Prague is one of the most rewarding cities in Europe, possessed as it is of glorious architecture dating to the 10th century that escaped both world wars without experiencing significant bombing. The following advice should clue the uninitiated into what the city’s considerable population of expats already knows.
Traditional Czech cuisine is readily available, but diners interested in trying something a little further afield could do worse than Malý Buddha, an affordable, delicious, and atmospheric pan-Asian establishment located near Pohořelec Square in the Castle District. After dinner, stop into the Coco Cola Café for a slice of Medovník, or traditional honey cake (a treat that is widely available throughout the city). Good Mexican food is notoriously difficult to come by in Prague (expats refer to the typically over-priced, poorly-prepared stuff as “Czexican”), but the young and hip restaurateurs at Las Adelitas in Vinohrady are well worth a visit.
The Czech Republic is a notoriously excellent place to imbibe. While famous for beer (the Czechs drink more of it per-capita than any nationality in the world, and fine brands are available on every corner for a paltry sum), there are plenty of other ways in which to take your leisure. Becherovka, a regional liquor manufactured in the spa town of Karlovy Vary (home to the largest annual film festival in the country) can only be described as “Christmas in a bottle”. Hardly a secret, the famous Café Slavia across from the beautiful, golden-domed National Theatre is one of the many excellent places to have an absinthe and a snack (avoid the expensive and mediocre entrees).
3. Lucerna, Světozor, and Aero
Prague is a great film town, and these three theaters are the best of the best. Kino Lucerna (built by former dissident and President Václav Havel’s grandfather) is the oldest motion picture movie theater in Europe (and it’s a sight to behold). Kino Světozor, located across the street from Lucerna and just a block off Wenceslas Square, is the country’s premier art house cinema. Kino Aero in Prague’s 3rd district is another great place to take in an afternoon film, as well as live broadcasts of theatrical performances from London’s National Theatre.
4. Prague Fringe Fest
A profusion of independent theater performed by troupes from all over the world has taken place in Prague for 10 years running. Theater-goers who find themselves in the city (or who plan their visit accordingly, as is highly advisable) will be justly rewarded for attending this high quality festival of all things thespian. If you find yourself in the city during another time of year, consider venturing out to Švandovo Divadlo in Újezd, where laudable Czech-language plays are performed with English subtitles.
5. The Bearded Lady
The Loreto Chapel (home to a life-size statue of the so-called bearded lady, St. Wilgefortis) sits on the edge of beautiful Petrin Hill in Prague’s Castle District. Prague was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, and this elaborately constructed relic stands as testament to the lasting legacy of its influence. Easily overlooked (standing, as it does, in the shadow of many other worthy sights), this beautiful peculiarity is a must-see.
One final note of warning to newcomers to Prague involves transit on the city’s excellent network of trams, buses, and subway trains: Make sure you purchase and accurately validate tickets and/or passes. Unlike Paris or elsewhere, fare checkers are numerous, and they will frog-march you directly to an ATM and extort exorbitant fees if your tickets aren’t good.