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Prague City Trip

Prague in its restored glory
Prague in its restored glory

72 Hours in Prague


Far from being the crumbling ruins of communist neglect, the Czech capital is a living museum of architecture. Now, almost a decade since joining the European Union, Prague's sooty old town has been scrubbed and polished (not too much, thankfully), its public transport renovated, and commercial heart populated by high-end boutiques and hotels. Although not as cheap as during the post-Velvet Revolution heyday, the city still offers good value for the cost, accommodation included.

Despite its utilitarian name, Aparthotel City 5 provides a lot of warmth for less than $100 a night. A nice bed & breakfast option can be found near Vyšehrad at Lida Guest House, run by Prouza family for more than twenty years. At the boutique level, Hotel Elite blends plenty of history into its modern design (as do most old town hotels), including its fourteenth-century gothic façade and Renaissance ceilings. The Golden Wheel offers a similar setup just outside the Hradčany Castle. For all-out luxury with a Czech flavor, check into Alchymist Nosticova Palace, close to Kampa park and the Vltava River.

PRAGUE DAY 1: Staré Město, Josefov

Astronomical Clock
Astronomical Clock

Getting lost in Prague is actually a good thing, as much of the charm lurks in the gothic nooks and crannies. But you have to begin somewhere, and Old Town Square in Staré Město is a convenient meeting point. Spend a few minutes at the large statue of Jan Hus, a fifteenth-century religious reformer who got on the pope's bad side and was burned at the stake in 1415 (the Vatican apologized in 1999). On the east side of the square you'll see the spiky gothic spires of the fourteenth-century Tyn Church reaching upwards.

Across from it is the Old Town Hall. For a great view (and even better photo-op) climb the stairs to the lookout point. This will also help you understand the layout of the city. But the majority of tourists just hang around the entrance to watch the Astronomical Clock chime on the hour, as it has been has been since 1410. The doors open revealing the 12 Apostles, who rotate around the clock while a skeleton rings a bell below.

 Around the corner from the clock, the 27 white Xs painted on the square commemorate the leaders of the Protestant rebellion executed there on June 21, 1621, after the Battle of White Mountain.

Luxurious Café Imperial in Prague
Luxurious Café Imperial

Later, make your way to Malá Stupartská Street, behind Tyn Church. There, youll find the baroque Church of Saint James. Its main attraction is a shriveled 600-year-old human arm hanging from the right wall as you enter the door (and just slightly to the left if your back is to the altar). Supposedly it was wrenched off a would-be thief by the Virgin Mary, but its probably not a coincidence that many of the worshippers were members of the butcher's guild.

If you head a few more blocks east, one of Prague's best breakfasts can be found in the Café Imperial, inside the hotel of the same name. The ornate, ceramic-covered interior has hosted diners like Franz Kafka. The kitchen is now the set for one of the countrys most popular cooking shows.

Next, stroll back to Old Town Square, make a right at the Jan Hus statue and go down Pařížská Street, where you can peruse and purchase amid the shopping elite. Its especially a good place to pick up Czech porcelain, glass, and crystal. Walk north until you reach Listopadu Street, where youll find the neo-Renaissance Museum of Decorative Arts — home to glassworks, clothing, graphic arts and its famous treasure trove of fourteenth-century silver found in the walls of Karlstejn Castle.

For a quick fill-up afterwards, stop into the Bakeshop Praha a few blocks east. In addition to cultivating its own yeast (named Bertha), the bakery produces perhaps the best sourdough in the city, which makes for great sandwiches, muffins and croissants.

Crystal room at V Zátiší in Prague
Crystal room at V Zátiší

Adjacent to the museum is Josefov, Prague's Jewish quarter, which consists mostly of fin-de-siècle apartment buildings and trendy cocktail bars. The city virtually razed the ghetto at the turn of the twentieth century, in the process saving only a few landmarks of Jewish heritage. One of the most memorable is the Old Jewish Cemetery, with nearly 12,000 graves crammed into the tiny, tree-shaded space. Also, stop in at the Old-New Synagogue. Built around 1270, it's the oldest working synagogue in Europe.

For dinner try Dynamo, just down the block and around the corner on Pštrossova Street. This kitschy diner serves some traditional fare like grilled rabbit and Karlsbad dumplings. Try to get one of the few outside tables for some street-side ambience.

If sophisticated chic is what you're after, the recently renovated V Zátiší offers an ambience reminiscent of an elegant atelier. Gourmands will appreciate the degustation the international menu.

For the evening entertainment, attend an opera show at the Estates Theatre (where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni) or the National Theatre, both nearby. Conclude your evening with a nightcap at the not-so-literary-minded Bar and Books. The walls are red, the lighting's dim, and music not too loud and conversation swirls from leather banquettes amid the sweet stench of cigars and cocktails.

Continue to Day 2


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(Updated: 06/12/13 SG)

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