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TELEGRAPH TRAVEL GUIDE

PRAGUE

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Visually, the Czech Republics capital is in many ways impossible to improve. The
Stare Mesto and Mala Strana districts, either side of the Vltava River, together
form one of Europes best preserved old city centres, with virtually every street an
uplifting symphony of cobbles and extravagant Renaissance and baroque
architecture.
But Prague is not just pleasing to the eye. Its also a great city-break destination
for classical concerts wherever you are, youll hear the strains of Smetana and
Dvok wafting out of churches and upstairs windows and for atmospheric
cafs and pubs (and cheap beer).
But these days theres no need to hole up with a Pilsner in a no-frills beer
hall. Since the Velvet Revolution back in 1989, the city has transformed
itself into a prosperous, sophisticated destination, with more than its fair
share of glamorous cocktail bars, fancy restaurants and designer hotels.
Fred Mawer

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Getting there
You can fly to Prague from 19
UK airports with bmibaby
(0871 224 0224, www.bmibaby.
com), British Airways (0870 850
9850, www.ba.com), Czech
Airlines (0870 444 3747, www.
czechairlines.co.uk), EasyJet
(0905 821 0905 premium
rate www.easyjet.com),
Flyglobespan (0871 271 0415,
www.flyglobespan.com), Jet2
(0871 226 1737, www.jet2.com)
and Thomsonfly (0870 190
0737, www.thomsonfly.com).
By train from London, several
changes are needed, and the
journey takes upwards of 19
hours. For options, look at
www.seat61.com.

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TELEGRAPH TRAVEL GUIDE

PRAGUE

TOP FIVE HOTELS

TOP FIVE SIGHTS


1CHARLES BRIDGE
For much of the day, the 14th-century pedestrian
connection linking Stare Mesto and Mala Strana is
thronged with buskers, beggars, caricaturists and
tourists. So, if you can, stroll its length late at night or
before breakfast, when youll have just the bridges
blackened statues for company and an unimpeded
view of the castle etched on the skyline.
In the warmer months you can climb up into the
old bridge towers (April-November 10am-6pm).
2 PRAGUE CASTLE
Encompassing a series of interconnected courtyards,
lovely gardens, the Gothic St Vituss Cathedral, the
medieval cottages of Golden Lane (where Kafka briefly
lived), plus many other historic buildings and several
museums, the massive complex requires half a day to
do it justice. Dont miss the Story of Prague Castle, a
permanent large-scale exhibition that opened last year
in the Old Royal Palace. During the day, the castle is
always mobbed. To truly appreciate its haunting
Kafkaesque quality, return in the evening. You do not
need a ticket to access the courtyards, which stay open
to midnight (11pm in winter).
00 420 224 373 368/224 372 434
www.hrad.cz
April-October 9am-5pm, November-March 4pm
Various tickets available
3 JEWISH MUSEUM
Pragues Jewish quarter, the Josefov, is now an elegant
neighbourhood of art nouveau buildings and designer
shops and cafs. The museum is spread over five
synagogues dotted around the quarter, only one of
which the Old-New Synagogue is still used for
religious services. The rest are exhibition centres and
contain a huge collection of artefacts that movingly
tell the history and persecution of the Czech Jews. It

Rates are based on two people sharing a double room and


include breakfast and taxes.
also includes the Old Jewish Cemetery, a forest of
12,000 lopsided tombstones squashed into an
improbably small plot of land. Try to visit first thing: by
mid-morning, everywhere gets swamped by
chattering tour groups.
Josefov
00 420 222 317 191
www.jewishmuseum.cz
April-October Sun-Fri 9am-6pm; NovemberMarch Sun-Fri 9am-4.30pm
290Kc (7), or 470 Kc (12) including the OldNew Synagogue
4 STRAHOV MONASTERY
Other than to escape the castle-going crowds, the
prime reason for visiting the Premonstratensian
monastery is to gawp at the library its frescoed and
booked-lined Philosophical and Theological halls are
glorious, ornate wonders. Elsewhere, there is an
impressive display of religious art. Return to the city
centre via the idyllic orchards below the complex.
Strahovske nadvori 1
00 420 233 107 730
www.strahovskyklaster.cz
Library: daily, 9am-noon, 1pm-5pm. Art gallery
and convent: Tue-Sun, 9am-noon, 12.30pm-5pm
Library 80 Kc (2); art gallery and convent 60 Kc
(1.50)

1 MANDARIN ORIENTAL PRAGUE


Opened in 2006 but already one of Pragues top
five-star hotels, this heavily modernised complex
dates back to the 14th century, when it was a
monastery. Its strengths are its quiet but central
Mala Strana location, faultlessly obliging service,
super spa (built over the visible remains of a Gothic
church) and supremely comfortable bedrooms.
Nebovidska 459/1
00 420 233 088 888
www.mandarinoriental.com/prague
12,000 Kc (286)
2ARIA
This stylish, small-scale Mala Strana hotel, which
spreads through three Baroque buildings, has a
musical theme. Bedrooms are designed according to
musical genres (classical, opera, contemporary, jazz),
and each comes with appropriate tunes loaded on to a
computer. There is a superbly stocked music library,
and a well-informed musical director to advise on,
and fix tickets for, concerts.
Trziste 9
00 420 225 334 111
www.ariahotel.net
6,500 Kc (154)

5 ST NICHOLAS CHURCH
This is the grandest of Pragues many baroque
churches and was built in the 1730s. It has an overthe-top interior and monumental dome decorated
with hundreds of golden cherubs, swooning virgins
and elaborate trompe loeil frescoes.

3 MAXIMILIAN
This good-value hotel was designed by a leading
Czech architect, Eva Jiricna. Bedrooms are sleek and
Cubist influenced, while public areas, such as the glasswalled library and drawing room with a help-yourself
honesty bar system, are striking yet relaxing. The
location, on a cobbled square on the edge of the Old
Towns upmarket Josefov quarter, is excellent.

Malostranske namesti
www.psalterium.cz
March-October daily 9am-5pm; NovemberFebruary daily 9am-4pm
60 Kc (1.50)

Hastalska 14
00 420 225 303 111
www.maximilianhotel.com
5,200 Kc (123)

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TELEGRAPH TRAVEL GUIDE

PRAGUE

TOP FIVE
RESTAURANTS
Meal prices are per person, based on three courses,
including wine and drinks

4 DUM U VELKY BOTY


The discreet establishment, whose name translates as
the House of the Big Boot (there is no sign) is one of
Pragues best b & bs. Occupying an ancient building on
a cobbled Mala Strana backstreet, it offers a dozen
bedrooms full of antiques and art, many of which are
family heirlooms of the charming owner, Jan Rippl.
The good breakfasts can be eaten communally with
other guests if you wish.
Vlasska 30
00 420 257 533 234
www.dumuvelkeboty.cz
3,600 Kc (89)
5 CASTLE STEPS
An unusual, dynamically run set-up, spread over
six buildings that are dotted along Nerudova and
Uvoz streets, the main drags through Mala Strana
up to the castle. The accommodation ranges from
simple rooms with shared bathrooms to vast
apartments with their own kitchens. Standards are
higher than the low rates suggest and many units
have enormous character, as well as gorgeous views
over Petrin hill.
Office at Nerudova 7
0800 883 0467
www.pragueroom.com
1,300 Kc (32)

1 KAMPA PARK
Opened in 1994, this is one of Pragues most reliable
(and expensive) top-end restaurants and seems
to have been visited by virtually every celebrity that
has visited the city, from Mick Jagger and Johnny
Depp to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Come, as they do,
for beautifully presented Mediterranean-flavoured
dishes, the prime riverside location overlooking
Charles Bridge (alfresco dining possible), and
unusually excellent service.
Na Kampe 8b
00 420 800 152 672
www.kampagroup.com
Daily, 11.30am-1am
1,800 Kc (45)
2 PALFFY PALAC
This has one of Pragues most romantic dining-rooms,
with twinkling candelabras and gilded chandeliers,
inside one of Mala Stranas enormous baroque
palaces. Though the Czech/multinational food is
rather over-complicated, the surroundings are
unbeatable. A terrace (open in summer) has beautiful
views over the castle walls.
Valdstejnska 14
00 420 257 530 522
www.palffy.cz
Daily, 11am-11pm
1,500 Kc (38)
3 HERGETOVA CIHELNA
This is the less starchy and more affordable sister
restaurant to Kampa Park (see above). Although it
does not attract the big names in the same way, it
is hugely popular with Pragues young affluent crowd.

Also in a prime spot by the Vltava, with an open-air


riverside terrace, its menu concentrates on a hybrid of
French and Italian dishes (foie gras pizza, anyone?),
but there are some Czech options, too, such as potato
soup and suckling piglet, as well as decent burgers and
stir fries.
Cihelna 2b
00 420 800 152 672
www.kampagroup.com
Daily, 11.30am-1am
1,200 Kc (30)
4 KOLKOVNA
The art nouveau-styled Kolkovna is as close as
Prague gets to a gastropub. Its a stylish version of a
traditional beer hall and a good choice for sampling
classic Czech fare, such as pheasant thighs and boar
chops. Portions are on the hearty side and the goulash
soup, served in a hollowed out loaf (1.60), is a meal
in itself. Service is friendly and brisk.
V kolkovne 8
00 420 224 819 701
www.kolkovna.cz
Daily, 11am-midnight
450 Kc (11)
5 U MEDVIDKU
This is the real McCoy, a classic Prague beer hall that
offers a great night out in authentic surroundings.
Though its cavernous dining-rooms are packed
with tourists, many of the communal tables are
occupied by locals, who have probably been eating
here for years. The traditional Czech dishes venison
meatballs, pork neck with cabbage are good, filling
and incredibly cheap: a plate of goulash and
dumplings costs just 2.50.
Na Perstyne 7
00 420 224 211 916
www.umedvidku.cz
Daily, 11.30am-11pm
300 Kc (7.50)

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PRAGUE

OUT AND ABOUT


Bars and cafes

For a traditional Czech pub, head for U Cerneho vola


(Loretanske namesti 1), just above the castle, and
Baracnicka rychta (Trziste 23), on a Mala Strana
backstreet. Local drinkers outnumber tourists in both
establishments.
Prague has several splendid grand Viennese-style
coffee houses. Kaverna Obecni dum (Namesti
Republiky 5) is an opulent art nouveau caf of
ballroom proportions, where they wheel around a
trolley laden with cakes. The art deco Slavia
(Smetanovo nabrezi 2) is one of Pragues great focal
points: now full of courting couples and shoppers,
famously Vaclav Havel used to drink here.
One of the best post-Revolution coffee shops is The
Ebel Coffee House, on cobbled Tyn, the old towns
prettiest courtyard.
For a trendy cocktail bar try chic, buzzy Tretters (V
kolkovne 3), or the Blue Light (Josefska 1), a funky, expat hangout with graffiti-covered walls.

Nightlife

The weekly Night and Day section of the Englishlanguage newspaper The Prague Post is a good source
of information on concerts of all persuasion and
nightclubs (as well as pithy restaurant and bar
reviews).
On any night there are any number of classical
performances in churches and fabulously ornate
concert halls such as the neo-classical Rudolfinum and
art nouveau Obecni dum. The agency Bohemia Ticket
has full details of forthcoming concerts, and online
booking, on www.bohemiaticket.cz, as well as helpful
staff at its office at Male namesti 13.
Prague also has a strong jazz tradition. One of the
best venues is U Maleho Glena (Karmelitska 23; www.
malyglen.cz). For those who want to party, Radost FX
(Belehradsk 120; www.radostfx.cz), a cafe/lounge/
nightclub, has long been one of the most fashionable
places to head for.

Shopping

Along with moody Kafka T-shirts, Czech-made glass


and wooden toys are good buys.
The fanciest Bohemian crystal, used by royalty, is at
Moser (main branch at Na Prikope 10). For exquisite
contemporary glass objects created by leading Czech
designers, visit Material at U Luzickeho seminare 7.
Blue Praha (outlets at Male namesti 14, Mostecka 24
and the airport) sells striking but much more
affordable modern glass.
For wooden tops, mobiles, puzzles and figures on
springs and wheels, head for branches of Manufaktura
(see www.manufaktura.biz for locations), and the daily
outdoor market on Havelska. A good shop for string
puppets is Obchod Pod Lampou, at U Luzickeho
seminare 5.

TELEGRAPH TRAVEL GUIDE

PRAGUE

PRACTICAL
INFORMATION
Main tourist office
Old Town Hall, on Old Town Square.
00 420 221 714 444
www.pis.cz
April-October 9am-7pm weekdays, 9am-6pm
weekends; November-March 9am-6pm
weekdays, 9am-5pm weekends.
Prague is one hour ahead of the UK. The currency
of the Czech Republic is the Czech Koruna (abbreviated
to Kc), though hotels often quote rates in Euros. Cash
machines are widely available there are several in the
airport arrivals hall.
A taxi from the airport to the city centre costs
around 640 Kc (15). Alternatively, take bus 119 from
outside the terminal to Dejvicka metro station, from
where its a few stops to the centre, 21 Kc (50p). The
Airport Express bus also stops at Dejvicka, then the
centre 32-48 Kc (75p-1.12).
You can walk everywhere in the city centre, but
public transport is cheap and efficient. The best buy for
a weekend is a 72-hour pass, which covers use of the
Russian-built metro, the trams and funicular to Petrin.
It costs 220 Kc (5.50) and is sold at travel information
centres at the airport and main metro stations. The
most useful tram is number 22, which takes you up to
Prague Castle, sparing you a long, steep walk. More
information: www.dpp.cz.
The Prague Card (www.praguecard.biz) covers
admission to over 50 museums and attractions
(including the castle, but not the Jewish Museum). It
costs 740 Kc (18.50), or 490 Kc (12) for students, is
valid for four days, and is sold at tourist offices and
some hotels.
Watch out for pickpockets, particularly in Old Town
Square, on Charles Bridge, and on public transport to/
from Prague Castle and the airport.

Insiders tips
The area around Wenceslas Square is pretty sleazy
at night. If you choose to stay in Stare Mesto, bear in
mind that some hotels, and streets, can be noisy at
night with revellers.
Dont miss Prague Castles changing of the guard at
noon. The hilarious ceremony has a Ruritanian tone.
The city hosts two big annual international music
festivals: Prague Spring (www.festival.cz), which is the
more prestigious and begins on 12 May each year, and
Prague Autumn (www.pragueautumn.cz), this year
from 12 September to 1 October. www.pis.cz has a
calendar of events.

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TELEGRAPH TRAVEL GUIDE

PRAGUE

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TOP FIVE SIGHTS

TOP FIVE HOTELS

TOP FIVE RESTAURANTS

1 CHARLES BRIDGE

1 MANDARIN ORIENTAL PRAGUE

1 KAMPA PARK

2 PRAGUE CASTLE

2 ARIA

Karluv most

Prazsky hrad
00 420 224 373 368

3 JEWISH MUSEUM

Josefov
00 420 222 317 191

4 STRAHOV MONASTERY

Strahovske nadvori 1
00 420 233 107 730

5 ST NICHOLAS CHURCH

Malostranske namesti

Nebovidska 459/1
00 4233 088 888

Trziste 9
00 420 225 334 111

3 MAXIMILLIAN

Hastalska 14
00420 225 303 111

4 DUM U VELKY BOTY

Vlasska 30
00 420 257 533 234

5 CASTLE STEPS

Office at Neruda 7
0800 883 0467

Na Kampe 86
00 420 800 152 672

2 PALFFY PALAC

Valdstejnska 14
00 420 257 530 522

3 HERGETOVA CIHELNA

Cihelna 2b
00 420 800 152 672

4 KOLKOVNA

V kolkovne 8
00 420 224 819 701

5 U MEDVIDKU

Na Perstyne 7
00 420 224 211 916