I recently came back from a weekend break to Prague, and was absolutely blown away with the city. With its stunning architecture, colourful history and beautiful gardens, it's stocked full of everything you need for a fantastic city break. And the food? Well quite possibly some of the best I've ever eaten. I had heard a lot about Czech food; its almost legendary status as a smorgasbord of meat and dumplings, something out of a doctor's nightmare. So of course, I couldn't wait to 'Czech' it out.
This was quite a novel experience. When you visit other major cities in Europe, Paris, Rome or London, you just need to look at a menu and you've spent a fortune. Here in Prague, we just couldn't spend our money on food. When a two course dinner, plus plenty of wine and beer, comes consistently to £25-£30, I'm a happy bunny. Even in the more touristy areas, where you would expect the prices to be hiked up, it wasn't unreasonable. Of course we didn't hit the most expensive restaurants in the city, but it was nice to know that our money could go quite a way.
It's all about the meat.
From wild-boar goulash to roast duck; from sausages and smoked meat to marinated roast beef, the local specialities read like the menu of any meat lover. Accompanied by plenty of dumplings and potatoes, and washed down with beer, trust me when I say this food is not for the faint hearted.
Prague is a city that is best explored by foot. Not least because you can fully appreciate its maze of cobbled lanes and hidden gardens, but also because it will help you work up an appetite for dinner. Because the food comes in huge portions, and not just that, it's wonderfully rich and filling too. I'm not sure I actually finished a meal - I was defeated every time! When your chunks of meat and mounds of dumplings are smothered in rich gravies and sauces, I'm positive I gained several kilos over the course of my trip.
Smoking in restaurants is a 'thing' in Prague.
After years of enjoying my food in a smoke-free environment, I was a little surprised to see that there wasn't a similar smoking ban in Prague. Instead, restaurants, bars and pubs get to choose their 'relationship status' with smokers: 'in a relationship' whereby smoking is allowed; 'it's complicated' whereby a restaurant has separate spaces for smokers or non-smokers; and 'single' whereby smoking is prohibited. Watch out for the labels displayed at entrances to places. It caught us out on the first night, and the smell of smoke lingered on my clothes for the rest of the trip.
You will pay for everything. Everything!
Literally down to the ketchup you dollop on your chips. Nothing comes for free in Prague restaurants: not the bread, not the water and certainly not your condiments. Definitely return anything you didn't order and if you're unsure about the prices, ask. Know exactly what you are ordering! That being said, you will want to make sure you order some veggie sides to cut through the heavy meat and potatoes, and sometimes ketchup is just necessary when you've ordered a plate of chips!
And another thing...
Ladies - leave your heels at home. With most streets in Prague paved with cobble stones, aka The Heel Destroyer, you will want to leave you party shoes at home. As much as I sound like your mother, pack sensible, flat shoes for loads of walking. You'll thank me later.
You can experience all four seasons in one day, so bring layers. Despite it being the end of April when we visited, it snowed on two of the days. And then an hour later, the sun was shining and I needed my sunglasses out. Pack lots of layers and unless you're going in the height of summer, I would recommend throwing in some gloves, a scarf and a hat. Just in case.