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Dame Traveler Insider Guide: Prague

May 25, 2015

PRAGUE

Little known fact: The Rolling Stones are responsible for the cinematic lighting of Prague Castle. Seriously. They were the first international band to play a concert in the free Czechoslovakia circa 1990. As the saying goes: the Soviet tanks rolled out and the Stones rolled in. To smashing success several times over. It was after a show in 1995, when Mick and the guys were having a casual drink with the president (is there any other kind?), one thing led to another and $32,000 later the city was lit up like a Christmas tree.

Indeed, the capital of the Czech Republic has all the makings of a Disney fairytale, mixed with the seedy bits you would expect in any metropolis. After a year of living in Prague, I have wandered its maze of thousand-year-old cobbled streets, which have led me to a Starbucks, or a Burger King, or Zara more often than expected. Regardless, there is a lot to love beyond the big brands.

Where to Eat
No surprise that one can eat quite well on the cheap in Prague’s pubs. What I was amazed to find in Prague was the variety if you are willing to spend a bit more. Here are some hot spots:

Starting with the street food vendors in Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. They are out in force when the seasons change. Whether celebrating Spring in April, or shaking off the chill in November with hot wine, this is a fun way to sample traditional fare that will ground you in the land of sausage, potatoes and goulash. And don’t bypass the trdelnik – a rolled pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. One can also find a grand selection of sweet and savory snacks served up in front of the Palladium shopping centre (Prague 1) at the weekend.

Wine Food Market Smichov
Lauded as one of the most beautiful by Expats.cz, this market-style restaurant is more mod-Italian than anything. A bit of Milan in Prague, if you will. Not the easiest place to find, but it’s walkable from Andel shopping centre (Prague 5). Booking a table is essential on the weekend.

Bakeshop
Start the day here! Great for breakfast, lunch, as well as afternoon tea and cake.
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Sweet Secret of Raw
Namesti Miru is also the centre of a lovely neighborhood with quite a few restaurants and cafes. If you like a “clean” dessert, then you’ll love SSoR. Very yummy raw treats served in a quiet and beautiful space.

Made in Japan
We are regulars at this quality sushi spot that makes for a stylish start to a night out. Try the Omakase plate for two.

Café Café
Just a few steps on from Made in Japan, this is where the cool crowd descends to lounge over espressos, specialty teas or, in my case, a bottle of champagne to celebrate an engagement. Find brunch, salads and more on the menu.

Pizza Nuova
There are also molti Italiani living in Prague, so there was bound to be a ‘best pizza’ listing. Get true Napoletana style here.

La Bottega
Speaking of industrious Italians, Riccardo Lucque has made a name for himself with several eateries around the city. Stop by the brand new Bistroteka (Dlouha 39) for beautiful plates of seafood, meat and other Mediterranean delights.

Las Adelitas
Oh yes we do Mexican. The cuisine is actually quite popular in this town and we loaded up on delicious fajitas at Las Adelitas. My theory is that this type of food goes really well with a Pilsner Urquell.

Pivovary Staropramen
This pub is part of the Potrefena Husa chain and reliably serves great traditional, as well as international, fare at an even better price. I always order the tuna steak on wakame salad, while my guy goes for the goulash.

Parents can note that the Lego Store is nearby. Couples can take a romantic stroll to the river from here

Drinks

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Prague is beer. Beer is the Czech Republic. The best way to get drunk on the history and magic of it all is to book a tour with the experts at Beer Masters. They’ll cover 1500 years in three hours at three famed microbreweries, including the most famous (U Fleku) and the oldest (U Medvidku. From light and dark brews, to naturally flavored sour cherry and nettle, taste an incredible range, as well as traditional food along the way. You’ll walk away with a smile on your face and loads of insight into not only the Czech beer industry, but also what’s going on worldwide. Note: U Fleku has a very tasty traditional menu, as well as a gorgeous outdoor space for fair weather fun.

Where to Shop

A walk down Dlouha, or its flashier sister Parizska, might inspire those with the dosh. For the rest of us, there are many top European brands lining Na Prikope and its side streets.

Czech Labels & Friends (Zelezna 12)
Local designers stock this shop near Staromeska.

Arts & Crafts
Avoid the tourist traps at the foot of the Charles Bridge (Malostranska) and take a walk along… /up… to find original art and inspired handmade crafts.

What to Do

Prague Underground Tour
It turns out 1000 years of history make for a fascinating foray into the city’s medieval past and wartime invasions.

Mucha Museum (Panska 7)
This is one of those galleries that you can easily do in an hour.

Zizkov Tower (Prague 3)
There are many structural oddities scattered around, but the clear winner is Zizkov Tower with those babies that are crawling up the side if it. WTF, you ask?

Built between 1985 and 1992, the David Cerny-designed baby sculptures were permanently attached to the transmission tower in 2001. Oblaca restaurant offers panoramic views of Prague, while Miminoo keeps it casual at the base. For your records, Zizkov is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

Note: Just a skip away is Gastronomica La Bottega di Aromi (Ondříčkova 17) – another bistro by Riccardo Lucque.

Where to Stay

Dame-riverside-picnics

High-end, mid-range, backpackers, boutique, palatial. There is no end to the options for accommodations in Prague. Here are some of the best:

The Mark
It used to be a baroque palace and now it’s a member of Leading Hotels of The World. With sophisticated guest rooms (no two are alike), tranquil garden restaurant, and access to Prague’s heart, this is arguably the Czech Rep’s best guest property.

One Room Hotel
A unique and cool concept that offers luxury in Zizkov Tower.

Merchant’s Yard
Located in a cozy 14th-century nook of Old Town, and just a skip away from many low to lavish shopping and dining options. Each suite offers ample space to spread out, while bathrooms are kitted out with deep soaker tubs and heated floors (aka: the best thing ever). While the price tag on a stay at this boutique hotel is infinitely reasonable, you’ll feel like a wealthy local just popping in and out of your pied-à-terre.

Chateau Mcely
This five-star eco-chic chateau is situated about an hour’s drive from Prague. Perfect for romantic getaways or families with children. The spa makes for a lovely day trip, or order one of their signature picnic baskets and relax into lush surroundings for an afternoon.

Afternoon Delights

After cappuccinos and slices of ‘death by chocolate’ cake at Bakeshop, make your way down Parizska Street and over Cechuv bridge. Follow the stairs up, then walk past the Metronome and into Letna Park. Sticking to the southern edge, you will come across Neo-Baroque beautiful Hanavsky Pavilion. Continue along the lush path that eventually leads down and through a natural ravine that once served as a defense for Prague Castle. A pretty green trip back in time, which allows one to mosey on through the 9th century and return in time to watch a stunning sunset from the Charles Bridge.

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