Walking Prague, Czech Republic

When I think of Prague, Czech Republic, and Czech people my very first associations are (in no particular order):

Martina Navratilova, Bedrich Smetana (Prodana nevesta, Vltava), Miloš Forman (director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs Larry Flynt), Škoda Auto, Pat & Mat (hilarious ! makes me smile just writing the names down), Vaclav Havel, Antonin Dvorak, Eva Herzigova, Franz Kafka, Karel Svoboda (because I remember clearly seeing his name written in credits in every Biene Maja (Maya the Bee)  episode that tens of millions of Europeans grew up with), Ivan (“the Terrible”) Lendl, Milan Kundera.

Czechs are friendly and low-key people. They’ve built a magnificent capital (practically every window has a view) and make exceptional beer.

It shouldn’t have taken me aback, then, considering how many great people contributed to what Prague today is. But it did, Prague blew me away. I mean, I knew it was a grand city but I didn’t quite expect to like it that much. It’s beautiful!

Prague is huge and convenient for a keen walker – lots of lovely architecture and greenery

I knew from before it was a beautiful city for I was there for the first time a few decades ago but, unfortunately, back then, in the grey of the Communist regime, it wasn’t showing off, oh no, not really and not at all.

Gingerbread is a local specialty.

Puppets, well-known Czech craft.

Prague, the capital of Czech Republic, is one of those cities where you can easily look past the obvious tourist traps (and there are many) and still enjoy its historical, cultural and gastronomic wealth tremendously. Be warn, though, Prague is packed with visitors. As if this ain’t enough, many of them behave repulsively badly. Shame on them!

Prague’s streets are also full of shops and restaurants catering solely to tourists, just like in any other historic city in Europe these days. A responsible visitor will have to look beyond the obvious – there are lovely spots around town off the tourist trail.

As always with a city break, I’d recommend savouring Prague on foot. Pavements are the thing there, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

See what I mean? (Maybe better not to wear your Sunday best in shoes department.)

And then, there are magnificent buildings, especially those designed in Art Deco style …

Art Deco

…and the very rare Cubist houses

… and many, many others – just wonderful.

There are sights that everybody will want to visit, of course. Why else would you bother coming if not to see the most evident of landmarks, right? Least you could do is remember to behave (see above ;)).

Most certainly, you’ll want to go to Hradčany and visit the Pražsky hrad (Prague Castle). You’ll probably want to include Zlata ulička (Golden Lane) into your programme as well (I have to warn you though it’s turned into a touristy Disneyland of sorts). There are many ways leading up to the castle district and we walked three of them:

1) Via Nerudova Street

Along the way, pay attention not only to the beautifully paved pavements but also a bit more upwards: many houses still bear the signs that used to serve as house numbers in the past.

2) By way of Fuerstenberska zahrada (Fuerstenberg Gardens)

You may have spotted photos of lovely terraced gardens (orchards, vineyards, roses spread over terraces connected via steep stairs among them) while researching Prague’s what-to-see. Well, this is it. It’s payable (small entrance fee) but absolutely the shortest and loveliest ascent to Hradčany. There’s a path winding up beside the terraces (stairs are closed to public).

3) Via Letenska plan (Letna park)

Head over Čechuv (Czech) Bridge up the stairs to Pražsky metronom and continue through Letenska plan (Letna Park) to a pretty Letohradek kralovny Anny (Queen Anne’s Summer Palace) which is a romantic piece of Renaissance Italy in Prague. Then past magnificent Mičovna v Kralovske zahrade (Ball Game Hall in the Royal Gardens) and Jizdarna Pražskeho hradu (Riding School) over the pathway straight into the second square of the Prague Castle where the entrance to Obrazarna Pražskeho hradu (Prague Castle Picture Gallery) is.

Queen Anne’s Summer Palace

Royal paraphernalia
Royal paraphernalia, Hradčany
Kafka’s house in Zlatna ulička
The house in Zlatna ulička where Franz Kafta used to live for a while

For descent, I suggest using a pathway past Klošterski pivovar (a brewery cum restaurant) where you can stop for a glass of beer (read on to learn how I was converted) and then stroll through lovely orchards and vineyards below it. It’s a perfect spot to take a break from the crowds in, so feel free to stop at will to take in the splendid view of the city before you come down to Vlašska (Italian) Street.

Have beer! Absolutely have at least a glass of beer. I was converted in Prague. I never liked beer before but in Prague I tried it and loved it. Maybe I was just lucky I chose well. I refused to have what ‘ladies are usually having’ and went straight to the dark bitter ‘manly’ stuff. It was a hit.

Strange as it may sound we had our very first Korean meal in Prague of all places. We were told there’s a strong Korean community living in Prague due to business investments (car manufacturing mainly). Our insider information 😉 led us to a Korean restaurant called Zubang which we never would’ve ventured in. Hidden in a basement of a building in an alley of no particular interest, it was packed with Koreans and Koreans only. We loved the food but, as usually, overestimated how hungry we actually were.

I love to travel. I’ve loved travelling, journey itself not solely the end destination, since I was a little girl. I can remember very vividly my first flights when onboard food was served alongside real, metal cutlery in economy. I’ve always loved watching the countryside rush by through car windows. I’d like to enjoy train travels again as I already did when I was younger – in my region train travels are a joke: time-consuming snail speed, museum worth infrastructure, lousy timetables and smelly compartments.

That said, I do mind mass tourism; it’s been killing me softly, figuratively speaking of course, in my hometown for quite some time now and it’s disturbing to watch how it is changing the essence of a place for worse. I don’t mind tourists as people per se, I do mind what that industry does to local communities. It shouldn’t all be exclusively about the money. Local governments should take residents’ quality of life more seriously. [stops ranting]

Dreamy birds walking freely in Valdštejnska zahrada (Waldstein garden) in Mala strana
Beauty in the details

Franz Kafka monument

Related:

Tourism – Where Are We Heading To? or How I experienced Prague citizens’ revolt

Running vs Walking or Why is walking really good for you IMO

Helpful guidelines to help you Drink responsibly!