To many, Prague might be the destination of a messy stag-do, and whilst this might be so, I promise there is so much more to see in this beautiful city.
I first visited Prague 6 years when I was filming a TV series called Crossing Lines. I had dinner with (my onscreen killer!) Eddie Jemison and we gorged on gnocchi, drank martinis with a jar of olives on the cocktail stick and the next day, lugging myself out of bed I went for a wander, over the bridge and decided I was quite in love with the city. It was also where I first met my fiancé, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it would take 3 weeks until my return to paris to continue filming for him to pluck up the courage to ask me for a drink. The rest as they say, is history.
Rule 101. Avoid the crowds, stay clear of the square (walk through it, take pictures but nothing more, trust me) and visit some of the surrounding neighbourhoods. There is so much to see and Prague has seriously upped its game on the food scene; there’s a lot more choice other than pork knuckle and dumplings, believe me.
First off, accommodation. If I can offer any work of advice it is this: when you visit a country, live there. Rent an Air bnb, find a guest house, find an apartment, live in it like a local. Cook in it, go to a local bakery and bring back freshly baked baguette and coffees to rustle up bacon sandwiches whilst deciding what to do with you day. Hotels in Prague can be expensive, and if they’re not expensive then sometimes they’re not great. There are so many amazing looking apartments on Airbnb and for a fraction of the price; more money saved to spend out and about.
As far as neighbourhoods go I have always loved the Jewish quarter. Haštalská and roads coming off of this main street are where I’d suggest. It’s a five minute walk to the square but behind the hustle and bustle in a quiet and pretty neighbourhood. Squares with park benches sit between the cobbled streets, local bakeries, florists and delis litter every street corner and you’ll find the local restaurants and coffee shops are a cut above the rest avoiding tourist prices. If designer shops re your thing, it’s a 5 minutes walk from the ‘Bond Street’ of Prague.
Walk everywhere, don’t bother with taxis unless it’s to and from the airport. The underground is simple and tickets can be bought as a day pass or for 15 minute or 30 minute fares which work out at about £1.70 oneway, ideal if you’re just popping to a different neighbourhood for the day.
Head out of town and try something different. Námesti Míru is 3 stops from the centre but you’ll arrive into a beautiful square with some fantastic restaurants. Aromi is a great Italian restaurant just off of the square. Dine on hand rolled gnocchi with ginger lime shellfish and seafood bisque followed by deconstructed tiramisu. Prices are very reasonable. A bowl of pasta will cost you £10 whilst a main, octopus for example will cost you around £16. The bistro is at the front, the restaurant out the back. Eat in the restaurant overlooking the courtyard.
A walk up the hill takes you to some of the new and trendy parts of town. New hole in the wall eateries, ‘living room’ prosecco bars and school bus conversions into burger restaurants have taken over an otherwise quiet neighbourhood. Watch a gig. Check out the listings for Cafe V Lese and watch up and coming artists, local and from England and the US on tour. We saw Laurel from the UK, an artist I’ve followed for months and was chuffed to see live on her European tour. Just up the hill there’s a fantastic Asian eatery called Jam and Co, a dirt cheap but fantastically trendy place serving pad thai, gyoza, buns and asian tacos.
If going further afield isn’t for you there’s plenty to do in town. Hire a bout and see the city from the water. Pack a picnic and a blanket and sit on the open deck of a boat. Tickets cost around £13 for an hour trip enabling you to see the city from a different perspective.
Walk up to the palace and look down over Prague from the top. Just please, whilst crossing the bridge and heading up towards the palace, watch your bags. Pickpockets are heavy in this area and work in packs.
As for restaurants and bars these are my go-to’s.
Divinis is close to the centre of town and by candlelight has a beautifully cosy atmosphere. Order the pasta, order all of it. From orecchiette to pici it has it all.
Sit at table 1, behind a bookshelf but still overlooking the kitchen. Order the Primitivo wine and slump into an overwhelmingly deserved pasta and wine coma after all that walking. Order the roe deer ragu with fresh tagliollini and parmesan foam or the risotto with rabbit and toasted hazelnuts.
For more Italian in a bistro setting try La Bottega Bistroteka. Choose from the deli counter or ask to see the meat and fish of the day. The charred octopus is fantastic and if you’re in luck with the time of year there’s the seasonal special, truffle pasta or risotto. Order one of each. For £13 you can afford to and you’ll be glad you did.
A local delicacy is a sweet treat called a Trdelnik. A cone of pastry usually served dusted in cinnamon sugar or stuffed with ice cream. There’s plenty of stalls around but my advice is to find a bakery, one that serves them stuffed with Italian meringue. Cukrár Skála offers the best in town and a stones throw from the centre.
Bars. There are a load of tourist trap to avoid. Beer is incredibly cheap here which is great, but if like me pints and pints of the stuff isn’t for you and you like to sip a Negroni then head to ‘Bar and Book’ around the corner from Divinis. Tell the restaurants you’re heading there and you’ll get 10% off a drink. Think New York cocktail bar meets dark and candlelit living room. Ring a buzzer to get in; no stag do’s in here thank you.
General rule of thumb, stay clear of restaurants around the square, you’ll be charged an awful amount for awful food. Asian and Italian food is a hit here. For the best Sushi head to Yami sushi, forget Buddha Bar; it’s tired and horrendously overpriced.
Stick to quiet bars to avoid the crowds of embarrassingly lashed Brits and don’t be afraid to hop on the underground out of town. If you want to eat locally, don’t bother googling where to go; you’ll get the equivalent of Angus Steakhouse for the best steak. Walk around, the best discoveries are made on food – where do you like the look of? Where is full? Where are all the locals eating at 8pm on a tuesday night. Follow your gut, or your stomach. In either case you’ll find something you never knew existed if you’re ready to search for it.