Thursday , December 1 2022

A local’s guide to Prague: the best beer, cool architecture and hunting for fossils

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Food

It’s great to see more places putting in the effort for vegetarians these days. Klášterní šenk, within the serene, leafy grounds of the 10th-century Břevnov Monastery, is one such establishment. The mushroom soup – served in a regular bowl or one made of bread – is a tasty feast, though it’s the creamy pumpkin risotto that keeps me coming back. The Serbian restaurant Jelica is another favourite. Embroidered curtains and ceramic wall plates give the place a welcome dash of Yugoslavian kitsch, and the stuffed zucchini and Balkan salads are amazing.

Every so often I get a sudden craving for meat, so I’ll head to Kantýna and indulge in a plate of pulled pork. It’s a trendy, self service-style pub with incredible food, and for my money it also does the best pilsner in Prague.

Inspiration

A bookshop in the Malá Strana neighbourhood.
A bookshop in the Malá Strana neighbourhood. Photograph: Arcaid Images/Alamy

Everyone knows how pretty Prague architecture is – but it’s functionalist art that holds a special place in my heart. The new art gallery, Kunsthalle, which opened last year in the attractive Malá Strana neighbourhood, is housed on the site of a 1930s electricity transformer station. The exhibitions are different but all linked by a bizarrely compelling electricity theme.

I like opera too – but going to the acclaimed National Theatre is pricey. But you can cheat, like I do, and get your cultural fix at Kino Aero, an independent cinema with an excellent sound system in the lively Žižkov area. As well as films it screens performances from New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Neighbourhood

Prague 6 is a diverse hub of calm and cool, with the adjoining districts Bubeneč and Dejvice being the cultured choice. The farmer’s market, held every Saturday (8am-2pm), is definitely worth a stop to pick up local blueberry jam, try smaženka (eggy bread with fresh vegetables) or, if you can brave the smell, some succulent discs of tasty Olomouc cheese.

For cakes, the new gluten-free patisserie Buchta is a revelation. It serves colourful custard flans and vegan macaroons. Whenever I’m in the area, I leave an hour spare for Krkonošska hospůdka, a hidden, mountain lodge-style pub. The owner Dave is a friendly chap, serving up Czech craft ales as well as his own very un-Czech-sounding lager, Bob and Dave. Bob is his mate and the brewer, and it tastes bitter and delicious.

Green space

Prague, Prokopské údoli fossils

Prague is a lot greener than visitors might think. Stromovka is the biggest park in the centre, but I’d recommend getting out a bit further for a walk in the forested country park surrounding Hvězda, a Renaissance-era summer pavilion in the shape of a star. It hosts an exhibition about the Battle of White Mountain of 1620 (won by the Habsburgs, ending the Bohemian Revolt), which took place nearby, and the cafe sells lovely carrot cake. For some even wilder nature, get a tram to Hlubočepy to explore Prokopské údoli, a limestone valley lined with caves and disused quarries. It’s great for walking, biking and hunting fossils.

Nightlife

A cellar pub in Prague.
A cellar pub in Prague. Photograph: Alamy

Al Capone’s, just off Národni street, is a cocktail bar where I take any visiting friends for late drinks. Popular with a younger crowd, I doubt you’ll find a cheaper mojito or white russian in the entire city. To catch a live gig, Meet Factory is a good bet – it’s where I met my wife, in fact. Owned by art rebel David Černý, this converted abattoir is a creative space during the day, and at night turns into a bar with cool electro and Americana bands.

Stay

For a handy spot in the Bubeneč district, you can’t go far wrong with Art Hotel (doubles from €80 B&B) next to the Sparta Prague stadium. Posher – but actually cheaper – is the resplendent King Charles Boutique (doubles from €40 room-only, closed until 31 August), a heraldic-style hotel beneath the castle walls of beautiful Vyšehrad.

Pavel Lagner has acted in many Czech films and TV series, and is the curator of the Gallery of Vaclav Spala, which houses contemporary art

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