Prague’s heart is a layered cake of history: the oldest of its buildings have double cellars, owing to a flood-prevention programme that buried the original streets 3 m (10 ft) beneath those that exist today. Architecturally, it embraces every epoch, from the Romanesque to the Brutalist style of the mid-1970s Kotva department store. Historically, the burghers of the Old Town (Staré Město) were ill at ease with the castle district, and vice versa, with the town being a bastion of Protestant feistiness. The Old Town is still livelier than Malá Strana and Hradčany, with cafés, clubs, restaurants and theatres that keep it buzzing around the clock.
Over the centuries, this now peaceful square at the heart of the city has witnessed hundreds of executions, political capitulations and, more recently of course, riotous ice-hockey celebrations, a sport about which the Czechs are fanatical. Today, the action is more likely to come from the crowds of tourists and Praguers, enjoying a coffee or a mug of beer at one of the numerous pavement cafés. Dominated by the splendid Church of Our Lady before Týn, the square is always buzzing; in winter and summer, it’s a wonderful place to watch the world go by (see Old Town Square).
Náměstí Republiky 5 • 222 002101 for tours • Adm • www.obecnidum.cz
National Revival artist Alfons Mucha was one of many to lend his talents to the Municipal House (Obecní dům), Prague’s star Art Nouveau attraction. One of its most beautiful and striking features is Karel Špillar’s mosaic above the main entrance, entitled Homage to Prague. It also has a firm place in history as it was from the Municipal House that Czechoslovakia was declared an independent state in 1918. Today, it is home to restaurants, cafés, exhibition halls, shops and the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Smetana Hall.
Náměstí Republiky • Open Apr–Sep: 10am–10pm; Oct, Mar: 10am–8pm; Nov–Feb: 10am–6pm • Adm • en.muzeumprahy.cz
In the 15th century, King Vladislav II laid the cornerstone for this tower at the city’s eastern gate, intended to complement the Royal Court nearby. Its name comes from its 17th-century role as a gunpowder store. The tower was damaged during Prussian attacks in 1757. The Neo-Gothic façade seen today, with its sculptural decoration, dates from 1876.
The medieval route from the silver-mining town of Kutná Hora in Bohemia passed down the street known today as Celetná, through Old Town Square and on to Prague Castle. There is still a lot of traffic on the gently curving street today.
Malá Štupartská 6 • Open 9:30am–noon & 2–4pm daily (except Mon & during Mass) • praha.minorite.cz
The Gothic and Baroque interior wins the award for Prague’s creepiest sanctuary. The church, founded in 1232 by Wenceslas I, is best known for the legend of the mummified arm (see One-Armed Thief) hanging above the door, but don’t miss one of the organ recitals held here (see Basilica of St James).
Křížovnická 190, Mariánské náměstí 5 & Karlova 1 • 733 129252 • Open 10am–4:30pm daily (to 6pm Mar–Oct; to 5:30pm Nov–Dec); concerts from 6pm daily (from 5pm Nov–May) • Adm • www.klementinum.com
Built in the mid-17th century as a Jesuit college, the Clementinum now houses the National Library. Astronomer Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion atop the Astronomical Tower. There is a beautiful Baroque library, and the Mirror Chapel hosts various concerts.
Also known as the Týn Courtyard, this was a fortified merchants settlement in the 10th century. The Baroque and Renaissance houses were completely renovated in the early 1990s, creating what is now one of the Old Town’s most charming mercantile centres.
You will inevitably get lost trying to follow Karlova street from the Old Town Square to Charles Bridge; relax and enjoy the bewildering, twisting alleys crammed with shops and cafés.
Staroměstské náměstí • Open 10am–4pm daily • Adm for Masses and concerts • www.svmikulas.cz
This Baroque jewel started life as a parish church. During World War II, it was used as a garrison for Czech troops. It now belongs to the Hussite Church and also operates as a concert hall (see St Nicholas Cathedral).
Chapel: Open 10am–6pm daily • Adm • www.bethlehemchapel.eu
The 15th-century Catholic reformer Jan Hus preached in the reconstructed chapel on the square’s north side. The church was converted into apartments in the 18th century but was lovingly restored to its former state in the 1950s.
Prague’s walls started going up in the 13th century, protecting the new settlement from the distant Tartars. The town was accessible via wall gates. As gradual developments in military technology made walls and moats less effective forms of defence, Praguers found new uses for their fortifications. The broad ramparts became parks, complete with benches, lamps and even cafés. Prague kept the habit of locking its gates at night well into the 19th century, however.
Wander down Celetná, ducking through the arcade to Štupartská and the Basilica of St James. If you have at least 45 minutes before the top of the hour, make your way through the Ungelt courtyard to the Old Town Square. Join a tour of the Old Town Hall and get a backstage view of the Apostles’ show on the Astronomical Clock. Otherwise, spend some time shopping in the Ungelt, then join the crowd below the clock outside to see the spectacle.
For lunch, head slightly out of the square to Pasta Fresca for delicious Italian fare.
Return to the Old Town Square and do a quick circumnavigation, then enter the meandering turns of Karlova and wander leisurely past the area’s old buildings before turning south to reach Bethlehem Square. Take a tour of the lovely Bethlehem Chapel, then retrace your steps to Karlova to visit the Clementinum.
If you’d like a little break, have coffee and cake at the excellent Café Ebel, a two-minute walk south, before freshening up and taking in a concert or a performance at the theatre. Curtains go up around 7:30pm, so it is sensible to dine afterwards.
Malé náměstí 14
A dazzlingly different kind of glass shop (see Blue) stocking modern, fun and quirky designs in bowls, knick-knacks, t-shirts and other tourist fare.
Staroměstké nám. 15
Classic crystal and cut-glass objects produced by this well-known manufacturer. Even if you’re not interested in a large vase or a crystal hedgehog, it’s worth a look around.
Celetná 29 (entrance from Rybná)
This concept store (see Artěl) is known for exquisite, handcrafted glassware, luxury crystalware for decor. Artěl also sells interesting antiques.
Staroměstské náměstí 27
Located right across the landmark Astronomical Clock, this megastore has an exclusive collection of Bohemian crystal, art glass, fine costume jewellery, crystal figurines and much more. Friendly and attentive staff.
Týn 1, Ungelt
Czech tradition in designer crystal and glassware gets a modern makeover at this shop in the Ungelt courtyard, not far from the Old Town Square. Admire the eye-catching stemware, vases, dishes and candle-holders, all presented in a space that fuses classical and modern design.
The store’s all-natural health and beauty products are produced at a “historic village” east of Prague; enquire about tours. Sells herbs, oils and other seasonings, too (see Botanicus).
One-stop shopping (see Manufaktura) for your small souvenir needs, including Czech folk crafts and traditional wooden toys. In addition to these items, there are also naturally made cosmetics and toiletries featuring an odd assortment of ingredients, such as Czech beer, wine and thermal salt.
Come here (see Art Deco) for a range of goods including handbags, jewellery, ceramics, glassware and vintage clothing inspired by the early 20th century.
Bohemian porcelain might not be as prestigious as Bohemian crystal, but it makes a pretty souvenir or present.
Kids will appreciate and enjoy the range of traditional wooden toys and other board games here (see Hračky U zlatého lva).
V Kolkovně 3 • 224 811165 • www.tretters.cz
Billed as one of Prague’s fancier bars, Tretter’s has a classy vibe with an elegant dimly-lit interior and a beautiful wooded counter. A good range of interesting cocktails.
Karolíny Světlé 26 • 773 974764 • www.hemingwaybar.cz
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, the great author and one of the most well-known bar lovers, this place (see Hemingway Bar) offers his favourite liquors such as Absinthe, a variety of rum, champagne and excels in mixology.
Dlouhá 33 • www.roxy.cz
In addition to the best dance parties in town, this club (see Roxy) hosts experimental theatre and live bands.
Malé náměstí 2
The dance floor is not the biggest in the city, but Coyotes has a spectacular light show that puts other, bigger clubs in Prague to shame.
Národní třída 25
One of the originals for exciting live music, this place hosts blues or rock bands most nights, with a mix of well-known and unsigned acts. Always a lively atmosphere.
Named after Miles Davis’s seminal album from the 1970s and opened the day after his death, this club has daily performances by top Czech musicians and hosts the annual AghaRTA Prague Jazz Festival.
Staroměstské náměstí 29 • 224 213807 • www.blackangelsbar.cz
Designed in the style of a Prohibtion era speakeasy, this attractive bar (see Black Angel’s) offers creative drinks and cocktails.
The name fits. Prague’s best gay cocktail bar has a steady following among expat and local men who are less interested in cruising than in just having a drink with like-minded folks. The owner Michael will tell you what’s what.
Enjoy unusual views of the Prague night sky through the glass ceilings of this subterranean club. There are two dance floors and an aquarium.
Staroměstské náměstí 10 • www.caffreys.cz
This lively and atmospheric Irish bar (see Caffrey’s) is one of the most popular in town. The beer terrace at front of the pub offers the perfect setting to enjoy drinks during summer months.
Náměstí Republiky 5
Dressed to the nines in Art Nouveau splendour, the café at the Municipal House glitters. Stop in for breakfast before setting off for a day exploring the Old Town and its sights.
Husova 10 • 601 588281 • www.u3r.cz
This Old-Prague brewery and restaurant (see U Tří Růží) has a unique charm and combines original ingre-dients and traditional craftsmanship of brewing to offer a range of beers.
Dlouhá 33 • 222 316265 •
Rumoured to serve the city’s freshest Pilsner Urquell beer, delivered to the door in big tanks. They also serve better-than-average traditional Czech pub meals – think goulash and roast pork – at very reasonable prices. Advance booking is essential.
Staroměstské náměstí 29 • 737 261842
Treat yourself to an unforgettable dining experience on the lovely rooftop terrace of Hotel U Prince. The eatery serves as both a café and a restaurant.
Národní třída 1 • 224 218493 • www.cafeslavia.cz
Set in the historical centre of Prague, this traditional café offers Czech and international cuisine that include salads, fish and meat specialities. Guests are also serenaded by live piano music in the evenings.
Ovocný trh 19 • 224 224240 • www.grandcafeorient.cz
With its unique Cubist style decor, the specialities at this elegant café include the traditional Czech pastry, Kubistický věneček.
Husova 17 • 222 221111 • No credit cards • www.uzlatehotygra.cz
Located in the heart of the Old Town, this pub (see U Zlatého tygra) is renowned for its old world charm and Pilsner beer.
Dlouhá 46 • 732 330912
This is actually a popular pub with around 30 Czech beers on tap.
Smetanovo náb. 14
This café, pub and restaurant offers its customers ultimate views of Prague Castle rising up on Hradčany across the Vltava and of the cobblestoned Charles Bridge nearby.
You won’t find a better cup of coffee in the city than at Ebel, which uses beans from all over the world. Not far from the Old Town Square.
Hotel Paříž, U Obecního domu 1 • 222 195877 •
French cuisine in an opulent Art Nouveau setting inspired by Alfons Mucha’s paintings of the French actress. Bohumil Hrabal celebrated the hotel in his novel I Served the King of England.
Na Poříčí 15 •
A busy and popular eatery. Enjoy a seven-course menu with selected wines at the Chef’s Table, set up in the middle of the bustling kitchen.
Celetná 11 • 224 230244 •
Chef Tomáš Mykytyn makes regional Italian dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients. Sommeliers are on hand to guide diners through the vast wine selection.
Liliová 1 • 222 221155 •
An established fine dining restaurant (see V Zátiší), where modern versions of traditional Czech and Indian dishes are complemented with great service.
Týnská 21 • 222 325440 •
This high-end wine bar and restaurant manages to balance a modern feel with a traditional Italian atmosphere. Good-quality wines complement the classic Sicilian specialities.
Smetanovo nábřeží 18 • 222 221443 •
This restaurant offers diners a gorgeous view of Prague Castle rising above Charles Bridge, and formal Continental dining.
Betlémské náměstí 5a • 602 250082 •
Situated in a medieval cellar, this casual club has a menu of inter-national food and some very well-executed Czech staples.
Boršov 2 • 222 220665 •
This vegetarian restaurant offers customers a varied menu which is so good you don’t even notice there are no meat choices.
Dlouhá 21 • 222 313 340 •
This modest restaurant offers classic Thai dishes of phad thai and beef rendang, alongside Asian street food.
Náměstí Republiky 5 • 222 002770 •
Enjoy classic Czech dishes in this lively setting (see Plzeňská restaurace Obecní dům).
For a three-course meal for one with half a bottle of wine (or equivalent meal), taxes and extra charges.
under Kč500 Kč500–Kč1,000 over Kč1,000