by Luc O Cinnseala
If you don’t believe in love at first sight then you’ve probably never set foot in Prague. The dreamy Czech capital looks like something from the pages of your favourite fairy-tale book and its reputation as the City of a Hundred Spires is definitely justified.
Contrasting the rich classic architecture of the Old Town are former industrial Soviet-era neighbourhoods, where you can soak up a unique bohemian vibe before enjoying some world-class nightlife.
Whether you choose to visit in its cold crisp winters or hot summers you may just see enough ornate buildings to last a lifetime and drink enough local beer to warrant a formal apology to your liver. Here’s how to do Prague right in 24 hours.
Forget about the fairy-tale buildings at first, as you start your day in Holešovice, once an industrial quarter north of the city’s historic centre, but today an energetic neighbourhood of art, culture and great food.
Breakfast at Phill’s Twenty7 will set you up for the day for less than €5. The bistro’s tasty huevos rancheros are the high point of a great breakfast menu that you can enjoy while the city you’re about to discover starts to come to life.
A short walk from breakfast is the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. Housed in a former factory, this creative space is an ideal jumping-in point for the Czech Republic’s thriving contemporary art scene, displaying paintings, photographs, sculptures and video from the country’s brightest new talent.
When you’re done, hop on the nearby 12 tram, where you’ll be transported to Prague’s historical centre. Dismount at Malostranská stop and walk south along the cobbled street towards the city’s famous Charles Bridge.
Your first stop, a five minute walk away is the Kafka Museum. Franz Kafka wrote of his city: ‘Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.’ The statement has never been more true than today, with Prague proudly celebrating one of its most famous inhabitants. This museum celebrates the work of the famed writer and his relationship with the city through original letters, photographs and memorabilia from his time, and is a must visit for anyone with even a passing interest in books.
Afterwards, keep your literary streak going, with a visit to Shakespeare & Synové Bookshop (Shakespeare & Sons) where you’re bound to pick up a bargain on new and used books in Czech, English or other languages. If you’re just in need of a pit-stop, flick through a book on one of the shop’s many chairs and couches. The staff really don’t mind.
Hungry after your morning of art and books, step off the beaten track again, taking the short walk to Café Lounge. Situated in stylish surroundings, this local café’s range of tasty sandwiches will satisfy everyone, while its weekend brunch menu is next-level.
Most exciting, though, is the coffee, whose preparation staff have made both an art and science out of. As this café is very popular, you may have to queue, especially at weekends, but take it from us, it’s worth it.
Now that your batteries are recharged, it’s time to cross the city’s most well-known sight, Charles Bridge, (Karlův most) into Prague’s Old Town, taking care to avoid pickpockets and tell hawkers ‘no thanks’.
Spend at least two hours soaking up the sights of the city’s Old Town (Staré Město). Tourist favourites here include the impressive Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) and the astronomical clock (Pražský orloj)—though simply walking the streets, looking up at its magnificent buildings is the only plan of action you really need.
Pay lip service to world-famous Czech beer with a visit to the Czech Beer Museum, a self-guided no-frills tour celebrating the country’s brewing history. And yes, there is beer tasting at the end. Not too far away is the similarly named Prague Beer Museum, which is more of a bar than a museum, with 30 beers on tap and friendly and knowledgeable staff, who’ll be happy to further your education.
For your evening’s entertainment, leave the romantic streets of the Old Town behind and step into Žižkov – arguably a more authentic area of the city – where locals flock to for tasty food, cheap beer and late nights.
Start it all with an informal dinner at The Tavern, a fun bar that plays great tunes and serves some of the best burgers in town. Choose yours with old reliably toppings or some local flavours.
If you have time and energy, walk across to the Žižkov TV Tower (Žižkovský vysílač), a retro-futuristic structure, with 10 giant babies climbing up it because… well, why not? The tower, which has its own cocktail bar and a newly renovated observation deck is conveniently open until midnight, meaning ‘we didn’t make it in time’ isn’t a good excuse for not visiting.
Keep the fun going in Žižkov, bar-hopping until you end up in Palác Akropolis, one of the city’s most legendary venues, which celebrates alternative acts from rock to techno and beyond. Dance and get lost in this smoky labyrinth until the sun comes up and you find your way safely home.
Where to stay?
Sir Toby’s Hostel
Sir Toby’s Hostel is located close to the starting point of our 24 hours in Prague, in hip Holešovice. The property offers classically decorated rooms that will make you wish you had your own typewriter to get down to writing some weird novels of your own. While staying here you can avail of bike rental or some brews in the hostel’s own brick cellar bar.
If you’d prefer to be able to crawl into bed close to the finish line of the itinerary then ELF is a great choice. You’ll find this lively hostel in Zizkov neighbourhood, near to Palác Akropolis. Its spacious outdoor area is a guest favourite and is a great place to chat to likeminded travellers day or night.
As the name might suggest, this fun hostel is right in the city’s historic centre and is one of Prague’s highest rated hostels. Enthusiastic staff offer guests activities that range from beer tasting to Czech language classes. If you need a bit of help seeing the city’s sights, you can come along on one of DownTown’s free daily tours.