Beautiful buildings, bargain-price beer and Bohemian beads.
Matička Praha – ‘little mother Prague‘ – was largely undamaged by WWII, and the cityscape is stunning. Its compact medieval centre remains an evocative maze of cobbled lanes, ancient courtyards, dark passages and churches beyond number, all watched over by an 1100-year-old castle.
Kidnapped by communism for 40 years, Prague has become one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Its traditional pubs and eateries have been augmented by a wave of gourmet restaurants, cocktail bars and trendy cafes – though you can still feast on pork and dumplings washed down with a beer.
While attractions across much of the Czech Republic are closed or keep limited hours outside the summer season, Prague caters for visitors all year round. Periods when the tourist crush is especially oppressive include the Easter and Christmas/New Year holidays, as well as May and June. Many Czechs go on holiday in July and August, during which time the supply of bottom-end accommodation actually increases, as student hostels are opened to visitors. If you can put up with the cold and the periodic smog alerts during weather inversions, hotel space is plentiful in winter (outside Christmas/New Year), and Prague is gorgeous under a mantle of
Things to Do
Baroque churches, a royal palace, flagstone courtyards and bejeweled reliquaries comprise Prague Castle, a complex of buildings perched regally on a hilltop above Prague. Visitors routinely spend an entire day exploring this centerpiece of the city that also boasts one of the finest views of the Charles Bridge and the City of a Thousand Spires. Get lost in a labyrinth of picturesque, medieval, cobbled streets in the Old City, or avoid the crowds and see the city via rowboat down the lazy Vltava River.
The goods aren’t of the highest quality, but the shopping is memorable along the 14th-century Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River. Street artists sell pen-and-ink and watercolor cityscapes, cheap jewelry and mementos of city son Franz Kafka. Return at sunset, when the crowds thin and the bridge’s 30 statues look somehow pensive. The world’s best crystal and glass is sold in this Czech city. Storefronts full of the glittering pieces surround the Old Town Square.
Nightlife and Entertainment
No matter that the shows aren’t in English, the magical performances at the National Marionette Theatre are just that: magical. The marionettes’ mainstay is Mozart‘s “Don Giovanni,” which premiered in Prague, and who needs a translation for that? The music of the beloved Mozart (the feeling was mutual) and hometown musician Dvorak make regular appearances at concerts across town. Buy inexpensive tickets to performances in glorious Old Town chapels or spring for an unforgettable evening at Smetana Hall.
Restaurants and Dining
It scarcely matters which restaurant you select. When in Prague, expect menus with the staples of tender, seasoned pork, mildly sweet cabbage and soft dumplings to soak up the rich sauce. Czech dessert favorites include crepes or dumplings filled with fruit. You can’t miss with an authentic Czech meal prepared at U Modre Kachnicky, lightened a bit for modern palates and served with a refreshing Bohemian beer. U Vejvodu serves up Prague’s best spicy goulash.