I have spent the last six birthdays in six different countries (21 - Canada, 22 - USA, 23 - Australia, 24 - New Zealand, 25 - Belgium, 26 - Slovakia) so it was only fitting that I spend my 27th birthday weekend in a brand new country - and my 50th country that I've visited, quite the milestone to reach!
I took the train on a cold Thursday evening from Salzburg via Linz to Prague, the beautiful sprawling capital of Czechia, to spend five nights based in the city to celebrate my birthday (and Valentine's Day), get away for a relaxing break and also see my mum for the first time since our family trip to Ecuador last summer, as she flew into Prague from San Francisco to spend my birthday with me.
We stayed at the Pytloun Kampa Garden Hotel, on the other side of the river from the main old town, within close walking distance of the castle and right on the banks of the famous Charles Bridge. The rooms were simple but comfortable and the breakfast spread was really quite exceptional.
Best Vegan Food in Prague
As a vegan, I'm always on the hunt for delicious vegan bites while I travel - and even better if they're a vegan spin on local traditional dishes - so here are my best picks for some of the best vegan spots in Prague (of which there are many!):
- Vegan's Prague - I kid you not this might have been one of the best vegan meals I've ever had, including a literal life-changing potato burger and traditional Czech dumplings (pictured)
- No. 211 Cafe & Wine - we stopped here in this chic cafe attached to a hotel for a coffee break and they offered oat milk for my chai latte!
- Forky's - a vegan fast food place whipping up yummy bowls and some spins on Czech delicacies like dumplings
- Liberica Cafe - we came to this cosy cafe for a slice of vegan cake and hot drinks to warm us up
- Dosa Dosa - absolutely mouthwatering vegan Indian dosa and other delicacies
- Sweet Dreams - these guys do a vegan version of the famous Prague Trdelník, a dough chimney dipped in sugar and filled with chocolate and strawberries
- Lehka Lava - a vegetarian and vegan dinner restaurant with funky decor and straightforward fresh dishes
Best Things to Do in Prague
I completely fell in love with Prague. I didn't know what to expect of this bustling European capital but it was bigger, prettier and more interesting than I could have hoped for - and is the perfect winter destination because even in February when it was freezing out we loved it. Here's everything we saw and did while in Prague:
1. Explore the beautiful streets of the old town
Prague is the largest city in Czechia, and the stunning old town is home to colorful baroque buildings and Gothic churches, making for idyllic backdrops and sweet streets to wander and get lost in.
2. See the stained glass of St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Víta)
This incredible cathedral is in the grounds of Prague Castle. You can stand in the entrance hall for free, but need to purchase a ticket if you want to wander through the rest of the building (we didn't). Founded in 1344, it is the Gothic resting place of the saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert. The stained glass windows are exceptionally beautiful as they catch the light streaming through.
3. Take in the view from Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)
The impressive Prague Castle rises high above the city with sweeping views over the iconic red roofs of the city. Built in the 9th century, it was once the seat of power for kings and emperors and today is the official office of the President of Czechia. You can purchase tickets to visit various parts of the interior of the castle but the best part of all is the view of the city below.
4. Peek inside the Strahov Library (Strahovská knihovna), one of the world's most beautiful
The two rooms of the exquisite Strahov Library are housed inside Prague's premonstratensian monastery and are simply stunning. You cannot go inside the 12th century libraries for preservation reasons but you can stand at the doorway and also look at the exhibit of old artefacts and preserved books. It is said that there are over 200,000 works inside.
5. Watch the sunset from Charles Bridge (Karlův most)
This popular walking bridge is the most famous one in all of Prague and offers incredible views across the Vltava River on both sides. At dusk, the lights begin to twinkle on in the city and it's just a magical spot to be.
6. Take in the views of the city from the banks of the Vlatava River
Prague is truly such a gorgeous city, with incredible architectural beauty rising up from both sides of the riverbank. Wander along the riverbank for some of the best views of the city.
7. Spot Kafka's rotating head
The Head of Franz Kafka by David Černý is a massive sculpture of 42 panels which perform a fifteen-minute choreography every hour. It's a funky little attraction.
8. See the world's oldest operating clock
The Prague astronomical clock sits outside Prague's Old Town Hall. Built in 1410, it is the the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still in operation!
9. Grab a bite at the Little Christmas Market
Just down the stairs off the side of the Charles Bridge is the Little Christmas Market and, if you're here at the right time of year, can grab yummy traditional Czech food and drink from local stalls cooking up massive pans of grub.
10. Spot the painting of the kissing couple under the Charles Bridge
The city is filled with artwork - statues, beautiful architecture and street art. The kissing couple under Charles Bridge is by far my favourite.
11. Go for a walk through the Petřín Gardens
This pretty park slopes up the bank on the same side of the river as the castle, offering panoramic views of the city below. It must be delightful when full of flowers in the spring and summer, especially in the rose garden!
12. Spot the John Lennon Wall
Lennon never visited this wall which was built in the 1980s, but it is a well-known symbol of freedom and peace featuring Lennon's face and other symbols and slogans. All in all, it's a fun photo spot - come early to avoid the crowds!
13. Go for a cruise down the Vlatava River
For my 27th birthday, we booked a 1-hour cruise down the Vlatava River which runs straight through the centre of Prague. It wasn't the most amazing thing we did in Prague, but after walking over 50km all around the city for a few days it was a nice way to get a different perspective. There are many different options of cruises including longer and shorter and also ones with lunch or dinner.
14. Enjoy a classical concert in the Klementinum
My mum and I both love classical music. Inside the gorgeously decorated Klementinum, we watched a selection of classical music pieces in the Mirror Chapel, a mix of strings, opera and organ, played on the organ in the chapel that Mozart once played! A delightful way to spend an evening.