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Frommer's Prague day by day

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Frommer's Prague Day-by-Day Guide is the complete up-to-date reference for visitors who want to maximize their stay in the smartest, most time-efficient way. With full-color throughout with hundreds of evocative photos, this invaluable guide offers reviews on a wide array of sightseeing, lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment options in all price ranges, and also includes thematic and walking tours of the city's best-loved neighborhoods with Frommer's trademark candid and accessible expertise.

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15 Favorite Moments

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Prague’s breathtaking beauty has been discovered. The city now ranks among the most popular in Europe. That’s great news for the economy and for people who live from the trade, but it means I need to plan my special moments carefully. I am a little reclusive by nature, and I love the feeling of having a place to myself. These are my tips for moving away from the masses. I hope you enjoy them too.

 

An early-morning walk across the Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge is not exactly a hangout for recluses, particularly in mid-summer when the bridge is thronged. On the other hand, the crowds definitely thin out at key moments during the day. My favorite time to cross the bridge is early in the morning, approaching from the Old Town side, when the sun is behind your shoulder and Prague Castle is illuminated in the distance. Another good time is in the evening after sundown to enjoy the subtle play of light and shadow among the statues, the city spires, and the domes of Malá Strana in the distance. Go to Page.

 

1. The Best Full-Day, Two & Three-Day Tours

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This 1-day tour follows the ancient coronation route of Bohemian kings. It’s impossible to see all the major sights in a day, but this walk comes as close as humanly possible. You can do it in 3 or 4 hours without stops. If you decide to poke your nose in here or there, it can stretch into a whole day. Be forewarned: There’s a lot of ground to cover from the Powder Tower to Prague Castle, so get an early start and wear comfortable shoes. START: Náměstí Republiky.   Powder Tower (or Powder Gate) (Prašná brána). The late-Gothic Powder Tower is one of the last standing remnants of the Old Town’s original fortification system and marks the start of the royal coronation route. The name derives from the tower’s early purpose: to hold gunpowder for defending the city. The tower dates from the 15th century, but the trademark golden spires were a relatively late addition in the 19th century. You can clamber up to the top for a view out over the Old Town, but better to save your strength for one of the many other towers that lie on the road ahead. 20 min. Náměstí Republiky 5. 75 Kč. Apr–Sept daily 10am–10pm, Mar, Oct daily 10am–8pm, Nov–Feb daily 10am–6pm. Metro: Náměstí Republiky.  

2. The Best Special-Interest Tours: Kafka's Prague, Prague Castles, Communist Prague, Prague with Kids, Romantic Prague

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The former Communist government was never entirely comfortable with Franz Kafka, the German-Jewish writer who was born in Prague in 1883. Kafka’s themes of bureaucracy and alienation were too close to the grim reality of day-to-day life of pre-1989 Prague, and Kafka was all but ignored by the Communist government. All of that changed after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, and a caricature of Kafka’s familiar face—complete with his overly elongated ears—can be found on posters, T-shirts, and coffee mugs in every souvenir shop in town. Perhaps it’s ironic that a somber German-Jewish intellectual—the father of the modern novel—should somehow be adopted by the flashy local tourist industry as one of the faces of new Prague. On the other hand, given the city’s turbulent history of Nazi occupation followed by Communist dictatorship, perhaps it’s more than fitting. Although Kafka died 15 years before the start of World War II and 24 years before the Communist coup d’etat in 1948, his novels now seem eerily prophetic of what was to come. START: Old Town Square (Staroměstské nám.).  

3. The Best Neighborhood Walks: The Jewish Quarter, The Lesser Town, Castle District, Old Town

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This tour focuses on the remains of the former Jewish ghetto. The Prague Jewish Museum (Židovské muzeum v Praze) maintains four synagogues as well as the most moving remnant, the Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý židovský hřbitov). Another surviving synagogue, the Old New Synagogue (Staronová synagoga), is maintained by the Jewish community of Prague. You can walk the former ghetto for free, but to tour the exhibits you need an entry ticket (see the box “The Jewish Quarter: Practical Matters,” below, for details on admissions charges and hours for Jewish Quarter attractions). The Old New Synagogue requires a separate ticket. A combined-entry ticket for all of the sights is also available. Note: Many of the sights on this tour are closed Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, and on Jewish holidays. Try to get an early start; the area gets very crowded in high season. START: Old Town Square.   Maiselova Street. From Old Town Square, walk past St. Nicholas Church (Chrám sv. Mikuláše) and then past the birth house of Franz Kafka (Go to Page, bullet ). Maiselova begins here and threads its way through the center of the former ghetto. This was “Main Street” when the ghetto was a walled-in community, and here you’ll find some of the most important surviving buildings and the former Jewish Town Hall. 10 min.  

4. The Best Shopping

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Shopping Best Bets

 

Best for Architecture Buffs

Exlibris, Veleslavínská 3 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Find Old Maps

Antikvariát Pařížská, Pařížská 8 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Buy a Wooden Rocking Horse

Rocking Horse Toy Shop, Loretánské nám. 3 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Buy a Real Puppet

Marionety, Týnský dvůr 1 (Go to Page)

Best Bohemian Crystal

Moser, Na příkopě 12 (Go to Page)

Best Contemporary Glass

Artěl, Celetná 29 (Go to Page)

Best 1930s Shopping Center

Lucerna Pasáž, Štěpánská 61 (Go to Page)

Best Department Store in a Brutalist Building

Kotva, Náměstí Republiky 8 (Go to Page)

Best Place for English-Language Books

 

5. The Best of the Outdoors

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There are lots of lookout spots in this city of a hundred spires that boast of having the best views. Certainly, the beer garden at Letenský zámeček, in Letná (see below), has a legitimate claim. But for our money, nothing beats the Prague panorama as seen from the top of the long, sloping valley that runs from the top of Petřín Hill down toward the banks of the Vltava river. This walk begins with a funicular train ride to the top of the hill. The smattering of interesting sights up here includes a miniature Eiffel Tower built for the 1891 Prague Jubilee exhibition. After that it’s a peaceful stroll through a lovely park and then out across a long meadow, with those vaunted views over Prague Castle and the city below. START: The funicular station at the Újezd tram stop. From Malostranská metro station, take tram no. 12, 20, or 22 three stops (to Újezd). On exiting the tram, walk back toward Malostranské nám. about 15m (50 ft.).

 

Funicular Railway (lanová dráha). This 488m (1,600-ft.) cable railway is part of the city’s public transportation system; you’ll need a full-price 32 Kč ticket to ride it (1- and 3-day metro passes work too). The funicular was originally built to ferry passengers to the 1891 exhibition. Now it’s a mainstay of the tourist industry, taking visitors up to the “Eiffel Tower” or hauling concertgoers or sports fans up to an event at giant Strahov Stadium on top of the hill. The line has two stops; take it to the top, Petřín station. If you’d rather walk up the hill, follow any of the paths leading upward. Figure on a moderately demanding hike of 20 to 30 minutes. 15 min. Daily 9am–11:20pm.

 

6. The Best Dining

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Dining Best Bets

 

Best for Kids

Rugantino $$ Dušní 4 (Go to Page)

Best Vegetarian

Lehká Hlava $ Boršov 2 (Go to Page)

Best View of the Castle

Bellevue $$$$ Smetanovo nábř. 18 (Go to Page)

Best View of the Bridge

Hergetova Cihelna $$$ Cihelna 2b (Go to Page)

Best Italian Hideaway

Peperoncino $$ Letohradská 34 (Go to Page)

Best for a Hearty Bowl of Pho

Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan $ Anglická 15 (Go to Page)

Best Sushi

Sushi Bar $$$$$ Zborovská 49 (Go to Page)

Best Meal for the Money

Kofein $$ Nitranská 9 (Go to Page)

Best Czech-Mex

Las Adelitas $ Americká 8 (Go to Page)

Best Beer and Burger Joint

 

7. The Best Nightlife

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Nightlife Best Bets

 

Best Microbrew

Pivovarský Klub, Křižíkova 17 (Go to Page)

Best Traditional Hospoda (Pub)

U Černého vola, Loretánské nám. 1 (Go to Page)

Best Classy Cocktail Bar

Hemingway, Karolíny Světlé 26 (Go to Page)

Best Martini

Hapu, Orlická 8 (Go to Page)

Best Shot of Spiced Rum

Čili Bar, Kožná 8 (Go to Page)

Best Wine Bar

U Sudu, Vodičková 10 (Go to Page)

Best for Celeb Spotting

Tretter’s New York Bar, V kolkovně 3 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Dance if You’re Over 30

SaSaZu, Bubenské náb. 306 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Dance for Twentysomethings

Cross Club, Plynární 23 (Go to Page)

 

8. The Best Arts & Entertainment

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Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

 

Best Opera House

Státní Opera, Wilsonová 4 (Go to Page)

Best Place to Hear Classical Music

Rudolfinum, Náměstí Jana Palacha (Go to Page)

Best Place to See Classical Music

Obecní dům’s Smetana Hall, Náměstí Republiky 5 (Go to Page)

Best Theater for English Speakers

Švandovo Divadlo na Smíchově, Stefaníková 57 (Go to Page)

Best for Don Giovanni

Stavovské Divadlo, Ovocní trh 1 (Go to Page)

Best for “Donnie” Giovanni

Národní Divadlo Marionet (National Puppet Theater), Žatecká 1 (Go to Page)

Best Black Light Theater

Divadlo Image, Pařížská 4 (Go to Page)

Best Jazz Club

AghaRTA, Železná 16 (Go to Page)

Best Jazz Club with a River View

 

9. The Best Lodging

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Lodging Best Bets

 

Best Views

U Zlaté Studně $$$ U Zlaté Studně 166/4 (Go to Page)

Best Hot Stones

Le Palais $$$$ U Zvonařky 1 (Go to Page)

Best for Fashionistas

Buddha-Bar Hotel $$$$ Jakubská 8 (Go to Page)

Best Budget Hotel

Dahlia Inn $ Lipová 20 (Go to Page)

Best for Minimalists

Anděl’s Hotel Prague $$ Stroupežnického 21 (Go to Page)

Best for Music Lovers

Aria $$$$ Tržiště 9 (Go to Page)

Best if You Miss the ’60s

Sax $$ Jánský Vršek 3 (Go to Page)

Best Socialist Realist Architecture

Crowne Plaza $$ Koulová 15 (Go to Page)

Best Luxury Chain Hotel

Boscolo $$$ Senovážné nám 8 (Go to Page)

Best Art Nouveau

 

10. The Best Day Trips & Excursions

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Karlštejn is far and away the most popular Prague day trip—for both city residents and visitors. It’s an easy 40-minute ride out on the train, and the quaint village, with its gingerbread-style houses guarded over by an enchanted-kingdom castle, is a welcome antidote to the big city. The surrounding countryside is lovely and unspoiled. Plan on a leisurely day of strolling along the town’s main road, popping in at the numerous gift shops and pubs as you make your way slowly up to the castle.

 

Hrad Karlštejn. They don’t come much more majestic than Karlštejn Castle, a high-Gothic beauty that dates from the middle of the 14th century (although much of the exterior was restored and embellished in the 19th century). The castle was built on orders of Charles IV to protect what were then the coronation jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. The jewels were later moved to Prague Castle during the turbulent 17th century (where they sit today under lock and key), leaving Karlštejn Castle pretty much empty. Even if you’re not that into castles, it’s still fun to make the climb up here for the fabulous views. There are two main tours on offer. Tour 1 is quicker and cheaper, and includes a nice overview of highlights like the Imperial Palace and Royal Bedroom. But it omits the real treasure: the jewel-studded Chapel of the Holy Rood, with its 2,000 precious and semiprecious inlaid stones. The chapel visit comes only with Tour 2, but the catch is you have to book that one in advance. If you have the time and interest, it’s worth the effort. Note that Tour 2 is only offered from May to October. 2 hr. with tour, 1 hr. without. Karlštejn. 224-497-492 (call to reserve Tour 2). www.hradkarlstejn.cz. 270 Kč (Tour 1, includes guide), 300 Kč (Tour 2, includes guide). May–Sept Tues–Sun 9am–5pm; Oct–Dec Tues–Sun 9am–3pm; Mar–Apr 9am–3pm. Closed Jan–Feb.

 

The Savvy Traveler

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Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices

The official agency for tourism promotion is the Czech Tourist Authority (www.czechtourism.com). It has offices around the world, including in the U.S. (1109 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10028; 212/288-0830) and U.K. (13 Harley St., London W1G 9QG; 0207-631-0427).

The Best Times to Go

Prague is gorgeous in spring, when the trees blossom and the city shrugs off a long winter. Fall can be equally pleasant, with long, warm days and usually reliably sunny weather. Avoid travel over Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, when the city fills to brimming with tour groups from Germany and Italy. Midsummer is considered “in-between” season, with slightly lower hotel prices, but it can be stiflingly hot and many hotels lack air-conditioning. You might consider coming in low season, February or November, when the crowds thin and you finally feel you have this beautiful city to yourself.

 

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