Follow Lisette's tips
Back in 2009 I took the bold step of following my Czech partner to the capital of his Bohemian homeland, Prague. I’m happy to report I haven’t looked back since.
I hoped that I would find life here tolerable. I didn’t expect to fall head over heels in love with the Golden City and all things Czech.
Prague is gob-smackingly beautiful: the sheer volumes of visitors descending in every season are testament to its perennial charm. The main sights remain stunning despite the crowds so don’t shun Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Astrological Clock just because they happen to be on the tourist trail – but do watch out for rogue Segways, especially on Old Town Square.
My advice would be to stay on the beaten track but do it a little differently. Set your alarm clock and enjoy an early morning stroll across a deserted Charles Bridge before the hoards flood it – equip yourself with some koláče cakes the day before (a popular Czech breakfast), and get there before the stalls selling fridge magnets or portrait-painters set up shop. About 7am should do it.
Lose yourself in the maze-like network of cobbled streets in the Old Town but don’t forget about the Vltava – a river cruise is an effortless way of seeing Prague from a different perspective that won’t give you blisters. Boats depart from Dvořákovo nábřeží next to St Agnes Convent.
Should inclement weather disrupt your sightseeing plans, one excellent Plan B is to take a tour of the Old Town Hall on Staroměstské náměstí. You’ll get to see the wooden figures which pop out of those little doors on the Astrological Clock up close but more excitingly you’ll be led through the maze of underground passages used to house medieval prisoners and Nazi detainees. You’ll also see the remains of a street which has simply been built over. Not for the claustrophobic perhaps but otherwise an excellent way to get a sense of Prague’s rich history.
One easy way to go native is to sample Czech cuisine. The Czechs have held onto their culinary traditions so you’ll have no problem finding a pub serving up national signature dishes like vepřo knedlo zelo (pork, dumplings and sauerkraut) or svičkova (beef sirloin served with a creamy vegetable sauce, cranberries and of course dumplings). Goulash is much loved too but is Hungarian in origin. U Medvídků
(Na Perštýně 7, Prague 1; www.umedvidku.cz
) is one of the better touristy options – they also have their own microbrewery – but the Kolkovna
chain is a reliable alternative with several central locations (www.kolkovna.cz/
In my new life I’m a university lecturer in Charles University’s department of Anglophone Literatures and a freelance journalist. I’ve also been blogging about my adventures since my arrival as Girl In Czechland. Most of my readers are Czech which is very flattering: it seems the natives are quite happy to have their foibles pointed out to them so long as its done with lashings of irony!
Czech out my blog (if the pun hasn’t deterred you) at girlinczechland.com
or follow me on Twitter at @GirlInCzechland
Here are three tips to get you started:Malý Buddha
While Prague Castle is a must-see attraction, it’s not easy to find a decent nearby eaterie that isn’t a tourist trap. Fortunately there’s Malý Buddha, a Vietnamese restaurant and tearoom only a few minutes' walk from St Vitus Cathedral and the seemingly inescapable crowds. Its cozy, candlelit interior, replete with atmospheric nooks and crannies, is almost as much of an attraction as the food itself. There are some unusual seafood options on the menu such as mussels stir fried in ginger as well as a selection of veggie dishes – a real godsend in a city where the average pub menu only offers deep-fried cheese and chips to non-carnivores.
Malý Buddha, Uvoz 46, Prague 1 malybuddha.cz/
Google map: bit.ly/SuiXVUAlchymista Cukrárna
Should you find yourself taking a stroll in Letná Park – the one with the giant metronome where the huge statue of Stalin once stood – you might decide to grab a table in the beer garden and take in the fantastic view of the city. If however, it’s a decadent cake fix you need, head to the nearby Alchymista Cukrárna.
Alchymista is a fine example of the cukrárna, a Czech culinary institution best described as a cross between a French patisserie and Italian gelateria. If the weather’s sunny, sit outside in the beautifully kept garden and indulge yourself with a glass of rosé while tucking into a slice of something sweet. The range of coffee is excellent – devotees to the bean can pay a visit to the coffee museum next door – and there are also teas and homemade lemonade on the menu. Expect to pay 40 – 50 CZK for coffee and 50 – 70 CZK for cake. This is my favorite cafe in the Golden City and undoubtedly worth the trip to the neighbourhood. A real gem.
Alchymista Cukrárna, Jana Zajíce 7, 170 00 Prague 7 alchymista.cz
Google map: bit.ly/SujffjDOX
The contemporary art gallery DOX takes its name from the ancient Greek word ‘doxa’ meaning ‘common belief’ or ‘popular opinion’. Don’t be fooled though: the exhibitions held in this relatively new space are anything but orthodox. Since opening to the public almost four years ago, featured works have included David Cerny’s infamous Entropa, a giant sculpture which controversially depicted Germany as an autobahn in the shape of a swastika and Bulgaria as a Turkish toilet as well as an eclectic range of paintings, installations and drawings by both emerging and established artists. It may be a little off the beaten track but still DOX remains the ideal place for visiting art lovers to check out what it means to be a 21st century Bohemian.
DOX, Poupětova 1, Prague 7 dox.cz/en/
Google map: bit.ly/YMaLEzBeen there locals homepage