Eastern Europe is a mysterious, history rich place that is understated, underestimated and completely worth the long plane ride. For our 2014 international trip, the hubs and I craved something different, a new unexpected place that neither one of us had been to. A place with a different culture and vibe that was less European and pushed us outside the familiar. So after a good amount of research and a consideration for tickets and budget, we landed on Czech Republic with a short stop in Austria.
This was a special trip as we shared it with dear friends. And in doing so, we split up our normal research between the 4 of us. Our itinerary was neatly divided between:
- Czech Republic: Prague (5 nights) and Cesky Krumlov (1 night)
- Austria: Salzburg (2 nights) and Vienna (4 nights)
- Day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia
Prague was a historic and architectural gem. Spared from bombings in WWII, the city stands almost completely intact bustling around the Vltava River. Our Prague adventure was centered around Old Town and New Town, staying just 2 blocks from the river and 10 minutes from the iconic Charles Bridge.
The trip started off with an unbeatable private tour by a Prague native. Hands down best tour I’ve ever been on. She picked us up from our place, took us to less touristy locations and neighborhoods, taught us some practical things (like how to use the subway), provided us with interesting and personal anecdotes, and showed us the magic of Prague for 6 hours! The tour really opened our eyes to everything the city had to offer and allowed us to better plan our next 4 days with our newly attained information and recommendations.
Highlights of the trip included the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, countless hearty gravy covered dumplings, inexpensive delicious Pilsner beer, incredibly interesting Soviet and Nazi history, and stunning architecture. This city felt safe, welcoming and romantic. Some of my favorite memories were sharing great beers with friends, running alone early in the morning along the river and just meandering around the beautiful city.
From Prague we headed to Cesky Krumlov, a sleepy tiny town in the south of Czech Republic built around a 13th century castle. Quaint and picturesque, this Unesco World Heritage Site is a great place to explore in a day or 2 max. The Cesky Krumlov Castle, cafes and incredible views are pretty amazing but I think 2 days max is perfect.
Then off to the land of the Sound of Music. Austria! First stop, Salzburg. This is one of the most picture perfect post-card looking landscapes I’ve ever seen. Between the majestic Austrian Alp and the pristine turquoise Salzach River, I could not stop taking photos. Our time there was filled with more incredible beer, a gondola ride up the Alps, a visit to an estate with trick fountains, Mozart everything and the coolest monastery brewery beer garden ever! As for the food, we enjoyed strudel, Bavarian cream, schnitzel, sausages, beer… so good! And yes of course, we did a little Sound of Music singing while strolling thru the gardens “do a fe-, a female dear….”
Last stop, Vienna. There we hit up the sites, palaces, cathedrals and mile-long farmers market. The city was clean, upscale, grandiose and elegant. To change up the pace, we took a day trip to Bratislava the capital of Slovakia, by boat. This was a fun quirky city perfect for a change in culture, scenery and vibe.
And just like that, after an incredible 2 weeks living out of carry-ons, we left Eastern Europe hoping to be back soon!
Favorite activities and sites:
Prague, Czech Republic
- Personal tour of Prague by the lovely Markéta Hradecká and her company Caput Regni Tour. She adds so much history, personal anecdotes and practical information that really make this tour a must-do!
- Old Town and the Charles Bridge. Surrounded by history and architectural beauty, we could have spent our entire time relaxing in this laidback part of Prague.
- Prague Castle. Towering over the city, this castle is a must see. We did not go into every building but would highly highly recommend the Lobkowicz Palace. Incredible family history, art and you get a free treat at the end of the self-guided tour.
- Pivo (beer), trdelnik pastries, and dumplings. Almost every restaurant has beer and dumplings… sample different ones! We loved the potatoes dumplings. As for the trdelnik, enjoy this hollow sugary doughy delights with some good Czech coffee near the Old Town markets.
- Petřín Hill. Beautiful city hike with stellar views of Prague. And while you are there steal a kiss from your boo in front of the poet of love Karel Hynek Mácha.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
- Castle Krumlov. Overlooking this pocket sized town around the Vltava River, this 13th century castle has real live bears in the moat. Literally bears hanging out under the castle!
- Stroll along the Salzach River across the Mozart Bridge and love lock bridge with a view of the Alps. Bring your camera.
- Augustiner Abbey & Mullner Brau Brewery. A beer garden from 1890 under chestnut trees with liter beer steins that are rinsed in a fountain and filled straight from a barre. And of course more sausage and cream filled pastries than you can handle.
- Untersberg mountain cable car. An insanely awesome cable car ride up the side of the highest mountain (Apls) next to the city of Salzburg.
- Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains. Let’s just say the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg had a sense of humor when he build these fountains. Water powered genius ahead of its time.
- The Vienna Naschmarkt. Mile long farmers market with veggies, fruit and food galore!
- Schönbrunn Palace. Lavish 1,441 room palace with jaw dropping gardens is a must-see. Warning, the palace is in a residential neighborhood with zero restaurants so either come with a full stomach or eat in the palace café.
- Restaurant Mraz und Sohn. Michelin star winning restaurant serving fun innovative modern food. Perfect for a fancy fun date night. They had a 3 decker cheese cart… Enough said!
- Volksgarten and Burggarten. Meticulously kept gardens in the heart of Vienna. Armed with our Sacher Torte and bottle of wine, we picnicked with the natives among the rose gardens and historic buildings.
Extra photo fun: