On our final day in Paris we tried to fit in a few last minute things, while also keeping it low key and enjoying our last bit of vacation. We went to the Museum de l’Orangerie to check out the Monet water lilies, but didn’t see much else here. We were honestly overwhelmed with all the museums we had seen. We had lunch at L’Imperial Rivoli, where I tried a Croque-Madame for the first time… When in France Right?!? We did some last minute walking around the Marais neighborhood, and checked out the Picasso Museum. I loved that we had the museum pass for this trip. We never had to wait in line for tickets, or for entry, and we didn’t have to feel bad about the museums we breezed in and out of since we had already paid for the pass. We had our last chocolate croissant, packed our bags and enjoyed one last view from our colorful balcony. It was a WONDERFUL trip!!
This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t show us being the ONLY people in the Charles de Gaulle Airport. Always the timely traveler Sean had us at the airport hours before it even opened, which feels hard to do at an international airport the size of CDG but we managed…
I could say this about all the days of the trip, but Day 6 was one of the best. We took the train to Versailles early that morning. We got there almost as it was opening and it really was not crowded (with the exception of the crowd you see in the Hall of Mirrors photo, which I think may always be like that). I think visiting in November also helped with the crowds. One thing I will say about our trip to Versailles in low season was that much of the furniture and other things that the audio guide mentioned seemed to be missing, possibly it was being cleaned or restored, and the famous gardens were a little lackluster with nothing in season. However, we enjoyed there not being much of a crowd and still getting to experience this famous location. We stayed a few hours and then took the train back in to Paris. That afternoon we explored Montmarte. I loved this area and would love to spend more time here. There are so many amazing shops and streets that you could spend days wandering here. We watched the sun set over Paris from the Sacre-Coeur, which I highly recommended. The view at sunset was magical. We wandered from here to the Hotel Particulier for some fancy drinks in a cozy spot off the beaten path. (Also happy to report we are still making the drink the bartender here taught us.) We finished up with dinner at Buillon Pigalle. The restaurant was a mix of tourist and locals, and the food was fantastic. This was one of our best “authentic” French meals. We are still trying to recreate the beef bourguignon.
Our the 5th day of our trip we covered a lot of ground. We started with a tour of the catacombs. I cannot express how much I disliked this. Sean had booked this as something he wanted to do, and I had no clue what we were getting into. I do not like small spaces, I do not like being underground, I do not like dead bodies, I do not like there being no emergency exit. The catacombs are all of those things. That aside our tour guide was really knowledgeable and engaging. We were lucky enough to be in Paris when the Rembrandt collection was on display at the Louvre. We had reservations that afternoon to check it out. We hit the highlights of the exhibit and hit the road. The Louvre was overly crowded to the point of not being enjoyable, as it turned out our reservation was only to see the Rembrandt pieces not the rest of the museum and we weren’t sad about it because it was such a cluster. That night we had tickets to see a ballet at the Palais Garnier. I had mostly just wanted to see a show inside the famous opera house so we could see the inside. It is definitely worth seeing in my opinion. It’s gorgeous. We wound up loving the show we saw, we had amazing seats that I had purchased basically by accident, and it was great to drink champagne and feel fancy for a night.
Day 4 of the trip was a museum and shopping day. We started the day with breakfast at Brasserie Le Bourbon. There were lots of business people here having meetings and eating. We enjoyed eating here. We followed that up with walking to the Rodin museum, which allowed us to take in some sights around the area. The Rodin museum was probably my favorite that we visited. I loved that it is both inside and outside, it wasn’t crowded, and you could walk around the gardens right in the middle of the city. We then went to the Museum D’Orsay, which has lots of great highlights, but we were lost most of the time we were there. It was crowded and difficult to navigate but we did manage to see some beautiful art! From here we walked to Rue Saint Honore to do some shopping. We stopped in Laduree since no trip to Paris is complete without the famous macarons. After our shopping we hurried back to change and head to our dinner reservation at Frenchie. We made a huge mistake and tried to take an Uber since we were all dressed up, we ended up sitting in so much traffic that we were late for our reservation. The restaurant staff was so great about it, but they have a strict cancellation policy so Sean was freaking out the whole drive there. The food at Frenchie was AMAZING. It is one of the best meals I have ever eaten. We had the sommelier do the wine pairing for each course also. We were lucky enough to have seats at the bar looking into the kitchen, which was a great experience. After dinner we walked to get a drink at the Experimental Cocktail Club, which was a fantastic spot our server told us about. When we were ready to head home we tried Uber again, but had no luck as our driver drove away as we were walking toward the car. We opted for the metro back, and I was not please about being in the metro late at night in high heels, but what a cool looking metro stop.
I had the chance to spend a week in Prague as part of my MBA program. To be honest, I didn’t do much research on the area before going so I had limited expectations. I’m usually not fond of travelling with a group, but this allowed me to finish up my program early and visit a new place. Win.
Because I was traveling as part of a school sponsored trip we had the opportunity to do some things that as a normal tourist I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do, but that also meant missing out on certain things. Each day we visited one or two businesses and had the opportunity to meet with the company leaders. One of the most interesting visits was to Manufaktura. This could be equated to a US version of Bath and Body Works or Body Shop, but on a smaller scale. It was great to see the products being made and all the research going in to new products. I ended up really liking the skin care products I bought. The other business visit I really enjoyed was the headquarters for McDonald’s in the Czech Republic. We met with the Vice President of Marketing who was very engaging and knowledgeable.
Our trip was so planned out that we didn’t have the opportunity to try out many local spots. The few times we did try the local cuisine I can honestly say I was not a fan. It was very heavy with lots of meats and thick sauces. I normally try to take in as much local food and culture as I can when I go somewhere new, but again traveling with a large group in my opinion makes that harder. We ate lots of Italian food, and found it to be quite good most of the places we stopped in. I have since learned that there is quite a large Vietnamese population in Prague. I wish I had done just a bit more research before the trip and maybe found a few Vietnamese restaurants to try. As a side note, dining out in Prague was quite interesting for us, as we were often in larger groups. Typically the wait staff will not split the bill unless you ask, end even then they still may not. I also found that the waiters want to leave you to enjoy your meal, this means they will not check back often. When you are ready to leave you will have to let them know in no uncertain terms you would like to pay and leave, otherwise they will not bring the check. It’s not bad service, just that the cultural expectation is much different.
The city itself overall seemed VERY touristy and was quite crowded. While it is absolutely beautiful there I don’t know that if I had the chance to go back I would stay for a full week. There honestly just didn’t seem like there was that much to see. Walking around the historic areas of the city was really enjoyable (side note it is v easy to get lost as they do not believe in city blocks) and for the most part allowed you to see all the highlights. I did use the metro a few times while I was there and found that it was really easy to use. Overall the city was clean and felt very safe as well. The party scene in Prague is HUGE. That phase of my life is over…. if it wasn’t I would probably have more to report on the late night scene, which I hear is tons of fun!
Here’s a few of the places I visited that I would recommend checking out if you’re ever in Prague:
Old Town Square – The hotel we stayed in was a short walk from the city center at Old Town Square. The famous astronomical clock can be found here. The square will fill up at the top of every hour as people gather round to see the clock. We witnessed some beautiful sunsets here as well. From here you can find your way into high end shopping, touristy shopping, and plenty of restaurants. We were cautioned by the locals to avoid restaurants in this area due to price gauging, but honestly didn’t find this to be the case.
Terezin – A concentration camp that is about a 45 minute drive outside the city. Known for being a “propaganda” camp of the Nazis, it was used to convince the Red Cross and others who were concerned for the safety of the Jews that the camps were actually providing a positive experience. It was truly horrifying to see it in real life, but at the same time having a better understanding of this history is so vital.
Jewish Quarter – This is a neighborhood in Prague where Jewish families were forced to settle. The Jewish Museum and several historic synagogues are located in the neighborhood. The walls of Pinkas Synagogue contain the hand written names of 80,000 Czech & Moravian Jews who did not survive the holocaust. There is a rich Jewish history here that is worth exploring.
Kozel Brewery Tour – Any trip to the Czech Republic is likely going to include lots of beer! The Czech people drink more beer per capita than anywhere in the world and are also known for their beer producers. You will find that the beer is very cheap, cheaper than water! Kozel is a well known Czech beer and they offer tours of the historic building where they have been in production for over a century. We ate at the onsite restaurant here as well and enjoyed the food.
Teresa U Prince – A rooftop restaurant and bar located directly across from the astronomical clock. The view of the city is stunning and the food and drinks were quite good as well. It is located on top of the Hotel U Prince but there are no obvious signs that it is there, ask the bellman when you enter the hotel lobby to show you to the correct elevator. I loved eating lunch and having cocktails solo on the rooftop!
John Lennon Wall – The Lennon Wall sits just over the Charles Bridge from the main part of town. It is about a city block area of street art that is constantly changing. Worth checking out even if you aren’t a Beatles fan as there really isn’t much to do with The Beatles.
Marina Ristorante – A restaurant that is on a (large) docked boat in the Vltava River near the city center. Eat here for the atmosphere and the views, although the food wasn’t bad. The view of the castle and the rest of the city was beautiful. We stumbled upon the restaurant and had no issues eating here with a large group without reservations.
Parlour Bar – Seriously cool cocktail bar near Wenceslas Square. It is off the main road and has no sign, and is definitely not a place you will find many other tourist. The vibe is cool and the made to order cocktails were delicious.
Letna Beer Garden – Full disclosure we walked all the way here and up a massive hill in the dark to get here and it was closed (the hours listed online were not correct). This seems to be a summer time/warm weather/daylight place. Regardless the view of the city is beautiful. There is a restaurant and tons of outdoor seating. I would hike back up the massive hill to actually enjoy this any summer day again.
Prague Castle – It is hard to imagine that the castle was built over 1000 years ago. We did a self guided tour and basically saw the highlights one evening before it closed. It is stunning and the history is unbelievable. I would do a guided tour if I had the opportunity to go back, as the castle is huge and just filled with so much history that I’m sure a guide would do a better job explaining.
Charles Bridge – Beautiful historic (pedestrian only) bridge over the Vltava River that was built in the 1300’s. From Old Town Square you can cross over the bridge on the way to the Castle if you’re walking. The bridge has many historic statues as well as views of the city. Warning…it gets VERY crowded and while Prague was generally safe places like this are known for pickpockets.
Chimney Cake – Also known as a Trdelnik. This is a hollow tube of dough that is covered in sugar. You have the option to fill it with ice cream and different toppings. Based on what we were told by the locals, it is not really a “tradtional” Czech food but instead something that was created for the tourist. Regardless you can’t go wrong with a sugary dough filled with ice cream and chocolate syrup. You will see tourist lined up all over town at spots selling theses.