Prague is not the first place people imagine traveling with their children – I know this because when we decided to drag our four kids there I googled “kids in Prague” and was shocked to discover there was no big shiny website ready to handle that query.
Ironically, the dearth of kids-programming may be why Prague was the site of our easiest family vacation ever.
Not hustling from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, from big event to big event, meant we could actually take our time with each other. Not being in a rush meant we could WALK places with no real plan in mind.
Walking around a city really can’t be beat when the sidewalks looks like this:
I know it sounds nuts, walking places with kids. But I am here to tell you, it can be done – my kids were 8, 6 and 4 year old twins when were in Prague, and they walked miles. This is not our norm – we live in Los Angeles – but something about Prague sprinkled fairy dust on their sneakers.
Maybe it’s because the city itself is so pretty to look at from the street. The architecture is gorgeous – much remains from medieval times, not to mention every period in between. The city even boasts it’s own Frank Gehry building, Dancing House.
The kids even walked a couple of miles up-hill (!) to Prague Castle.
This is where I break the “don’t make plans!” logic of this post to say, even if you visit no other tourist attractions while you’re in Prague, visit this one.
The Castle is the site of St. Vitus Cathedral. The art nouveau stained glass windows are stunning, and the cathedral itself is comparable to many of the greatest in Europe.
We booked a tour guide, which is the only way to get past the rope at the vestry. I worried that the kids would self-destruct on a group tour, but my 8 year old was totally interested in the history of the site, and there was more than enough eye-candy to keep my other kids busy.
Plus you get a killer view of the city when you get to the other side:
Walking is also how we stumbled into the little jewel of a museum that is Museum Kampa.
This is a great art museum for kids – each gallery is pretty small, scaled perfectly for their attention spans. There was a cartooning exhibit on display while we were there, but we chose the adult programming in the main building and the kids didn’t seem to mind.
Plus there was another cool view of the city from on top of the building, and some fun public art (one of David Cerny’s “Babies”) that the kids could climb all over, right outside.
And okay, sure, we did do a few touristy things – we wandered over the Charles Bridge (skip it – tourists and panhandlers, boo!), and hoofed it into Old Town Square.
Old Town Square features all the same sorts of street performers and tour touts you’ll find in any city with a large square – this one is just prettier, and surrounded by some of the highest end shopping in Prague.
It’s also very near the Jewish Quarter. Pro-tip: if you want a guided tour of the Jewish quarter, don’t show up on Saturday. (Whoops.)
We also booked an hour-long boat ride on the river – the operator is unimportant, I doubt there is much difference between one and the next, they all seem to come with a beer and ice cream, so a beer (us) and ice cream (them) was enjoyed by all.
And yes, we hired one of the classic cars that give tours all over Old Town. We paid the guy to skip the tour and just ferry our weary legs back to our apartment in style.
All this was miraculous and lovely.
But the truth is, I really fell in love with Prague at the Café Savoy.
We lucked into the Café Savoy mostly because we could see it out the window of our Airbnb. (Traveling with kids, we do our best to stay in apartments rather than hotels. Kitchens and laundry facilities are a must, plus it’s harder to get evicted from an apartment than a hotel room. My kids might be tiny but man are they loud.)
In fact, I was pretty sure Café Savoy would turn us away. It did not look like a family restaurant by any stretch of the imagination. But to our surprise, not only were we seated immediately, but the lovely wait staff brought paper and crayons.
Plus the kids’ menus featured actual food.
No hot dogs and chicken nuggets here.
Steak. Roast chicken. Pork chops. Spaetzle.
Which apparently was so extraordinary, my kids asked to thank the chef – and the maître d brought them to the kitchen so they could.
Were we in heaven? I think so.
Because while all this was happening I got the stiff cocktail I desperately desired after all that walking:
That’s ice cold Becherovka. It tastes like licorice and I will keep a bottle in my freezer for the rest of my life.
Then they brought me this:
If that doesn’t look better than the fanciest meal you’ve eaten in the fanciest restaurant in the fanciest city you’ve even been – well, you’re just wrong.
I had a gorgeous plate of rolled duck and parsnips after that.
We went to bed very very happy in our Airbnb …
… then we woke up and went right back to Café Savoy for breakfast.
They make all their pastries downstairs, beneath a huge picture window where you can watch the bakers at work, which my kids did. For quite some time.
Somehow over breakfast my son managed to hit his head on the table and the maître d, who remembered us from the night before, solved the problem by handing him a tiny stuffed bear. TO KEEP.
That night, we invited old friends to meet us for dinner there, again. This time I ordered off the more “traditional menu,” and it was extraordinarily delicious too.
More importantly, it was over that second dinner that I learned the Cafe Savoy is one of a larger group of hot spots around town.
Next time I visit Prague, I may organize my vacation around trying all of them.