A tale of two cities—and as many cakes.
1 ) Fairy Tale City.
Every journey needs a starting point, and ours begins in Prague. Prague stands out as one of the few cities in Europe that emerged from WWII with its medieval old town almost entirely intact. As you wander its cobblestoned streets and look to the castle lit up at night, it can sometimes feel like you’ve been inserted into a fairy tale. The city’s astonishing prettiness can make Prague resemble a toy town at times. Touristy but true to its character, it delights visitors with its fairytale architecture and surprises them with its oddball treasures.
Whether you visit Old Town Square at dawn, dusk or any hour in between, you can’t fail to be impressed by its pristine beauty. Some come to see the famed Astronomical Clock, others the Jan Hus Memorial and many Týn Cathedral with its iconic towers. Few go home disappointed.
Charles Bridge also deserves the hype surrounding it, but avoid visiting it in the day when crowds of excitable tourists make it difficult to see the statues that line the North and South sides – or to move. Instead visit on a cloudless night, when the crowds have dispersed and the moonlight illuminates the bridge and casts an eerie light over these noble effigies. At this hour you can touch the statue of the martyred St. John of Nepomuk to ensure you return to Prague, and take a look at the Czech capital while it’s semi-sleepy. Also do visit Kampe island.
From the Charles Bridge it’s a seemingly vertical stroll to the castle, through Malá Strana and up a lot of steps. But it’s definitely worth sweating for. You can get a panoramic view of the city from above, before exploring this Gothic heavyweight and the nearby cathedral. Also on the top of the hill there’s a an entertaining Toy Museum (the second largest in the world) which includes an army of Barbies from 1959 onwards.
We celebrated Christmas in picturesque magical streets of Prague. There’s nothing quite like a Christmas in Prague. The gleaming decorations, streets filled with Christmas markets and cold, vibrant atmosphere complimenting the Gothic and Baroque architecture that has become a hallmark of one of Europe’s most charming cities. All these things scream Christmas charm! You will feel out of the world once you visit Prague during the Christmas time.
Whilst in Prague:
Must Do: You can’t miss the World War 2 Walk.
Must Try: Trdelnik
Where to Eat:
Ambiente Pasta Fresca
From the street it’s look like a small restaurant, but few stairs down it’s a large warm Italian restaurant, with very good and high quality food, friendly service and the bill will not spoil your evening. They have home made pasta and don’t be afraid to order something new that you have never tasted before, it can be only a nice surprise. It’s full most of the time , so when you are passing the place on the way to the Old Town Sq. stop there and make a reservation.
We enjoyed a great meal at U Minuty (Al Minuto Restaurace) right alongside the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square. We ate in the terrace under heaters and even though it was cold and windy outside we were warm and comfortable. Service was friendly, helpful and attentive. The pizza’s are big and made with a lovely light base with tasty toppings. We couldn’t fit in dessert. U Minuty is good value for money, a great place to relax, enjoy a pizza while watching the crowds waiting for the hourly show put on by Prague’s iconic Astronomical Clock.
When to Go:
Winters in Prague seems straight out of a dream. Shrouded in snow- or sometimes not, festive lights decorating each household you pass by, the sound of carols filling your ears at every nook and corner, friendly people eagerly awaiting Christmas and the spirit of the festival that can be felt in the atmosphere- need I say more?
You can walk almost anywhere you want to go and I suggest you walk. If not, taxis and trains will suffice.
Later on my birthday morning we took a train ride to Vienna which offered panoramic views of beautiful small towns of Czech Republic, glimmering mountain lakes, rolling vineyards and green valleys which were all covered in thick snow.
2) Museum City.
Finally we reached Vienna, the Imperial heart of the Habsburg Empire, refined and grand, but also and to this day, a European crossroads. It is the world’s classiest border city. It has historic cafes, hip nightlife and some of the best cuisine in Europe. If you love really music & art then this is your place.
There are two important sights. The first is the Schönbrunn Palace. It is a former imperial summer residence. The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. Since 1960s it has been a major tourist attraction. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.
The second is Belvedere. It is a historic building complex consisting of two Baroque palaces. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape. It houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates.
We welcomed 2015 in Vienna.
The Silvesterpfad (New Year’s Eve Path), an annual grand street party, is the main event at New Years Eve in Vienna. The event lines up several free open air New Years Eve concerts in Vienna’s historic city centre. You can listen to everything from folk music, waltz and operetta to pop and rock tunes.
The Silvesterpfad officially starts at 2pm. Subsequently, the whole pedestrian area and other historic squares turn into one big party area where tens of thousands of Viennese and visitors celebrate. You can have tea, mulled wine, beer, champagagne and warm food at the many New Year’s Eve booths in town. Many booths sell New Year’s Eve lead casting kits, a popular Austrian tradition performed at midnight of the New Year.
The largest fireworks are at Heldenplatz close to the Imperial Palace and at the Vienna Prater in front of the Ferris Wheel and at Stephansplatz in front of Stephansdom. Thereby, you can watch the marvellous beauty of the city with your partner. The city has many popular, famous places as well which offer great musical shows, DJ performances and many grand events. London, New York, Las Vegas these are the common spots for New Year’s Eve but Vienna has something really different that will be stuck you with you for a lifetime. You definitely should not miss this and visit Vienna at least once in your lifetime for NYE. ( not posting any pictures of NYE celebration cause it is an experience which photos can’t explain )
It was an amazing feeling to spend the New Year’s Eve in an unknown place with the unknown happy faces.
Whilst in Vienna:
Must Do: Visit Mozarthaus.
Must Try: Viennese Coffee.
Where to Eat:
Da Capo Ristorante
Love the atmosphere, service, food. Excellent selection of pizza, pasta and these guys are very good at making their own desserts.
Café Leopold Hawelka:
This classic coffee house has a relaxed and convivial vibe with orange wallpaper and decorative tones. Nothing much has changed at Hawelka since it opened in the late 1930s. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Elias Canetti, Arthur Miller and Andy Warhol, just to name a few, are among the artists and writers who have hung out here.
Prückel’s unique mould is a little different from other Viennese cafes: instead of a sumptuous interior, it features an intact 1950s design. Intimate booths, aloof waiters, strong coffee, diet-destroying cakes and Prückel’s speciality, its delicious apple strudel, are all big attractions.
When to Go:
The summer season from June to August is considered the ideal time to visit Vienna as the skies are clear, the sun is shining bright, the weather is pleasant. However, there are minor drawbacks of arriving in this city in summers. July and August is the peak tourist season, leading to escalated air fares and hotel tariffs. But, if you are absolutely bent on visiting this Austrian city in summers, make sure to reserve hotels well-in-advance before you arrive here.
The world-famous New Year’s Concert, which is telecasted far and wide on television, also makes for a worthy-enough reason for a winter-time visit.
Take a two day pass of Big Bus Hop On Hop Off & move around the city.
- Smoking is nearly impossible to avoid in Vienna, especially in restaurants. If you’re particularly sensitive, it’s worth asking if there is a non-smoking seating area.
- Carry Comfortable Shoes cause you need to walk a lot in both the cities.