Guide to Prague – all you need to know before visiting

Prague is the capital city of Czech Republic and has played a huge role in European history from its foundation onwards. With almost 8 million visitors per year, Prague has a lot to offer to tourists in every season. I was there in February and it blew my mind at every step I took there. Here you can find the ultimate travel guide to Prague, all you need to know before visiting this wonderful city and what to see and do here.

What to see

Charles Bridge

Built between the 14th and 15th century, this beautiful bridge crosses the Vltava river and offers you one of the best views of Prague Castle. Be quick if you want to see it without anything on the arches: repairs will start in late 2019 and are supposed to take 20 years. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to walk on the bridge, but if you want to take pictures of the bridge, you might need to photoshop the arches a bit (ok now I’m kidding a bit).

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral

Built in the 9th century, it is the largest castle in the world and one of the most visited by tourists. That said, you’d better book your tour beforehand. Unfortunately we didn’t book it on time and we saw only the part that was accessible for free. Here you can find more about it.
In the same area you can visit St. Vitus Cathedral for free. Built 5 centuries later than the castle, it has a typical gothic style. It is majestic and definitely one of my favourite cathedrals along with Uppsala’s Domkyrka and Cologne’s.
This is the official website of the cathedral.

Church of our Lady before Týn

Located a few steps away from the Old Town Square, the church of our Lady before Týn is your basic postcard monument and an example of gothic architecture just like St. Vitus Cathedral. Pictures inside were not permitted, so I guess you have to go there yourself to see how beautiful and majestic it is. The entrance is free.

Old town Hall with Astronomical Clock

The Astronomical Clock is so suggestive that it is one of the things you cannot miss in Prague. However, if you want to see one of the best views over the city, then visit the Old town Hall. I thought it was smaller but it was actually very interesting and if you go up the tower, you will see the spectacular old town square and the Church of our lady before Týn from a totally different perspective. I believe that the price increases year by year, in early 2019 the entrance costed around 150 CZK/6€ for students (perks of being a student in Europe, I guess!) and 250 CZK/10€ for a standard ticket.

Dancing House

Definitely one of the most interesting pieces of architecture, the Dancing House (Tančící dům in Czech) is not exactly one of those historical monuments Prague is worth visiting for. However, if you like unusual things, this building is for you! The only part that tourists can visit is the ninth floor, where a restaurant is currently located. I haven’t tried this restaurant (yet!) but rest assured that the view must be gorgeous.

Mucha Museum

I literally cried when I visited this small museum since Mucha is definitely one of my favourite artists ever. That’s also where I learned how to actually pronounce his name. Prague is the city of Art Nouveau and of course Mucha is one of the highest representative of this style.

Here you can find more about admission fees and opening hours, and you can even request a guided tour (highly recommended!).

(This picture was taken outside the museum)

There are so many other things to see that I’d suggest you to spend here at least 5 days. I will have to come back to see what I missed because we only spent there 3 days.

Where to eat

Restaurace U Šumavy

It probably is a bit touristy, but it was one of the restaurants that offered Czech food. I asked for advice when it came to order food and we got the most typical dishes there. It’s really hard to find a restaurant that serves Czech food and at the same time that isn’t a tourist trap, I hope to be luckier next time that I’ll visit Prague.

Old town square

The keyword here is STREET FOOD. I believe that street food is a great way to discover one country’s food scene at a way lower price than you would eat in a restaurant.

Sausages, bread, sauerkrauts and potatoes: you just have to choose what you want to try. It’s quick, filling, typical, and definitely delicious. You can buy it basically anywhere in the city.

Do you want to try something sweet? Then try the trdelnik roll, a kind of spit cake that is actually considered a tourist pastry by Czechs. It’s not exactly wide spread in the whole country but trust me, you won’t regret trying it.

Proti Proudu

I had dinner here with a local and we were surrounded by locals only. Definitely away from the touristy places. This bistro has industrial-minimal interiors and we had the chance to meet the owner: service is great and he always had a smile on his face while suggesting us what to eat.
This is their official website.

Where to sleep

Hotel Amarilis

Located in the heart of Prague, Hotel Amarilis was the perfect accommodation to visit the city by foot only. Coming from a country with euros, it was cheaper than what you would usually get in Rome for the same price, for instance. I booked it through Booking.com thanks to a discount code that allowed me to have 15€ off the total price. Not bad since you can easily get a dinner for two for 15€ in Prague! So why not offering the same discount to you? Make sure to book through this link!

Breakfast is continental and you can find a variety of food. We also had lunch at their restaurant and it was super delicious!

Czech facts!

  • Try the so-called Kofola, the Czech version of Coca-Cola. It has a different taste than Coke, a bit fresher and slightly bitter. I tried it at U Šumavy.
  • There are more than 2000 castles/castles ruins all over Czech Republic. It’s probably one of the countries with the most castles in Europe! Prague Castle is the largest in the world, for instance.
  • Czech Republic is the country with highest occupational rate, especially amongst young people.
  • Tipping is mandatory, especially in restaurants. Whether if you liked the service or not, it’s always nice to tip at least 10%. It’s expected, so don’t forget to do it!

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Grand Café Orient: the only cubist café in the world

I went to the only cubist café in the world and it is located in Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is definitely one of a kind when it comes to architecture. The most famous Czech artist is Alfons Mucha, the best representative for the art style called liberty/art nouveau. This makes us understand the importance of art in Prague was in the first half of the 20th century. Prague is a jewel still today and that’s not a case that cubist art is what characterises it the most. Wherever you look, you understand how incredibly beautiful this city looks.

My friends know that I like peculiar places and that I love art and architecture, so I couldn’t miss he only cubist café in the world: Grand Café Orient. You can find it inside the building called U Černé Matky Boží and it is open everyday.

How to reach it

It is pretty easy to reach if you’re already in the Old Town: all you have to do, is walk approximately 450 meters, while the nearest underground station is called Náměstí Republiky.

What to get for a truly unique experience:

I tried their unique cubist pastry (kubistický věneček) for 58 KČ (approximately 2,50€), another chocolate cake (I don’t remember the name, but I remember that it was delicious!) and coffee with cream. My mouth starts watering just thinking about it again!

Original cubist interior design

The interiors are simply magical. It feels like you’re back in time, drinking coffee with the most famous cubist artists and from the original cubist cups. On the ground floor, you can see a small exhibition that feels like a museum. Trust me, if you go there, you will never regret it!

Contacts:

Ovocný trh 19, Praha 1,
tel./fax.+420 224 224 240
email: cafeorient@volny.cz

Official website:

http://www.grandcafeorient.cz

Speaking of coffee and cafés, are you curious to know the difference between Italy and Sweden when it comes to coffee culture? Then make sure to read this.

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Top European Destinations to Visit in 2019

It’s that time of the year when you’re looking for recommendations on your next holiday. Then you start discussing with your travel partner and end up fighting, deals fly away and you end up booking destinations that you have visited so many times that now it starts to feel boring. Hey, don’t worry, I’m here with a list of European destinations divided by budget, depending on the cost of living there. These top European destinations to visit in 2019 are perfect for solo travellers too. Ready to pack? Let’s go!

EXPENSIVE DESTINATIONS:

1. Copenhagen, Denmark.

The beautiful capital of Denmark was nominated Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel of 2019, so why not spending at least 4-5 days there? Copenhagen is a city rich in art, history, and the food cuisine is dynamic and stimulating. The only downside is that you need to save a lot before going there as it is one of the most expensive cities for tourists. If you want to be sure to find decent weather, the best season is of course summer. It will be fresh but sunny, even though summer in 2018 was exceptionally hot. It was hotter and sunnier over there than it was in Sicily! However, going there in summer could be even more expensive than going there off-season.
Make sure to check the upcoming events for 2019 in Copenhagen.

2. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Either if you’re looking for a romantic city or a crazy holiday with your friends, Amsterdam is the city for you. There are many crazy stereotypes about it, but what Amsterdam has to offer will go beyond your expectations: a vibrant music scene, a growing presence in world culinary art and landscapes that will blow your mind. Amsterdam is mostly known for its museums, such as Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum.
Make sure to check the official tourism board website.

THE “IT DEPENDS ON YOU” DESTINATIONS:

3. Rome, Italy.

Rome can be extremely cheap or extremely expensive. It’s a city that hosts so many tourists that unfortunately local businesses have taken advantage of it. Touristy accommodations and restaurants are everywhere, some of them are incredibly good, some others are labeled as tourist traps for a good reason: you pay a lot for the worst quality ever. Rome can’t be visited in 48 or 72 hours if you want to make the most out of it. Forget public transportation and walk for hours, it’ll be the most rewarding experience ever. Plan your days carefully and spend at least 5 days in the eternal city. It’s better to visit Rome during the first week of each month because museums and sightseeing (including the Colosseum) are F R E E every first Sunday of every month.
This is the tourism board official website.

4. Berlin, Germany.

Every backpacker in the world must visit Berlin sooner or later. Again, Berlin is neither cheap nor too expensive. I spent one month there in October and it was the perfect time because it started to be chilly but not too cold. Berlin has an interesting history and it helps us understand how a city once divided had to unite and change its shape considerably after the wall. Berlin is dynamic, modern, multiethnic, and people are ready to welcome you as a tourist.

5. Barcelona, Spain.

Reasons to visit Barcelona: sun, food, architecture. I think I have given enough reasons to visit the capital of Catalonia. Just like in Italy, you will need more than 3-4 days to visit it. I was there for 2 days only and I skipped Park Güell, biggest mistake ever! It is even free if you go right before opening time. Modernist architecture is what really blows everyone’s mind when visiting Catalonia’s capital. You can find touristy-restaurants that are actually very good when it comes to tapas and typical Barcelonian food. The best month to visit Barcelona is September, when it’s still sunny but not too crowded, but it will be high season so it might get expensive. Otherwise, two good months to visit Barcelona are March or October.

CHEAP DESTINATIONS:

6. Wrocław, Poland.

You can reach Silesia’s most iconic city with Ryanair from any city in Europe. It usually take 2 maximum 3 days to visit the entire city and fall in love with it. If you’re looking for a unique architecture with a unique history, then Wrocław is the city for you. If you want to know more about it, check my blog post about it.

7. Cefalù (Sicily), Italy.

Do you want to avoid mainstream destinations but still visit a city rich in history and food culture? Located in the Northern Sicilian coast, Cefalù will surprise you. The city centre is small and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I used to go there once a year when I lived in Sicily and even if it was “winter” (February), it was pleasant to walk along the coast or the beach eating handmade gelato.

8. Riga, Latvia.

I asked my friend Paula to tell about her experience in Riga. Why Latvia is the hottest destination in 2019?
“Latvia is, without doubt, one of my favourite destinations in Europe. I don’t even have the feeling, that I saw all of it. I was overwhelmed by this beautiful city. The old town is mesmerizing with its cute little alleys and stunning buildings. And as it is not already on everyone’s radar, the city is wonderfully empty! There are no huge crowds or queues anywhere, making my time in Riga super relaxing. And isn’t that what vacation is about?

Picture by https://lavieenmarine.com

9. Prague, Czech Republic.

I couldn’t end this list without talking about Prague. Cheap and beautiful, you can visit the city in 3 days. Prague is so rich in history and it is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to architecturally-speaking. When it comes to street food, Prague is the city for you, just like Copenhagen. Chimney cake? Yes, please. The best time to visit Prague is summer for sure, but it’s peak season. If you want to enjoy Czech Republic’s capital city without many tourists around, then you should go between February and March.

Let me know which one of these you’d like to visit!

Jomfru Ane Hotel Review

I recently went to Aalborg, Denmark and needed a place to stay. I didn’t know much about the city before going there, but I’m happy I collaborated with Hotel Jomfru Ane. Do you want to know why?

Where:

This 3-star hotel is located in the heart of Aalborg. Everything you will have to visit is located nearby. The hotel takes its name from the street it is located on (Jomfru Ane Gade). It’s probably one of the most famous streets in the world, Nelson Mandela used to go to the restaurants along this street!

Jomfru Ane Hotel is a medium-sized hotel with rooms on two floors. The rooms were renovated in 2013 and mirror the typical Danish minimalism.

Breakfast:

There is a lounge where you can have breakfast between 6:30-10:00 during weekdays and between 8:00-10:30 on weekends. The lounge is open during the day and you can have free coffee or tea on the couches while watching TV or enjoying some of the most known and incredibly beautiful paintings by Ole Ahlberg, a local painter who is currently living and working in Copenhagen.

Breakfast includes a wide choice of products and drinks, both sweet and savory.

The staff was incredibly kind and they know the city very well, they were always ready to help and spoke at least two-three foreign languages.

Reservations:

If you want to book your next stay in a central location and clean hotel, then make sure to book your stay at Hotel Jomfru Ane. The official website is in English and Danish and has all the info you might need!

For reservation through Booking.com click on this banner:

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Coffee Culture Compared: what is coffee?

Coffee culture in Italy and Sweden compared.

As an aspiring translator, I stumbled upon a very serious concept to translate: coffee. Coffee is something that helps everyone understand everyone’s lifestyle and it is strictly connected to culture. In this article, I hope to summarise the concept of coffee culture in two different countries: Italy and Sweden.

Where do we drink coffee?

Coffee culture is pretty strong in Italy, where we don’t have cafés but bar(s). The concept of bar exists in English too, but for British culture it is a place where people meet to drink mostly, if not exclusively, alcoholic beverages, play games (board games, cues) or just have a chat to catch up with friends. The Italian meaning of bar couldn’t be any different. A bar is a place where people spend maximum ten minutes having breakfast or to have a quick coffee (espresso) before going back to work. Italians usually meet in bars in the afternoon too to quickly catch up and have, again, an espresso.

Given this premise, Italians go to a bar, pay at till, order at counter, drink a small cup of coffee, sometimes they drink a cup of water before having coffee (this happens especially in the Central and Southern regions), drink standing up at the counter, then they’re back outside after 5 minutes. So if I ask someone “do you fancy a coffee?”, this is the situation in Italy.

But if I ask someone in Sweden “do you fancy a coffee?”, you schedule everything ahead of time, go to “Espresso House” (the Scandinavian equivalent of Starbucks, even though Starbucks is an independent chain there), order a coffee at counter, you get a large cup/mug of coffee (10 times the amount that you get by ordering a coffee in Italy), pay, sit down, chat half an hour or more.

Who said fika?

Unlike Italians, Swedes have something to eat along with coffee, usually a pastry (kanelbulle or kardemummabulle) or something savoury. Swedes, therefore, don’t have simply coffee, they have fika. I know that Italian readers will probably laugh at this but trust me, it’s not what it seems. Yeah, I know, you must be confused but if you google the real meaning of that word, you’ll see why.
The Swedish word fika is an inverted syllable slang term derived from “kaffi,” coffee in the 19th century. Swedes have usually a fikapaus (fika-break) at 10AM and 3PM and they are among the heaviest coffee-drinkers in the world.

Is coffee something that makes us understand people’s lifestyle from all over the world?

What about coffee culture in your country? I’d love to understand what coffee means where you live.

(I found this interesting article about cafes in Stockholm, have a look!)

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What’s really like to live in Rome

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This little dreamer called Luce decided to move to the so-called eternal city back in 2013, after living the first 19 years of her life in a small village in Sicily. By ‘small village’, I mean a place inhabited by more or less 2500 people, where you’re forced to think outside the box if you don’t want to feel depressed and where the most dynamic thing that could possibly happen is to see sheep crossing the street.

After high school, I decided to move to Rome to study at university. So I packed everything and moved here, super excited about every single thing and every single person I eventually met. But what is really like to live in Rome?

Let’s start with some negative points first, because they can easily be overcome by countless positive aspects:

Getting around.

If you live close to the metro, line A, B or C, it’s going to be way easier to get around. Unfortunately one of the very first words that you will ever learn in Italian is sciopero. Sciopero is not simply a strike, sciopero is a catastrophe. On normal non-strike days, buses are never on time and traffic jams can get really bad at rush hour. During sciopero it’s 10 times worse, so the only thing that you can do to survive and get to uni, work or the city centre on time is either wake up early and try to get there by metro before 8 am or walk until your feet bleed. Sounds so fun, right?

Rome is “the city of beggars”,

as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in The Marble Faun. You will find them at every corner of the city, especially around Vatican City. I have no idea whether they are real or very good actors. Some of them are, of course. I know it’s a controversial opinion, but unfortunately, you will find many of them begging for money. Another thing you must be aware of is pickpocketing, especially on public transportation.

Rubbish is everywhere.

Rome’s streets are dirty and no one seems to really care about it. There’s not much to say about it, except that I’d love to see people (both Romans and non-Romans) more aware of the damage they cause both environmentally and aesthetically.

I hope I haven’t discouraged you with these three negative points, but if I did, keep reading to know how beautiful this city is.

I will start by pointing out what is obvious:

Rome is eternal.

Yes, Rome is known as the eternal city because you can see buildings and ruins from thousands of years ago. First of all, the Colosseum. I get past it every single day and I’m pretty sure I will never get sick of it. It has been there for centuries and it represents Romans: no matter what, they will always be there for you.

And again, Romans: they look like they don’t care about people, but they do. It’s easy to make friends here because you just need to start complaining about transportation or – if it’s summer you can complain about the heat.

Food.

Carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, pizza, supplì, gelato, pinsa… there are many reasons to move here, but the food is delicious here and they are all a must-try. I will soon write another article about Rome’s food scene, where to get the best food ever.

High-quality education.

Rome has three public universities and countless private university. Education at a public university is not as expensive as you might think, even at La Sapienza, known as one of the oldest university in the world. Downside: some course schedules are a nightmare if you want to attend lessons, but teachers know what they are talking about (or at least most of them). I’m still a student there and 99% of the teachers I had (and currently have) were/are amazing.

That’s all, folks. Arrivederci!

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Christmas Markets in Warsaw

Once upon a time, in a city inhabited by wonderful people, where ancient and modern met to create a peculiar architecture that left visitors enchanted… well, you already know how much I love Poland, so let’s jump into the wonderful Christmas atmosphere, shall we?

One of the most beautiful and vibrant Christmas markets in Europe is located in Warsaw, capital city of Poland. On December 8th, a huge Christmas tree was finally placed on the main square in front of the royal castle and finally lighted up in a spectacular show, attended by thousands of Poles as well as tourists.

Christmas markets are everywhere: there is one on the old town market square, where an ice rink was placed; another one is right behind St. Anne’s church; then another is along Międzymurze Piotra Biegańskiego… there are so many options that it is hard to decide where to go!

  • The Old Town Market Square
    If you want to try typical Christmas dishes, then that’s your place. The best thing to try when you’re here and you need to warm up a little bit is the typical Polish sausage with cucumber, mustard and ketchup. I took a picture but it’s kind of ambiguous, so I’d rather not post it here for now.
  • Międzymurze Piotra Biegańskiego Market
    Walk along this street with a cup of Polish mulled wine. Mulled wine always makes me happy (and super-dizzy). I got to try it in two different countries (Germany and Sweden) before trying the Polish version too. It’s different from Glühwein and Glögg, I’d say much stronger. Poles usually put some sherry in it and a small piece of orange. Needless to say that it’s delicious and warms you up very quickly, but also be aware if you don’t drink alcohol — and most importantly, don’t drink if you’re underage.
  • St. Anne’s Church Market
    What’s better than finishing a meal with something sweet? Head to St. Anne’s Church Market and get a chimney cake (Sękacz). It’s a sugar explosion but definitely makes your day even better. It’s similar to the original Hungarian version called Kürtőskalács. Don’t ask me to pronounce these, unfortunately I gave up my Hungarian course after four months and even though I would love to learn Polish, I think that life is too short to learn Polish. (Let me know if you want to read something about the hardest languages in the world to learn).

I know that by now your stomach must be full, so why not burning everything off with some ice-skating?

I ticked ice-skating off my bucket list, but I would love to do it again. On the old market square you can find a ring and stay there for 1 hour or 1/2 hour. The admission to the rink is free, but skates cost 10,00 zł (1 hour) or 5,00 zł (1/2 hour). The price written here might change and the information provided might not be 100% accurate, you can find more info here.

In case you want to read more about Warsaw, check this out or if you need suggestions about the best restaurants in Warsaw, then click here.

Saint Lucy’s Day

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. ⠀
In Sweden, it is called Luciadagen or simply Lucia. It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia and in Sicily, so I really feel like a day connecting two parts of me. Swedes usually eat lussekatter, a sweet bun with saffron and cinnamon. Girls (and boys too) in Scandinavia are dressed as Saint Lucy but only one of the girls wears a crown of candles on her head. Processions are organized everywhere and they sing the so-called Lucia songs. 

My mom and I used to go to Syracuse (Sicily) to celebrate it and in Sicily, it’s a heartfelt day especially if you are named after Lucia. The typical Saint Lucy’s dish is called brusciuvia in Sicilian and it is a soup my grandmother (whose name was Lucia too) used to make. ⠀

The 13th of December was considered the longest night of the year, that’s why light plays a relevant role on this day and candles are lit on the head of Saint Lucy. 

Picture taken by Paula

Wrocław: a weekend in Silesia in the city of dwarfs

Imagine visiting a country just because the plane ticket was so cheap and you were out of ideas, but your restless feet needed to take you somewhere. It might happen that you end up in a place you don’t like, that you had never thought of visiting before. Well, fasten your seat belt, because I ended up in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe: Wrocław, Poland.

There are so many countries on my bucket list that Poland was actually not even in my top 10, but it is now in my top 10 countries that I absolutely love.

Wrocław, the largest city in Silesia, looks like a fairytale for its typical central-European architecture.

One of the very first things to do here is to look for all the dwarfs around the city. I found 5 or 6 there and they commemorate the anti-regime organization Orange Alternative, that in the 1980s symbolically painted dwarfs as a form of protest against the Stalinist communist regime.

The architecture is incredible, the people are incredible and the food, guess what, is incredible too.

Polish cuisine was a real surprise: pierogi, kielbasa, oscypek, bigos… dishes to die for! I didn’t expect to gain 2 kg per week, but it happened and I couldn’t be happier.

The first restaurant that I tried is called Chatka Przy Jatkach, in the heart of Wrocław, and has a typical Polish menu. Needless to say that I had most of my meals over there. Moreover, their restaurant really looks amazing and makes you feel like you’re living in another century. This is their Facebook page.

Wielkie dzięki!

The Collector’s Victory Hotel Review

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“In 1974, our mother Majlis had had enough of slaving by the stove and of wiping snotty children’s noses. She threw the dishcloth on the floor and said: enough is enough! Shortly thereafter, a modest hotel on nearby Västerlånggatan came up for sale and Majlis seized the opportunity. Our father Gunnar, who was a keen collector of antiques, mainly of the maritime kind, realized that this was the perfect chance to display his rare artifacts”.

This explains how the Collector’s Hotel Lord Nelson was born. After 6 years, Lady Hamilton was born. And finally, in 1987, the Victory Hotel.
The story behind this chain is so interesting and every single thing in here confirms the huge passion of everyone working here. Their rooms look like art exhibitions and are truly beautiful.

I stayed in Captain Lundqvist room, which had a double bed and two large windows, as well as a private bathroom. Everything here looks perfect, every piece of furniture is carefully chosen and taken care of.

Their continental breakfast is classy and delicious, with a touch of Swedish typical food such as salmon.

Located right in the heart of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, Victory Hotel is what will make your stay incredibly wonderful.

For more information and reservation visit the official website

 

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For reservation through Booking.com click on this banner:

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