Czech this out! A city break to Prague

Ah, the city break. An invigorating getaway that punches above its weight for experiences and value, or an exhausting dawn-til-dusk frenzy of schedules and sights that makes everyday life seem sedate.

When my cousin and I jetted off to Prague in April, both in need of some serious recuperation, we made a conscious effort to resist the pull of the sightseeing whirlwind and pace ourselves sensibly. To my mind, a rough plan of the day ahead is sufficient. You won’t catch me drawing up a tight schedule to sully my cherished downtime.

Rest assured, we explored the city. We allocated day one to the old town and day two to the new, even ticking off landmarks on our map as we strolled – as if executing a meticulous plan rather than following our nose.

But we also factored in generous time for leisurely breakfasts, café stops, long lunches, siestas and – swoon – a pampering session in the hotel spa. Now that’s what I call a break.

Trip preparation – must try harder

#Fail. On all fronts.

I had borrowed a Prague guidebook from my parents – “I just can’t wait to read up on its history!” – which then sat idle on my sideboard for weeks, before being passed to my cousin where it gathered a further layer of dust. Somehow our strategy lurched from ‘read entire guidebook and make plan of action’ to ‘we do have the plane journey, remember’ to ‘oh sod it, the hotel will give us a map’. Which, I’ll have you know, they did, and it was all fine. Anything else would have been overkill really.

I’d also diligently bookmarked several travel money websites to get myself up to speed with the latest advice on buying currency and using bank cards abroad. Frantic pre-holiday mode then engulfed me – where your workload somehow doubles because you’re having a week off. I ended up buying Czech koruna at the airport. I know, I know. How bad could it be? Pretty bad actually. I’d like to say lesson learnt, but it probably isn’t.

In another shameful lapse of preparatory rigour, we were dismayed to discover on arrival at our hotel that breakfast wasn’t included. This was nobody’s fault but our own, and I’m still not sure how we managed it. We’d even scrutinised the booking options on my favourite hotel booking site – Booking.com*. Anyway, we added it on (at an inflated price) but it was a beast of a buffet and absolutely worth it. Plus, if you do it justice, you won’t need lunch, right? So wrong. You’re on holiday, for goodness’ sake.

Sightseeing in Prague

Municipal House, Prague
Municipal House
View of the city from Prague castle
View over Prague from the castle

Recommended hotel Prague

Our hotel of choice was the five star Corinthia Hotel* and I would definitely recommend it, unless you want to be right in the city centre.

It’s next to Vysehrad metro station, which is just two stops from Wenceslas Square, or about 20 minutes on foot. Also, it’s one stop from I.P. Pavlova, a very busy area with shops and restaurants (including a KFC, as the hotel concierge informed us – rather hurtfully – although perhaps she clocked our Starbucks cups).

I love a hotel gym, and the Corinthia has a good one. Whether I’m staying in hotels for business or leisure, I find myself positively dashing along the corridors to fit in a 30-minute gym session. It makes you feel so productive, as if you’re getting your money’s worth, and that you’re part of select club – albeit a pretty empty one. Guests who frequent hotel gyms invariably emanate an air of efficiency and motivation that I tell myself is contagious. 

View of Prague from the top-floor spa pool of the Corinthia Hotel
View of Prague from the 26th-floor spa of the Corinthia Hotel. You have to walk across this bridge to get to the city centre – about 20 minutes.

Penthouse pampering in Prague

The spa occupies the top floor of the hotel and affords impressive panoramic views of the city from its poolside recliners. We lounged indulgently while waiting for our massages. These were a bit of an odd experience. My masseuse’s English was very limited but the one word she did know – ‘yes’ – she repeated with gusto throughout. A little disconcerting. I must say she did the trick though – I felt myself sliding gently into relaxation mode, with less clicky shoulders and a less achy back as a result.

Swimming pool on the top floor of the Corinthia Hotel, Prague
My cousin ticking off sights from the hotel spa – that counts, surely

Food to try in Prague

It’s impossible to go to Prague and not come across a local pastry called trdelník.

They’re akin to a cylindrical doughnut, cooked rotisserie-style and then grilled. They come with savoury fillings or as an ice cream cone, rolled in cinnamon sugar or pistachio. Delicious, very filling and most definitely anti-diet.

A traditional pastry in Prague called a trdelnik
Is it a doughnut? Is it an ice-cream? No it’s a Trdelnik! With raspberry, pistachio and chocolate. Exciting.
A street vendor making a trdelnik pastry in Prague
Trdelnik in the making

Obviously, beef goulash was high on our agenda in Prague.

Beef goulash with dumplings
This is the upmarket (expensive and small) version, with crispy onions and dumplings
Beef goulash soup served in a loaf of bread, with pretzels and a glass of wine
…and this is a more rustic goulash soup, served in a whole loaf, with pretzels on the side just in case we didn’t have enough bread. Very tasty.

We had a lovely time in Prague and getting away had the usual effect of making us crave more time off.  You only realise how tense you were once you start to relax – when it’s time to come home.

What’s your city break style? Do you go with the flow or do you have a plan of action?   Leave a comment below!

April 2018

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, marked by an asterisk. This means that if you book the hotel I’ve recommended or indeed any hotel through my link to Booking.com, I will earn a small commission (paid to me by Booking.com). This is designed to fund writing my blog. Thank you! 

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