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Prague: 24 Hours

Prague is one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved cities

Prague: 24 Hours
Image: Photolibrary.com

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01 Charles bridge
Prague is a city of many incarnations, as the first capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire and the czechoslovak republic. you haven’t a hope of cramming more than a few of its sights into a day’s visit, but this medieval stone bridge across the River Vltava offers great views of the city’s architectural pomp. The right bank leads to the Old Town Square, crowned by its art nouveau astronomical clock performing the hourly ‘Walk of the Apostles’.

02 Strahov Monastery
Explore the two baroque libraries of this sprawling 12th-century monastery, complete with lofty walnut bookcases of volumes dating back to the ninth century and collections of old globes.  www.strahovmonastery.cz

03 Prague Castle
This UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s cultural mother lode is home to St Nicholas Church, the Royal Palace, the vast Gothic St Vitus Cathedral and a bewildering brace of galleries and museums. Don’t miss St Nicholas’s golden interiors, the eye-boggling bling of the Loreta Treasury and the castle’s lovely terraced string of gardens that overlook the city. www.hrad.cz

04 Jewish Quarter
Escape the crowds of the Old and New Towns and explore Josefov, with its six ancient synagogues, a higgledy-piggledy medieval cemetery and the Jewish Ceremonial Hall. Follow the trail of novelist Franz Kafka, who was born and raised within this former Jewish ghetto. www.jewishmuseum.cz

05 Cellar culture
Stroll through the Little Quarter (Mala Strana), with its churches, impossibly cosy coffee shops and excellent local bars and restaurants. Try the perennially popular Jo’s Bar in the shadow of St Nicholas Church, a smart watering hole that now extends into a cavernous underground cellar typical of the Czech capital.www.josbar.cz

06 Elegant clubland
The clubs of the Vinohrady district are proof that Prague is no longer just the preserve of stag parties. Venues in this elegant and prestigious area cater to a gay-straight crowd. Try the multi-tasking Radost FX, a record shop that’s also a cafe serving American-style brunch, with an adjoining chill-out lounge and club. www.radostfx.cz

Eat
£££ Kampa Park: The first restaurant in what has now become the Kampa Park Group remains one of the city’s prime fine dining spots. Na Kamp 8b,
Praha 1-Malá Strana. T: 00 420 296 826 112. www.kampagroup.com

££  U Modre Kachnicky: The decor is shabby chic and the clientele starry, but the food doesn’t follow the whims of fashion. Dishes focus on seasonal, local game, accompanied by a good choice of Czech wines. Nebovidska 6, Praha 1- Malá Strana. T: 00 420 257 320 308. www.umodrekachnicky.cz

£  Cukrkavalimonada Café: Excellent home-made pasta and pretty painted ceilings take a back seat to this cafe’s ‘70%’ hot chocolate. Lazenska 7, Praha 1- Malá Strana. T: 00 420 257 530 628. www.cukrkavalimonada.com

Shop stops: Head for the city’s growing crop of small boutiques across the city selling utility furnishings and design pieces from the 1920s and ’30s. The city was, before its long period of dictatorship, a centre for European modernism and the style is being revived both in its museums and shops. Seek out commercial galleries such as Kubista and Modernista. www.kubista.cz  www.modernista.cz

 

Published in the May/June 2011 issue of © National Geographic Traveller (UK)