A bohemian rhapsody comes alive in the Czech capital through remarkably well-preserved architecture, eye-catching historic sites, zany art sensibilities, and a throbbing nightlife.
The city has firmly ensconced itself as a top-tier European destination thanks to its visual delights, world-class cuisine and artisanal crafts. Can you escape falling truly, madly, deeply in love with Prague?
The City of a Thousand Spires is the epitome of an eloquent fairytale with an abundance of eye candy and picture-perfect imagery to appeal to the hopelessly romantic. Flashes of inspiration peek out from every corner you turn. Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture adorn a maze of medieval streets. Flocks of pigeons flutter in charming cobbled squares. Grand statue-lined bridges straddle the meandering Vltava River. And a daunting castle commands over a sprawling red-roofed city from a hilltop outpost. Bohemian remains the constant theme, but there is no dearth of new-age urbanism in the Czech capital. Stepping out of the tumultuous shadows of the Iron Curtain days, Prague has emerged as one of the most enticing European capitals, with a vibrant cultural persona flavoured with modern gastronomy, trendy design, bustling microbreweries, and a thriving art scene. There is enough to keep you occupied for several days at a stretch.
Set the tone right by acquainting yourself with the original character of Praha in the Staré Město (Old Town) Square. Join the throngs for the hourly procession of the 12 Apostles under the iconic Astronomical Clock. Linger at the alfresco cafes, pose against the pastel-coloured buildings, or buy tickets to a music concert at the Tyn Church. Then drift along an offbeat trail into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the nearby Jewish Quarter. Thought-provoking moments are inevitable at the Jewish Museum, Old Jewish Cemetery and the 16th-century Neo-Gothic Synagogue.
Next, hit up the elegant streets of Nove Mesto or New Town to ogle at stunning examples of Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque architecture. The Cubist House of the Black Madonna and the Municipal House are two worthy landmarks in the area. Venture into the Adria Palace to admire its glass-ceilinged passageway and decorative tiled floor. And you can't miss the 11-metres tall rotating stainless steel statue of Franz Kafka's head, designed by David Cerny. It is arguably among one of the most impressive modernist sights in the city.
Cross the famous statue-studded Charles Bridge to reach Malá Strana or Lesser Town, home to the gigantic Prague Castle. Ideal case scenario: tuck away the map and disappear into narrow alleys. Seek out hole-in-the-wall cocktail bars, peek into atmospheric boutiques, stroll past hidden canals and attempt a colourful scribble at the John Lennon Wall. For a change of gear, hike up Petřín Hill, and follow locals to the Strahov Monastery to enjoy wheat beers. Wandering through the lush greenery and wide-open spaces, land at one of the vantage points. Hours will flit by staring at the sunset views of the city sprawled along the winding river.
Back on ground level, plan to end the day with ballet at the glitzy National Theatre or an opera at the classy Prague State Opera. For alternative entertainment, open up your mind to a 'Black Light' theatre show, where darkened stages, minimal lighting and shadow play set the tone for an optical illusion-based live performance.
Karlova Street: No visitor to Prague can miss this winding street linking the Old Town Square to the Charles Bridge. Don't forget to pick up Bohemian crystal, jewellery, herbal liqueur, plum brandy, painted eggs and wooden puppets while you're in the area. Charming architecture and street art will keep you distracted all along.
Wenceslas Square: The largest square in the city is a favourite with both locals and visitors. There is shopping to appeal to every need, from large department stores like Debenhams and Douglas to smaller stores for shoes, books and Bohemian crystal. Wander into the ornately decorated passages of Lucerna and Koruna for some sweet surprises.
Na Prikope: This pedestrian-only shopping zone is a treat for the eyes with its Baroque facades. The range is wide and varied, from malls like Koruna, Cerna Ruze, and Slovensky Dum to popular high-street retail stores. Bookmark a visit to the flagship store of Moser Glassworks.
Paris Street: The Fifth Avenue of Prague offers retail therapy with character, thanks to a row of historic townhouses flaunting Art Nouveau details. Splurge at the luxury boutiques of global brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada, Longchamp, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Valentino, etc.
Palladium: A historic building housing an army barracks has been refashioned as a large shopping mall with a deep pink facade. Come back loaded with bags from 170 stores, including Benetton, C&A, Esprit, Guess, H&M L'Occitane, Marks & Spencer and Villeroy & Boch.
Museums & the Arts
National Museum: History buffs can spend hours poring over antiquarian relics in this grand building at Wenceslas Square. Those who have a keen interest in natural history will love the collection. The museum's highlight is the gigantic fin whale skeleton suspended from the Neo-Renaissance ceiling.
Prague Jewish Museum: Reserve a morning for one of the world's largest collections of Jewish artefacts. Located in the city's Jewish Quarters, this museum is spread over seven sites. The most remarkable of these, located in the Synagogue's main hall, is a memorial to 77,297 Czech victims of the Holocaust.
Mucha Museum: Art aficionados, make a beeline for this small gallery devoted to the famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, father of the Art Nouveau movement. Exhibits include theatrical posters that pushed Mucha to fame in Paris. Remember to pick up some artistic souvenirs from the sales counter.
Franz Kafka Museum: Located in the Mala Strana neighbourhood across the river, this museum is a tribute to the celebrated Czech writer. Exhibits are divided into an 'Existential Space' and an 'Imaginary Topography'. The courtyard has David Černy's infamous sculpture of two men pissing into a pool shaped like the country map.
Portheimka Museum of Glass: See the glass as the art it truly is in this offbeat museum housed in a Baroque villa. Apart from exquisitely crafted works of renowned Czech glassmakers, you can also find displays by international exhibitors from time to time.
Football: Fans of the sport can watch Czech Republic's best football team, Sparta Praha club, play in a stadium near Letná Park. Another good team to root for is the Slavia Praha. Advance planning is recommended since tickets get sold out very fast.
Ice hockey: The most popular venue for ice hockey in the city is the O2 Arena stadium of HC Slavia, while the Tesla Arena is Prague's largest ice hockey venue. The season to mark in the calendar is mid-September to April.
Hiking: Prague is well-positioned for easy access to various nature reserves and parks. Let your love for the outdoors take you to Divoká Šárka, where well-marked trails wind through hilly forests and sometimes lead to dramatic cliff faces.
Restaurants & bars
La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise: This 1-Michelin starred restaurant is located in a historic building in the heart of Prague and is one of the top options for high-end dining. 19th-century Czech tradition meets modern culinary flair in the multi-course set menu of creatively plated dishes bursting with flavours.
Field: This stylish restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star for its Scandinavian-inspired menu. Partake of rare choices like kohlrabi, quark, and seafood combining classic and contemporary elements. Regular visitors recommend the ten-course tasting menu.
The Eatery: This upscale restaurant scores high on chic decor with industrial styling. The menu of modern Czech dishes evolves through the year in line with the latest seasonal produce. Try the braised beef with potato purée and bone-marrow crumble. Pair your meal with a great wine list.
Divinis: An undying passion for food is evident in every creation of this homely restaurant with white walls and plank floors. Expect to be sated by the rustic, seasonal Italian dishes cooked with superior quality seasonal ingredients and an extensive collection of Italian wines.
Terasa U Zlaté Studně: A favourite with locals and visitors alike, this intimate restaurant in the Golden Well Hotel is located below Prague Castle in Lesser Town. Sit back and relax with a view of the gorgeous city while you order from a tempting selection of Czech and European classics or be swept into gastronome heaven with the tasting menu.
Beat the crowds with a private curated tour of the Strahov Monastery Library and Prague Castle by vintage car or limousine. Expect special privileges like access to the presidential staterooms, the Spanish Hall and Rudolph Gallery, and a glass of local sparkling wine. You will be pampered with a royal lunch in the Banqueting Hall of the Lobkowicz Palace, a space adorned with 17th-century frescoes. Artsy inclinations are fulfilled on a trip to the Palace's Princely Collections, comprising masterpieces by Pieter Brueghel, Canaletto, Beethoven and Mozart.
The art of glass-making originated in the region several centuries ago in the Lusatian Mountains. Handmade Bohemian glassware from Bohemia and Silesia is recognised for its fine craftsmanship, design and quality of the material. You will be spoilt for choice with the overwhelming variety of glassware in vibrant colours like purple, pink and green. Go a step further and book a tour to watch a piece of glass being blown, hand-cut and engraved into a graceful figurine or graceful ornament. The experience is oddly mesmerising.
A drive of a couple of hours outside the city will take you to the natural landscape drenched in verdant greens, towering sandstone cliffs and other-worldly rock formations. An exhilarating hike through the forest leads to a windy vantage point from where you can drool over the dramatic sight of the Pravčická Brana (Pravčická Gate), the largest sandstone arch formation in Europe. Don't miss it for the world.
Prague's thriving nightlife offers endless options, but one of the hangouts to mark on your calendar is Roxy. Bursting with art appeal and vibrant colours, this is a venue to let your hair down and party like there's no tomorrow. DJs and live music nights feature house, techno and drum and bass nights, and hip hop or pop concerts.
Prague is one of the most visited capital cities in Europe. Why ? Because it is beautiful! It's filled with fairytale castles, cobbled streets, history and colour. The hotels are quite delightful too!
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best luxury hotels in Prague
Taxis are readily available for transport from the Václav Havel Airport to the city centre. The best way to explore Prague is on foot since most landmarks are located in and around downtown. Aim to navigate distant attractions using the efficient public transportation system of bus, tram and subway lines.
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