Spontaneous decisiveness. It seems these words have been the very definition of my travel habits lately.
I make spontaneous plans and decide on a destination without hesitation. It’s almost like a “Do or Die” for me and my trip to the charming city of Prague was exactly that. However, when I say “spontaneous decisiveness” I really mean “Ok, I’ve decided that Prague will be my next destination and here’s how I’m going to do it.”
In my attempt to really make the most of cheap flights and avoid negative aspects, I still needed to book, plan my logistics and travel smart. Technically I’ve been planning a trip since early Q4 of 2019. I just didn’t know where to yet at the time but I knew that Black Friday was just around the corner. By the time Black Friday arrived, I decided on Prague and I manage to book a return flight at half the usual price with KLM.
What about accommodation you might ask. Fortunately, a friend who also happens to be a local got me covered and that includes transportation. Hooray!
So I had a list of places within Prague and its outskirts that I wanted to visit. I was in Prague for two weeks but I consider the first week being the best because I manage to explore much of the destination on the list. Little did I know, that week was also the last week before the Czech Republic imposed the partial lockdown and restricted everyone from entering any castles due to the Coronavirus situation.
1. Český Krumlov
This charming little town is in Bohemia’s deep south and is one of the most photogenic towns in Europe. It almost feels like you’re walking through a miniature Prague. Given that Český Krumlov was my very first stop – as soon as I landed in Prague, I quickly met up with my friend and we immediately drove there. The drive took us 2 hours.
Yes, that part of my trip was super rushed. We had a bunch of other places that we wanted to visit throughout the week and because Český Krumlov was the furthest destination from Prague in our itinerary, it only made sense for us to start exploring from there and move to locations along the route when we head back to Prague.
One of the most incredible views, however, is when you walk through the narrow street of Radniční, where you’ll suddenly find yourself walking in Lazebnický, the most, beautiful bridge crossing the Vltava River on the way to the castle. You’ll get to see the whole town from up there. It was truly stunning!
Tip: Český Krumlov deserves at least two to three days, and the earlier you start staying here, you’ll beat the day-trip crowd to the famous sites. We were fairly fortunate because it was March 2020 – it was when the Coronavirus situation was at a stage where it was about to peak. That meant that there were hardly any tourists.
2. Karlštejn Castle
If you’ve never been to Prague, know this – they have tons of castles that are all a millennium-old! Karlštejn Castle was founded by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect in 1384 and the King of Bohemia. This was probably one of my favourite castles in Prague.
Back in the day, the castle served as a place for safekeeping the imperial regalia, bohemian coronation jewels, holy relics as well as other royal treasures.
Tip: The castle is only 45-minutes away from Prague. There are a few options. You can either get there by car or by train. If you plan to go by train, you can easily get a ticket from Prague direct to Karlštejn. Keep in mind that as soon as you’re off the train, you’ll have to do a 30-minute uphill walk towards the castle.
3. Small Fortress Terezín
It’s history time!
After Hitler’s occupation in Czechoslovakia, the Nazi’s saw the benefits of the Small Fortress. Yes, this fortress existed even before WWII. The Terezin was built at the end of the 18th century in honour of Empress Maria Theresa and was used, almost, since its very beginnings as a prison – not only for army offenders but also for those who were involved in the Central and South-Eastern Europe national liberation struggle.
In June 1940, the police prison within this fortress was operational. Many Czech and Moravian patriots were sent here by various branches of the Gestapo.
Interesting Fact: The first prisoners arrive here in the fall of 1944. By the end of the Nazi occupation, more than 3000 inmates were withering and dying here. The inmates were not only Jewish, but they were also Yugoslavs, Czechs, Italians, former Soviet Union, British and French prisoners of war.
Tip: Terezin is only an hour’s drive from Prague. It was fairly simple for me because my friend has a car. So for us, it was an easy drive. But don’t despair because you can still get to Terezin by public transportation – by train and by bus. The journey is pretty straight forward.
All you need to do is get to the Nadrazi Holesovice (on metro line C) and from there, take a direct bus to Terezin. There’s a bus leaving every hour and it will cost you 90 CZK (one way). Note that there are actually two Terezin’s in the Czech Republic! You’ll want to make sure you arrive at the one near to Litomerice!
4. Karlovy Vary
Simply known as ‘Vary’ to Czechs, this place is a spa town and the first thing you’ll notice is the high number of Russian visitors, all of whom are mostly seniors and are following the footsteps of Tsar Peter the Great! In the early 18th century he visits Karlovy Vary for treatments and today you’ll see day-trippers, travellers and tourists doing the same.
They mostly come to admire the 19th-century spa architecture and walk through the impressive colonnades, all while sipping the supposedly health-restoring sulphuric waters from spouted ceramic cups in many different sizes and colours.
Tip: Know that if you’re up for a message and high-end spa treatments, you’ll need to make bookings in advance. They’re not entirely welcoming to walk-ins.
5. Kutná Hora
Just 70 km east of Prague lies a small town in which centuries ago, it rivalled in importance with the golden city named Prague. Groschen a type of silver back in 1308, was the hard currency of Central Europe and about one-third of silver was largely produced from this region. It earned its position and wealth back then and eventually thriving with silver-mining during the middle ages.
If you’ve heard of the Church of Bones or Sedlec Ossuary, this is where it is located. Unfortunately, visitors have to respect the piety character of the church, so for that reason, I wasn’t able to capture any real footage of the church’s interior. (Yes you won’t be able to either…sorry). However, rest assured, when you visit the Church of Bones you will find real human bones that were decoratively grouped.
But just nearby, is the Church of St. Barbara also known as the Czech Republic’s jewel of the late Gothic period.
Interesting fact: According to old legend, the bones were arranged into six large pyramids by a partly blind Sedlec monk.
Tip: Kutna Hora can be done in a day. You can easily get there by taking the bus or train from Prague. Between the two, the train is prefered by many because you can walk to the church straight from the station.
6. Charles Bridge
Believe it or not, this bridge survived several disasters, including the severe 1432 flood and a major battle in 1648. The bridge today connects two sides of Prague and are guarded by three bridge towers making this Gothic Old Town bridge impressive.
Tip: Try visiting Charles bridge at 6am to witness the amazing sunrise from the bridge itself. It’s probably the best time to truly see why this city attracts people from around the world.