Visit Prague Like a Boss Lady
Prague is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of the East” and it’s easy to see why. Aside from their mini-Eiffel Tower tv station antenna, the city offers stunning scenery, architecture, great food and a rich history. Plus it’s not nearly as expensive as Paris, so you get the luxury of a champagne honeymoon or vacation on a beer budget, which is befitting of the place that invented Pilsner beer and where more beer is consumed per capita than in any other country.
Having spent the last two winters visiting the marvelously preserved medieval city of Prague, I can vouch for its guileless charm and its affordability relative to much of western Europe. In my opinion, Prague should be a top contender as a choice for the best honeymoon destination, and it’s just a stone’s throw from Vienna, Budapest, and quite a few other central European cities.
Prague is the largest major city in the Czech Republic, and also the historical capital of Bohemia (the OG source for “boho chic” trends, mmmkay?). Unlike some less fortunate cities in Europe, Prague’s architecture and beauty were mostly unharmed by the violence and destruction of Europe’s World Wars and the post-war Communist era. To this day, the Czech people take immense pride in their capital city, and it boasts cleanliness and friendliness uncommon of a travel destination its size.
My Top 12 Main Attractions
- Stroll along the Charles Bridge and see if you can identify the 30 Baroque statues. No, that’s not Nicolas Cage. They are primarily religious figures, sorry (no offense to anyone whose life was changed forever after watching Con Air).
- Visit the sprawling Old Town Square, sip hot mulled wine (during the holidays), shop, and then climb the tower of the Astronomical Clock if you’re not too tired for about $5/person.
- Take a self-guided brewery tour — there are pubs everywhere and there is also 17-day Czech beer festival every May. U Fleku is one of the oldest beer pubs in the world (though not the cheapest due to its notoriety) if you need a jumping off point. Rustic pub vibe? Check. Guy with accordion? Check. Typical Czech dishes? Check. Delicious dark beer? Check.
- Marvel at the ornate Jewish Quarter and Cemetery or see a jazz concert at the Spanish Synagogue.
- Hike the stairs to Prague Castle, Europe’s largest functioning castle compound. There’s a random Starbucks at the top, for those having chain coffee withdrawals.
- Light a prayer candle in the massive, gargoyle-adorned St. Vitus Cathedral or see a concert at St. George’s Basilica.
- Go souvenir shopping along medieval Golden Lane (inside Prague Castle). There’s also a vintage toy museum right around the corner!
- Take a #selfie in front of the Dancing House, get weird at the Kafka museum, then hunt down David Cerny’s bizarre sculptures.
- Get your Art Nouveau fix at the Alphonse Mucha Museum.
- Take in a ballet or opera performance at the Prague State Opera.
- Try to survive an interactive European “Escape Room” where you’ll use clues and common sense to solve clever logic puzzles and unlock secret passages — hurry, you only have 60 minutes to escape!
- Day trip or overnight by car to the town of Kutna Hora and the Sedlec Ossuary (a chapel decorated with 40K+ human bones).
Before You Go
First of all, use Momondo.com to research your flights, hotels, etc. Their results are more comprehensive than Kayak and Hipmunk, in my experience. Plus Momondo is more fun to use with features like a Trip Finder tool that lets you narrow down potential travel destinations by your interests and budget.
But wait! Before you begin to book your flights/hotels/tours, I recommend that you sign up for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. My personal favorite is the Visa card from Chase Sapphire Preferred. The $95 fee is waived for the first year, and you get 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (I believe this offer is good until February 28, 2015).
Why should you care? Well, because 40,000 points = $400 and you can cash it out as soon you pay your account balance. Who doesn’t like free money? On top of that, foreign transaction fees often add 3% or more to your actual travel costs, which means on a $5,000 vacation you’ll spend an extra $150 just in lame foreign transaction fees.
How about you get back $400 in cash + $150 in salvaged foreign transaction fees instead?
Just remember that this is really only a great cash-back tool if you can pay off your trip quickly. Interest rates on unpaid credit card balances will quickly eat into any cash back or points perks that you earn from using the card in the first place.
When to Visit
For my money, no European city puts on a better New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day fireworks display than Prague. Prague is like a pyrotechnic junkie’s dream destination on December 31/January 1. When we arrived on New Year’s Eve, the entire skyline was lit up with colorful fireworks from the moment the sun went down until midnight and beyond. It was unbelievable — the Czech people can’t stop, won’t stop. There is a display around midnight on New Year’s Eve, and more fireworks earlier in the evening on New Year’s Day. Both were spectacular.
I’ve only visited during winter but it was magical and there was plenty to do and see between the seasonal Christmas markets and the year-round cultural attractions.
For those who love elaborate costume parties as much as I do, Prague also puts on their own Bohemian version of Carneval during February and March, and on Valentine’s Day you might consider attending the annual Crystal Ball, an old school masquerade ball held at the baroque palace of counts Von Clam-Gallas. Appropriate period attire, hair styling/wigs and elaborate masks are required (the event even has its own dedicated atelier: Franzis Wussin) and tickets run from $150-300/person.
For an extra $250 you can arrive to the masquerade by horse drawn carriage, which may be your only viable choice if your hoop skirts and towering powdered wig filled with ship replicas, live song birds, and sparklers won’t fit into a standard taxi.
Where to Stay
Hands down, I have to suggest that you first consider The Golden Well aka U Zlaté studně. We’ve stayed there two years in a row and it just keeps getting better.
Value: It’s an amazing value. Rates start at ~$220/night inclusive of taxes. I highly recommend that you choose the slightly more expensive B&B package and add roundtrip airport transport. It’s well worth the extra money and convenience (plus, pricing is competitive). You might also consider the other themed packages available (Romantic, Discover Prague, Culinary Experience, or Proposal Package).
Favorite Amenities: Spacious rooms by European standards, in-room iPad, reliable complimentary Wi-Fi, luxury pillow menu, Molton Brown toiletries and heated bathroom floors, nightly turndown service with delightful little sweets served under a glass cloche, daily complimentary snack and wine/juice in the lounge from 4-6pm, an on-site bar (small but cozy with a friendly barkeep and great drinks), an amazing on-site rooftop restaurant with breathtaking views where they serve a fantastic buffet breakfast as well as lunch and dinner by reservation. Oh, and did I mention the staff? They are stellar.
Special Occasions? YES! I highly recommend this hotel for romance and celebration, especially birthdays and anniversaries.
The hotel hosts an intimate and exclusive NYE party on the rooftop and it’s a spectacular deal. Quality champagne flows continuously, the food is delicious and plentiful, the DJ is great, and the view of the fireworks is unparalleled. Yes, technically you could climb the stairs to one of the many hilltop vistas to watch the fireworks, but this is a lot more comfortable, tasty, and fun.
Good for Families? Families with small children: not so much. While there is a sizable elevator, the winding staircases, antique furnishings, and general vibe are not exactly child-friendly. I’d leave the kiddos at home for this one — the charm of the Golden Well is best appreciated with your significant other.