have a sense of perspective. So I wandered aimlessly, following shopping streets until the pavement turned into cobbled stones and the shops turned into market stalls.
The Old Town is the center of Prague and crammed full of art, history, architecture and atmosphere. I accessed it via Wenceslas Square, only five minutes away in the new part of town. A large commercial area, it is still beautiful in its grandness, night-time illuminations and the National Museum that dominates the end of the long and busy street.
In contrast, the Old Town Square is much smaller, cuter, and even busier, as it’s the tourist hub of the city. From here, you can find free walking tours throughout the morning and afternoon in a range of languages. You can also witness the historic clock tower with its Astronomical Clock and hourly performance of dancing figures.
You can find bars, food stalls, and cafes, including Café Montmartre and Café Louvre, two of the oldest and most famous in Prague, scattered beyond the square, as well as smaller shops and winding streets, also worth exploring. But most people head towards the river, where you can see the iconic Charles Bridge.
Charles Bridge is beautiful from many angles. One of my favorites was from the riverside, where you can catch it in the foreground of the castle behind. Along the Vltava River is a great place to relax, take a break or eat lunch with a fantastic view. When crossing the bridge itself, you can see the 75 statues lining the sides of different saints and religious figures. As well as wonderful views, street performers, musicians, artists, and jewelry-makers all add to the captivating scene.
On the other side of Charles Bridge is Prague Castle, a prominent landmark of the city. I took my time and walked up to it slowly, exploring the surrounding maze of small streets. I stopped off at Lennon Wall along the way, famously known for its graffiti portraits of John Lennon and Beatles lyrics, promoting love and peace from a turbulent political history.
Much of the castle is free to enjoy, including the astonishing view. Red rooftops overlap and meandering streets wind down to the busy bridges; the city extends into the distance, flat and old, with some church spires breaking its horizon. It’s also a great place to enjoy a trdelnik, a baked cyclical dough filled with chocolate spread, ice-cream or fruit sauce. They are sold all over Prague and popular for a reason. Sweet and cinnamon-y, they taste even better with a view over those rooftops.
Free access to the castle ground allows you to witness the main sights, like St Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane. But for a more detailed history or inside information, you can pay for a guided tour.
For a similarly breath-taking perspective, move along the riverside to Petrin Hill. Just follow the Eifel Tower look-a-like and keep walking upwards. Or, a train goes straight to the top. The view is much better after a stroll, however, and the intertwining pathways through the park are part of its beauty.
“On her way up, she paused several times to look back: below her she saw the towers and bridges; the saints were shaking their fists and lifting their stone eyes to the clouds. It was the most beautiful city in the world.”
I spent my other days in the city at Brix Hostel. I particularly loved this hostel for its location. Situated slightly out of the center in a cool, alternative neighborhood, staying here makes you feel like a local. It’s a fun and immersive experience to get the tram into the center. And if you don’t feel like being a tourist, there’s lots to explore nearby, including Vitkov Park and Zizkov Tower, which has a high observatory deck with spectacular views over the whole city.
However, it’s easy to spend a lot of time at this hostel, especially in the evening. With a daily happy hour, great local beer, friendly staff, and a downstairs bar open until the early hours of the morning, you have a plenty of opportunity to meet people and party. There’s a great kitchen, which is always perfect for those traveling on a budget. And it offers breakfast, for those feeling delicate the morning after.
So if you’re looking for a lively, energized and fun place to stay in Prague, Brix Hostel is a fantastic option. Especially if you want an alternative perspective of the city, a more local scene and a break from the busy touristic center, it’s the perfect choice of hostel in Prague.
Another day I dedicated to exploring the Jewish Quarter. Its streets were slightly sleepier than the Old Town, although close by, and they were easy to wander. You can take free walking tours in this specific area, steeped in its own independent history, as an old ghetto for extradited Jews, both in the city and from throughout Europe.
There are numerous synagogues, including the Spanish Synagogue and Old-New Synagogue, as well as the notable Old Jewish Cemetery. The architecture is stunning from the outside. But you can also enter these landmarks for a deeper historical insight.
Another thing I loved about the neighborhood were the reminders of Franz Kafka’s presence in the city. Prague seems to acknowledge the sad reality that Kafka would’ve hated to be a square. But monuments to his life and work are scattered among the streets anyway. The most prominent is the Franz Kafka Monument, a statue depicting one of his lesser-known stories, Description of a Match. His most famous text, Metamorphosis, is also acknowledged. A subtle image of a cockroach is in the darkened stones beneath the statue.
I met many people who were gripped by Prague, including an English guy who came to the city fifteen years ago and never left, and an American who preferred the cold, foggy streets to the sun and sand of San Diego. My only complaint about Prague is that my high expectations were 100% met. And so I will be stuck forever with an aching feeling of wanting to return again and again.