An old city bursting with history and culture, boasting hundreds of tourist attractions and beer that is cheaper than water, the City of 100 Spires is an amazing place to visit, irrespective of the time of year or the weather conditions.
After dumping your bag in one of the swanky but inexpensive hostels scattered across the city (we paid around £8pppn at the fairly central Mosaic House), go for a stroll in picturesque Lesser Town on the west bank of the River Vltava and soak in Prague’s unique atmosphere. Look out for Petrin Hill and its observation tower (not unlike the Eiffel Tower), the Memorial to the victims of Communism and, of course, Prague Castle – which is all at once the official residence of the country’s President, the largest ancient castle in the world and the storehouse of the Bohemian Crown Jewels.
When you have walked up an appetite, try some of the local cuisine at one of the riverside restaurants. Those closest to the Charles Bridge are more expensive, whereas those a little further away, such as Vinarna Certovka, quirkily located at the end of a traffic-light-lit pedestrian alleyway, are more affordable. Pork, sauerkraut and dumplings would be my recommendation, followed of course by the Old Prague Dessert and washed down with a delicious, ice cold Czech beer.
Once you have a taste for Staropramen (or whichever Czech beer you sampled), exploring Prague’s smoky pubs and bars will seem the next logical step. The city caters to a wide range of alcoholic tastes, but if you are interested in something a little different, try the ‘Wild Helmet Drink’ at La Loca.
Just like in Amsterdam, the city’s red light district (to be found on the side streets near Wencelas Square) is definitely worth a walkthrough, but remember to beware of pickpockets and of causing offence to workers.
For the literature fans amongst you, the Franz Kafka Museum is a must-see and unlike most museums you’ll have ever visited. The City of K uses sound, space and light to emulate the Kafkaesque quality of his novels in an interesting and unique way. If literature is not for you, however, The Museum of Communism is also fascinating, with three rooms presenting Communism in different states: The Dream, The Reality and The Nightmare.
Buy a picnic for later, then take another slow stroll around the city, this time on the east bank. Take care to look out for Milunic’s and Gehry’s Dancing House, before heading north toward the Old Town and Josefov (Jewish quarter) at a leisurely pace.
Picnic in the Old Town Square and enjoy what it has to offer (including various architectural styles and hot wine), as you await the Astronomical Clock’s hourly animation. Legend has it that after completing the clock, the clockmaster was blinded on the Mayor’s orders to prevent him from making another; in return, the clockmaster was said to have thrown himself into the clock’s mechanism, leaving it irreparable for over 100 years. The tale was proved false in the 1960s but is still told frequently to tourists.
Continue your tour of the east bank, making sure to stop off at the Charles University, the Spanish Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Head to the National Marionette Theatre to watch one of its earlier shows, such as Mozart’s Magic Flute, which is marketed as a pre-dinner show for kids. Prague is famous for its marionettes, and this is a great place to see them in action.
No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to Karlovy Lazne, the biggest nightclub in Central Europe, with five clubs spanning five floors. One of these is an Ice Pub where, for approximately 200 koruna (less than £5.50), you can buy two drinks and a 30 minute stay at a -7°C bar where everything is made of ice (walls, floor, ceiling, chairs, tables, glasses).
If you can bear to get up early (or stay awake all night), head to the Charles Bridge before dawn to watch the sunrise over the River Vltava. The views are said to be spectacular and the crowds minimal. Take care to touch the golden leaves for good luck!
Afterwards, head to a café and treat yourself to a Trdelník (dough spun around a stick, then grilled and flavoured with sugar and other ingredients) for breakfast. If you are feeling brave, try grog to go alongside it, instead of plain coffee or hot chocolate. What will arrive at your table is a yellow liquid, piping hot, with a slice of lemon floating on top. Perhaps it will not be to your taste, but at least you can say you’ve tried it – just make sure not to drink so much they don’t let you on the plane.