It’s about time, according to its impressive astronomical clock, for Prague to shed its stag-do capital reputation. With just as many cultural and historical sites to rival the likes of Rome and Florence, there’s much more to Prague than cheap Czech beer—although there’s plenty of that on tap, too.
Beneath the red rooftops and fairytale spires of Prague’s iconic skyline is a well-preserved medieval city that has caught the eye of Walt Disney and, more recently, Michelin. To fit everything in you can see and do here, don’t forget your most comfortable shoes. Get ready for a Prague city break.
Thanks to its love of butchers and bakers, Prague might not be the best place to visit if you’re watching your waistline. Its famous cafes have been welcoming the brightest minds to enjoy delicious desserts since the turn of the century—Café Louvre, frequented by Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein, Café Imperial, loved for its Art Deco interior and signature chocolate cake, and Café Savoy. Backed by Michelin, the atmospheric European-style Savoy has been open since 1893 and is a special setting for brunch or a Savoy café au lait under its gilded chandeliers.
It’s not the only place to catch the eye of the Michelin inspectors. Prague has shaken off its reputation as the home of hearty stews and bread dumplings thanks to a growing culinary scene that now includes two Michelin-starred restaurants: La Degustation and Field.
At La Degustation, head chef Oldřich Sahajdák revives traditional Czech cuisine with the help of a famous 19th-century cookbook and locally sourced, seasonal ingredients (highlights include the smoked beef tongue). For a gourmet meal in a landmark, head to the seventh floor of the iconic Dancing House and its Ginger & Fred restaurant (named after the dancing duo). Here chef Ondřej Slanina also works mainly with local suppliers and serves up his creations with a view of Hradčany (the Castle District).
If you prefer to walk in rather than book ahead, join the lines at one of the city’s growing number of butcher shops that offer a handful of stand-up tables and celebrate Prague’s ongoing love affair with meat. Naše Maso and Kantýna are both popular choices. Within the corrugated metal units of the Manifesto Markets, you’ll also find an array of pop-up vendors serving everything from lobster to schnitzel, and a vibey program of local DJs and live music.
Legend has it that Týn Cathedral in Prague was the real inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. It’s just one of many whimsical and historical sites you can find in the aptly named “City of a Hundred Spires.” Pack your comfy shoes, however, as several sites are only accessible on foot and getting lost in the cobbled streets is really the best way to explore its historic center, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
Strolling across the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge is a must for any visitor to Prague. The 14th century bridge is the oldest crossing still standing over the Vltava river and connects the Old Town (home to Týn Cathedral and the world’s oldest working astronomical clock) and the Lesser Town, just south of Prague Castle. To avoid the crowds and hawkers, visit early in the morning or in the evening.
On the left side of the river, Prague Castle dominates the skyline. At almost 230,000 square feet, it’s the world’s largest ancient castle complex, according to the Guinness World Records, and will keep history fans busy with its mix of ninth century historical buildings and ancient churches. Also on the left bank, Petřín Tower offers one of the best views of the city. The nearly 200-foot-high miniature Eiffel Tower sits atop Petřín Hill and can be reached by the funicular or a really pleasant, if a little steep, 30-minute stroll along its wooded path.
After a day navigating the city by foot, take a load off with a night at the opera. Despite its grand setting, you can get tickets from just 100 CZK each. Founded in 1888, the building still retains many of its original features including the chandeliers, love of red velvet and gilded stucco.
The Emblem Hotel
You’ll find style and substance in equal measure at The Emblem hotel. To stand out from its city center neighbors, it has enlisted an impressive number of artists and furniture designers, including Tom Dixon and Andrew Clancy, to give its 59 rooms the designer touch.
To compensate for the guest rooms being on the compact side, you can admire the views from the rooftop whirlpool and terrace, enjoy a movie night in the salon or a massage in the top-floor spa.
Take the tram just a few stops from the city center to Holešovice, and you’ll find Mama Shelter in one of the coolest neighborhoods, loved for its thriving art scene. Not a stranger to color itself, the hotel was designed by Philippe Starck protégé Jalil Amor. There are lots of fun touches—think superhero mask lamps—and a terrace which is a bit of a sun trap and a great place to lunch or enjoy pre-dinner cocktails.