Monday, June 13, 2011

"Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." Franz Kafta

First of all I must apologize to those (if any!) who may have been wondering where Australian in Prague had got to. My lack of post activity over the last couple of months was due to my decision to take a little break, as well as the entertaining of several visitors. But it is the latter reason - along with the many other visitors I've been fortunate to have whilst living here - that have inspired my latest post.

I would hope that after reading any of my previous posts, readers would come to the conclusion that I thoroughly enjoy living in this city and exploring all that it and the surrounding areas have to offer. Having said that, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the chaos of daily life and not fully appreciate where you actually are. This is where visitors can be a blessing. In my case especially, they provide you with the opportunity to put on your 'tour guide' cap and get out and about to explore the city. To brave those overcrowded tourist areas that you usually try to avoid but are crowded for good reason - because they are simply splendid!

So follows is a list of what I consider to be the Top 10 Things to do in Prague. Yes it may be slightly cliché, but at the end of the day when people visit a city, more often than not it is this type of information they seek. 
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Top 10 things to do in Prague

1. Explore the Castle and surrounding area
It is without a doubt the most iconic backdrop to any photo, postcard or memory. Positioned grandly on a hill overlooking the city, on first viewing you might think that Prague Castle had been plucked right out of a fairy tale. The great news is that a lot of the castle grounds and gardens, as well as the striking St Vitus Cathedral, are free for you to relish and wander through. For history buffs and keen castle goers there are a number of tours and exhibitions on offer. And if you're still feeling energetic after your visit, why not continue your way uphill to the Strahov Monastery on Petrin Hill (there is where you'll also find the Petrin Tower aka Prague's 'Mini Eiffel Tower') for an awesome free view of Prague. 

2. Wander over Charles bridge and through Kampa Island
Prague Castle may take out the most iconic image title, but a visit to Prague is not complete without a stroll across Charles Bridge. Ornate, blackened statues line both sides of the stone bridge, with the bridge itself full of tourists, performers and souvenir stalls. It is here where (providing you can find a crowd-free spot) you'll be able to take the 'token tourist shot' with Prague Castle in the background. After making your way across, take the steps down to the left and explore the Kampa Island area. Points of interest include the Love Lock Bridge,  John Lennon Wall and Czech artist David Cerny's black giant TV Tower babies (see number 6 for more information) outside the Kampa Museum

3. Paddle boating on the Vltava River
Funnily enough, the Vltava rather resembles the shape of a question mark. But it's presence is certainly not questionable with the river running proudly through Prague. There are many tour operators offering boat cruises, but for me the most fun I had was going paddle-boating. An ideal activity on a warm sunny day, grab some beers (yes you can take your own on board!), friends and enjoy seeing the city from a different viewpoint. 

4. Browse the Old Town Square markets at Easter/Christmas
Old Town Square is another tourist hot spot and home to two of Prague's important sights. The gothic spired 
Church of our Lady Tyn is, in my opinion, the city's most imposing church - stirring further fairy tale comparisons. The Astronomical Clock is the second, which serves as a popular tourist attraction thanks to it's hourly (during the day and early evening) show. As if on cue, crowds begin to gather well before the hour for the less than 1 minute spectacle. The square provides a stunning background to the Easter and Christmas markets, where you can meander through the various stalls and soak up the celebratory atmosphere. 

5A night out in Zizkov
Only a couple of metro stops from the heart of the city centre (Jiriho z Podebrad), it is unconventional and some even describe it as being a little 'grungy' - but in an edgy kind of way of course! Borivojova street claims to have the world's highest density of pubs per square metre - although it may not appear that way to the visiting tourist or new expat. There are no masses of people spilling onto the street, many places are rather hidden or underground and therefore can be easily missed by an untrained eye. 

Grab dinner at a cosy little restaurant (Bila VranaSudicka - although these are officially in the neighbouring Vinohrady but the borders between the two are often blurred), do a bar hop around the various funky bars (Hapu, Bukowski's, U Sadu, Mu Cafe - again this last one is officially Vinohrady) and finish the night dancing away at Palac Akropolis. 

6. Climb the Zizkov TV Tower 
At 216m it is the tallest building in Prague and probably the wackiest structure I have ever come across, but you can't visit Prague without seeing it! The silver Zizkov TV Tower is home to famous Czech artist David Cerny's 10 black, giant computer babies. The are so big that the crawling babies are visible from various distances around Prague. You can wander around or sit at the base of the tower and gawk at them in wonder. Or take a short elevator ride up the tower and experience the highest 360 degree view of the city. 

7. Hang out in a beer garden
The beer is probably the best you'll ever taste and the good news is it's cheap too! What better way to enjoy it then in the natural surrounds of a beer garden on clear, sunny day. My personal favourite is Reigrovy Sady. Large, leafy trees shelter the gardens (there are two), with the main one broadcasting a range of sports on it's big screen. During a major sporting event the garden heaves with fans, creating a fantastic atmosphere. Letna Beer Garden is another popular beer garden offering greats views of the river Vltava and Prague Castle. Or head south of the city centre to the Vysehrad Beer Garden and enjoy sipping beers in the ambience of the ruined Vysehrad citadel.

8. Lazy picnic in a park
Prague is a city of beauty architecturally, but it also boasts a number of green havens. What better way to enjoy the sunshine (yes sunshine is required once again- but I am Australian after all!) then with a bottle/s of wine, some food and friends. Revel in the blossoming flowers in Spring, sunbathe in Summer and take in the ever-changing colours of the leaves in Autumn. 

With it's wide open spaces and grand trees, Stromovka (Stromovky is Czech for tree) is probably my favourite park. Reigrovy Sady and Letna are also good spots, with a supply of beer only a short walk away. Or if you prefer to feel like you've really escaped the city, jump on a tram to Divoka Sarka and chill out amongst the rocky mountains and stunning nature.

9. Indulge in some culture
Prague has an abundance of history and beauty, but it is also possesses a rich culture. Music lovers would no doubt be familiar with the names of famous Czech composers Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana, art lovers with Art Nouveau pioneer Alphonse Mucha and avid readers with Jewish writer Franz Kafta. In fact the first ever Czech President (initially the President of the then Czechoslovakia) was the playwright Vaclav Havel. There are a multitude of other artistically talented Czechs, providing you with ample opportunity to indulge in some Czech culture. 

Check out a funky art gallery such as DOX, Narodni Galerie, Museum of Czech Cubism or Kampa Museum. Or if you've like to take it up a notch or two, catch a play, opera or ballet performance in the grandeur of the Nardoni Divadlo or Statni Opera. The good news is that it won't cost you much at all - some tickets are as cheap as 100 Kc, which is just over 4 Euros. 

10. Check out Vysehrad
The raised area of Vysehrad is the city's second historic settlement, once serving as a fortified trading post. Today the citadel and castle (considered the second 'castle' of Prague) are ruins, but are well worth checking out not only for their historical significance but also for the great river and Prague Castle views they offer. The Church of SS Peter and Paul is still intact (it's blackened two towers can be seen from around Prague) and adjacent to the church is a richly adorned cemetery where various Czech notables lie.

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So there you have it, my top 10 things to do in Prague. There are obviously many more things to discover in this city, but I hope this will provide information seekers with a solid foundation to begin their exploration. 

Australian in Prague

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