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A Great 3 Days in Prague

I thought I would do a quick report on my 4 nights in Prague with 4 friends. This followed 4 nights in Paris, but we have had quite a few recent Paris reports so I am skipping that. But feel free to message questions if you have any. :)

Airport Transport: I had arranged pick up in Prague with Prague Airport Transfers both ways, for a total of @ $90 round trip, including tip. They were waiting for our arrival and were right on time for our early morning return pick up. For 5 people, that was a great deal.

Day 1
Morning:
We started with a wonderful Old City/Jewish Quarter tour in the snow with Jason of Living Prague Tours (https://www.livingpraguetours.com). He was knowledgeable, flexible, considerate, and gave us lots of information that we referenced over the next couple of days and as a bonus he was very interesting to just talk to over coffee mid-tour (had to do that to warm up - lol). We all agreed it was a perfect way to start our visit and we would happily take another of his tours if we ever make it back!

Afternoon and evening:
We spent wandering through the small market area at Havelské tržiště. I think it is normally a regular market but it had definitely made the switch to a Christmas market look. Then we headed back to the Old Town Square, for Christmas lights, the Astronomical clock, up the Old City Hall Tower, the viewing platform in the square, wandering streets from there, and lots of picture-taking, followed by dinner in a touristy restaurant on the square. The tree and viewing platform were up, and some of the small stalls were up but none were open there (Covid Christmas market closures last minute this year). But there were plenty of people out just enjoying the atmosphere and it was very festive and fun without being overcrowded.

Day 2. Today we learned all kinds of things.
First we learned about trams. As in don’t take it going the wrong direction…. Ha! We only used the 22, but hopping on, tapping our cards to buy the ticket on the tram, announcements of the next stop along with the sign in the front made it easy. We only took 3 rides so even a 24 hr pass wasn’t worth it. We just paid for each single ticket. And if you buy on the tram, you don’t validate because it prints the receipt with the time on it.

Mid Day:

I had arranged a private 11:45 tour of the Strahov Monastery Library. Oh, goodness, it is seriously gorgeous. Without the tour, you can just stand at the door of the 2 big rooms and look in. With the tour, we were the only people in the library (since it closes for lunch) and we wandered through at our leisure with great information from our guide Ivana. We stood so close to the 1630 globe (California was hanging off North America) that we could have accidentally knocked it over by turning around, were an inch from books from the 10th to 17th centuries (put my hands in my pockets to keep from touching them), and saw the secret staircase up to the 2nd floor gallery. The Theological Hall, built in its current form in the late 1600’s has over 18,000 volumes (still used - we saw the space and process where one large book was checked out and being used) and the Philosophical Hall (everything not theological, legal, or medical), built in the late 1700’s, has over 42,000 books.

Following the tour, we took the tram back down to the Jewish Quarter to the Pinkas Synagogue and the Jewish Cemetery. This hits you with a double whammy to stand there reading 77,297 names of the Czech Jews who died, and then to go upstairs and see the artwork of children held in Theresianstadt. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis left a powerful legacy through the art she taught and the 4,000 children’s drawings and paintings she hid and saved. I will leave it at that since I don’t have words.

*Cont. in comments

Posted by
1937 posts

At 6:00
We had tickets to the opera Hansel and Gretel in the State Opera House. It was fun to get dressed up (and yes, we all wore a dress), sit in a box, enjoy the opera, and people watch. For only $25/each! Since this is occasionally a discussion here, I paid careful attention and I don’t think I saw a single man without a sport coat or suit (most with a tie) and about 90% of the women wore nice dresses. No evening gowns or tuxes or jeans. :) Even the children were dressed up. Jason had said as much and it was true.

On our walk home through Wenceslas Square (where a small number of Christmas stalls were open), we grabbed a trdelnik. Oh my goodness. These wonderful cone shaped pastries cooked slowly as they rotate over open heat are delicious by themselves, but when you fill one with with apples and cinnamon or ice cream and strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream or chocolate….. well, we called that dinner!

Day 3
Morning:

Did our lovely antigen test at a pop up clinic we discovered accidentally the day before (taking a short cut through a Tesco), which opened at 10:00. Irrelevant but interesting was that our antigen test at home to enter Paris was in the nose, while this one was to the throat. The tech said he had not heard about the nose ones. It was all very efficient with a 15 minute wait, CZ 400 which included a print out of results. It also seemed harder to find out online where to get the test than in Greece, Croatia, or Paris, but we ran across a couple of pop ups that would have been quick and easy, as well as a couple of options not in the center where you have to make an appointment well ahead. I made some notes if anyone needs info.

Afternoon:

Then it was on to the Castle complex for the afternoon. When I visited St. Vitus Cathedral in July, 2014, it was wall to wall people (as was much of the complex). This year, while there were people there, it was not at all crowded (easy to take pictures without a single person in them), and I didn’t see a single tour group on that Saturday. We had late lunch at the Coffee and Restaurant Na Baste on the castle grounds and it was really nice.

Evening:

Then we walked down the stairs and to the Charles Bridge, which we timed almost perfectly for the lamplighter (he starts on one side about 4:00 and ends about 5:00). Who was VERY tall! And so nice! Back to the hotel to pack for a 4:30 am departure!

Notes
5 people makes everything slower. But these four friends make everything fun. So once every year or two, I am happy to compromise a more in-depth trip for good company, laughter, and lots of good memories. We do and see less but enjoy every minute. Four people is easier logistically, though.

Traveling in the winter: means shorter days and often colder weather. For us, even though it was actually colder by temperature in Prague, the cold affected our sightseeing less than in Paris. Also, by going in December, Christmas lights and decorations are up, which makes the evenings magical even though it gets dark early (it was well and truly dark at 4:30 in Prague). Plus lots of things are cheaper. :)

Covid travel: getting somewhere (anywhere) is just not easy. It is stressful to make sure you have the right paperwork, the right test, stay up with flight changes, etc. And you mentally (and emotionally) have to be prepared with information about what to do if you DO test positive and can’t make that flight home. However the payoff for me this year has been pretty significant in where I have been able to visit without crowds. Once I have gotten to each destination, each trip has been amazing. It is definitely not for everyone but has been totally worth it to me.

I love Prague and in a year or two plan to get into the countryside on a longer trip.

Posted by
2788 posts

Travelmom, glad you made it and had such a fun time with friends in Prague!

I will echo your comments about Jason of Living Prague Tours, he is first rate in his business and best in class in his courtesy and consideration.

I love your comment about the trams - some great adventures are borne of taking trams "in the wrong direction!"

Thanks for sharing your memories, which brought back mine!

Posted by
3467 posts

Thanks for sharing your excellent report. Another shoutout for Jason. He is so knowledgeable, kind and personable! We took his City Tour with another couple in 2019 that was a great follow up to our Jewish Walking Tour with https://jewish-quarter-tour.com/jewish-quarter-tour.html. The Jewish Tour was a private tour. We also did the Terezin day tour with historian Pavel Batel. Your report brought back wonderful memories of Prague. Glad you enjoyed your stay!

Posted by
22 posts

Loved the report. We are hoping to go for a week in mid August 2022 for the first time. Can you share where you stayed.

I defiantly want to do a tour by Jason

Posted by
1937 posts

Thanks, everyone. It IS great to be traveling!

mboggs1, we stayed at a little place called the Cloister Inn Hotel and enjoyed it. It was very comfortable, quiet, with a good included breakfast, but not fancy. We didn’t hear any other American accents while there. And you should know that Prague will be hot and crowded in August, but that may be the best you can do (and I totally get that).

Posted by
374 posts

Thank you for your report. I really hope to make it to Prague some day!

Posted by
2544 posts

We stayed at the Hastal Hotel right near the Jewish cemetery. While we were there one of Rick’s group were registered.

Posted by
682 posts

Sounds like a wonderful trip! We were there in Jan/Feb 0f 2020 right as the pandemic was hitting. We tried t o do a tour with Jason but he was already booked, so took one with NakedTourGuide and the lady we had was excellent. We did the Bright and Early Morning Tour and it was so nice to see things before the city woke up.

I am envious of your library tour. We missed out on that!

The Jewish Cementary was mind boggling, with them burying their dead 12 bodies deep. I just cannot fathom that.

Thank you so much for sharing as it brought back so many wonderful memories. I can't wait to go back.

Posted by
1937 posts

Estimated Prophet, it’s kind of like a disease, isn’t it? Lol! There are not many places I have been that I didn’t love. I have been to Prague twice before for short visits and was happy to be back a third.

mikliz97, this was a rescheduled 2020 trip - and I had scheduled the library tour about 8 months ahead for 2020. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to reschedule it for 2021, since they don’t do a ton of them and I felt I needed to wait till I was fairly certain the trip would happen. And I was so happy when it worked out!

Posted by
3467 posts

mboggs1, like Barbara we stayed at Hotel Hastal. We were very pleased to spend 6 nights at this lovely family run hotel.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the great report! We are heading to Prague on Saturday and this information is so incredibly helpful. We are staying in the Old Towne Square. What are the regulations once you're in Prague for the antigen tests? Are the pop-up clinics easy to manage and plentiful?

Posted by
9 posts

Travelmom, with whom did you book your Strahov Monastery Library tour? Was it through the monastery?

Posted by
9926 posts

Wow, what a fun, fun trip you had! What a fun celebration of friendship - laughing, wine (I am SURE there was wine involved, right?), festive lights, maybe some Santa hats, hahahaha!!! A lovely way to cap off another weird year.

Posted by
1787 posts

I very much enjoyed your report. I was in Prague in April 2017. It was rainy and so crowded. I was shocked by the crowds at what I thought was an off time to travel. We had come from Vienna and Prague was much more crowded. I had wanted to go to Prague since my twenties but then life got in the way (think children). So your trip without crowds sounds glorious. We went to a lot of the places you went (except library) but had no guide which sounds like it would have enriched our experience.

We went to a museum tracing the history of communism and its fall that was fascinating. I would recommend if you get back sometime.

And you were brave to go to multiple countries. I have decided to stick to one until all the dust settles. My brain can’t handle keeping track of that much!

Posted by
2281 posts

We had planned to go to Prague in fall 2020, so it is still on my list. I am making notes on your trip for when we get a chance to do that trip. Thanks for sharing.

I felt exactly as you did about traveling during the pandemic when I was in Spain last month. The new requirements add another hurdle, but the lack of crowds is nice. I do feel for the people who work in the travel industry though.

Posted by
9926 posts

"LOL, Pam! What happens in Paris stays in Paris, right???"

Oh yes...without a doubt, lol!!

Posted by
1937 posts

Thanks, Beth! And yes, multiple countries has been iffy this year, although I have done it twice. In Sept., it was easy to drive in to Slovenia from Croatia - and I was prepared with an alternate plan if needed last minute.

I think I mentioned somewhere that this was a rescheduled 2020 trip, so changing last minute would have been even more difficult. The rules for the Czech Republic have remained simpler, so the only difficulty we had was when the Lufthansa agent in Paris momentarily wanted a PCR test (not required). Two of them had to discuss it for about 5 minutes and the only part I really understood was the word “Botswana”. Ha! I had our group stand patiently while the agents discussed till one persuaded the other that no PCR test was required - and saved any of us from having to say anything at all. :) Actually getting through immigration in Prague took about 1 minute with passport, CDC card, and Locator form. I saw a few people getting turned away for not having their locator form (which was NOT checked in Paris). :)

Carroll, I hope you get to make your rescheduled trip! And I hope you have more than 3 days - it is worth it.