A quick guide to one of my favourite European cities – published in the November issue of Silverkris, the Singapore Airlines inflight magazine…
1. DAWN ON CHARLES BRIDGE
Begin your day at the beautiful 14th century Charles Bridge and you’ll have it all to yourself without the jostling crowds. This 520m-long bridge over the river Vltava spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. Walk up the Old Town Bridge Tower – it opens at 10am – to enjoy panoramic views of Prague Castle and the river on one side, and the heart of the Old Town on the other.
2. GO GHOST BUSTING
If you are in the mood for some chills and thrills, go ghost hunting at night. Every corner of Prague seems to have hidden secrets of the supernatural kind, and there are a variety of walks to help you discover these mysteries. Some even come with costumed guides, perhaps to help you cope with the disappointment of not actually spotting an ethereal being. These guides have enough tales up their sleeves to keep your pulse racing for the next few days. Choose from an Old Town & Underground After Dark Tour or a Ghost Boat Tour that takes you to dark places on land and on water.
3. KOOKY STRUCTURES
In Prague, the two extremes of classical and quirky architecture coexist peacefully. The Dancing Building – locally known as Ginger (Rogers) and Fred (Astaire) – is an example of the latter, built in a twisted shape to resemble two dancers. The building houses the modern French restaurant Celeste – go for its tasting menu. And to see rather startling sculptures of babies “crawling” up a tall tower, head to Tower Park Prague , a relic from the communist era, formerly known as the Zizkov TV Tower. There is a buzz around this renovated tower, particularly the Oblaca Restaurant located at 66m. When the great views and modern Czech cuisine (like the poached rabbit leg with herbs) have satiated your appetite, head up to the Observatory at 93m for an interactive show of sound and images featuring different aspects of Prague.
(image courtesy: Silverkris)
(image courtesy: trekearth)
4. SAY CHEERS
It is well known that the Czech Republic is home to beer brands like Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar. However, the city is also known for its microbreweries, favoured by the locals. The hilltop Strahov Monastery Brewery, dating back to the 13th century, makes for an ideal evening out. Its dark St Norbert and semi-dark Amber lagers come highly recommended. Also tuck into international fare like beer-flavoured cheese and spare ribs in beer marinade, made with the frothy brew.
(image courtesy: Silverkris)
5. CASTLE CHARM
Prague is called the City of a Thousand Spires, and of them all, Prague Castle is the most striking and significant. This UNESCO World Heritage site, said to be the largest castle complex in the world, dominates the city’s skyline. The mishmash of styles in the numerous churches, courtyards and palaces inside the complex speak of the various royal influences over the centuries. The highlight is the Gothic-style St Vitus Cathedral, with its stunning stained glass windows and the ornately decorated St Wenceslas Chapel. Take a leisurely stroll down Mala Strana (Lesser Town), stopping for coffee at one of the street cafes located right under the castle, on the way back to the city centre.
PRAGUE: FUN FACTOIDS
1. When most of Europe was destroyed by World War II, Prague escaped almost without any damage. It was intended to be preserved as Europe’s arts and culture capital.
2. Prague boasts of the highest per capita beer consumption, a staggering 161 litres of beer per person, leaving behind other guzzlers like Germany and Belgium.
3. The city is home to a John Lennon Wall, although the musician has never visited the country. The graffiti-covered wall close to Charles Bridge once stood for the voice of the city’s youth against the oppressive Communist regime. Today, it still enjoys its place under the Czech sun, with visitors and locals alike leaving their mark on it for posterity.
4. Puppetry is a popular entertainment option in Prague and enjoys a long and rich history. The best shows are to be found at the National Marionette Theatre, with its fabulous productions of Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute.
5. The Astronomical Clock in the old town square is 600 years old and is still one of Prague’s biggest tourist attractions. On the dot of every hour, a whole performance is set in motion with the figures surrounding the clock, which ends with the ringing of the massive bell on top of the tower.