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With a stunning geographical position in the northeast center of the European continent, Prague is located alongside the margins of the Vltava River, due not only to its ancient tactical benefices, but also to the serene and peaceful environment that characterizes this particular area of the Czech Republic. When I visited this city two months ago, the passionate and picturesque environment of one of the best preserved and biggest medieval-like cities on Earth really captivated me and created a new desire to explore the best that Czechia (yeah, that’s how the government is trying to “recall” their country for tourism purposes) has to offer.

According to my experience in other European capitals, Prague’s historical city center is also quite compact, which makes this city one of the best in Europe to be entirely explored by foot, with multiple charming narrow streets and a large variety of tremendously romantic courtyards. Cafes, restaurants, and traditional Czech breweries are also typical must-do experiences in the previous capital of Czechoslovakia (which comprised the Czech Republic and Slovakia until 1992), so be sure to taste some of the best dishes and drinks (Czech beer is amazing) while visiting this marvelous city and its astonishing attractions.

In my opinion, one of the most remarkable and outstanding landmarks in the city (and definitely the most stunning of all Prague bridges crossing the Vltava River), is the historical and majestic Charles Bridge. Utterly crowded with tourists and inhabitants since 9am every single day, this place is a never ending desire for photographers and painters, seeing also various honors from famous writers and poets on their novels due to its extreme romantic atmosphere, especially when the sunlight reflects over the imposing gothic towers found nearby. The view is absolutely unforgettable, with the historical Prague Castle in the background! Just have your camera ready like I did for a stunning pic!

Photo taken while I was standing in the Karlův Most (in English, Charles Bridge), overlooking the mystical Castle of Prague that clearly dominates the background.

Nearby you’ll find ancient Prague’s Town Hall, the city’s heart and soul, filled with people 24/7 from Monday until Sunday. A cosmopolitan and traditional place even for Prague residents, here is where the biggest and oldest traditional Czech markets take place (which are even beautiful and magical during Christmas season, so it kind of makes me want to return once again during Winter). The well-known baroque structure of St. Nicholas Church, the famous Jan Hus Memorial monument and the Church of Our Lady before Týn are some of the legendary buildings that you’ll be able to find in this key area of Prague. If you’re not aware of it, this is also where the gorgeous Astronomical Clock stands (don’t worry, you’ll find it!).

The iconic astronomical clock right in the heart of Prague's old town
The iconic astronomical clock right in the heart of Prague’s old town

A bit outside the city center, but easily reachable either by tram, bus or, for those who just like me don’t mind climbing through some of the most prettier and picturesque streets in Eastern Europe, you’ll find the Castle of Prague. Alongside with its inner St. Vitus Cathedral, this is the largest castle complex in the whole World according to the Guinness Book of Records, comprising an impressive area of 70000 m2, so it obviously dominates the history of Czech Republic’s capital city, especially because Bohemian rulers have always lived here. Dating back from 870, its original structure has suffered many modifications throughout the years, but the present structure has seen its last rebuilding adjustments in 1934, after the foundation of the republic of Czechoslovakia.

Also, don’t forget to pass by the historical Jewish Quarter, as well as by the cosmopolitan Wenceslas Square. In the last one, here’s a place that everybody loves near the National Museum and the St. Wenceslas Monument: Vytopna! Just go there for lunch or dinner and be amazed as your ice cold Czech beer is delivered by train. Yes, you heard that right! This railway-type of a restaurant have approximately 400 meters of tiny railways spread all over the place, stopping at your table to deliver your drinks. Simply incredible!

Vytopna
One of the uncountable railways that cross the entire area of Vytopna railway restaurant
  • Simply forget the traditional taxi companies in Prague, such as AAA Taxi or City taxi, especially if you don’t want to get scammed. Be sure to always use Uber or Tick Tack Taxi (the last ones are a new taxi company provided by RegioJet). I used Tick Tack and their service was absolutely top-notch. New cars, English speaking drivers, free water bottles, no need to tip and a tablet informing you about your route with the price that you accorded on Tick Tack Taxi Official Website or Tick Tack Taxi App.

  • Beware that metro is only operating until 00:00h or earlier. Past midnight, if you don’t mind to get on the night bus service, you’ll be fine. Although it could get a bit complicated trying to find the right bus line and your stop, especially if the bus driver doesn’t speak English at all.

  • Besides Vytopna, you should also try U Vejvodu (one of the most traditional Czech pubs in Prague) for an ice-cold Pilsner Urquell, as well as the medieval brewery from Strahov Monastery (called Klásterní Pivovar), located about 1km away from Prague’s Castle. Almost everyone that visits the castle opt to climb just a little further to enjoy one of the three beers which are always on tap here. This place dates back from 1142 (!) and started producing beer in the 13th century, so it’s a great way to relax a bit after an exhaustive visit to the castle complex. The food here is also pretty tasty. I tried a traditional Czech dish called goulash and I actually enjoyed it! It doesn’t get any better than eating delicious food while having a craft beer in a monastery’s courtyard. It just doesn’t.

 

Want to share your ideas and question about Prague? Feel free to comment below.

 

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Lisbon, Portugal

I’d realized that a lot of travelers don’t know more about Portugal. Do you know that it is one of the best and most affordable destinations in Europe? I am not going only to write about tour guides here but travelling to Portugal and experiencing a marvelous weather, unique culture, beautiful scenery and wonderful people particularly in Lisbon.

When I was in Spain, I heard about the ancient city of Guarda. It never stops me in exploring this place in Lisbon so I took a trip in 2009 since Portugal is a border of Spain. Take note, Portugal speaks Portuguese NOT Spanish- that’s what I thought before. I contacted Pedro- my neophyte friend who is also a travel writer in Portugal to explore the magnificent city of Lisbon and how this vibrant country helps travelers explore it’s hidden gems.

 

Portugal

 

 

Bounded by the iconic seven hills and the emblematic Tagus river mouth, Lisbon is not only the largest city in Portugal but also the country’s political and financial center, with over 500,000 inhabitants within the municipality limits. Perfectly situated in the Iberian peninsula at the western corner of the European continent, Lisbon offers its travelers like me the opportunity to combine different marvelous green areas with historic attractions that shaped Portuguese history as well as delicious and appetizing food- ranging from fresh seafood to beautifully tender steaks- with the finest weather in Europe, unquestionably.

Idea to explore and get lost in its captivating atmosphere, Lisbon is definitely a city full of contrast, where the diversified architecture takes center stage across every single one of the city’s neighborhoods. From awesome picturesque mosaic pavements to brightly tiled houses, passing by various Art Nouveau structures and fashionable modern areas, Portugal’s capital city has a lot to discover, believe me the medieval Moorish areas, such as Alfama, couldn’t be forgotten by anyone who’s strolling down Lisbon’s traditional and historical narrow streets.

 

The historical center of Lisbon is definitely the city’s heart and soul and is characterized by five distinctive but complementary areas. Two of the areas- Rossio  and Baixa- are connected by their inherent squares: King Pedro IV Square which is commonly known by locals as Rossio square and then forget to check the outstanding railway by the nearby – and the commerce square which is popularly known as Terreiro do Paco. Well, the crowded, cosmopolitan and commercial Rua Augusta or Augusta Street connects both squares, comprising various shopping stores, souvenir stalls, pastry shops and tourist oriented restaurants. Highlighting a ( more then probable) sunny walk towards the Tagus river is the imperial Rua Augusta Arch which is a triumphal arch style of monument built to commemorate the city’s regeneration after the massive 1755 earthquake, as well as the brilliantly design Santa Justa Lift whose idea came from Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of the brilliant- minded Gustava Eiffel.

Easily reachable at short walking distance from Baixa and Rossio, I visited two other historical areas, Chiado and Bairro Alto. The first one is where Fernando Pessoa, the famous Portuguese writer, used to relax and have a cup of coffee while wondering about the script of his next masterpiece. For the most curious ones, a statue was erected in his memory in Chiado’s most famous coffee terrace, A Brasilleira. On the other hand, Bairro Alto is well-known for its busy nightlife, with hundreds of bars open throughout the night, attracting a lot of young people, students and travelers.

Another landmark that it’s hard to take  own eyes off it is certainly the remarkable St. George Castle, located on top of another of Lisbon’s historic center neighborhoods- Alfama. If the castle looks incredibly gorgeous on the outside, the views that this royal fortress offers over the legendary capital of Portugal are absolutely breathtaking. Additionally, the history behind this historical fortification nested in one of Lisbon’s seven hills is absolutely captivating and noteworthy, since it paid the important role during 1147 triumph over the Moors. However, my observation is that Lisbon is  way more than  its historical center and nearby attractions.

The charming Jerónimos Monastery and the beautiful Belém tower are astonishing architecture examples of Manueline style or known as the Portuguese Gothic, both dating back from mid 16th century and consecrated as UNESCO world heritage sites back in 1983.

 

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While writing this article about Lisbon, I want to take my siblings here again someday.