A Weekend in Prague

Forget country cottage weekends in the UK; if you really want to broaden your horizons, the only way is Prague. The Czech capital is fast becoming one of Europe’s trendiest city break destinations, thanks to its jazz scene and strong pub culture, but there’s also plenty of history to uncover once you know where to look.

Prague by Night

Prague by Night

Day 1

Morning: Getting to grips with the Old Town

Many of Prague’s most talked about sights are in this part of the city, such as the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall, Franz Kafka’s birthplace and the Charles Bridge. As with any tourist-heavy destination, you may find it tricky to combat the crowds in peak times, so it’s best to watch the clock chime in the early morning if you want to get a good view of this unique spectacle, which includes appearances from the 12 apostles and Death himself. Afterwards, explore the Old Town Square and the narrow streets that run off from it, full of boutiques and cafes.

Lunch: The Josefov

The Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, is foodie heaven, boasting everything from classic pubs to luxury restaurants. You should explore the cobbled streets before you choose your lunch venue, as there’s history around every corner, from the Jewish Museum to the synagogues. If you’re short on time then grab a snack at the ever-popular Bohemia Bagel during your walk (found on Masná 2); alternatively, savour the art deco feel and the tasting menu at the Sarah Bernhardt restaurant (U Obecního domu 1080/1), named after the actress who appeared in several posters by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. You can even buy tickets to Mucha’s nearby museum in the New Town, which is well worth a visit for its Art Nouveau vibe.

Afternoon: Prague Castle and art hunting in the Lesser Town

Step into the Lesser Town, or Malá Strana, where you’ll find the city’s famous castle, which is an essential pit-stop for any self-respecting tourist and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Whether you want to watch the changing of the guard, see the crown jewels or discover paintings by old masters, there’s plenty to keep you occupied within the grounds. If castles aren’t a big draw for you and you’re more tempted by modern attractions then you might prefer to seek out David Černý’s conceptual art sculpture, Quo Vadis – a Communist-era Trabant car with legs. It pays tribute to East Germans who sought political asylum at the West German Embassy back in 1989.

Continue your modern art tour by stopping at Lennon Wall (Velkopřevorské náměstí), which is a graffiti-based reminder of John Lennon’s life and his peace activism. The wall art has been constantly evolving since 1980, with the original Lennon wall portrait hidden under more recent scrawled additions from tourists and locals.

Dinner: New Town

The New Town Brewery is the perfect place to enjoy Czech food and, of course, a glass of Pilsner beer, but it’s also very popular for nights out, so it’s best to make a reservation. Follow up your meal with a quick 20 minute tour of the brewery, available after 6pm, to see how they manage to make it taste so good. Just as the place begins to get really busy, leave the revellers to it and head for the bright lights of Prague’s best music hubs.

Nightlife: Jazz Clubs

Even if you’re not normally a jazz music fan, the city’s intimate clubs and talented live acts may well change your mind. Soak up the atmosphere in Reduta, one of the most renowned venues, which has been bringing music to Prague since 1958 (found at Národní třída 20). There’s entertainment every night, covering more than just jazz – expect to find anything from swing and blues to reggae and cabaret being performed. For advice on where to stay in Prague after your jazz club experience, click here.

Day 2

Morning: Petrin Hill and Tower

Start off with plenty of fresh air and a stroll across small parks that are scattered around Petrin Hill. Don’t get too comfortable, as you’ll need plenty of energy to climb the 299 steps of the Observation Tower, which is a quirky tribute to Paris’ Eiffel Tower and can be reached by travelling on the funicular railway from Ujezd. The views from the top certainly won’t disappoint, with the chance to see the country’s highest mountain, Snezka, on a clear day.

Lunch: Vinohrady

The area that used to be King Charles’ personal vineyards is now an up-and-coming part of the city that is very family-friendly and has plenty of good value places to eat, from pizzerias to casual coffee shops where you can people watch in peace. Try Pradelna Café, which used to be a laundry, where you can pick up a steaming bowl of soup, a homemade slice of cake or one of the speciality loose leaf teas.

Afternoon: Vltava River

End your trip on a high note by cruising along the Vltava on a rowing or pedal boat in the summer, allowing you to choose your own route. There are rental areas by the National Theatre and also by the Charles Bridge, which tend to be open for business between April and October. Seeing the city from the river will give you a totally different perspective and you can test your skills as a rower.

By following this guide, you’ll get a good grounding of Prague’s best sights in just two days and you’ll know why it’s so popular for weekends away. Find out more about Prague breaks and get planning your escape to the Czech Republic.

Sweden Wins Eurovision 2012

Last night, Sweden won the world’s largest televised non-sporting event, the Eurovision Song Contest. Loreen won convincingly with her dance anthem “Euphoria”. voters all over Europe supported this new single hit with 372 points and undoubtedly we will hear her voice in the radios all over Europe now. This year the contest took place in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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Loreen performs Euphoria

Russia with Buranovskiye Babushki and their song “Party For Everybody” became second with 259 votes, followed by Serbia’s Željko Joksimović and their song “Nije Ljubav Stvar” with 214 votes.

The Russian entry was a departure from the usual performances by younger singers in song contest. Buranovskiye Babushkithe or the “Buranovo Grannies” (the group’s name in English) and their ethno-pop song was popular with the voting public as it was both fun, entertaining and unusual – as you can see from their performance below.

The UK entry sung by Engelbert Humperdinck ended up second to last place with only got 12 points for his performance of “Love Will Set You Free”. Last year’s more popular UK entry from the band Blue reached 11th place when the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Düsseldorf, Germany. Judge for yourself whether Europe was right not to give more votes for Humperdinck’s ballad style song by watching the music video below.

The Norway entry received the fewest votes and they came last in the song contest.

The show was shown on television all over the world and millions of Europeans followed this event which has been designed to celebrate the diversity of all the nations on this continent. Next year the contest will be taking place in Stockholm, Sweden.

The winning entry Euphoria is currently the song that has received the most 12 points under the current voting rules of the Eurovision Song Contest being awarded 12 points by 18 other participating countries. Sweden recieved points from 40 of the voting 42 countries.

Enjoy the YouTube video of Loreen’s winning performance in Baku and again, congratulations Loreen!

Image reproduced from http://www.francesoir.fr/
Videos reproduced from YouTube / eurovision

Dublin – More Than Just Guinness

Mention Ireland to someone and one of the first things they’ll say is probably Guinness. Ireland is famous for the land which created “the Black Stuff” and Dublin was were it all started. The original brewery near the centre of the city is now a museum – called the Guinness Storehouse – where you can learn more about the history of this great drink and even sample a pint in their rooftop bar which has stunning views across Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse is without a doubt Ireland’s and Dublin’s number one tourist attraction – and quite rightly so. But there is more to Dublin than just being the home of Guinness.

The best place to start planning your trip to Dublin is to check out the website for Dublin Tourism Board which gives full listings and guides to the city. When it comes to getting there, book a flight with British Midland International (BMI). BMI fly from London Heathrow to Dublin every day and although they might not be the cheapest, they are neither the most expensive and offer the best value for money. BMI are a member airline of the Star Alliance which is a network of respected airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Luftansa.

There has been a resurgence in the city centre thanks to the increasing amount of tourists from Europe and America who are now travelling in every increasing numbers to Ireland’s capital. The city is full of culture and you are never too far away from a quality restaurant or bar to sample the best Ireland has to offer in good food and drink. See our reviews of Pichet and Chameleon for just two examples of some of the wonderful dining experiences awaiting you. Dublin Castle is definitely worth a visit, if only to marvel at it’s technicolour walls which are unlike any other historic building you’ll be used to. The grounds outside the castle was the original home of the Dubh Linn (meaning Black Pool) where Dublin gets it’s name.

No visitor to Dublin can miss seeing the amazing Spire Of Dublin rising up to the heavens on O’Connell Street. It is also known by it’s official name of the Monument of Light. At night it looks spectacular when the top 12 metres of the monument is illuminated forming a beacon across the night sky. The monument itself is 120 metres high and is the world’s tallest sculpture.

The River Liffey runs through the heart of the city and splits the city up with the historic Georgian Dublin and main tourist attractions in the south and and the less touristy areas of the city in the north. The Temple Bar area just south of the Ha’penny Bridge is the main tourist area of Dublin and is filled with lots of pubs, bars and restaurants. The Ha’penny bridge is probably the best known bridge in Dublin and is famous for being the first iron bridge in Ireland. A good central hotel to stay at is the reasonably priced Eliza Lodge which is only a stone’s throw away from lively Temple Bar but manages to maintain a sense of tranquility by overlooking the River Liffey.

Famous Dubliners include the influential writer James Joyce, the witty Oscar Wilde (whose leering statue lies foppishly on a stone crag in Merrion Square) and of course the infamous Molly Marlone from the popular song which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin. A buxom statue of Molly Malone is located at the bottom of Grafton Street and is fondly referred to as “The Tart With The Cart” by locals!

Discover Dublin on your next city break – it is so much more than just the home of Guinness!

Images courtesy of Alan Philippe