Going solo in Prague

Sarah Bolton on 28 June 2012
For my birthday I decided to visit Prague for 5 days - somewhere I'd always wanted to go. Travelling anywhere alone can be a little bit daunting but I had no trouble at all, and felt safe and welcome wherever I went.

I chose a boutique hotel, the Archibald at Charles Bridge, having done hours of research, and am so glad that I did as it was the perfect choice in the perfect location. The hotel is situated on Kampa Island, just steps down from the famous Charles Bridge, on the Old Town side of the river, and has views over the square on one side and the river on the other. All the rooms are spotlessly clean and well-decorated, however I would recommend booking a deluxe room (with air-conditioning) in the height of summer as it can get stifling hot and humid.

Being so well located I was able to walk everywhere. The first day I spent around the Little/Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana) and Castle area (Hradcany). There are some beautiful churches in this area, including the Church of St Nicholas in the Square, where Mozart once played the organ. One of the things I found lovely about the old buildings, especially on Nerudova street, is their signs above the doors that denoted the owners, before numbers were given eg "At the Three Little Fiddles" used to be the home of a family of violin makers c.1700. There are also some beautiful doorways with ornate carvings that belonged to palaces, mostly foreign embassies nowadays - such as the 2 eagles over the Thun-Hohenstein Palace. Prague Castle is a fascinating complex of courtyards, towers, palaces, lanes and the imposing St Vitus' Cathedral. Many of the palaces now house museums/art collections. The Cathedral is stunning and houses the gold and jewel-encrusted Chapel of St Wenceslas where Wenceslas (of our Christmas carol fame, although he was never king!) was supposed to have been murdered by his brother. The Golden Lane is a fascinating street of tiny houses that housed artisans. Try and catch the changing of the guard at noon - the best place to stand is inside the 1st courtyard! In the main square outside the castle are some palaces with beautiful and eye-catching exteriors.

Next day was the Old Town (Stare Mesto) and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). The Old Town is a great place to wander around, and disappear down side-streets as there's something to look at everywhere (and also to escape the crowds!) The Municipal House is well worth a visit - and have a break in the beautiful Art Deco tearoom. Also hunt down the "House at the Two Golden Bears" which has an ornate Renaissance portal. Make sure you're standing in front of the Old Town Hall on the hour so you can watch the Astronomical Clock in action! Try and avoid going to the Jewish Quarter on a Saturday (which I did!) so that you can visit the synagogues and cemetery. As well as the Jewish buildings there is also some beautiful Art Nouveau and Cubist architecture.

On the Sunday I headed out of the city (very easy by train) to Karlstein Castle - don't believe the guidebooks that say it's a 40 minute walk from the train station to the castle - 1 hour minimum! However it was worth it for the dramatic views of a Gothic Castle (I recommend pre-booking the tours as there are limited numbers allowed on tour 2)

My last day was spent in the New Town, including Wenceslas Square and Charles Square. One of the highlights was a trip to "U Fleku" - a traditional beer hall that brews it's own strong dark beer. Sitting in their beer garden, drinking a pint and sampling their beer cheese on fried bread - bliss! And for a special treat, dinner that evening was at Kampa Park, along the edge of the river - well worth every penny!

Prague is a photographers delight, and I spent a lot of my time walking a few steps, stopping, and taking another photo (thank goodness for digital!) I found my trusty guidebooks were perfect at directing me to great places, without the need for taking a tour. My favourite book was the DK Eyewitness Guide - however the Insight guides are great for background reading and planning.

Being such a historic and picturesque city it appeals to culture-vultures and romantic couples as well as the stag/hen party lot looking for a good time at non-Euro prices!