On the Streets of Prague
It was time for a break after our visit to the Royal Gardens and the strenuous climb up to the top of the South Tower of the Cathedral. Heading west along Loretanska we left the mayhem of the castle behind and restaurant A Divadlo Pokracuje looked inviting with its quiet, sunny terrace to the back of the building. We ordered some Czech food, I had delicious pickled cheese with decent bread (something I really miss in England), while Chris was slightly less adventurous and went for the local cheese platter. Jerome chose a delicious pancake and welcomed the food with gusto.
After lunch we strolled along Loretanska where we stumbled onto a small toyshop, “Rocking Horse”. Jerome got very excited when he saw the “Mole” besides the array of traditional Czech toys. Anyone who does not know about the Mole, he is a cute cartoon character brought to life by Czech Zdenek Miler in 1956 and a favourite of Jerome and my childhood. Jerome is perhaps too old to watch the series on DVD these days but he still loves the characters, which also include a bunny, hedgehog, frog and mouse besides the mole. In the end we got him a t-shirt as an early birthday present, which made him very happy. I think he would have loved half of the toys especially the classic tin wind up funicular that caught his eye too.
Further up the road we turned left into Petrin Park, past the pretty church of Svaty Roch. Heading steadily uphill, we walked through the largest park in Prague – an oasis of calm and greenery away from the cobbled streets of the city. The place was a perfect respite from the summer heat, thanks to the many shaded paths. There were people enjoying a picnic underneath the mature trees and kids running wild on the large lawns.
The top of Petrin Lookout Tower became visible over the canopy of trees as we approached. This prominent landmark was built in 1891 and was inspired by its Parisian look a like, the Eiffel Tower. The viewing platform at the top even shares the same altitude with the Eiffel tower, however it is considerably lower in actual height, thanks to the location on Petrin Hill. At only 299 steps it can also be climbed a lot faster than the real Eiffel tower! The panorama from the top is said to be beautiful, day and night, overlooking the whole city and on a clear day you may see nearly all of Bohemia. Having climbed the South Tower of the castle’s cathedral earlier that day we decided to avoid the queues and miss out this tourist attraction.
The Mirror Maze
Instead we headed straight for the Mirror Maze, a must visit not only for families when visiting Prague. Housed in a building that resembles a castle, complete with a fake drawbridge, the mirror maze was inspired by the maze of the Prater in Vienna. After we had queued for a few minutes to buy tickets (only available at the box office) we entered the mirror maze, a labyrinth with walls entirely covered in mirrors. There were an infinite number of us displayed in the mirrors and while I really enjoyed the maze, Jerome thought it was way too easy to find your way through. A diorama of the battle of the Praguers against the Swedes at Charles Bridge followed. The large painting spans over 80 square meters and was painted by two brothers in only 50 days. Leaving the painting behind we entered the best part, the “Hall of Laughter”. Opposing walls of the room were covered with distorting mirrors. We had so much fun standing in front of every single one to discover what would happen to our image in front of each warped and twisted mirror. One made us fat and tiny, others long and thin. Jerome and I laughed our heads off at some of the mirrors where we had immensely long toes and fingers and one made our faces look half the size of our entire body.
Stroll through Petrin Park
Back out in the sunshine we strolled down the hill through the shade of the trees. We crossed the tracks of the funicular and watched them go up and down for a while. The funicular is a good option to get up the hill if you have small children and push chairs with you and kids of all ages will find the ride fun. You may use your public transport card and the lower station is located near Ujezd tram stop.
Every now and then we got a peek through the leaves of the trees towards the river and the old town of Prague. I spotted the Dancing House by Frank Gehry, one of the architectural highlights that I was keen to see close up at some point during our stay. Once we reached the bottom of the hill we hiked back to our hotel, where we sat outside on the terrace with a refreshing jug of homemade lemonade and played cards before it was time for us to leave for dinner.
For our walk over to the restaurant, Next Door by Imperial, we chose a route along the back of Wallenstein Palace and across Manesuv bridge instead of walking across Charles bridge – as the bridge was bound to be packed with people at this time of day. It was a lovely warm evening and it felt more like summer than spring, the view of Charles Bridge was spectacular from this side of the river. Tourists and locals a like, were sat on the many benches or grass by the riverside and along our route.
Next Door by Imperial had been recommended to us by a local as one of the best restaurants in town for local food and was also proud owner of a Michelin star, however we were quite disappointed by the food. The selection of local dishes was surprisingly small and it seemed that it mainly catered for the hotel’s guests, serving as well burgers and other hotel staples. We opted for the dumplings with beef and while they were certainly tasty I have to admit that we ate better food at a lower price somewhere else both the night of our arrival (Restaurant U Magistra Kelly) and the following day (Restaurant Rainer Maria Rilke). Jerome went for the schnitzel rather than the children’s menu and was served a large portion of meat with potato mash, but again we felt a little let down by the cuisine. Sometimes locals do not always know best perhaps!?
The Astronomical Clock
For our stroll back to the hotel we picked a course through the Prague’s Old Town via the Astronomical Clock. The unique clock had been on Chris must-see list for the weekend. The beautiful Gothic tower of the Old Town Hall with its clock, also known as Orloj dates back to 1338 and it strikes every hour between 9:00 and 23:00. There was already a large throng of people waiting in front of the tower, however we were lucky to find a spot at the front so Jerome could see better among a group of excited Chinese tourists. A section of the tower was covered in scaffolding, part of the on going restoration of the clock and the Town Hall. The astronomical clock shows four different times, including Roman time and the calendar. Exactly on time the two little doors over the top of the clock opened and the 12 apostles started to show themselves one after another. Do also watch out for the skeleton to the right side of the clock, it pulls the cord that rings the bell once for every hour of the day. Everyone, including Jerome watched the spectacle unfold, in total awe. The great thing about coming in the evening is that the bells ring more often than earlier in the afternoon – in fact 21 times at 9pm. It is definitely an experience no child and adult should miss out on in Prague.
Charles Bridge by Night
We made our way back to the hotel over Charles Bridge this time, the sun had just set behind the castle and everything around us had that pinkish after sunset glow. There were less people about and we watched the boats with their lights go underneath the bridge. It was the perfect end to an amazing day in this beautiful city.
Are you after some tips on what to do with children in Prague, feel free to read my guide for some interesting and off the beaten track options here.