We’re bringing our international (read: non-New York City) coverage back into the mix. Our off-the-beaten path guides have included Rome and San Diego. Next up: Prague.
When you first land in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, you may be momentarily disconcerted by the flurry of above ground trams or the beer being the same price as water, but there are amazing secret places just waiting to be found all throughout the city.
1. Hole in the Wall Bar: The White Whale
When you someone describes a bar as a “hole in the wall,” The White Whale is the standard the bar ought to be judged by. The bar has a vague nautical theme to it with smoke stained sailing flags hanging on one wall of the bar and plays host to locals 90% of the time. Open all day and located just off of Male Namesti, go to the Whale if you’re looking a local bar thats friendly to patrons sitting for prolonged periods of time. If you’re looking for a more authentic taste of Prague night life, taking a tram over the hill is easy from downtown to Zizkov, a neighborhood over the hill of Prague 1 that rarely has any native English speakers past 5 o’clock.
2. Kolbenka Flea Market
If the bars of Prague aren’t your scene, the city’s sprawling public transit system makes it easy to get from neighborhood to neighborhood with little hassle. From the center of the city, it’s a quick fifteen minute train ride out to the neighborhood of Kolbenova, Prague 9 which on weekends is home to the largest flea market in Europe. Sellers typically begin queuing for parking spaces around midnight Friday evening and everyday from 700hrs to 1400hrs the market is a free for all of whatever people decided to sell that weekend.
3. Holesovice Neighborhood
Great food can be found for cheap prices all across the city but for a more local experience, head out to Prague 7. Holesovice, formerly an industrial quarter across the river Vltava from downtown Prague is now home to many great coffee and breakfast spots that are fantastic places to spend a lazy weekend morning. Twenty7, located just off of the Delnicka tram spot is fantastic for a more upscale brunch atmosphere with a menu ranging from Mexican to Vietnamese. If you like your coffee with a side of innovation two blocks away from Twenty7 is Bitcoin Coffee, a coffee house devoted to advancing the popularity of the crypto currency and actually accepts virtual Bitcoins as currency. Those of us who aren’t quite as tech savvy can also pay with crowns however.
4. Shakespeare and Sons Bookstore
For those of a more literary mindset, just across the Charles Bridge from downtown, nestled back amongst a row of older settlement houses linking the river is the Shakespeare and Sons Bookstore. With an extensive used section and titles in both English and Czech, the two story book store and cafe offers a little something for fans of any genre. The childhood home of Franz Kafka has also been made into a museum and throughout the city you can easily find statues honoring the author.
5. The Jewish Cemeteries
For all of its modernity, Prague is also very much a city filled with history around every corner. Cemeteries in Prague are often centuries old and are the resting places of famous figures from all walks of history. Within the Jewish Quarter, called Josefov, the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in all of Europe is nestled in between ancient synagogues.
Scholars aren’t even sure how many people are buried in the cemetery solely due to how many layers of bodies have been discovered during excavations. Outside of downtown Prague, the Vysehrad cemetery on the grounds of Vysehrad Castle is the final resting place of many Czech intellectuals including noted artist Alphonse Mucha and composer Antonin Dvorak.
6. Contemporary Art
Also located in Holesovice, DOX Centre for Contemporary Art is home to some of the timeliest ad most political art in Prague. The exhibits are always well curated and are friendly to even the most jaded detractors of modern art. The facilities are well maintained and in a less busy neighborhood, it is rare that you will find a crowd here, regardless of day of the week. For those looking simply for a quiet place to pass a Sunday afternoon, you can’t do better than DOX.
The building can be identified by the giant street murals painted wrapping around the corner, quotes from a variety of iconic people in English and around the corner translated to Czech.
7. Grand Cafe Orient
Cubism in architecture is a Czech phenomenon and The House of The Black Madonna, just off of Stare Mesto is one of the most widely acclaimed examples of Cubist architecture. Designed by Josef Gocar, the House of The Black Madonna remains the Art Nouveau feel throughout the entire building and on the first floor is the Grand Cafe Orient. While the cafe runs more expensive than other restaurants throughout the area, it is one of the few places in Prague to find an American Diner type meal complete with pancakes, French toast and bacon.
8. Friends Coffee House
Nestled two blocks off of Wenceslas Square is Friends Coffee Shop, a secluded coffee shop perfect to sit with a book for a midday break. All the coffee is roasted in house and even if you forget your own book, the staff keeps a regularly updated library that is free for use of the patrons.
9. Cross Club
When the owner of Cross Club purchased the building, he knew that he wanted to have a club but had little inspiration. The story follows that he holed up in his apartment for a day, covering notebooks in doodles and then hired a professional artist to make his doodles reality. The result comes out as Cross Club, a booming club for younger travelers. The inside is maze like and decorated with industrial themed decorations. If you find yourself tired from clubbing, the top floor of the club is a cafe that is open all night serving coffee and food.
10. Palac Akropolis
Palac Akropolis, located in Praha 3, is one of the cultural hubs of the city, hosting films, theater shows, concerts, and everything in between. Regularly making lists for best concert venue in Prague, make sure you check what events are playing when you find yourself in Prague. Like any great rock venue, they also have a cheap -even for Prague- bar down one floor from the stage.
Bonus: Take a trip to the John Lennon Wall (above) and tour the city by bike. Also check out 5 art landmarks to visit in Prague.