According to Wikipedia about 2 million people permanently reside in Prague, and I could easily imagine there being just as many tourists in the city at any given time. I traveled to Prague with my boyfriend the day after Christmas (December 26, 2011) and we spent 4 days in the cultural capital of Europe enjoying cheap food, affordable accommodation, friendly and welcoming locals and we left knowing that this wouldn’t, it couldn’t be our last trip to Prague.
We stayed in the Vinohrady district, situated about a 15 minute walk away from Old Town Square and Charles Bridge. We loved walking back and forth between the city center and our hotel, as an array of shops and historical sites kept us entertained while we ambled through the city.
Mamaison Belgicka Residence
A short walk from Prague’s historic Old Town lies the mid-scale Mamaison Residence Belgicka, a fully serviced apartment hotel with everything you could wish for in a home away from home (there was a dishwasher and hairdryer as well as reasonably priced drinks and food in the mini bar). A really lucky find, I would warmly encourage anyone visiting Prague to book a stay there. For approximately 100 USD a night we had our own two bedroom apartment, with a bedroom and living room with kitchenette, as well as two bathrooms (one with a shower and bathtub and the other with a toilet). Perfection.
Tip: Every night before going back to the hotel we made sure to purchase plenty of snacks, drinks and food (cheese, sausages, bread, smoked salmon, etc.) to bring back to the hotel. That way we didn’t have to spend money on breakfast, and we could pack sandwiches and snacks to bring with us walking the next day. There’s a huge Tesco close to Old Town too. Plus going to foreign supermarkets is really fun.
Right beside our hotel lay Mlsnej Kocour, a restaurant that was split in two, one side was a pub and the other a fancier eating establishment. Our first day in the city had seen my boyfriend and I drink our fair share of honey wine and mulled wine, so we weren’t really in the mood to sit somewhere with white tablecloths and candles. Fuck romance.
This restaurant was seriously D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. My taste buds had a party each time I bit into my food and I can say with true confidence that Mlsnej Kocour made our holiday the best vacation Kim and I have ever been on in Europe (food means a lot to us). With delicacies such as rabbit, wild boar, and venison, as well as more traditional pasta, burger and steak dishes, this place has something for anyone who loves good food and really reasonable prices. We both ordered 300 gr steaks with parmesan mashed potatoes as our mains and decided to share a round of pork rinds to start (again, we’re on holiday!).
The pork rinds were a bloody disaster, what we expected to be very crunchy, salty pieces of pork skin and fat appeared to be only fat. And not crunchy fat. Now you may be thinking to yourself, is there a difference between pork cracklings with and without the skin, isn’t it all just fat? And here’s my answer: No it’s not all just fat, and yes it matters if the skin is not there. It’s not just crazy, it’s blasphemy to serve pork cracklings without the crack. Sorry, without the skin.
Anyway, we were soon distracted from our disastetizer (disaster + appetizer) by two beautiful, sizzling steaks served with a giant crater of mashed potatoes that looked like they had become very good friends with a few kgs of butter before arriving at our table. This was the answer to our unexpected Old Town mulled wine hangover and we were soon in good spirits, promising each other we would come back every evening until we left. And we did.
Tip: In Czech Republic pork rinds are called škvarky and are generally prepared in lard. In some parts of the country a spread (škvarková pomazánka) is produced by mincing the rinds.
We visited Prague at Christmas time and as true foodies we fully excavated several of Old Town’s Christmas markets and the various delicacies the dozens of stalls had to offer. We were especially interested in trying the traditional Czech food.
I had watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain No Reservations where he was in Prague and ate a deep fried cheese sandwich (a camembert like burger shaped piece of cheese deep fried and served in a burger bun). Kim and I had vowed to try it when we arrived in Prague, but when finally faced with the fast food stand we were so tempted by other things that we ended up getting Old Town sausage and a chicken schnitzel instead. We promised each other we would go back to try the deep fried cheese sandwich, because what kind of Anthony Bourdain fans would we be if we didn’t?
We never did go back for the cheese sandwich.
But the Old Town sausage was spicy and delicious, albeit fatty, while the chicken schnitzel tasted like a really greasy McDonalds chicken burger without the lettuce. Not bad.
Tip: We bought a meal of potato dumplings and roasted ham with brown bread (1st picture above) from a stall in Old Town Prague and paid 450 CZK (23 USD / 18 EUR), which was more than we paid for our appetizer, 2 steaks with mashed potatoes and 2 beers at Mlsnej Kocour!
Prices in Prague
My boyfriend and I found Prague to be a magical city with prices that we considered no less than cheap. But prices are relative, and as a Dane I come from a country where at least 39% of your income is guaranteed to be taken by the government, and with extremely high living costs our salaries must match that. So Prague was like Disneyland for us, with prices around 1/3 – 1/4 of what they would be in Denmark.
But before you start frivolously typing away on Expedia, licking your lips at all the cheap sausage you’ll be consuming, remember to compare where YOU live to your chosen holiday destination. What may be cheap for a Dane will not be nearly as cheap to an American or someone from Asia. Just imagine, Norwegians think Denmark is really cheap, and often go on trips to Denmark to buy alcohol, cigarettes and more. And us Danes think Sweden and Germany are budget destinations, gladly driving for hours to buy candy, beer, sodas and other unnecessary perishables that cost half of what they would in Denmark. But if someone from Thailand was on holiday in Europe they would probably not consider the German nor Swedish prices budget friendly.
Tip: The sausage in the picture above that is priced at 11.90 CZK is equivalent to .60 USD for 100 g. I don’t know where in the world that wouldn’t be considered a steal, but rest assured someone out there would think it was a fortune.
It’s all relative.
Roses for Václav Havel
Václav Havel (5 October 1936 – 18 December 2011) was a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Havel was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the last president of Czechoslovakia, as well as the first President of the Czech Republic (1993 – 2003).
I’m not going to get into the history of Havel, but if you want to click on the picture above and Wikipedia will explain it all.
We were in Prague from the 26th of December, only a little over a week after Havel’s death. It was overwhelming to see the crowds of people placing roses and lit candles in front of the National Theater in honour of Havel. Kim and I were honestly totally clueless to who he was and what his influence had been on the Czech people, but after seeing his massive memorial we went back to the hotel and researched who he was. After becoming much wiser we opened a bottle of wine and toasted to him.
And that was our short, but sweet and sensational trip to Prague!