Exploring Prague's glistening (and empty) churches

Soaking in the glittering Catholic heritage of an atheist nation

Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, has many nicknames––among them, "The Heart of Europe," "The Golden City," and "The City of a Hundred Spires." No matter what moniker it goes by, the city's beauty is undeniable, from the glittering Vltava River that runs through it to the historical Prague Castle that overlooks the hillside, and can be seen from the Charles Bridge. The city's biggest treasures, however, are in its cathedrals and churches—Prague owes much of its heritage to Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, a Catholic king who did not fail to commission religious architecture and ostentatious iconography throughout the city. It's ironic, then, that the Czech Republic has one of the highest, if not the highest, rate of atheism in the world.

Why is this significant? This provides the historical junkie with several questions to mull over while giving lovers of art and architecture buildings just as glittering inside as they are outside. Though they are, for the most part, empty. The possibility for exploration is limitless.

Prague's rich religious history is ingrained in the architecture of its houses of workshop––whether you admire the aesthetic or the questions these empty temple represent, here's a list to get you started in traversing the most beautiful churches in the Mother of Cities.

St. Vitus Cathedral

E.R. Pulgar

Located at Prague Castle and taking up as much space if not more on the city's gorgeous skyline, visiting this jewel of Gothic architecture kills two birds with one stone as far as must-sees are concerned. The inside is as grandiose as the outside, and features art from several different periods, including cameo statues of the architects among the saints and angels and an Art Nouveau window designed by legendary Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. Founded in the year 930, the cathedral was first used in the 12th century, but was not completed until 1929. This jewel of Prague's cityscape has both history and beauty, and its proximity to the castle complex (complete with royal gardens and restaurants with a view of the Old Town) makes for a day full of adventure. This one won't be as isolated an experience, but can you say you've been to Prague if you haven't been to the Prague Castle complex?

The Church of Our Lady Victorious

E.R. Pulgar

This beautiful church is near the Charles Bridge gateway that leads to Malá Strana, Prague's Lesser Quarter. Built in the Baroque style—the first of its kind to be built in Prague—the real draw here if you're not as interested in 15th century architecture is the legendary Infant Jesus of Prague, a wax icon of the baby Jesus robed in luxurious gowns and an air of mystique. Held in high-esteem by tourists and believers alike, the figurine comes with a storied history that's as entrenched in the city as it is the church itself; despite its enduring global popularity, the church is typically sparse, allowing for free roaming between the marble columns, the basins of holy water, and the legendary figure of the Infant.

St. Jilji Church

E.R. Pulgar

This hidden gem, lost amid the alleyways near the Old Town Square and two of the other temples on the list, is a jaw-dropping find. The 13th century cathedral has several panels of saints, as well as golden sculptures of sacred triangles and a high roof that seems to extend upward forever, providing fantastic acoustics for regular classical concerts—I can guarantee you that few moments in your life will be as ecstatic as hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on a church organ, the iconic beats vibrating off Czech church walls. Despite having no heat, the church still gets packed for shows in the colder seasons, and blankets are provided for concertgoers. This best kept secret was also used as one of the shooting locations for Miloš Forman's Oscar-winning Amadeus; go in, and see for yourself what inspiration lies in store.

St. Nicholas' Church (Old Town Square)

E.R. Pulgar

Not to be confused with the other two St. Nicholas churches in Prague, this Baroque gem holds court over the Lesser Square, and stands out because of its green roofs. The church also boasts tower access with an unbeatable view of the square itself and the nearby former Jesuit college, as well as the sparkling Vltava River. The inside is less expansive than the others on this list, but your eye will immediately be drawn to the crystal chandelier and golden detailing on the walls. Like St. Jilji's, this church also has ties to Mozart—he played organ here during one of his several visits to the city. Indulge in both music and architectural history, and don't forget to make a trip to the top.

Church of Our Lady Before Týn

E.R. Pulgar

Impossible to miss, the centerpiece of the Old Town Square is a looming presence of Gothic architectural beauty. The entrance is hidden away amidst a few shops, which makes entering the church proper a bit of an intimidating experience. Get past the tunnel of modernity, and come out the other side greeted by high ceilings, a stunning yet simple white palette, and an interior both imposing and welcoming. Art history nuts will rave about the central altar, which features paintings by legendary Czech Baroque painter Karl Škréta, an appropriate decision after the inside of this Gothic gem was reworked in the Baroque style. Two other large draws are the tomb of astronomer Tycho Brahe and the oldest working organ in Prague—despite having so much to see, the church enjoys wide space even when in service, and tourists are free to wander as long as they are quiet and respectful.

The best part? Prague has so many winding alleyways that you're likely to find a new, golden cathedral to wander into—maybe one that's not even on the list.

For a short-list of more of Prague's cathedrals, churches, and monasteries, click here.

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Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!

Travel Tips

8 of the Best Donut Spots In the United States

Celebrate National Donut Day with our favorite treats across the country.

November 5th marks one of 2020's two National Donut Days.

Occurring in both June and November, National Donut Day allows fans of those delectable yeasty treats to embrace their sweet tooth. But like any niche food group, people often take their donuts very, very seriously, and there are countless places to get your fix.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best donut spots across the country. From coast to coast, these bakeries are sure to impress even the pickiest donut-heads.

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop – Modesto, CA

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's worth taking a short trek out east towards Modesto for some of California's best donuts. Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop has remained family owned since its opening over 30 years ago, providing both tried-and-true classic donuts as well as experimental flavors and holiday specials. Even their 24-hour service doesn't diminish the line that trails out the door most mornings.

Dough — New York, NY

Dough \u2014 New York, NY

Donuts might not be the first circular, doughy treat you think of when it comes to New York City. If you've had your fair share of bagels, the Big Apple also boasts some spectacular donuts at Dough, a go-to spot for both tourists and locals alike. Here, you'll find a host of Latin American-inspired flavors that are hard to come by anywhere else; their Dulce de Leche flavor is a customer favorite, while the tangy Hibiscus donut is just as good for Instagramming as it is for eating.

Blackbird Doughnuts — Boston, MA

Blackbird Doughnuts \u2014 Boston, MA

Boston's Blackbird Doughnuts is a no-frills donut spot specializing in both brioche "raised" donuts and old-fashioned cake donuts. With a small menu of year-round donuts and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors, Blackbird keeps it simple and classic. Why mess around?

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — Brooklyn, NY

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop \u2014 Brooklyn, NY

For over 60 years, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop has been calling the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint home. Since then, the bakery has remained a popular spot for both regulars and new visitors passing through the area. Here, you won't find uber-trendy decor or gimmicky recipes, just damn good donuts that prove the power of long-standing local businesses.

Pip’s Original — Portland, OR

Pip\u2019s Original \u2014 Portland, OR

In both their mobile catering van and brick-and-mortar locations, Pip's Original is a staple for small, sweet treats in Portland. They're known for their tiny donuts that come in inventive seasonal flavors like marionberry-lavender and mango ghost pepper. But even if you opt for one of the more traditional flavors, Pip's Original proves good things can come in small packages.

Round Rock Donuts — Round Rock, TX

Round Rock Donuts \u2014 Round Rock, TX

Founded in 1926, Round Rock Donuts—located just north of Austin—are impossible to miss. These donuts' distinct yellow-orange color, caused by fresh eggs in the original recipe, make them stand out among the crowd. While this classic outpost can easily churn out hundreds of dozens of donuts a day, they also offer Texas-Sized Donuts, which are just as ginormous as you'd imagine. Round Rock Donuts are not only delicious and easily recognizable, but they're a slice of Lone Star history.

The Holy Donut — Portland, ME

The Holy Donut \u2014 Portland, ME

In Maine's Portland, you might not find tiny donuts or a decked-out catering van, but you will find a slightly healthier alternative. The Holy Donut was founded on the premise of creating tasty donuts that used all-natural ingredients to make a treat you could feel good about eating. The secret ingredient is fresh, mashed Maine potatoes, which make these donuts delectably moist without sacrificing flavor.

Donut Friend — Los Angeles, CA

Donut Friend \u2014 Los Angeles, CA

As expected of a city so focused on entertainment, Los Angeles' Donut Friend puts an edgy spin on their inventive donut flavors. Their year-round menu features donut flavors with names like Green Teagan and Sara, Fudgegazi, and Bacon-182 that are sure to delight the rock music nerds. For everyone else, the delicious donuts speak for themselves.