56 hours in Prague.
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic is the ideal weekend getaway strategically located in central-eastern Europe. The city is a melting pot of culture with a rich and arduous history so evident through ancient architecture, modern street art and stories from passionate locals.
With much to see and do over a long weekend, Prague is a great place to learn about life in a former Soviet satellite state and bask in the opulent architecture and diverse lifestyle.
Lunch and Coffee at EMA Espresso
Prague is a great walking city, relatively small with a high density of tourist attractions within walking distance. With this in mind, starting with a pit stop is vital in giving you enough energy for the day ahead. EMA Espresso is conveniently situated near to the central station and the bridge between the old and new town centres. Here, you’ll find some of the best coffee in Prague along with ideal snack and lunch specials.
The centre old town square is saturated with brightly marked tour guides offering free and cheap walking tours around all the major attractions. By far the most popular, Sandeman tours offers free tours (with an obligatory tip) around most areas of the city. Nearly all tour guides have a Masters qualification in history and so taking a chance on one of the smaller companies or historical guides instead. Not only will you be supporting smaller businesses, but also you’re less likely to be on a tour with 30 other people. Most tours will take you past sites such as the Astronomical Clock, Old Town square, Tyn Cathedral, National theatre, museum and Opera houses, St Nicholas Church, many Synagogues as well as the Powder tower and the St Wenceslas Statue and last for 2-3 hours. This is a great opportunity to get your bearings of the city and find out which attractions you may wish to revisit or learn more about.
Museum of Communism
After a few hours outside (especially during the colder, winter months) you’ll want to step indoors and what better way than to learn about the history of the city and the Czech Republic than by visiting the Museum of Communism. Located off the famous Wenceslas Square in an old palace – now a casino – the museum takes a look at essentially junk and memorabilia left over from the Soviet years. Featuring everything from food packaging, uniforms and school books to government footage of protestors being attacked, the museum presents a nonsensical yet intriguing archive of communism in the city.
Dinner at U Pinkasú
For a traditional Czech pub experience, U Pinkasú has all the stops. From the musty walls lined with years of spilled Pilsner Urquell, portraits of former owners and frequent life-long patrons and 1970s wooden interiors, the restaurant has a broad menu with all the customary favourites from goulash, roast pork and dumplings to roasted potatoes, cabbage and stroganoff. Meals are quite large, and obviously dense but easily washed down with a few Urquell’s and local tap beers.
Drinks at Hemmingway Bar
Step back in time to the 1920s New York speakeasy era with high quality bartender-ship and service at Hemmingway Bar. Popular with locals and tourists alike, prepare for a long wait anytime after 10pm. The maître Dee is suave and conversational, hand picking who is lucky enough to get a seat (code for dress well). The cocktails are worth it nevertheless with a range of a variation from the Hulk – a green snow cone with absinth served in a Hulk cup – pink French Champagne served with a scoop of grapefruit sorbet or the absinth barrel for two – a large glass decanter with taps mixing the absinth with soda.
Start your day with a quick egg on toast breakfast with a tasty coffee at Original Coffee. Minimalist and off a quiet courtyard, this café is delicious from design supporting local artists through to the hand crafted European coffee. Be sure to look up when you’re around the café too, as celebrated, local sculpture artist David Cerny’s Sigmund Freud Hanging Out is just above the square at the end of the street.
Walk across the Charles Bridge
From the café, the famous Charles Bridge is a short walk away. The bridge was built in fifteenth century by King Charles and was the first and only bridge connecting the two sides of Prague until the 1840’s. Lined with intricate gargoyles and baroque style carvings, the bridge was a vital connection for east and west Europe throughout King Charles’ reign and beyond.
Tour the Castle and Cathedral
Built in the 1880s with dates stretching as far back as the ninth century to service the Kings of Bohemia and most recently Czechoslovakian Presidents, the Starý královský palace has many buildings and structures including the St Vitus Cathedral and 360 degree views of the city. Day passes accessing all of the buildings are available for CZK350 and access to individual buildings and areas start from CZK70.
The Strahov Monastery or Strahovsky kášter often overshadowed by the Castle but is one not to be missed. With beautiful grounds including a religious library that you can view for CZK100 on the day or arrange a pre booked official tour that allows you explore the library rather than just look at it. Better still, it is the place of the Klasterni Pivovar a small brewery operation that is big on taste. With both a pub serving traditional style lunches as well as a fine dining restaurant – serving drinks fro the brewery – you can enjoy the afternoon with a few pints and local cuisine overlooking some of the best views of the city from the Monastery edge.
Sculpture walking tour
Celebrated yet controversial local artist, David Cerny has made news headlines in Prague and across Europe for his politically driven, philosophical street sculpture. Dotted around the streets of Prague, many Cerny’s are still on view including the earlier mentioned Sigmund Freud Hanging Out as well as Crawling babies, Piss, Horse, In Utero and Babies. It is easy to walk past each of these without knowing, but each piece is located near many major thoroughfares and monuments in town and are well worth the intrigue and visit.
Gehry Dancing House
Every city needs a Frank Gehry and Prague, despite its lavish baroque style; has given Gehry’s Dancing house pride of place on the river Raśín bank in 1996. Easy to spot, standing out proud from the rest of the cities architecture, the building lies at the former site of President Havel’s residence and an area that was heavily bombed during WWII.
Eat at Home Kitchen
Before embarking on your journey home, stop by Home Kitchen for a refreshing taste of local market cuisine. With no menu and daily specials fresh from what was available at the markets that morning, Home Kitchen is a great example of the new food scene in Prague. Read more here.
All photography by the lovely Benjamin Johnston.