The demise of the iron curtain and the boom in low-cost flights has seen the cities of Central and Eastern Europe flourish in recent years. Gone are the days when it took a tough overland trip from Austria or Germany and a severe grilling at border control to get a taster of what lies on the “other side”. Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic – the region is booming and Prague is at the top of the list.
The capital of the Czech Republic offers all the charm of the greatest cities of Western Europe without the hefty price tag to match. The city is characterised by its ancient skyline, unchanged for centuries, untouched by the ravages of World War Two and unaffected by decades of communist rule.
Prague is best enjoyed on foot to fully appreciate this picturesque maze of cobbled lanes, squares, cathedrals and church spires. Start at the central Wenceslas Square and wander slowly through the narrow streets to the Old Town Square before heading over the Charles Bridge that straddles the city’s main Vltava River. The bridge dates back as far as the 14th century and is one of Prague’s most attractive and recognisable landmarks. Come prepared to shop and haggle, as the area is full of buskers, artists and crafts people selling their wares to the hordes of willing visitors.
On the other side of the Charles Bridge Prague Castle awaits you. The largest of its kind in the world, this ancient castle rises majestically above the city skyline and offers stunning views from its turrets down to the intricate web of streets and alleyways below. Within the castle grounds lie several buildings that are worth exploring in their own right, including the St Vitus Cathedral, Royal Garden and several museums and picture galleries. Look out for the changing of the guard, which takes place on the hour and is well worth catching.
The exquisite architecture, lively nightlife and superb value accommodation make Prague a firm favourite with weekend tourists, expats and travellers alike. It is a vibrant cultural centre that pulses with the beat of live music, art, history and fine food. Much of the city’s socializing takes place in its cosy pubs, or “hospoda” as they are known locally, where the long, large tables are the perfect place to meet with old friends and make plenty of new ones.
Eating in Prague is a delight, though be prepared to expand your waistline as meats, dumplings and potatoes feature heavily on every menu. Thankfully the main meal is usually eaten at midday so there is plenty of time to work off the excess with an afternoon of sightseeing.
Like most capital cities, Prague offers a wide range of accommodation options, from five-star luxury to quirky bed and breakfasts located in the heart of the charming old town. Book ahead to avoid disappointment and shop around or use a comparison site like www.hotelpricescanner.com to make sure you get the best deal.