“I feel like we’re living in a museum.” That was how my Los Angelino daughter, 10, described walking into Old Town Square in Prague for the first time a few weeks ago.
In the Czech Republic, the city of Prague is so picturesque, that to my Hollywood born and raised kids, it does indeed feel like a panoramic exhibition in a museum—or, my eight-year-old son says, it reminds him of the Universal Studios back lot. It is nearly incomprehensible to them that the buildings they were seeing are real—not just pretty painted facades—and that they could actually be a thousand years old.
Praha’s Old World charm is undoubtedly why the city has eight times more tourists than actual residents. Upwards of eight million visit Prague each year. My family is straddling the line between tourist and local as my husband recently accepted a job here for the year and we’ve all re-located. Taking in the city slowly has been our goal. Learning our way, as we tour the beautiful venues and not being overwhelmed by crowds, has been our challenge.
This is why it was especially lovely when Four Seasons Hotel Prague introduced us to Dasa, an experienced, local, English-speaking tour guide. Dasa spent a morning with us sharing tidbits of history as we moved through the city on foot.
This bridge is parallel to the famous, Gothic stone Charles Bridge, which is a must see as well, but is best to stroll that one early in the morning when it is less crowded. My son seemed to be dragging only minutes into the walk, having refused much of his breakfast. I suddenly began to think maybe a walking tour for the four of us was going to be a bad idea.
But then we approached quaint Malá Strana, also known as the Lesser Town. (The part of the city where the servants, or “lesser” folks, once lived.) The architecture is stunning and now there are many posh apartments to be let, boasting extraordinary views. That’s what I was noticing as we perused buildings with decorative swirls etched in the stone.
My son, however, was eying a Euro-dog stand. As a lover of the famous New York City street hot dog vendors, I was skeptical as to how this would compare. Yet I remained hopeful that a little food might perk my boy up. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the hot dogs were, and the bun: a small, fresh, crunchy baguette—perfect. The tour was off to a good start. Both of my kids, now with a little food in their bellies, were open to seeing some sights.
We entered the 1600s-era Baroque Wallenstein Gardens, where the Czech Senate now meets. On the palace grounds, the vast gardens were was not crowded at all, but quiet and serene.
A large pond immediately captivated the kids with golden fish flapping around.
Lovely flowers and bushes lined the paths, and even some peacocks joined us on our stroll about.
The kids loved the decorative grotto wall, which looks a bit creepy with its embedded faces and animals.
My son particularly liked seeing the small doors underneath, where prisoners were reportedly kept.
Out the other side of the garden we were on the winding cobblestone streets of Malá Strana heading to the center below the magnificent 1735 St. Nicholas Church.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” my son said. Ah, the joys of traveling with kids. Although I found it wrong in so many ways, I was quite relieved to see that nestled in the historic Malá Strana was none other than a Starbucks (!?), where there was, in fact, restrooms one could use if accompanied by a purchase.
Outside Starbucks, we could not resist buying the kids just one of their new favorite Czech treats, Trdelink. My kids, still struggling to roll their Rs, have made up their own name for this traditional Czech pastry: a sugar bracelet. It is basically a doughy cinnamon delight that is first wrapped around a metal bar, then cooked over coal and dusted with sugar. They are best fresh off the heat.
From there, we climbed aboard the 22, the most scenic tram ride in town. This tram goes all the way up to hill to the Pohořelec, where the Strahov Monastery is located. Its library houses 16,000 books.
My kids love the tram. To them it feels like a ride at Disneyland, but is much better because it actually is their means of transportation getting around Prague. Adjacent to the monastery and its infamous library (housing 16,000 books)—I will return to at a later time because sadly it was closed for lunch)—is a great kid-friendly venue: the Museum of Miniatures.
This is an obscure museum in which you look through microscopes to see the most amazing works of art in miniature by artist Anatolij Konenko. And by miniature, I mean teeny tiny: a choo choo train on a strand of hair or a sailboat on a mosquito wing. My kids adored this small gem of a museum. They had never seen anything like it.
Outside we gazed at the breathtaking view of the city and walked down the hill taking in the architecture, vineyards and then tiny cafés and shops as we walked down towards the city.
We heard lots of pleas for zmrzlina (ice cream) along the way, but I insisted that we have a proper lunch first. When we arrived back in Old Town, we bid our farewells to Dasa and headed to U Parlamentu, a traditional Czech pub for a late lunch. There, we had a meal complete with schnitzel, strudel and of course, Pivo (beer). We did later also find some zmrzlina. Although you can find it on almost any street corner in town, the kids love Café Praha in Old Town Square. The kids can’t get enough of the handmade, slender cones and mountainous displays of gelato.
There, we were even in eye shot of the gorgeous Astronomical clock, and could watch and listen as it struck and chimed on the hour. After the Twelve Apostles peeked out a small door and a Christ figure marched out ahead of his disciples, we listened with delight as a trumpeter played from the tower above.
And well, right then, with the sounds, sights and many tastes of Prague, we did kind of feel like we were in a movie: the story of a great family adventure.
Read more on Prague in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our Concierge Recommendations for Prague in Four Seasons Magazine.
Lee Rose Emery is an actress, writer and editor-in-chief of the award-winning blog, LA City Mom, “tips from the carpool lane…”, based in Los Angeles, California. Lee is currently living in Prague, the Czech Republic, with her husband, eight-year-old son and daughter, 10. Stay tuned for more chronicles of her European family adventures.
View all posts from Lee Rose
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