Visting Prague

Prague is a gorgeous city and has quickly become a destination for many travelers.  For me, it was easy to see why so many people fall in love with Prague.  From their red roof tops, vibrant night life, to their culture and amazing architecture, it is a top pick for me.

Prague has a modern airport, Ruzyne Airport, but unfortunately there are no train lines connected to the airport. You can take a taxi or bus, (around 30mins to 1 hour) to the the city center.  Since Prague is a popular destination you can find many flights.
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If you decide to take a train, there are 2 train stations in Prague. The main station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, is only 5 minutes from Vaclavske namesti, one of Prague’s 2 main squares.  The other station is Prague Holešovice.  Personally, I have not arrived in Prague by train but have had friends who have used the RailCard  while traveling through Europe.  They have found the train to be a convenient connection to Prague.
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Since we live in Switzerland we chose to drive to Prague (6 1/2 hour drive) from Northern Swizterland.  Remember when driving through Europe many countries have toll roads or toll vignettes. The Czech Republic has a Vignette you must purchase to drive on the roads. You can buy it at any gas station before entering into the Czech. For a 10 day pass it will run you around 250 CZK which is about $15.
We chose to stay in the city center, near the National Theater. We parked our car in a parking garage for the duration of our stay, and walked our way through Prague.  When searching for a place to stay, I found the prices more than reasonable, we paid 2000 CZK ($120/night). In the city center for an apartment for a family of 5, this was a great steal.
Prague’s Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí
If you get up early to beat the crowds you might be able to find the square empty, like pictured above.  Unlike the wee hours of the morning, the Old Town Square is bustling during the day & night. The quaint cafes, street artist, merchants, architecture all made this my favorite place to hang out in Prague. 
 
A boat ride on the river and walk to the Prague Castle is a great way to experience the city.  I would also recommend checking out the Loreta Church, Strahov Monastery, Vaclavske namesti and Old Royal Palace.  Since we were traveling as a family we didn’t get to experience the night life Prague has to offer but have heard it’s fantastic, from theaters to dancing and more.
My last piece of advice, make sure you try out the local cuisine. I found their dishes to be quite tasty and particularly enjoyed the salty pancakes. Give them a try! 

Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities

Traveling with kids can be daunting, especially if you fail to keep them entertained. Thankfully, there are thousands of castles in Europe. Seems like everywhere we go there is a castle to explore. The kids are fascinated with castles (think…dungeons, dragons, swords). We have explored our fair share of castles and I thought I would highlight a few of our favorites.
The Neuschwanstein Castle Hohenschwangau, Germany
One of the most famous castles in Europe
 
We have visited here a  few times, as the kids like to call it their castle. Neuenswander is a family name, so the kids feel they have a claim to it….. wouldn’t that be nice.
The castle is in Bavaria, Germany.  Since it is famous,  I recommend buying your tickets online.  We have waited hours in peak season for a tour.  A tour is included with the purchase of a ticket .
You have the option to tour both castles. The other, smaller castle, was King Ludwig II fathers’ castle.  If you want to get an idea of the time period furniture and decor, I recommend also touring the Hohenschwangau Castle.
Once you buy your ticket you have to walk up to the castle. The walk is beautiful in the summer but freezing in the winter. I recommend, especially with kids, taking the bus or hiring a carriage to the top. The horse drawn carriage was a favorite for our kids.
 
The Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic
The Prague castle is noted to be the biggest castle in the world.  To me, it seemed like a little city in itself. There are many churches and palaces all built within the walls.

There are different types of tickets you can purchase to tour the castle.  Decide which works best for you. A “long visit ticket” may prove too long for little kids.
* A note to the reader, the castle may appear closer than it really is. You may find that your mid afternoon stroll turns into a walk filled with tears and ice cream bribes.  It’s recommended, by me, a fellow “let’s walk – it looks close” person, to just take the tram.

 

The Sanssouci Palace – Potsdam, Germany
Palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 
 

The grounds of the Sanssouci Palace reminded me of the Palace of Versailles, seemingly going on forever.  Potsdam is just outside Berlin and home to many summer Palaces. The above picture does not do justice. The grounds are immaculate with multiple Palaces scattered throughout.
You can buy tickets for a guided tour upon arrival.  The area is crawling with tourists during the summer, but we found  the lines were manageable.  If find yourself in Berlin and need a break from the city touring, I can highly recommend taking a break in Potsdam.

 

 

Palace of Versailles – Paris, France

It’s only fair if I make a comparison to the Palace of Versailles, I also review it.    Home to Louise XIV The Palace of Versailles is fascinating.  For our kids it was also a great history lesson regarding the French Revolution.  The grounds are just as amazing as the inside. I found this castle to be so ornate in detail, unlike the inside of the Neuschwanstein castle.
Buying your ticket ahead is highly recommended. This is a definite must see while in Paris.

 Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg – Orschwiller, France

 

Overlooking the Alsace valley of France, this Chateau has a breathtaking view.   The few time we have visited, spring and summer season, we have had no problems with the lines. You can purchase your tickets upon arrival and go on a self guided tour.The castle has some impressive furniture inside its apartments.  Our kids were kept entertained with the drawbridges and cannons along the tour.

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – walled city in 
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
 This little city is, by far, the most darling medieval town we have visited. The town is completely surrounded by a wall. A walk around the city wall is a must. Guided walks through the town are offered to fill you in on the history.  I’d recommend the night tour with a medieval guide carrying a torch to light your way. You can visit the tourist center inside the wall to purchase your tickets. The town is also famous for the shop Wohlfahrt, another must see. 
Château de Chillon – Montreux, Switzerland
This Castle sits on Lake Leman, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. You might ask- what’s so cool about his castle? You can hire out the castle for birthday parties (weddings too). How cool is that?  Besides being able to party in the castle, you can also tour it.  You can purchase a guided tour and get an in depth history lesson.
Carcassonne – More than just a board game, 
a walled city in Carcassonne, France
Our boys asked for years to visit Carcassonne. The only knowledge they had of this city was from a beloved family game we play, Carcassonne. So, when we informed them we would take a road trip there, they were ecstatic.
The fortified city has it’s own drawbridge and 53 towers to watch out for the enemy (in the past, of course).  I could best describe the city as imagination-gone-wild for the kids.  No tickets are needed.  It’s free to explore the grounds.  You can walk through the walled city anytime but many of the restaurants and shops are closed  in the off season (winter months).
Civita di Bagnoregio – Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
 
And in the spirit of walled cities I figured this city needed to be mentioned. The city itself, perched up on a hill, is a site to see.  No cars are allowed in the city,  you must park before crossing the bridge. There are a few spots of metered parking close to the bridge. From there you can walk across the bridge to the beautiful town of Civita di Bagnoregio.  No tickets are required to tour. The town is pretty secluded but it’s a great little town to explore. Not to mention, a breathtaking picture.