MAGICAL CITY WITH ROYAL CASTLE AND MARVELOUS OLD TOWN; PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Day 1 – Arrive Prague
There are direct flights to/from Prague, Czech Republic from the European hubs, such as Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and London. We arrive to Václav Havel Airport Prague and transfer to our hotel (approximately 20-30 minutes). We have an early dinner at CottoCrudo, an excellent Italian restaurant in our hotel.
Day 2 – Prague Castle
We depart our hotel at 9:00am, traverse the George Bridge and walk up the hill to the Prague Castle. We visit the St. Vitus Cathedral that exhibits the crown jewels of the Czech Kings. The Great South Tower of the Cathedral offers fantastic view of the city. Next, we walk to the Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral to view the impressive collection of religious artifacts. The nearby Old Royal Palace is the original royal residence designed in Gothic style. The St. George's Basilica is a Romanesque style church that houses the tombs of the members of the former ruling Přemyslid Dynasty. We stop for lunch at the Christmas Market set-up in the castle complex. After lunch, we visit the Rosenberg Palace, then walk to the Golden Lane to photograph the dwelling of small houses and browse for local souvenirs. The Royal Garden was closed during our winter visit so we walk leisurely toward the Charles Bridge and have an early dinner at the superb riverside Kampa Park Restaurant. After dinner, we walk back to our hotel.
Day 3 – Old Town
After breakfast, we walk to the nearby Klementinum to visit the Baroque Library Hall and climb atop the tower to admire the views of the Old Town (a guided tour is part of the admission ticket). Next, we walk to the Old Town Square to explore its beautiful architecture and landmarks. We visit the Old Town Hall and its historic halls, cellars, chapel and the Astronomical Clock. We climb the Town Hall Tower to admire the wonderful view of the Old Town. We visit the Baroque St. Nicholas Church and the Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. We have lunch at the Restaurace Mincovna (restauracemincovna.cz) situated in the square. After lunch, we walk to the Powder Tower, then continue to the nearby Municipal House to take a guided tour of the impressive halls designed in Art Nouveau style. Afterward, we enjoy dessert at the Municipal House Café. We traverse the Old Town and arrive at La Finestra Restaurant for dinner, situated very close to our hotel.
Day 4 – Jewish Quarter
We walk a few minutes from our hotel to the Jewish Quarter, a historic district in Prague originally constructed in the 13th century. We purchase the tickets and audio guides to the Jewish Museum in Prague and spend the day visiting its historic sites. We visit the Pinkas Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Ceremonial Hall and the Klausen Synagogue. We follow a narrow street lined with the souvenir stalls to the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Prague. We walk to the nearby Asian Temple restaurant for lunch. Afterward, we visit the Spanish Synagogue displaying a magnificent Moorish architecture and stunning interiors. Near the backside of the Spanish Synagogue, the Robert Guttmann Gallery exhibits an interesting collection of art. A short walk away, the Maisel Synagogue houses a collection of Jewish books, fabrics and objects. The nearby La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise restaurant serves a superb degustation menu for dinner.
Day 5 – Lesser Town
In the morning, we traverse the Charles Bridge and visit the Lesser Town. We observe the cobblestone streets, the pastel-colored houses, churches and boutiques. At the Lesser Town Square, we visit the St. Nicholas Church, showcasing Baroque architecture and beautiful interiors. After our visit, we walk a few minutes to Vrtba Gardens and admire their pretty Baroque style. We stop for lunch at the Spices Restaurant and Bar situated in the Mandarin Oriental, Prague Hotel. After lunch, we discover Kampa Island, a wonderful oasis with narrow pathways, modern art museum, quaint shops, restaurants and cafes. We browse for souvenirs, relax in a café and have a light dinner.
Day 6 – Loreto, Strahov Monastery, Petřín Hill
In the morning, we walk 30 minutes to the Loreto sanctuary, situated a short distance from the Prague Castle. Loreto, a church complex, consists of the Church of the Nativity, the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrow and the Santa Casa “Holy House”. We observe the rare collection of religious artifacts and the church’s beautiful interiors adorned with ceiling frescoes. We continue walking 10 minutes to the Strahov Monastery, a monastery complex consisting of the Premonstratensian Abbey and the Church of Virgin Mary Ascension. We visit the Strahov Library’s beautiful halls decorated with ceiling frescoes. We stop for lunch at the Monastic Brewery (Klášterní Pivovar Strahov). In the afternoon, we walk to Petřín Hill to relax in nature and visit the Petřín Tower, offering amazing views of the city. We walk from the Petřín Hill back to the Old Town (around 30 minutes), discovering along the way pretty architecture and lovely shops before our dinner at the V Zátiší Restaurant.
Day 7 – Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, Wenceslas Square, National Museum
After breakfast, we walk 15 minutes to the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, a Gothic style monastery and a national cultural museum. We follow the self-guided tour through the convent’s history, visit the convent’s gardens and view an extensive collection of the Medieval Religious Art. Located near the convent, the Field Restaurant serves a wonderful modern Czech and International cuisine. After lunch, we walk 20 minutes to the Wenceslas Square, a location of the National Museum and a large square where the festive Christmas Market was set-up during our December visit. In the evening, we walk back to the Old Town and have dinner at the Pohostinec Monarch Restaurant before returning to the hotel.
Day 8 – Prague Departure
After breakfast, we transfer to the Václav Havel Airport Prague to take our international flight home.
Prague – The Czech Republic, also called Czechia, is a country in the Central Europe that borders Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. The Czech Lands include the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. In 1918, Czechoslovakia was established unifying the Czech Lands and Slovakia, then in 1993 the country dissolved separating into two independent nations: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, was built on the banks of Vltava River in the 9th century. It is the heart of the country, boasting magnificent historic sites and beautifully preserved Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture. Our visit in Prague takes place in the winter when the Christmas lights illuminate the city and the Christmas Markets decorate the historic squares. Our journey takes us to Prague’s famed neighborhoods of Staré Město, Hradčany, Menší Město, Josefov and Nové Město. In the business district of New Town (Nové Město), the Wenceslas Square is a large square constructed in 1348 by Charles IV and named after Saint Wenceslas, the protector of the Czech lands. Dominating the square is the National Museum housed in a magnificent Ne0-Renaissance building. Lovers of spectacular architecture, opulent décor and performance art shall visit the nearby State Opera House and the National Theatre situated by the Vltava River. Prague is a magical city that boasts spellbinding architecture, spectacular castle and beautiful sunsets over the famous Charles Bridge.
Castle Quarter (Hradčany) – The Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most important historical and cultural monument of the Czech Republic. Situated atop a hill and beautified by the bordering Royal Gardens, the Prague Castle complex encompasses the royal palace, cathedral, historic houses and towers. The Gothic masterpiece of St. Vitus Cathedral is dedicated to three Saints: St. Vitus, St. Wenceselas and St. Adalbert. The cathedral, a historic meeting place for Czech Princes and monarchs from different parts of the world, houses the crown jewels of the Czech Kings, including the St. Wenceslas Crown and the Coronation Cross. The Great South Tower of the Cathedral is about 100 meters high tower and the location of the biggest bells in the country. A climb to the top of the tower offers fantastic view of the city. A separate building in the castle complex is the Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral that has an extraordinary collection of religious artifacts, such as the relic of the arm of Saint Vitus and other relics ornamented with precious stones. Note: The Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral cannot be photographed. The Old Royal Palace adjoined by All Saints’ Chapel was the original royal residence since the 9th century, featuring the impressive Vladislav Hall. The St. George's Basilica, a Romanesque style church, houses the tombs of the members of the ruling Přemyslid Dynasty. The Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, encompasses colorful houses built next to the castle’s northern wall, modest dwellings that housed the servants employed at the castle. Nowadays, these picturesque small houses are used as artistic shops and galleries. Part of the castle’s fortifications is the Daliborka Tower, built in 1496 and formerly used as a prison. The Rosenberg Palace was originally a palace built for the Rosenberg Family in 1500s. The Prague Castle complex includes also impressive gates and courtyards, such the glorious entrance gate to the first courtyard of the castle, adorned with the sculptures of the Wrestling Titans. The Royal Garden, a lovely place to visit during the summer, houses Queen Ann’s Summer Palace designed in a Renaissance style, the Stage Moat (a natural ravine) and the Orangery. The Royal Garden was closed during our winter visit.
Loreto, Strahov Monastery & Petřín Hill – A short walking distance from the Prague Castle, Loreto is a Baroque church and a sanctuary established in 1626 by Lobkowicz family. The church complex consists of the Church of the Nativity, the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrow and the Santa Casa “Holy House”. Loreto houses the rare collection of religious artifacts, including the most remarkable Diamond Monstrance ornamented with over 6,000 diamonds. The church’s interiors are adorned with beautiful and expressive ceiling frescoes. The Bell Tower was built in the 17th century and has bells that ring every hour. After the visit, we walk a few minutes to the nearby Strahov Monastery founded in 1140 by Vladislav II. This expansive monastery complex encompasses the Premonstratensian Abbey and the Church of Virgin Mary Ascension. The Strahov Library houses the ancient libraries, the Theological Hall and the Philosophical Hall decorated with the ceiling frescoes, as well as the Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition room. These magnificent halls display a large collection of paintings and ancient manuscripts. The visitor ticket includes behind the rope access to view the library halls (private tours offer closer access and require advanced reservation). The Strahov Monastery has a magnificent hillside setting, affording wonderful views of the city and the surrounding gardens. Towering over the city is Petřín Hill, an ideal place to relax in nature and appreciate the beautiful frees and the seasonal flowers. A visit to the nearby Petřín Tower, a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, offers amazing views of the city.
Old Town (Staré Město) – The Old Town is the most beautiful and historic district of Prague, established in medieval times. On the way to the main square, we visit the Klementinum, a large building complex that originally belonged to the Jesuit College and now is occupied by the National Library. The Klementinum provides guided tours to the Baroque Library Hall displaying stunning fresco paintings, the Meridian Hall and the Astronomical Tower, providing panoramic views of the Old Town. The Klementinum exhibits also the facsimile of the Vyšehrad Codex, which is the Latin coronation Gospel Book. In the historic part of Prague, the Old Town Square is a vibrant main square with the spectacular architecture, beautiful churches and historic landmarks. The Old Town Hall was established in 1338 and consists of multiple medieval buildings. Visitors of the Old Town Hall discover its historic halls, Romanesque and Gothic cellars and the Chapel of the Virgin Mary. The Astronomical Clock, a medieval astronomical clock located on the façade of the Town Hall, displays the procession of the Twelve Apostles every hour, visible from the Old Town Square. The Town Hall Tower is an impressive tower overlooking the Old Town and its remarkable landmarks. The St. Nicholas Church was designed in a Baroque style with beautiful ceiling murals and chandelier. The Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, originally built in the 15th century and later redesigned, dominates the city’s landscape with its twin 80-meter spires. A short walk way, the Powder Tower, constructed in 1475 by King Vladislav II Jagiello, is the Royal Route used by the rulers of Bohemia journeying to their coronation in the St. Vitus Cathedral. Near the Powder Tower stands the Municipal House, an Art-Nouveau structure constructed by Czech artists in 1911. It is a national monument where many historic events took place, such as the splitting of Czechoslovakia into two separate countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. A two-hour guided tour proceeds through the series of halls, among them the impressive Smetana Hall. After the tour, we stop at the lovely Municipal House Café for a dessert. Traversing the Old Town, we discover the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, a Gothic style monastery founded by the Přemyslid Princess St. Agnes. It is a national cultural museum that was used for coronations, funerals and a necropolis for the member of the Přemyslid Dynasty. The visitors follow the self-guided tour describing the convent’s architecture and history, visit lovely convent gardens and view a magnificent collection of Medieval Religious Art of Bohemia and Central Europe.
Jewish Quarter (Josefov) – The Jewish Quarter, situated between the Old Town and the Vltava River, is a historic district in Prague and the former Jewish Ghetto. The Jewish Quarter was originally constructed in the 13th century and named after the Emperor Josef II who emancipated the Jewish people in Bohemia. The Jewish Museum in Prague (jewishmuseum.cz) was established to preserve the Jewish artifacts and Jewish culture in the Czech territory. The guided tours and audio guides educate about the history of the Jewish Quarter and its magnificent synagogues with their expansive collections of Jewish books and liturgical objects. The Pinkas Synagogue, founded in 1479 by Rabbi Pinkas, has thousands of names inscribed on the walls of the Czech Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust. A pathway through the Old Jewish Cemetery shows thousands of Jewish burial sites. The nearby Ceremonial Hall and Klausen Synagogue house a collection of ceremonial relics and Hebrew texts. A narrow street lined with souvenir stalls leads to the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Prague. It was constructed in the 13th century by the builders of the royal workshop, who were also building the Convent of St. Agnes in Prague. The synagogue showcases Gothic architecture with a large saddle roof, Gothic gables and the original seating layout in the main hall. In the heart of the Jewish Quarter, the Spanish Synagogue exhibits a magnificent Moorish architecture and stunning interiors decorated with the stained glass and beautiful motifs designed in gold, red, green and blue colors. Near the backside of the Spanish Synagogue, the Robert Guttmann Gallery exhibits a collection of art and old books, including the work of Franz Kafka. A short walk away, the Maisel Synagogue dating back to the 16th century, houses a collection of Jewish books, fabrics and objects, depicting the Jewish history in Czech lands. Situated at another location (around 20 minutes’ walking), Jerusalem Synagogue is another symbol of the Moorish style. (It was closed during our visit, but was renovated since and open now to visitors).
Lesser Town (Menší Město) – The Lesser Town was founded in 1257 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. This vibrant district, situated on the west banks of the Vltava River, boasts a Baroque architecture, pastel-colored houses, magnificent churches, cobblestone streets, quaint boutiques and restaurants. The Charles Bridge connect the Old Town to the Lesser Town and the Prague Castle. King Charles IV ordered the construction of the bridge in 1357. There are towers on both ends of the bridge and statues across the bridge depicting angels. The Charles Bridge is enormously popular with artists, photographers and tourists for its panoramic views of the city. A walk across the bridge toward the Lesser Town reveals beautiful views of the Prague Castle. St. Nicholas Church, situated in the Lesser Town Square (Malostranské Náměstí), was founded by the Jesuits. It showcases a Baroque architecture, impressive dome and interiors decorated with paintings and frescoes. The Vrtba Gardens (Vrtbovska Zahrada), situated on the slope of Petřín Hill, are beautiful Baroque gardens designed by Frantisek Maximilian Kanka. Near the Charles Bridge along the Vltava River is Kampa Island, separated from the Lesser Town by an artificial channel. It is a wonderful oasis with narrow pathways, modern art museum, quaint shops, restaurants and cafes. The Wallenstein Palace, a vast palatial estate built by Albrecht von Wallenstein, consists of the Baroque palace, houses, courtyards and manicured French Park Gardens. The palace complex is situated just below the Prague Castle and is open between April and October.
Sacred Art – Prague is a city of remarkable beauty, fascinating culture and rich religious history. The city’s landscape boasts magnificent monasteries, synagogues, churches, convents and cathedrals, defined by different architectural styles. The art inside the religious sites encompasses paintings, sculptures, stained glass windows, mosaics and icons. St. Vitus Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to Saint Vitus, exhibits extraordinary works of art. Inside the cathedral, the Stained Glass depicts scenes from the bible and historic themes. The magnificent scene of the Last Judgment by the artist Max Švabinský shows religious figures and motifs in vivid colors. In the center of the Jewish Quarter, the Spanish Synagogue is a spectacular symbol of Moorish architecture. The synagogue has stained glass windows and its interiors are decorated with beautiful motifs in gold, red, green and blue colors. In the Old Town, the Convent of Saint Agnes in Prague, symbol of Gothic architecture, was founded in medieval times by King Wenceslas I and his sister Agnes. The convent complex consists of the convent gardens, the 13th century cloister, churches used for classical music concerts and the National Gallery’s exhibition. The permanent exhibition, set-up on the first floor, has an impressive collection of Medieval Religious Art of Bohemia and Central Europe, in the form of beautiful religious paintings and sculptures. In the Lesser Town, the St. Nicholas Church is a remarkable example of Baroque architecture. The St. Nicholas Church, a massive structure founded by the Jesuits, has masterly decorated interiors with paintings, sculptures and frescoes. The large dome is decorated by stunning Holy Trinity fresco created by Franz Palko. The religious themes and motifs narrate recognizable scenes from the bible, delivering uplifting messages.
Czech Cuisine – The reshaping of borders in Central Europe influenced individual countries’ cultures and cuisines. The Czech cuisine consists of Bohemian dishes, Moravian specialties and delicacies from the surrounding countries. The Czech food is quite heavy and features many meat-based dishes served with either potato dishes, cabbage or dumplings. Knedliky are traditional dumplings that originated in Bohemia (nowadays portion of the Czech Republic). The variety of dumplings savory or sweet, wheat or potato based, are an essential side dish in many Czech dishes. The Czech cuisine also includes soups, such as garlic, cabbage, vegetables and mushrooms soups. Kulajda, a potato, mushroom and dill soup topped with a poached egg, is a hearty Czech delicacy that we degust at the V Zátiší Restaurant. The Roasted Duck served with gravy and dumplings at the Pohostinec Monarch Restaurant is another delicious Czech specialty. Our culinary experiences in Prague solidify our preference for the modern Czech cuisine that emphasizes a lighter and refined taste. We list here a few restaurants in Prague where we enjoyed remarkable meals.
CottoCrudo, a modern Italian restaurant, located in the Four Seasons Hotel Prague, offers a wonderful menu of raw and cooked seafood, meat and pasta dishes.
Kampa Park (kampapark.kampagroup.eu), situated along the banks of Vltava River, serves a superb international cuisine and offers great views of the river and the Charles Bridge.
Field (fieldrestaurant.cz/en) is a Michelin Star restaurant that serves a modern Czech cuisine with emphasis on fresh seasonal ingredients. The restaurant offers a degustation menu and an a la carte menu.
La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise (ladegustation.cz/en), a Michelin-starred restaurant, serves a modern Czech and International cuisine. This fine dining venue offers a degustation menu with proposed wine or juice pairing.
La Finestra (lafinestra.cz/en), a wonderful Italian restaurant, specializes in dry-aged meats but also offers delicious fresh fish and seafood.
V Zátiší (vzatisi.cz/en#about) prepares a modern Czech cuisine and Indian specialties cooked in Tandoori oven. The restaurant offers a tasting or an a la carte menu.
Pohostinec Monarch (monarch.pohostinec.cz), situated in the Old Town, serves quality meat steaks as well as our recommended duck with dumplings.
Four Seasons Hotel Prague – Luxury, style and old European charm await the guests of the Four Seasons Hotel Prague. The hotel encompasses three connected buildings: a Neo-Renaissance House with an impressive façade from 1883, a Neo-Classical House dating back to 1827 and a Baroque House constructed in 1568 along the Vltava River. Situated in the heart of Prague, the Four Seasons Hotel Prague offers a collection of modern and classic rooms, such as the Renaissance Room with high ceiling and a beautiful classic décor, the Premium River Room with panoramic river views, and luxurious suites. The CottoCrudo Restaurant serves excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Four Seasons Hotel Prague is situated within walking distance to the Old Town Square, the beautiful Charles Bridge draped over the Vltava River and the historic Prague Castle.