Saint Valentines in the Heart of Europe
Ah, Prague, there is something about your cobblestone streets of Staré Město, lined with the elaborately detailed buildings in playful colors that gives us all the romantic nostalgic feels. Kafka’s words captured the feeling best- “Prague never lets you go - dear little mother has sharp claws”, making Prague, a jealous lover and a hopeless-romantic in its own right. He may have been onto something. The way this cities’ collection of architecture harmoniously intertwines, embracing each other the way lovers do is the kind of stuff fairytales are made of. Soon, Saint Valentine’s day will be upon us, and while it’s certainly not difficult to find ways to get that romance on in the golden city, we’ve gathered a variety of ideas on how to make the most of it with your “miláček”, (the Czech word for “darling” or “sweetheart”). After all, the city is affectionately called “the heart of Europe” for more than just it's geography.
Perhaps start your day with a fancy brunch at the Neo-Renaissance Cafe Savoy, offering an upscale dining experience that doesn’t have to break the bank - unless you want it to. The striking interior plays homage to the first Czechoslovak Republic with details that feel more authentic, less cliché. While their restaurant menu is excellent, their confections might steal the spotlight. We recommend indulging in their french toast with a café melange or decadent hot chocolate. Although, since it’s Valentine’s Day, we know what your heart truly desires- skipping lunch and heading straight to dessert, so we made sure to take you to the right place. Pražáci (the name for Prague inhabitants) flock all over to get their hands on this classic choux style pastry filled with vanilla-caramel cream and caramel glaze known as vetrnik that tastes as delicious as it sounds. You’re welcome.
Cafe Savoy // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
After over-indulging a little bit, a stroll will likely be exactly what is needed. Petřín hill neighbors the cafe and has a myriad of winding paths protected by towering tree canopies create an air of privacy. It’s hidden corners, orchards and gardens (during the summer), miniature Eiffel tower and sweeping views of the city and castle give it all the ingredients necessary to be one of Prague’s most romantic atmospheres. Beware, with such stunning panoramas, it might be hard to decide which to ogle - the city, or each other.
Petrin Hill // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
Half-way up the hill you can find the famous romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha immortalized in a proud, imposing statue. While famous for romantic poetry, he was also known to be a womanizing “Don Juan” character who died the day before his wedding day. Czechs have a tradition on May Day (May 1st) taken from his eternal sonnet now considered to be a Czech classic. The tradition holds that on the first of May, lovers much pay homage to his memory by kissing under a cherry tree, as well as visiting his statue with flower offerings. While it is not May, and there are no blooming cherry trees in February, we think this tradition still deserves a little affection on Valentine’s day, too. Why wait three more months to proclaim your undying love for one another?
Late evening, on the first of May -
The twilit May - the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses trail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied,
The rose's fragrant sigh replied
To love-songs of the nightingale.
In shadowy woods the burnished lake
Darkly complained a secret pain,
By circling shores embraced again;
And heaven's clear sun leaned down to take
A road astray in azure deeps,
Like burning tears the lover weeps.
-Karel Hynek Macha
Macha statue on Petrin Hill // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
If you so wish, extend your walk through the park all the way to the adorable “Nový Svět”, a street found just steps from Prague castle that feels like a picturesque Czech village and is the definition of ‘quaint’. It will leave you thinking like you stumbled upon a well-kept secret, likely having it all to yourselves despite its proximity to the heaps of tourists at the castle. Stop into the cozy Kavárna Nový Svět for a specialty coffee and snack.
Nový Svět // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
Malá Strana may have some the prettiest and most well kept buildings in the old part of Prague, and it’s less trafficked area makes it a little more quiet with plenty of hidden corners too. We encourage you to take the less-beaten path through the district all the way down towards the Charles Bridge, where you will find Canal Čertovka, or “Devil’s Canal”, Prague’s own version of Pont des Arts. Here you can lock your love on the bridge and throw the key in the channel below.
Malá Strana // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
Now that you have been out in the cold for a while, it might be time heat things up a little. And by heating things up, we mean enjoying a sauna with a view. A little bit of a trek from the castle, Lazne na Lodi, is worth the journey. Located in a boat on the Vltava with sites of the Prague castle, the perfect way to practice a little self-love together while enjoying the city in the middle of a chilly February. Just 70 kc per half hour - you will want to make reservations online ahead of time as space is limited.
If a dinner date is on your agenda, we’ve got some excellent bistros that will certainly set the tone for a romantic evening for you and yours. Hop on a tram at Výton or Palackého náměstí heading towards the Vinohrady and Vršovice districts (also the home of our sister property Czech Inn) for the occasion. Vinohrady, in particular, is known for its dining scene and some of our personal favorites. They not only present delicious menus with something for just about every palate, but have limited seating to create that intimate dining experience ideal for Saint Valentine’s (We recommend making reservations). First, Martin’s Bistro, with excellent cocktails and an emphasis on a fresh, weekly menu hosting dishes from all around the world. Javanka, serves delicious Indonesian dishes in cosy, candle-lit ambience (beach not included). Another, Kofein, situated in a basement that feels more like a wine cellar has a focus on good wine and locally inspired, tapas-style dishes. Last, but certainly not least, Osteria da Clara, rumored to be the best Italian cuisine in Prague with pasta, handmade to order. We will leave you here to live out your pasta dreams of sharing a plate of spaghetti with your Valentine.
Javanka // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
Looking to continue your night of making googly eyes at each other over a few drinks? Na břehu Rhôny at their new location on Francouzská has a broad selection of wines from the Rhône river region of France. Another remarkable choice is RÁNO KÁVU VEČER VÍNO, meaning “morning coffee, evening wine” for a great selection as well. Is wine not your preference? Try Bar and Books, remarkable cocktails in a 1920s cocktail lounge vibe.
RÁNO KÁVU VEČER VÍNO // Photo by Alexandra Siebenthal
However you choose to spend your day cosying up to the object of your affection, rest easy knowing that you are in fact, spending Valentine's Day in the heart of Europe, and it doesn't get more romantic that that. And if you are single, well, go get yourself a vetrnik, a glass of wine and soak up the city that inspired Kafka's words, Prague will make you fall in love with it, too.
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Alexandra is American photographer and writer living in Prague, who came for the views and stayed for the cheap beer. She is into sunrise walks on the bridge, cafe culture and is overly enthusiastic for all things Prague, travel and good coffee.