I am writing this post from a restaurant near the old town square in Prague called the Red Peacock. Tucked away down a quiet backstreet near the chocolate museum it is a real little find, with dark oak furniture, low lighting and a genuine olde worlde ambience. Upon reading the menu I have discovered that the building was originally a sumptuous town house brothel, where wealthy military men (and even the famous composer Gustav Mahler) would come for female company.
For me this story sums up the magic of Prague – not the brothel part, so much (though I do find that fascinating), more because it’s steeped in history at every one of its charming twists and turns. Having been here for three days I feel I’m only just beginning to get under the skin of this mesmerising place, and I’m sad I have to board a plane home in a few short hours. But, in my few remaining moments I will endeavour to impart some of the things I’ve done in my short time here, should anyone feel inclined to retrace my steps in the future.
Whilst there is no shortage of places to stay in Prague, if you’re after something extra special you need look no further than the Mamaison Pachtuv Palace, a five star hotel only metres away from the famous Charles Bridge. Offering extremely reasonable rates for a five star hotel, the staff do all they can to accommodate guests – in our case providing a free upgrade from a deluxe double room to a stunning suite, complete with four poster bed and stunning view over the river.
On our first evening in Prague we had booked a table at the Mlynec restaurant by the bridge, a stone’s throw from our hotel. Being a top end restaurant this wasn’t cheap, but it did offer delicious food, a lovely view over the river and good service. By the time we had finished our dinner and had a cocktail we were ready to roll ourselves home to our palatial bed for a good night’s sleep.
The following morning we awoke to a white wonderland, and walked over Charles Bridge as snow fell all around us – truly magical. After meandering around the streets we settled in an underground tavern restaurant to sample our first taste of traditional Czech food – meat goulash and dumplings. Feeling fortified, we fought our way through the throngs of tourists (the only downside to this beautiful place – though who can blame them for coming here?) and made our way up the many steps towards Prague Castle – stopping to throw a few obligatory snow balls along the way – where we walked around the cathedral and surrounding buildings.
On our way back to the main town we were fortunate to spot a sign saying ‘coffee and cakes – this way.’ Our curiosity piqued, we followed the signs into an old building and up the winding marble staircase. At last, we found a door that opened into a charming high ceilinged drawing room-style restaurant. The smartly dressed waiter led us to an elegant table and chairs, upholstered in a similar shade of crimson to the rest of the room. Moments later he appeared with two cups of fresh coffee and two portions of the most delicious apple strudel we’d ever tasted. He also told us a bit about the building we were in which, it transpired, was part of the Palffy Palace – now partly used as a music school.
That evening we went to the Ice Pub – a gimmicky experience, admittedly, but nonetheless an entertaining one. On arrival you are given silver jackets and gloves before entering the ice bar and receiving a cocktail in a glass made of ice. You can then drink your cocktail in the chilly surroundings, seated on a reindeer skin atop a ledge of ice, before exiting twenty minutes later. After the ice pub we found a restaurant with a micro-brewery for some more traditional Czech fare before ending our evening in a classy cocktail bar we stumbled across on the way home.
No visit to Prague is complete without a visit to Vytopna restaurant. Located near to the Muzeum Metro station, this unique establishment has a model railway whose trains weave their way around the restaurant, delivering drinks to all of the customers. As gimmicky as the Ice Pub, perhaps, but nonetheless impressive!
Other highlights of my weekend in Prague included sampling the local beer – blueberry beer being my favourite – and eating giant pretzels whilst watching the local sport, ice hockey, on TV screens in various bars across the city. I also enjoyed perusing the beautiful array of art and glass sculptures in the many shops along the main tourist routes to and from Charles Bridge.
There’s so much more to do and see here, but I suppose they will have to be left for next time. For now, though, what better way to end my trip than by tucking into a plate of pancakes in an ex-brothel?