Prague has been on our list of places to visit for quite some time now, and after a difficult start to the year we decided that a short city break was what we both needed.

Our flight arrived quite late into the evening, so although we’re not normally great fans of taxis when abroad, under the circumstances we decided it would be the quicker and more convenient option than hunting around for cheaper public transport in an unfamiliar city. We headed for one of the taxi kiosks in the arrivals hall, and were escorted straight to our waiting taxi. Transfer to our hotel in the heart of the Old Town took less than 30 ¬†minutes, and I think was around 600 Koruna or a little under ¬£20. {Exchange rates: at the time of our trip, 100 CZK or Czech Koruna was roughly ¬£3.}

We stayed for three nights at the Hotel Paris. It’s in the Prague 1 postcode, just around the corner from the Powder Tower and the Republic Square, and only 5-10 minutes walk from the Old Town Square and all of its attractions. Room was clean and comfortable, and the art nouveau decor throughout the hotel was incredibly well done. Service standards at the reception (english speaking) and the main restaurant were impeccable. Only a couple of negative points: firstly the waste disposal truck in the very early hours every morning, emptying the bins and glass bottle recycling; also, the service in the Cafe de Paris was disappointingly indifferent. But would we stay there again? – yes, almost certainly. It’s a beautiful hotel in an excellent location.

Having quickly unpacked our suitcase, we were straight out again to explore the Old Town. As we were quite hungry after the day’s travelling, one of our first ports of call was a restaurant in the Old Town Square, close to the Astronomical Clock. We ordered the set menu, which was a beautifully cooked beef dish in a sauce and served with dumplings – not the heavy suet things we are familiar with in the UK, but much lighter almost like a dense white bread.

Day 1. Across the Charles Bridge and up to the Castle. Different admission tickets are available, and we settled for the ‘short tour’ (250 CZK each) which allowed access to St Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, the Basilica of St George, and the Old Royal Palace. Some beautiful (modern) stained glass windows in the cathedral.

On the way back down, we passed through Mala Strana or the Lesser Quarter. Lots of Renaissance and Baroque houses, some of which are now national embassies. Heavy police presence outside the UK Embassy when we passed, and a short while later a rather pitiful protest march passed through the area. More policemen than protesters, but we cautiously gave them a wide berth anyway.

We booked this short holiday as part of my recuperation from recent illness. Our thinking was that all of the major tourist attractions (and indeed our hotel booked through Expedia) were contained within the walkable area of the Prague 1 postcode. Nevertheless, the walking and the climb up to Prague Castle took it out of me rather more than expected, and part way round the castle everything caught up with me. So a short break was in order, and we found a lovely little coffee shop in a courtyard in the area behind Golden Lane and the Cathedral. This also changed our plans for Day Two somewhat. Walking around Petrin Hill and Petrin Tower seemed out of the question now, even if we were to use the funicular railway to do the bulk of the climb.

So out came the guide books, ready for Day 2. Rather than the original hill climb, we set out to explore some of the other sights around the city. Within yards of the hotel we picked up one of the main shopping streets in the city, Na Prikope, leading into Wenceslas Square. Continuing from the square along Narodni brought us to the river and the National Theatre, currently under refurbishment. A short distance south finds the Dancing House, and then across the river and north to Kampa Island and the Kampa Museum of Modern Art. Admission 260 CZK each for the museum. Completely wasted on me though!

After a sit down at a pavement cafe to recover from the culture shock, we continued north of the Charles Bridge, to see the ‘Peeing Statues’ outside the Kafka Museum. We had already tried reading some Kafka but didn’t get along with it, which probably tells you something more about our level on the culture scale. The statues were far more entertaining! Two robotic statues which pee famous quotations into the water – apparently you can even SMS text a message for them to ‘perform’. Their small pond looks to be in the shape of a map of the Czech Republic. I hope the locals don’t notice – revolutions have been started for less.

Back into the Old Town. 110 CZK each to climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Clock Tower. When I say ‘climb’ you can take a series of lifts most of the way! Once up there, the views over the city were fantastic. The gallery photos show tiny people in the square far below us, like looking down into a model village. On one of the photos I’ve zoomed in to the area behind the Tyn Church, where we spotted our hotel just around the corner from the dark gothic landmark of the Powder Tower. On another zoom into the same photo, we found a random shark. He was a regular feature spotted on our walks around the town, we think advertising Prague pub crawls by night.

In addition to its modern clock faces, the Clock Tower also houses the ancient Astronomical clock. Every hour, a huge crowd gathers below to watch the show when it chimes. And across the square, perhaps the most striking and memorable of all of Prague’s landmarks, the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. The gothic black towers and turrets are lit at night, presenting an eerie combination of a Disney fairytale castle mixed with something more suited to Count Dracula.

So there we have it. An excellent city break over 3 nights, and one we would wholeheartedly recommend.


The rest of this post covers some technical notes about phones and cameras etc, so non-geeks move along now, there’s nothing for you to see here!

This is the first time I’ve left my Nikon digital compact camera at home, and solely used my Samsung Galaxy phone for picture taking. I figured that even without an optical zoom for nicely framing a photo, the resolution is now so good that I can snap a photo without any zoom, then worry about cropping and framing later using an Android image editor. And it’s one less device to carry around.

I also took my recently-acquired Tesco Hudl tablet on the trip. It’s a 7-inch screen, so just the right size to pack in a small flight bag with our travel documents, passports and so on. By bluetoothing photos across to the Hudl, I could edit them on the larger screen, then upload them on the hotel’s free WiFi. Great for reading and passing the time in airports and on the plane too.

Both devices run off a micro-USB charger, and I also took a small USB battery pack out with me each day (fed from the same charger) in case GPS plus camera drained the phone too quickly.

Some favourite apps I had on both devices for the trip:
‘MapsWithMe’, with offline mapping for the Czech Republic downloaded in advance. Although I’ve got an Overseas Data package included in my phone contract, I figured Google Maps could quickly eat through my daily allowance. The free version of MapsWithMe allows for basic GPS navigation on some extremely detailed mapping. How detailed? – the statues on the Charles Bridge are all individually named!
Mixed opinions on ‘Tripomatic’. It’s great for advance planning on their website, dropping thumbnail images of places you want to visit onto a good street map. But it relies on a data connection for each refresh of the detailed trip plan on the Android app, so I ended up preparing a PDF file of our trip plan on the website then saving this onto my phone for offline viewing. Their PDF guides are very polished, providing general notes about the destination, then specific summary advice on the location, opening hours and admission charges for all of your saved activities.
‘TripAdvisor’ is a personal favourite, with its crowd sourced reviews giving a balance of opinions on places. I also downloaded their ‘Prague City Guide’, which allowed me to save our planned activities in a similar manner to tripomatic, and the offline map plus guide integrated nicely into TripAdvisor’s online mapping and navigation screens.
‘Oanda Currency Converter’, ‘Google Goggles’ and ‘Google Translate’ are ever-present on my phone of course.

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