Bookshops, Travel

A weekend in Prague: books, beers and a library

I’ve just returned from a rather brilliant weekend in Prague. Here are my top tips for spending a few days in the Czech capital.

Prague is a beautiful city packed with history, great food and culture. It’s quite a manic place, especially on weekends, so it’s worth planning your must-see sights beforehand so you don’t miss the opportunity to visit your favourite things.

Stephen and I had three nights and three-and-a-bit days in the city at the beginning of August, and here are the things we enjoyed the most.

The usual suspects

It’s obligatory to visit the iconic destinations in any city – but it can be a bit of a pain doing so. The Charles Bridge is the tourist magnet is Prague; it has to be seen but you have to be prepared to elbow your way through tourists with selfie sticks and no sense of urgency. The views from the bridge are spectacular, though, and if you head there in the early morning or evening you’ll get a quieter wander across the ancient cobbles.

Charles Bridge, Prague
Stephen negotiating his way through the Charles Bridge crowds.

The Old Town Square is similarly packed but just as iconic. Featuring the infamous (but somewhat underwhelming) Astronomical Clock and a range of other stunning Gothic buildings, it’s an architectural delight – and a cauldron of tourists, souvenir sellers and overpriced cafes. The Castle, with its huge array of outlying buildings sitting atop the hill, is breathtaking but filled with school trips and tour groups. Nip in, admire the buildings, then head to the back streets to get a real taste of the city.

Free walking tour

To learn more about the fascinating history of the city and to catch a glimpse of some of its unique corners, sign up to a free walking tour. Discover Prague offers daily tours that cover the city’s entire history in just a few hours.

You’ll hear about the most interesting parts of the country’s history, Prague’s role in some pretty gruesome events and how the city is establishing its own identity post-communist rule. Try to get on Callum’s tour – he’s a tour guide/stand-up comedian and you’ll have a hoot while strolling through the city.

Free walking tours in Prague

Klementinum Library

This library is a stunner. One of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world, its baroque design will wow you and the ancient books within will mesmerize. It’s one of a collection of buildings that were part of the Charles University; you’re not allowed to go in or take pictures of the library but you can stand at the threshold and gaze longingly like the hopeless bibliophile you are.

Access is granted via a 45-minute tour of other former academic rooms and astronomical halls (which, to be honest, were a tad boring), but the view from the top of the astronomical tower – which spans 360 degrees of city rooftops, taking in the Charles Bridge and Castle – are worth it.

Klementinum Library, Prague
No pics allowed but postcards aplenty.

Globe Bookshop

I stumbled across this wonderful place, which happened to be on the same block as our hotel, and fell in love. It’s an English language bookshop with a cracking collection of fiction and non-fiction texts, with a cafe and bar attached. Awesome, right?

It has great food, cheap drink and events on most evenings – I was gutted to fly home before the Monday night literature quiz. I could have aced that bad boy.

Globe Bookshop, Prague
The stairway to heaven.

Food and drink

After you’ve done all of that sightseeing, absorbed all of the culture and history, you’ll be tired, thirsty and probably ready for a snack.

Prague is filled with great places to eat and drink. Avoid anywhere with a view of the Old Town Square or Charles Bridge as you’ll pay a small fortune for simple sustenance. Head a few blocks away and you can grab a litre of beer for around £1.20 (bargain!) and a great evening meal for less than a tenner per person.

Beers in Prague.
Beer and pretzels – my staple diet for the weekend.

People watching and relaxation

And, last but not least, make sure you leave some time to chill. Whether you’re stretching out on the green outside the castle, spending an hour watching the world go by from a pavement cafe or wandering around admiring the paint-palette buildings of the city, you can recharge your batteries and your soul in just a few aimless hours.

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So, if you’re looking for a picturesque European city with lots of history, cheap drink and literary sites to uncover, book up for a weekend in Prague. You’ll be amazed by how much you’ll squeeze in.

 

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