Prague, The Czech Republic: Beer & Travel Guide
Come summertime, Prague's cobblestone streets are thronging with selfie-sticks, fanny packs, and an overabundance of people who are totally unaware that I am trying to work on time. Yeah, tourists get a bad wrap sometimes; sometimes rightfully so. But at one point or another, we are all that person holding a map upside-down asking for directions. That's why I say have a flexible game plan when traveling to a new city. There is no shame in being a tourist. Hell, even wear the fanny pack if you want (please don't), but have a plan, Stan.
That's why I've put together my best game plan if you are going to be spending a few days in Prague. And remember: while it's good to have an idea of what you want to see and do each day, sometimes spontaneity leads to the best memories. So take this all with a grain of salt.
Day 1: Be A Tourist, But Way Cooler
Stop #1 Strahov Brewery Prague (Klášterní pivovar Strahov): Like monks? Like beer? This restored, 17th-century brewery located inside the walls of Strahov Monastery, which was founded in 1142, is the perfect place to start your day. With indoor and outdoor seating in the courtyard, Strahov Brewery serves up several St. Norbert brews, including their own IPA, Weizen, Dark Lager and Semi-dark Amber Lager.
Transportation: Take Tram 22 to stop Pohořelec.
Stop #2 Changing of The Guards: At 12:00 o'clock noon every day you can watch the ceremonial changing of the guards at Prague Castle's first courtyard and main gate; a short downhill walk from Strahov Brewery. Don't expect anything earth-shattering, but it is pretty cool to watch a tradition that has been maintained for nearly 100 years. And some of them are pretty cute.
Stop #3 Prague Castle: Dating back from the 9th-century, Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world. Perched high above Prague's city center, the castle's stunning architecture, and grandeur will leave you picking your jaw up off the ground. One of the most prominent buildings at Prague Castle is gothic, St. Vitus Cathedral, which first dates back to the 1300's. If you aren't afraid of heights or overly claustrophobic, for a few koruna (CZK) you can climb to the top of the cathedral for a birds-eye view of the castle grounds and the entire city.
Also be sure to check out Golden Lane, the Castle Gardens, and Saint Wenceslas Vineyard.
Stop #4 John Lennon Wall & Kampa Island: After Prague Castle, make your way downhill toward Malostranská metro and tram stop. From here take tram 22 or walk to Malostranské náměstí, which is the main square of Mala Straná "Little Side (of the River)". From here take a stroll toward Charles Bridge. Before heading over the 12th-century bridge, take a little detour to Kampa Island. Stop for a kiełbasa and pivo, take a picture at the John Lennon Wall and enjoy the artwork and sculptures scattered along the riverside.
You will also find here: The Franz Kafka Museum
Stop #5 Charles Bridge: After paying tribute to Mr. Lennon take a stroll across Charles Bridge and soak in the Gothic architecture and 30 some baroque-style status that line the bridge like ancient guardians. But keep your friends close and your bags closer; Charles Bridge is infamous for pick-pocketing!
After you've crossed the Bridge and entered Prague's Old Town, be sure to make a pit stop at Good Food for a delicious (tourist-favorite), cinnamon Trdelník. And go ahead and get it filled with ice cream while your at it!
Stop #6 Old Town & Wenceslas Square: To burn off that dessert, spend an hour or so walking through Prague's most beautiful square, Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí). There you can find Prague's original Astronomical Clock, a statue of religious reformer Jan Hus, and the ominous Gothic, 11th century Church Of Our Lady Týn, who's twin spires tower over the square.
If you are visiting Prague in December or around Easter, Old Town Square is the site of some of Europe's largest and most beautiful holiday markets.
Finally, make your way through one of Prague's original city gates, Powder Gate, dating back to the 1400's. Follow Na Příkopě Street to World Heritage Site, Wenceslas Square, the center of many of Prague's most historical demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings.
Day 2: Drunk History
Prague's city center is rather small in comparison to say, New York City. It is entirely possible to walk wherever you need to go, however, there is an excellent public transportation system of buses, trams, and metros to take you literally anywhere you need to go for only 24CZK (~ $1).
Stop #1 Vyšehrad: On your second day, take the C Line Metro (Red) to Vyšehrad station and visit the 10th-century fortress located high above the Vltava river. Enjoy some stunning views of the river as well as the beautiful doors of Basilica of St Peter and St Paul and Vyšehrad Cemetery.
Stop #2 Náplavka: Walk down the hill from Vyšehrad until you reach the river bank. Here you will find the local haven that is Náplavka. It's no secret that the Czech Republic is a totally landlocked country, so besides the occasional lake or swimming pool, Náplavka riverbank is the closest thing you will get to a day at the beach. As mentioned by Prague Urban Adventures, "Naplavka — a space that is neither park nor beer garden — has emerged as something just a bit different."
Walk along the river, grab a beer, sit along the water's edge and enjoy an afternoon or evening with friends. Náplavka is home to several bars and restaurants and is frequently the site of an array of different food trucks and festivals. If you're in town on a Saturday in spring or summer, check out the farmer’s market which lasts all morning.
Stop 3: Dancing House & Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius: When you've had your fill of Naplavka, walk back up to street level and check out the modern, slightly bizarre "Dancing House". Actually a Nationale-Nederlanden insurance building, part of the Dancing House's charm is that it so starkly stands out among Prague's Baroque, Gothic and Art Noveau style architecture. It coined its name after one of the original architects said it resembled a pair of dancers. You can be the judge of that.
If you're into WWII history, walk up from the Dancing House and check out the beautiful Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. This is the memorial and heroic end of Operation Anthropoid, the planned assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of Hitler's leading generals and mastermind behind the Holocaust. From the balcony and crypt of the church, brave Czechoslovakian soldiers fought till their deaths against the Nazi regime. Bullet holes can still be seen around a small window leading to the crypt where the soldiers were cornered. For a small donation fee, you can go inside the crypt and pay tribute.
Stop #4 Jewish Quarter: The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) was once declared by Adolf Hitler himself a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. Today it is the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe, dating back to the 13th century. Located between Old Town Square the Vltava River, The Jewish Quarter contains has six synagogues, including the Spanish Synagogue and Old-New Synagogue, and the Old Jewish Cemetery where nearly 12,000 tombstones lay like ruins, the oldest dating back to 1439.
Stop #5 Letná Park & Beer Garden: After a long day of sightseeing, take a final hike up the steps to Letná Park's giant, semi-functioning Metronome. The hipster hangout marks the spot of an enormous monument dedicated to Joseph Stalin that used to overlook the Vltava River and center of Prague.
Take a stroll through the beautiful, green park in spring or summer and eventually, you will find yourself in Prague's most popular beer garden. With Gambrinus 10° and Pilsner on tap, and usually a small selection of sausages and kebabs, find a table under the trees and drink the night away with a gorgeous view of the city.
Day 3: Live Like A Local
I'll say it again: Prague's city center is rather small. If you're on a 48-hour timetable, it is totally feasible to cross all the major sightseeing off your list. If you're into theater and art then you'll have a field day exploring the numerous galleries or museums on your third day, but if you're like me, I enjoy exploring some local culture if I have the opportunity. That's why on your last day I recommend visiting the Žižkov and Vinohrady neighborhoods (Prague 2 & Prague 3).
Stop #1 Žižkov TV Tower: Like a futuristic alien spaceship, Žižkov TV Tower interrupts the otherwise traditional skyline of Prague. Built as a transmitter tower, it is considered by many to be one of the ugliest buildings in the world. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Stop #2 Jiřího z Poděbrad (JZP) Náměstí: Minutes away from the TV Tower is Jiřího z Poděbrad Náměstí or as many expats call it: JZP. The Roman Catholic Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord that stands in the center of the square which is surrounded by breathtaking Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture. Every Wednesday-Saturday there is also an excellent farmer's market in the square with fresh produce, gourmet food and cold pivo.
Order a croissant and cup of coffee at Le Caveau Pekárna and act Parisian, pick up some take-away from Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lanor and people watch, or walk across the square to Beer Geek (see more) for some delicious hot wings and a craft beer to wash it all down. I also highly recommend Vinohradský pivovar, located on Korunní street (about a 5 minute walk from JZP). The food is to die for (and reasonably priced) and their signature beers are some of the best in Prague.
Stop #3: Riegrovy Sady: If you really want to do as the locals do, grab a dog (preferably your own) and take a walk around Vinohrady's largest park, Riegrovy Sady. The hilly park offers some beautiful views of Prague's city center and is a favorite place for people of all ages to relax, socialize and sunbath. You will also find two beer gardens in the park. The largest is Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden where you can grab a cold beer and enjoy a snack. If the garden is too full, take you cup and sit on the hill. Hooray for no open container laws!
Stop #4 Náměstí Míru: Náměstí Míru, or Peace Square, is famous for the beautiful Church of St. Ludmila that sits in the center. Surrounding the church are benches, beautiful flower gardens, and perfectly manicured lawns. It is a popular spot for people to come and sit and catch a breath amid the hustle and bustle of city life. Fun Fact: Náměstí Míru metro station has the longest escalators in the European Union. Take a ride!
Stop #5: Dinner & Craft Beer: Recently, a growing amount of craft beer bars and burger joints have been popping up along side more established restaurants around Náměstí Míru. My favorites include 20 PIP Craft Beer Pub, The Craft: Food & Beers , NUBEERBAR and Illegal Bar Bar. Other noteworthy places for a more sit-down style dinner include Vinohradský Parlament Restaurant, Grosseto Pizzeria or Bad Jeff's BBQ.