Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Hearing its name conjures images of strolling across Charles Bridge, exploring Prague Castle or drinking famous Czech beer. However, there is a lot more to this city than what you’ll find in the “Top 10” section of a guidebook. Here is my guide to some of the best things to see and do in off-the-beaten-path Prague.
Zizkov Television Tower
Just a few Metro stops east of the city centre lies the district of Zizkov. It became a part of Prague in 1922 and for a long time was synonymous with Communist activities, even earning a nickname “Red Zizkov”. That may explain the huge 216-metre Zizkov Television Tower that rises above the city – it was said to be built to block out Western transmissions. While the tower itself is unique, to say the least (it looks like a launchpad for a space rocket), it’s the ten giant sculptures of babies crawling up its exterior that catch the eye. Created by famous Czech sculptor, David Cerny, the infants are one of the most bizarre sights you will come across in Prague.
Zizkov Television Tower also doubles up as an observation deck, restaurant, bar and even a hotel. Zizkov itself has some other interesting sights, including the National Monument on Vitkov Hill and a couple of cemeteries (one of which is home to the final resting place of famous Czech author Franz Kafka). It’s also well known for an abundance of popular bars and pubs. Nearest Metro: Jiřího z Poděbrad
Museum of Communism
The Museum of Communism provides a fascinating look into the regime’s post WWII hold on Czechoslovakia and Prague in particular. There are authentic objects, photographs and archive footage showing what life was like under Communist rule. It’s very interesting and replica rooms help bring the subject to life. There is also a projection room showing film screenings. History buffs will absolutely love it and even those without an interest in the period will find something to hold their attention from propaganda posters to curious gift shop items. Ironically, it’s located above a McDonalds…
Museum of Communism is open 9am-9pm every day except 24th December. Entrance fee: 190.-CZK (£6/$7.50). It can be a bit tricky to find but just follow signs to the casino when you get to a McDonalds on Na Prikope.
Just a stone’s throw from Charles Bridge is the Lennon Wall – a symbol of freedom and equality since the 1980s, when local youths dedicated this small corner of Mala Strana as a symbolic resting place for John Lennon. What used to be an unremarkable wall along a quiet street became a canvas for expression with messages, poems and graffiti adorning its length. Numerous attempts to get rid of graffiti have proved unsuccessful, the wall becoming covered again in just a few days. It’s not too difficult to find plus getting lost among Mala Strana’s streets and alleyways is part of the fun of exploring this beautiful corner of Prague.
Just down the road from Prague Castle lies the Strahov Monastery complex – it dates back to the 12th century and is still a working Premonstratensian monastery. Within its grounds is a spectacular library said to contain over 130,000 volumes, including a large collection published before 1500. The two beautiful halls visitors can peek into have ceilings covered with elaborate frescoes. These are seriously jaw-dropping and we spent a while just taking it all in. The passage between the two halls is home to the Cabinet of Curiosities, full of interesting exhibits ranging from manuscripts and coins to remains of the extinct Dodo bird and elephant tusks.
Make sure to also visit the Basilica of Our Lady, the monastery’s Church and wander around the grounds.
Strahov Library is open daily from 9-5 (there is a lunch break between 12-1). Entrance: 120.-CKZ. It’s also possible to book a guided tour which will take you into the halls themselves (Monday – Friday 08:30-16:30) – call ahead +420 602190297 but remember that visitor numbers are strictly limited.
Strahov Monastic Brewery
If all that sightseeing has made you thirsty, you don’t have to go far for refreshments. Just a few metres away from the Strahov Library entrance is the Klasterni Pivovar Strahov – a microbrewery serving delicious varieties of its St. Norbert beer – named after the founder of the Premonstratensian order connected with the Strahov Monastery. The brewery stands on the spot of an older brewery dating back to 1628 but today monks don’t get involved in actual brewing. Try the tmavy (dark) or the polotmavy (amber) options or one of the seasonal specials. Or just try them all – the beer here is excellent. There is an onsite restaurant serving good traditional Czech food.
The brewery itself only seats 40 but there is a spacious restaurant and a garden area. http://www.klasterni-pivovar.cz/
Because nothing screams “Steve Jobs” louder than the capital of the Czech Republic! This private collection is apparently the biggest exhibition of Apple stuff in the world – it contains a wide variety of products from the company’s history from the original Apple 1 computer to the latest iPads. There are also plenty of photographs, Steve Jobs’ personal possessions as well as a look at his entire career including time spent at Pixar and Next. There is even a raw vegan café on site serving some of Steve Jobs’ favourite foods. Interestingly, all proceeds from the museum are donated to charity.
Apple Museum is situated right in Prague’s old town close to Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. Entrance fee: €9 adult (£7.80/$9.60).
If the tower you’ve spied overlooking the city from high up on a hill looks familiar, you’re not alone. Petrin Observation Tower was designed to resemble Gustav Eiffel’s famous Paris landmark and was built for the 1891 Prague Expo. You can climb its 299 steps for panoramic views of Prague or visit the nearby mirror maze. Petrin Hill itself is one of Prague’s best green spaces and is great for walking in the summer or sledging in the winter. We decided to take a couple of shortcuts by sliding down its snow-covered slopes!
The tower is easily accessible from Strahov so it’s a good idea to combine a visit with Strahov Library. Otherwise there is a funicular that goes up to the top of the hill from Mala Strana. Entrance fee: 120.-CKZ (£3.80/$4.80). Funicular: You can use your Prague public transport tickets which start from 24.-CKZ (£0.80/$1)
Probably the single coolest bar I’ve ever been to is not easy to find. My friend and I almost missed the unmarked entrance with only a small plaque hinting to the bar’s location. Once inside, you’re introduced to the “Three Souls of the Bar” – everything from the inconspicuous location to the stylish interior and signature cocktail menu is inspired by Guy Fawkes, V for Vendetta and the Anonymous activist group. The signature cocktails have an “Anonymous” twist and the mask-wearing team of bartenders and mixologists can create a drink to suit any taste and mood. There is even a mysterious secret menu that you will just have to figure out how to unlock!
I won’t give away the exact location of the bar – it’s available online but finding it is part of the experience. Cocktails from 180.-CKZ (£5.50/$7)
Have you been to Prague? Do you have any “alternative” tips?
What: Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of Eastern Europe’s most attractive cities. It’s famous for its stunning architecture – the historic Charles Bridge, completed in 1402, is one of its most famous sights.
Getting There: Prague is easily accessible from most European cities as well as having some Intercontinental connections. Vaclav Havel Airport Prague is located 10 km (6 m) west of the city centre. Various airlines, including EasyJet have flights from the UK (from £60 return).
Getting Around: All the places in this post are easily reachable on foot from the Old Town except maybe the Zizkov TV Tower. I recommend getting a 24 hour public transport card for 110.-CKZ (£3.50/$4.50) which can be used on the metro, trams, buses and the funicular up to Petrin Hill.
Tip: While Czech Republic is in the European Union, the main currency is the Czech Koruna. Euros are accepted in bigger shops and restaurants but it’s always a good idea to have local currency to hand. Check the latest exchange rates at http://www.xe.com/