First published in Cosmopolitan Middle East Magazine
Known as the golden city of Europe, Prague brings together best of architecture, fashion, art and ale. It is home to the world’s largest ancient castle, picturesque14th century stone bridge, stunning architecture that ranges from Gothic and Romanesque to baroque and art nouveau, cobbled lanes lines with artisanal shops and cute cafes. And with the upcoming festive season, it is the perfect time to visit the Czech capital.
Soak in the history
Some of Prague’s architectural wonders have seen the turn of two millenniums. The Old Town Square is populated with macaroon colour buildings, Gothic style 14th century Church of Our Lady, Prague Orloj (world’s third-oldest astronomical clock) and a variety of old-fashioned bars and underground restaurants.
About a kilometre ahead is the Charles Bridge, another 14th century creation, which connects the left and right bank of Prague, with Prague Castle, sitting high up on the hill. The bridge is flanked by 30 baroque style statues and statuaries, and offers fantastic views of the city. You will often find artists and musicians displaying their craft on the sidewalk; with the stream of tourists and abundance of scenic (and insta-worthy views), it can take a while to get from one end to the other. But it is totally worth it.
Prague might be a small economy in the big European scheme but its art scene rivals with Paris and Milan. The city’s National Gallery is filled with magnificent collection of 20th-century surrealists, cubists and constructivists, while David Černý’s witty sculptures keep things interesting around the city – we are talking about controversial artefacts like peeing statues near Kafka Museum.
However, art is not confined to sculptures and museums in Prague. The architecture around the city, from bustling city centre to abandoned alleys, is postcard perfect. Domes and exaggerated arches, cubist facades, dancing buildings leaning at perilous angles, neatly lined buildings in pasty pink and mint green – it’s a visual treat like no other.
You can take back a piece of the artistic vibe in the form of etched glass. A local speciality, there are a number of shops on Karlova street with beautifully crafted glass. You can get it customised, and have your preferred print or picture etched in a glass of your choice.
It’d be sinful to buy another H&M jacket or Gucci bag while in Prague, especially when there is no dearth of local talent. There are a number of multi-brand stores, like Parazit, which stock local designers; however, you are likely to get a better price and bespoke pieces at designer’s own ateliers. Check out Zuzana Vesela and Zdenka Imreceova for every day wardrobe, Chatty for your denim fix, Jiri Kalfar for gypsy prints and Alter Era for some holographic fun.
And if your big day is coming up, Prague might just be the place to get your wedding dress from. It is not only comparatively cheaper than most other European cities, but most designers would also be happy to customise your outfit and create a truly bespoke gown, at a fraction of price you would pay otherwise. Get in touch with a Czech designer of your choice online to discuss your requirements, finalise fabric and other details during your visit, and get it delivered to your doorstep in Dubai.
Where The Cool Kids At
If the city’s architecture hasn’t convinced you of its eccentricities, how about attending Prague Opera Ball, waltzing along celebrities, for as little as $6? Prague celebrates winter ball season with similar gusto and dedication to traditions as Vienna, and hosts the most glamourous of its balls at the State Opera. It is attended by celebrities and high-born personalities, and is an evening right out a historical romance novel.
Another popular activity is sauna on a boat, with a dip in Vltava river right after if you are up for an adrenaline rush. You can also cool down in an on-board pool if jumping off the boat is not your style.
Hanging out at beer gardens is one thing you cannot come to Prague and leave without indulging in. Prague is known for some of the best ale in Europe, and is home to internationally famous brand names like Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar. But it’s the regional Czech beers and microbreweries that got us excited. Many bars have bronze tankers with organic beer located near the entrance; so if you see shiny beer containers from the door, the bar’s probably worth a shot.
And if you have time to make reservations, check out Dandy Prague for some fancy cocktails, while rubbing shoulders with the city’s artist and fashion community. Alternatively, if organic wine and prosecco with a side of fresh, raw oysters is what you fancy, Brut is the place to be at.
Czech cuisine is meat-intensive and delish. They are bread people, like most of Central Europe, and do curries that would give Indians a run for their money. Most restaurants serve Italian, International and Czech cuisine, and most of the staff can speak at least some English.
For an honest, home cooked Czech food experience, Hostinec U Tunelu is a fantastic option. It is not a touristy joint, and reservations are recommended. The food at this place is phenomenal, and as authentic as it gets.
On days when you want something familiar, Café Louvre is a fool-proof choice. It’s has a selection of sandwiches, pastas and a few Czech classics, with an extensive menu of teas and cakes. Very English!
Surprisingly, Prague has a burger fetish and Dish, a fine burger bistro, takes the cake as the best burger joint every year at locally held awards.
Where to stay
Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel is fashioned in 1932 Art Deco style, with marble floors and high ceilings. The 204-key hotel is in close proximity to all main attractions, including Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. It also houses a Michelin star restaurant, The Alcron, which serves delectable local cuisine.
And here are some more photos from the trip . Enjoy xx