Since our trip to Prague was what inspired my blog, I think it's only fair that I start my recaps from here.
We traveled to Prague by train/bus this past April, which took a good six hours from home. I always prefer traveling by train whenever possible, as I find the ability to move around and see the countryside from the window much preferable to planes. Minus travel time, we had a full three days to roam around the city. Here are the highlights.
What to see
Old Jewish Quarter -- We were lucky enough to snag an apartment with airbnb that was in the heart of the Old Jewish Quarter. The area was full of old, winding streets with beautiful façades, delicious restaurants, and hip bars around every corner, and it was only a short walk to Old Town Square (which was fun to see once, but it was also the most touristically dense area in the city).
Church of St. Nicholas -- There are lots of beautiful churches and synagogues in Prague. Matt and I stumbled upon this one and found the inside quite lovely, plus it's on the way to Prague Castle.
Kampa Island Park -- We stumbled upon this beautiful park by accident. The coolest (and most unnerving) part of the park are the giant baby statues by Czech artist David Cerny. Apart from them, it's a lovely place to relax on a sunny spring day.
Charles Bridge at Sunrise -- Matt dragged me out to see the sun rise over the Charles Bridge, and while I hated getting up at 5:00 am, the moment without all the tourists was spectacular.
National Monument in Vitkov -- This monument houses the Czech Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and boasts one of the biggest equestrian statues in Europe. The hill on which it stands also boasts a great view of the city with few tourists. Be prepared for a hike to get there.
WWII Prague -- We took a tour of the city with a guide who told us a lot about the history of the city during World War II, from the shipment of Jews to Terezin to the fight of the Resistance leaders stationed under Prague's Old Town Hall. Highly recommended.
Places to Eat
Taste of Prague -- They're not a restaurant, but rather a couple that runs food tours of the city. You spend four hours wining and dining while the host tells you stories about life and food in the Czech Republic. Very highly recommended.
Cestr -- Named for the Czech spotted cow, this restaurant excels at traditional Czech slow-cooking. I have too many favorites to choose from, so I'll recommend the steak tartare with quail egg, baked escargots, grilled chicken with truffle stuffing, beef shoulder in pepper sauce, milk mashed potatoes, and beer ice cream (it's surprisingly delicious!). You won't be disappointed.
Casa de Carli -- We took a chance on this restaurant while roaming around the Old Jewish Quarter in search of a place to eat, and we were quite impressed! The food was excellent and beautifully presented, and the service was impeccable (it was about as close to American service as I've seen in Europe yet). The tuna tartare, osso bucco, and homemade tiramisu were all noteworthy, but I especially recommend my main meal: truffle-crusted steak with fresh vegetables and layered potatoes. As a plus, the menu came in both English and Czech, and the staff all spoke excellent English when we had any questions.
Sasazu -- It's a bit of a walk from the center of the city in a sketchy warehouse district, but the food at Sasazu is worth it. They specialize in tapas-like plates of Asian-inspired food. I particularly enjoyed the Hong Kong roll, stone oven crispy duck, Singapore crab chili, and lobster vanilla mirin. Also of note are the cocktails, particularly the green geisha (kiwi, basil, melon, vodka, and cucumber). The restaurant had a nice décor, but was a little too loud for conversation on the Friday night when we visited (I think it turns into a club or is next to one). The service also left something to be desired, but I liked the communication from the restaurant via email before our visit and again after to say "thank you".
U Medvídkû Brewery -- We had our first meal here by recommendation from a friend. While a bit touristy, the food was solid (I tried three different kinds of Czech dumplings) and was cheap. Try the X-Beer 33, which they'll tell you is the strongest beer in the world (I don't think it is), and the Oldgott.
Svetozor Deli -- This deli located inside the passage Svetozor near the movie theater offers delicious chlebicek, a kind of open-faced sandwich. We were told by our Taste of Prague host that this is traditional Czech fast food, and it's definitely worth your attention, if only for a quick snack.
Grand Café Orient -- This café is located in the "Black Madonna" building, which is the only example of cubist architecture that I've yet to see. Stop by for your afternoon cake and coffee before you continue on your sightseeing.
Café Savoy -- Matt took me here for my birthday breakfast by recommendation of Taste of Prague, and I loved it! The French toast was made of thick, buttery, melt-in-your mouth brioche with just the right amount of maple syrup (you'll need the walk to the National Monument to burn off the calories, though), and Matt ordered a mixed plate of Old Prague ham, cheese, eggs, and tasty home-made jams with rolls. By request, they brought out a lovely little cherry-chocolate birthday cake covered in marzipan (though the best was probably the flaming sparkler sticking out of it). The interior is worth noting, as well.
Hemingway Bar -- We stopped at the Hemingway Bar quite by chance (though we later found it recommended on Taste of Prague's list) for a drink before dinner. I tried the special "Picnic Time" as well as a Lavender Cocktail. Both were a delicious blend of sweet and tart. We were there early enough in the evening that we didn't need a reservation, though I've heard they fill up quickly during peak hours. Pricey, but worth it for the fancy cocktails and extensive bar list, though stay away from the food and eat elsewhere. The nachos are not the kind we think of in the U.S.
Vinograf -- We ended our tour here, and really enjoyed both the ambience and selection of Czech wines. Sadly, I don't have one to recommend, so you'll just have to try them all for yourself. I can only say that I was pleasantly surprised by both the whites and reds that I tasted. It's a shame the Czechs don't make enough wine to export any.
Prague Beer Museum -- This pub offers 30 Czech beers on tap, all in both tasting and full size. We enjoyed getting a tasting flight and sampling more than just your standard lager. I remember the Matuška beer being extra tasty (I'm not sure which one because they rotate what's on tap). Try a meat pie when you've had too much to drink (at the Prague 1 location).
That about sums it up. Leave your questions or recommendations in the comments below.