I spent my last weekend in my 20s living my best life in Prague, and this historic city turned out to be a perfect place to decadently welcome my next decade of life.
In Germany they consider it bad luck to celebrate your birthday before the actual day. With my birthday falling on a Monday, though, I wanted to do something special to brace myself for reaching the scary milestone of 30. The enchanting capital of the Czech Republic ended up being the perfect location.
A mere 4-hour train ride from Berlin, and teeming with excellent (and affordably priced) hotels, gastronomy, and entertainment, I truly lived it up the whole weekend. I couldn’t resist sharing what we got up to with you, so you also can treat yourself on your next adventure in Prague. Booking my train a couple months in advance was a blessing, as the ticket was only 18,90 EUR! The scenery was beautiful and the four hours flew by as we caught up.
After arriving, buying a 24 hour ticket on the tram, and dropping off our bags at the hotel, we headed straight for brunch. I was starving, which was a good thing, because this was no ordinary brunch!
I had put my name on the waitlist for a brunch table at Mlynec Restaurant two weeks in advance and just a few days before traveling, I got approved for a reservation. To this day it may be my favorite brunch experience ever! Everything from the gourmet food, to the tasteful beverage options, to the attentive and impeccable service, and the romantic location by the water, this restaurant was phenomenal. The price didn’t hurt either! For a mere 52 EUR/person you get a gourmet multi-course prix fixe menu with unlimited wine, champagne, coffee, and fresh juices (and a delicious self-serve ice cream bar 🤯). For your next weekend in Prague, don’t miss this experience! You can reserve a table here.
After a filling brunch and early birthday song (Germans would be horrified), we walked through the old town to see the astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall and then climbed to the top of it for the 360° view of this charming city. The inside of the Town Hall is stunning as well. There’s a room with a beautiful 14th century ceiling miraculously saved from WW2 bombing by steel doors.
After a beautiful stroll along the River we headed back to our hotel, NH Collection Prague, to finally officially check in. I mainly picked this hotel because you actually have to take a cable car from its sister hotel to get to it, and it includes a small but restorative spa. Up on our exclusive little hilltop we enjoyed the sky bar and actually saw fireworks in the distance.
After soaking up the sunset and spa at the hotel, we dressed for a night out and called a cab (they’ve got Uber in Prague). We arrived too late (10pm) to taste the local cuisine recommended to us at Lokal, but a friendly waiter recommended Zakladna across the street instead. It was still very lively at such a late dining hour and we shared a phenomenal beef tartare, a classic dish to have in Prague. After dinner we went around the corner to 1920’s prohibition era vibes and creative cocktails at Banker’s Bar.
Our magical day ended with partying to a 3 hour set by Austrian DJ duo Klangkarrusell at Roxy - a club right by Zakladna that also happens to be turning 30 this year! 🥳The set was phenomenal and the crowd was respectful and mainly there to enjoy some good music. We stayed for the full set and finally headed back to the hotel at 4am with aching feet and happy hearts.
Sunday was just as much of an adventure as Saturday, but with a very different type of music. After a filling hotel breakfast (I love a good hotel breakfast buffet) I decided to take a beautiful walk down to the river through the fall foliage covering the hill on which our hotel stands.
From the riverfront, I headed over to Vysehrad fort to meet up with a Czech friend I serendipitously met at an Amber Mark concert in Berlin a couple weeks prior. She showed me some gorgeous views of the river from up there and together we looked for the free art gallery I had heard was here. At the art gallery, the elderly gallery manager was eager to give us a history lesson about the local mint, but she didn’t speak any English so my new friend kindly offered translation services.
After descending from the fort, we soaked up the sun right on the river at (A)Void Floating Gallery. I tried some Moravian white wine and my friend gave me a sip of her Czech craft beer.
But I had an important appointment in the evening, so after our last sips and a photo shoot, it was time to go back to the hotel for more cable car rides and spa time before getting all dressed up for THE OPERA!
On Sunday evening, we saw an opera recital at one of Europe’s most beautiful concert venues, the Rudolfinum. An opera recital is usually just a musician and an opera tenor providing a review of some of their personally favorite pieces. It was a beautiful, especially the tenor’s performance of Beethoven’s opening aria and the pianist’s sensitive rendition of one of Liszt’s Consolations. The venue was also stunning! I couldn’t believe our tickets were only 14 EUR each.
After leaving the recital, I needed the bathroom given the glass of red wine I chugged during intermission. As I exited my friend and I realized there was a side room next to the upstairs bathroom where some people were entering and being handed glasses of champagne. We decided to play along and took our champagne flute like we spend every day as Czech aristocrats. The small yet opulent room had a balcony that looked out onto the river and the lit-up castle on the other side, high up on the hill.
We snuck hors-d’oevres and hoped the opera tenor, who entered to applause, wouldn’t come up to us and realize we were imposters. Alas, he is a gentleman who came up and said hi, and of course instantly realized we do not speak Czech, unlike the rest of the room. Yet no one threw us out, and to add to the serendipitous magic of the evening, as we wandered out of the impressive Rudolfinum building, we got caught in the filming of a movie set in WWII, right at a scene when a group of costumed actors were entering the halls for a concert. Truly a movie setting!
After opera we took the advice of my local friend, and caught a bus to the beautiful steakhouse Cerveny Jelen. There we went all out, getting Argentinean ribeye and skirt steak and slow-cooked brisket. If you’re a meat lover passing through Prague, I highly recommend this spot! I barely had room for the fantastic cake!
At the end of the night our plan was to sing karaoke, but the karaoke spot I had found was quite dead on a Sunday night, so at the last minute we went a mere 10 mins walk away to the Prague outpost of a bar I know and love in New York City—Bar and Books. After my recent trip to Scotland, I was thrilled by their whiskey selection and couldn’t resist going for a flight of 6 (!!) single malts. I may have overdone it, or I may just be living my best life—is moderation or an attitude of carpe diem to define my 30s? Needless to say, we ushered in my 30th year of life at midnight with a sip of Balvenie 12 and a hug from my friend.
The next day I completed my crazy 30th birthday goal of dining in three different countries in one day—breakfast in Prague, lunch in Barcelona, and dinner in Andorra. Maybe I’ll share more about that in a future post. Needless to say, it’s going to be hard to top this birthday!
Some key info:
🗣 Language: Czech
💵 Currency: Czech Koruna (1 Euro = 23.63 Czech Koruna)
💸 Tipping: not expected, but if service is good round up or give 10%
🚰 Tap water: drinkable!
🚕 Transportation: tram system works well, but they also have Uber
🥗 Dish to try: beef tartar — don't forget to slather your bread in garlic first!
🍷 Drink to try: Czech craft beer or Moravian wine!
🏛 Favorite fun fact: According to legend, the brains behind the creation of Prague’s Astronomical Clock Tower, Hanus Carolinum, was blinded by the Old Town councillors with a hot poker. They did this out of fear that Hanus would recreate the clock in another city and make this one less famous and unique. And yet there is an exact replica of it in the Hongdae region of Seoul, South Korea. Isn't it ironic?
💃 Song to listen to: Antonin Dvorak - Symphony no.9 (a celebrated work by the 19th century Czech composer)