As the 13th-largest city in the European Union, the capital of the Czech Republic is a destination steeped in history and architectural splendor—plus, it has really good beer. On any evening, there’s a musical performance within a cache of cathedrals offset by troupes of street performers crowding the city’s Old Town Square. Thomas Jefferson once said, “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history (and) beauty.” That exact sentiment is also true of Prague.
The Augustine has been integrated into a 13th-century monastery and sits in the shadow of the famed Prague Castle. The humbled hermitage, which still shelters a small contingent of monks, interconnects with plush property, creating an interesting contrast of lifestyles. There are 101 stylish rooms ($300 and up) with color schemes that pay homage to these cloistered grounds. The former refectory, where the monks once gathered to break bread, is now the hotel bar.
It’s almost impossible to speak of the city without mentioning its ninth-century hilltop castle, which looks as if it has been ripped from fairy-tale pages. The castle is visible from many vantage points, and it has been a symbol of the Czech state for more than a millennium. While it’s often referred to as a singular building, it’s actually a fortified complex populated with palaces, churches, gardens, and hidden spots. Formerly a seat of power for the kings of Bohemia and Roman emperors, it’s the official office of the country’s president. Looking for the Bohemian Crown Jewels? They’re locked in a chamber inside the compound, put on display every few years.
SAUSAGE ON THE SQUARE
Wenceslas Square is encased in sausage stands, where girthy bratwursts, frankfurters, and kielbasas are served with hunks of bread and squirts of mustard. Potatoes similar to hash browns are also available at these stands, along with Czech beer on tap. For dessert, head to any number of trdelnik stands in Old Town. Hungarian in origin, it’s like a Czech churro with dough wrapped around a metal rod, roasted over an open flame instead of deep-fried, then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
With its use of glass and whimsical liberties, Dancing House Hotel has all the trappings of a Frank Gehry blueprint. Gehry, along with Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić, collaborated on the design in 1992; the hotel welcomed its first guest four years later. The exterior is quite a departure from Prague’s more traditional architecture; inside, rooms are minimal and modern ($190 and up). On the seventh floor is dining destination Ginger and Fred, which offers contemporary fare and libations with distant views of the castle.
FICTION FOR FOODIES
Shortly after the Iron Curtain came down in 1989, the country’s first English-language bookstore opened. With new and used tomes stacked from floor to ceiling, the Globe Bookstore and Café is a bibliophile’s paradise. The real page-turner here is in the rear of the shop, concealed by a curtain. Behind the drape is a charming cafe with huge palladium windows, high ceilings, and hardwood floors. Its clandestine location and expansive, spirits-filled bar gives it a speakeasy feel.
Some of Prague’s most interesting works of art aren’t found in a museum. They’re facing you or dangling from above, as is the case for “Man Hanging Out.” Unveiled in 1996 and still garnering gasps from unsuspecting visitors, the sculpture by Czech artist David Černý depicts Sigmund Freud, who has one hand holding on for dear life and the other firmly planted in his pocket. Look up at the intersection of Husova and Skorpeka in Old Town.
PILSNER IN THE PARK
Letná Park, an elevated green space overlooking Vltava River, is where a monument to Joseph Stalin was once erected—and toppled. Not only are the views breathtaking and the leisure opportunities plentiful, but it also features one of Prague’s largest beer gardens, complete with picnic tables and taps.
Mark Your Calendar
The annual Festival of Microbreweries each June (canceled for 2020) uses the Royal Garden of Prague Castle as a backdrop to the tasting event featuring nearly 70 Czech and Moravian breweries. Unlimited beer and a keepsake tasting glass plus entertainment for $20.