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The best of Prague

By Kate Simon

21 March 2004

More museum than city, Prague, with its skyline of turrets, towers and spires, spanning the centuries from medieval times, could cause an architectural overdose.

But the Czech capital's opulent, artistic heritage isn't confined to the façades of its buildings. Mozart was a regular visitor - Don Giovanni premiered in the rococo splendour of the Estates Theatre in 1787. And the number of masterpieces in the city's galleries - including works by Dürer, El Greco and Rubens - is just plain greedy.

Cheap beer has made Prague popular with British stag parties, too, a trend unlikely to be reversed by the rising number of cheap-flight operators targeting the city. Low prices have also made Prague a favourite with backpackers, and you can still visit on a shoestring, staying in cheap hotels and hostels and surviving on beer-hall fare. But the Velvet Revolution has revived an entrepreneurial spirit as well as attracting global chains, with hotels, bars, restaurants and designer shops ready to help to unload your cash.

Many businesses have been using the euro for a while, but EU membership is a few weeks away so there's still time to use up Czech koruna from previous visits.

Best hotel

The Four Seasons Hotel Prague, at Veleslavinova 2a (00 800 6488 6488;, is one of the best addresses in town. Spread across four buildings from Baroque, Renaissance and modern times, it reflects the city's rich mix.

Its position on the eastern bank of the Vltava river, in the Stare Mesto (old town), allowed it to escape the worst of the flooding in 2002. But the basement did suffer, giving the hotel an excuse to restructure its formidable service operation, with the creation of a veritable city dedicated to catering, cleaning and laundering.

Upstairs, guests are mollycoddled in tasteful surroundings, with beautiful furnishings, but the atmosphere is a little corporate. Never mind, the bedrooms are equipped with the Four Seasons' custom-made beds, rightly fabled for their comfort. Doubles from €205 (£138) per night.

Best restaurant

Dine with the beautiful people at Kampa Park, Na Kampe 8b, Mala Strana (00 420 257 532 6856; Set on Kampa island, below the Charles Bridge, the heart of the restaurant is a pretty pink house, although on a warm night the best seats are on the veranda. The menu features an eclectic selection of seafood, fish and meat - expect to be offered yellowfin tuna tartar, or poached sea urchin followed by baked halibut or rack of lamb. Everyone's eaten here: see the gallery of snaps of celebrity patrons from Lou Reed to Hillary Clinton. Around €50 (£34) per head without wine.

Its sister bar-restaurant, Square, Malostranske namesti 5 (00 420 257 532 109; is a trendy minimalist choice for lunch, with an un-Czech menu including tapas, pasta, salads and grills all under €14 (£9). For dumplings and sauerkraut accompanied by Pilsner, head for a beerhall.

Best cultural attraction

One of the casualties of the floods was the Kampa Museum of Central European Art, U Sovovych mlynu 2 (00 420 257 286 147; A private collection housed in a converted mill, it was two weeks off opening when the waters hit. Consequently, its permanent exhibition, with works by Frantisek Kupka and Otto Gutfreund, only opened in September. In a town full of art treasures, it faces hot competition, not least from Veletrzni palac, the functionalist modern art gallery in the Holesovice district. Kampa Museum is open daily, 10am-6pm, adults Kc120 (£2.50), children aged six to 18 years Kc60 (£1.25).

Best shopping

Obviously, beer is the authentic Czech tipple, this being the home of Budvar, but you'd be better sampling it in one of Prague's bars than lugging home bottles of the stuff. Instead, leave room in your case for some (well-wrapped) Bohemian crystal. Wooden toys and marionettes, too.

Best sightseeing

Of the three main areas to explore, the Stare Mesto on the eastern bank of the Vltava is the old medieval town, built around its main square (Staromestske namesti), which is home to the city's amusing 15th-century astronomical clock, and the haunting Jewish quarter (Josefov). To the south, by Jiraskuv bridge, you'll find Frank Gehry's Rasin Building, aka "Fred and Ginger" because it appears to be dancing around its corner site.

The landmark Charles bridge (Karluv most), lined with statues of the saints, links the old town to the Mala Strana, or Little Quarter, familiar from Jan Neruda's writings. Here you'll also findBaroque gardens, including the Vrtbovska, Karmelitska 25 (, open daily 10am-6pm, April to October, which offers spectacular views of the city from its terraces.

Hradcany, the third area, above the Mala Strana, centres on Prague Castle.

Best nightspot

Nightlife is easy to find. For clubbing, try Reduta at Narodni 20; U Maleho Glena at Karmelitska 23; and AghaRTA Jazz Centrum at Krakovska 5. Current productions at The Estates Theatre, at Ovocny trh near Wenceslas Square ( include Carmen, Nabucco and The Magic Flute.

Best way to get there

Seasons in Style (0151 342 0505; offers three-night breaks from £400 per person, including return flights with British Airways, transfers and b&b at the Four Seasons Hotel Prague.

Airlines flying to Prague include: Bmibaby (0870 264 2229;, Czech Air (0870 444 3747;, EasyJet (0871 750 0100;, Flybe (0871 700 0535; and Jet2 (0870 737 8282;

The airport is 12 miles outside Prague. An express bus connects to the underground every 30 minutes, 5.30am to 9.30pm, for Kc15 (30p). Prague Airport Shuttle (00 420 602 395 421; offers return transfers from Kc1,300 (£26.50).

The best way to see Prague is on foot, but a three-day pass for buses, trams and the underground costs Kc800 (£16.30). For more information, contact the Czech Tourist Authority (0906 364 0641;

The writer travelled to Prague courtesy of Seasons In Style.

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