Friends and visitors to the Guardian “Been There” site, and to my own blog http://czechingin.wordpress.com/
contact me fairly regularly for tips and suggestions of how to spend their time in the Golden City.
Prague is a great city for a weekend break. With a small degree of planning you will be able to visit most of the city’s hot spots and find your own favourite quiet corners from which to watch the world go by.
Whille there are thousands of weekend combinations available, this itinerary incorporates my personal Prague autumn favourites. This is spread over four days, but could be squashed into a three-day whirlwind tour without too much trouble.
A note of caution - the Czech Republic has fairly extreme seasons. If you follow this in the depths of winter, you may be disappointed (or hyperthermic).
Day 1 – Museums and Culture
Ideally, your weekend will begin on a Friday (wouldn't they all?). Midweek is an easier time to enjoy the city as it's a little bit quieter. The Jewish Museum
) is interesting and heart breaking in equal measure, and provides an important and well-curated insight into Prague's history. Different tickets are available depending on what you would like to see. The whole tour will take between 2 and 3 hours. The Jewish Museum is closed on Saturdays, so plan your trip with this in mind. Local Tip:
For national Czech history don't go to the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square. The building is beautiful but the collection has just been shut for at least four years for extensive and long-overdue updating. Instead, go to the National Museum site at the Vitkov Memorial in Zizkov. This site is home to the biggest equestrian statue in the world and a very interesting exhibition about 20th century Czech history. A steep climb to the top is rewarded by a great view over the city, from the roof-top viewing platform or the very good café.
For Friday evening with friends try curry at the Pind
) or enjoy wine and nibbles at Roberts
/) in Karlin. Book ahead for either. Day 2 – ‘Big-Four’ Sightseeing
For a relaxed brunch centrally, try Café Amandine
. Breakfast and brunch set menus are available every day. www.cafeamandine.cz
Line your stomach for a day of sight-seeing.
In half a day you could 'do' the Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, and St Vitrus cathedral.
Tours inside the Castle need to be booked in advance but you can walk through the complex at your leisure and for free. On a sunny day, pay a trip to St. Vitrus cathedral. It's free to enter and the unusual stained glass windows create a spectacular effect inside.
For lunch in Mala Strana
(the north side of the bridge on the way to the castle) go to Cukr Kava Limonada
for delicious savoury crepes and hot chocolate to die for. Walk north over the Charles Bridge and turn left onto Láze_ská. It's on the right, number 7. www.cukrkavalimonada.com/ Local tip:
To enjoy the Charles Bridge to its fullest extent you should get there very early. I jog over it at around 6.30 am and have it to myself. If you're not such a keen bean, you may have to share it with hundreds of others.
For an evening of culture go to Prague State Opera
Follow this with cocktails near the river at Hemmingway Bar
, which offers an impressive and modern drinks menu, presented by very knowledgeable staff. www.hemingwaybar.cz/
For a midnight snack, visit Café de Paris
in the Paris Hotel www.cafedeparis.cz
. Ask for their ‘house cake’ – a chocolate sponge/mousse concoction with marzipan. One is enough to share!Day 3 - Activity day
Direct trains to Karlstein
take around an hour and there's some good sightseeing and walking to be done there. Walking routes from Karlstein are well signposted and available for a range of ability, through lovely countryside.
Closer to home, one of the most relaxing ways to spend a warm afternoon in the Czech capital is to hire a pedalo and cruise the Vltava. For around 200 CZK for two hours, bring a cool drink and a good friend and take a leisurely peddle up and down the river. The river offers far more unspoilt views of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle than are possible to achieve at street level and so is great for landscape shots of these famous landmarks. Local Tip:
For swimming whatever the weather, Podoli pool
(about fifteen minutes south of central Prague by tram), is an absolute dream. It has inside and outside (heated) pools and is open year-round. Time your visit carefully to come mid-week or very early on the weekend, as it’s popular among Prague locals. Reach Podoli by tram (number 17 tram to Vyton) and don’t forget to bring 100 CZK cash for the locker.
After all that exercise, you’ll want a hearty dinner. For authentic Czech centrally try Restaurace U Vejvodu
- beer, meat and dumplings. Best to book in advance. www.restauraceuvejvodu.cz Day 4 - Shopping and local finds
Prague shopping offers the main European and global brands. Visit Pa_í_ská
off the Old Town Square if you’re feeling particularly flush.
For more local products, Manufakturer has several stores in the city centre and is good for souvenirs/wooden crafts. The Old Town Square often has craft stalls too.
Bohemian crystal is a well-known export of the Czech Republic. For (slightly) more affordable crystal with a modern twist, visit i-mateiral
on Ungelt in the Old Town. www.i-material.com
If you have an afternoon spare, visit one of Prague’s parks. In the middle of one of Prague’s beautiful nineteenth century parks, Hlavickovy Sady, there is a gorgeous café situated in a Victorianesque pavilion. Grebovka Pavilion
) offers a relaxed atmosphere and its ancient trees provide welcome shade in the summer. Grebovka Pavilion is a great place to sit and relax following a gentle walk around the sloping park, which is also home to a vineyard and a Neo Renaissance palace. It offers inside and outside seating and coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, and snacks including massive waffles and delectable ice-cream. Combine this with lunch at nearby Café Sladkovsky
Outside space can also be found Vysehrad, which is virtually ignored by most visitors to Prague but is well worth a visit. Situated on a rocky outcrop just south of the centre, Vysehrad (which means “castle on the heights)” offers a stunning view looking back over the city. Vysehrad Park in the west of Vysehrad is a beautiful location for a peaceful walk on the winding path offering sweeping views. The area also houses the splendid Vysehrad cemetery
where the likes of Mucha and Dvorak are buried. http://www.praha-vysehrad.cz Final Thoughts:Music and Entertainment:
For regular English- language listings check the Prague Post
a few days before you arrive: www.praguepost.com Travel:
Many tourists are 'afraid' of using new public transport systems but give it a go - Prague's metro and tram systems really are easy to navigate. The metro system is fully integrated and only has three lines, so it's hard to go too far wrong. One-trip or all-day tickets at all metro stations (you will need coins for the machines). Validate your ticket before your journey using the little yellow boxes in each metro station and aboard all trams. Stops are announced in advance - p_í_tí zastávka (pronounced “pzheeshtee zastavka”) means “next stop”. If all else fails, central Prague is tiny - walk!
* Helen is our Been there local
for Prague. Her page is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-helen-ford.jsp
and she has her own blog here: czechingin.wordpress.com/