Note: This trip took 18 days, starting in Prague and ending in Amsterdam. Over four posts, we have covered this trip to make it easier to read in segments. Be sure to read all four parts, which can be found by following these links:
- Grand European Tour – Budapest & Vienna
- River Cruising through Europe
- Amsterdam: Viking Grand European Cruise Finale
Prague is one of the great historical cities of Central Europe to visit, located in a beautiful country. Their people are friendly and appreciative of Americans. The city is thriving, and there is much to see and do in and around Prague. I came to appreciate Prague even more after our second trip there and highly recommend putting Prague into anyone’s travel plans.
The Unique Prague Experience:
We kicked off our 2022 European vacation with a three-day stay in Prague, Czech Republic, before boarding our Viking River cruise ship in Budapest. This was our second time in Prague and our favorite because we stayed at the Marriot close to the Old Town Square on the east side of the river, which was a better location for sightseeing.
During our first trip to Prague, we stayed at a beautiful hotel called the Golden Well, near the Embassy District, which was less conveniently located. However, the 5-star Golden Well Hotel was exceptional, with its fantastic roof-top bar recently voted among the world’s top ten.
Prague is a fascinating city, with its old town section dating back to the 9th century. The new town area also shares a storied history built in the 14th century. The famous St. Charles Bridge is pedestrian-only and is the central point connecting the two sides of Prague. Here, you’ll find many historic statues lining the bridge, souvenir vendors, and street performers.
The Castle Grounds:
Prague’s castle, which dates back to 870, was completed in the 12th century by St. Wenceslas. St. Vitus Cathedral has continued its building throughout the centuries and was finally completed in 1997.
The castle grounds also contain a palace that has changed hands numerous times and was once visited by Hitler after his troops seized it. It became the headquarters for Reinhard Heydrich during World War II. Today, it is the home to the President and the Czech parliament and is guarded by the Czech army guards.
The Palace, St Vitus Cathedral, and the gardens are worth spending a day or more exploring on the west bank of the Vltava River.
On the same side, you can walk through attractive streets housing various embassies, including the US embassy. Finally, just before crossing the St. Charles Bridge to return to the old town, you visit the St. Nicolaus Cathedral, built in the 1700s.
Old Town in Prague:
One of the busiest squares in Prague is the Old Town Square which is famous for its Astronomical clock. Initially built in 1410, it is the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world today. Crowds gather at the top of the hour to watch the clock’s animation, which presents the Walk of the Apostles through two windows.
Walking through the old town streets was so much fun with its many shops and restaurants. Sitting at one of the outdoor restaurants day or night is fun, and people watch the thousands of tourists traveling through this area daily.
Experiencing The Jewish Ghetto:
Taking a tour of the Jewish ghetto and learning about the history of the Jewish community is a must. We took this tour and highly recommended it to anyone during our first trip. The guides specializing in this area are excellent, helping paint an accurate picture of life in this community before and after the war. Visiting the synagogue and cemetery while hearing the story of the people during WW II is heartbreaking and enlightening.
Prague Food tour:
One of our favorite ways to experience a city is by taking a food tour with a professional guide. Having done this in several European cities and never disappointed, we highly recommend it anywhere it is offered. During our Prague City food tour, we had a three-course meal spread over three locations. Beginning with starter sandwiches comprised of baguette bread sliced and topped with various toppings such as roast beef, shrimp, egg salad, and other wonderful delights.
The main course at the next restaurant was duck served with sauerkraut and potatoes. Finally, the dessert was a selection of cakes at one of the famous restaurants near the historical two-steepled old town gate. Prague is proud of its beer and sweets; they can be found on almost any street.
Czech cuisine is highly varied. Located in central Europe, you can find a wide variety of food. The four of us experienced excellent Thai, Italian, and Czech cuisine. Still, one of our favorite places was an incredible little hamburger joint called Sad Man’s Tongue, located about ½ mile from the east side of the St. Charles Bridge. This was a fun little hole-in-the-wall place with an eclectic hamburger menu and a fun motif. So, if you are in the area and craving a great burger – go for it! It has a 5-star rating which we believe was deserved.
Remember to indulge in their famous Trdelinik ice cream cones, also called donut cones by Americans.
Terezin: A memorable Trip:
Terezin, located 30 miles north of Prague, became the home of a concentration camp in 1940. Originally it was a fortress, Theresienstadt, built in the 18th century.
The Nazis used this camp to house Jews originally from Czechoslovakia and then from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark. This camp was not designated as an extermination camp, but over 10 thousand Jews died and were buried in mass graves in Terezin. Of the 15,000 children sent there, less than 150 survived. More than 150,000 Jews passed through Terezin and were eventually sent to Auschwitz and several other concentration camps in Europe.
If time allows, we highly recommend a trip and tour of Terezin from a professional guide. It is essential to understand clearly the horrors experienced by the innocent Jews during WW II, so we never let history repeat itself. This trip was part of the Viking Pre-Cruise optional excursion, and we are happy we went.
A unique Czech perspective on current events.
The Czech Republic has a long and storied history of war and occupation. After WW II, they were liberated from Nazi Germany by the Russians and subsequently spent over two decades behind the iron current under communist rule between 1968 and 1989. One of our guides was born before this occupation and could communicate the terrible quality of life they experienced under Russian communistic rule. They thought it would never end, and when it finally did during what they refer to as the ‘Velvet Revolution,’ they learned to treasure their freedoms and democracy and would fight fiercely to death to preserve it.
There is a unique Museum of Communism focusing on the communist occupation on the east side near our hotel. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit this museum during our stay.
The Czech people are very thankful to the US for fighting for Europe during both World Wars and appreciate our continued commitment to NATO and peace in Europe. Throughout Prague, you can see many Ukrainian flags flying in support of Ukraine with sayings that make their feelings about Putin and his current bloody invasion of Ukraine clear. As Americans, we often take our freedom for granted. Traveling to central Europe and learning about their often-tragic past of war and occupation is an excellent reminder for all of us to appreciate what we have and work together to solve our differences peacefully.