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It's Prague's perfect irony. You are lured by the past, but compelled to linger by the present and the future. Fill your days with Prague's artistic and architectural heritage, but after dark move your focus to the here and now in the lively restaurants, bars and clubs in emerging neighbourhoods like Vinohrady and Žižkov.

If Prague's seasonal legions of tourists sometimes wear you down, just drink a glass of Bohemian lager, relax, and be reassured that quiet moments still exist: enjoying a private dawn on Charles Bridge; sipping a chilled beer in Letná above the improbable cityscape of Staré M ěsto; or getting reassuringly lost in the intimate lanes of Malá Strana or Josefov. Everyday you'll uncover more reasons to support Prague's enduring reputation as one of Europe's most exciting cities.

Orientation

Central Prague nestles on the Vltava River, which separates Hradčany, the medieval castle district, and Malá Strana (Little Quarter) on the west bank from Staré Město (Old Town) and Nové Město (New Town) on the east.

Prague Castle overlooks Malá Strana, while the twin Gothic spires of Týn Church dominate the open space of Staroměstské nám, the Old Town Square. The broad avenue of Václavské nám (Wenceslas Sq) stretches southeast from Staré Město towards the National Museum and the main train station.

All places mentioned in this Prague section appear on the Central Prague map unless otherwise stated.

Internet Access

Many hotels, bars, fast-food restaurants and internet cafes provide wi-fi hotspots. Globe Café & Bookstore (Tel 224 934 203; http://www.globebookstore.cz/; Pštrossova 6, Nové Město; per min 1.50Kč; h9.30am-midnight) Weekly (800Kč) and monthly (2250Kč) rates with your own laptop. Mobilarium (Tel 221 967 327; Rathova Pasaž, Na příkopě 23, Staré Město; per min 1.50Kč; h10am-7pm Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm Sat) Also cheap international phone calls.

Laundry

Laundryland (Tel 221 014 632; Na příkopě 12, Staré Město; h9am-8pm Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm Sat, 11am-7pm Sun) On the 1st floor of Černá Růže shopping centre, above the Panská entrance.

Medical Services

Praha lékárna (Tel 224 946 982; Palackého 5, Nové Město) 24-hour pharmacy; for emergency service after business hours, ring the bell.

Canadian Medical Care (Tel 235 360 133, after hr 724 300 301; http://www.cmcpraha.cz/; Veleslavínská 1, Veleslavín; h8am-6pm Mon, Wed & Fri, 8am-8pm Tue & Thu) Expat centre with English-speaking doctors, 24-hour medical aid and pharmacy.

Na Homolce Hospital (Tel 257 271 111, after hr 257 272 527; http://www.homolka.cz/en-CZ/home.html; 5th fl, Foreign Pavilion, Roentgenova 2, Motol) Prague’s main casualty department.

Polyclinic at Národní (Tel 222 075 120, 24hr emergencies 720 427 634; http://www.poliklinika.narodni.cz/; Národní třída 9, Nové Město; h8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri) English-, French- and German-speaking staff.

Money

Avoid směnárna (private exchange booths), which advertise misleading rates and have exorbitant charges. Banks with ATM and exchange facilities are widespread throughout central Prague.

Telephone

There’s a 24-hour telephone centre to the left of the right-hand entrance to the central post office at Jindřišská 14 in Nové Mesto.

Tourist Information

Czech Tourism (http://www.czechtourism.com/Homepage.aspx; Staroměstské nám, Staré Město; h9am-5pm Mon-Fri) has an office in Prague’s Old Town Square.

Prague Information Service (Pražská infor mační služba, PIS; Tel 12 444, in English & German 221 714 444; http://www.praguewelcome.cz/) has three main offices:

Old Town Hall (Staroměstské nám 5, Staré Město; h9am-7pm Mon-Fri, to 6pm Sat & Sun Apr-Oct, 9am- 6pm Mon-Fri, to 5pm Sat & Sun Nov-Mar)

Main train station (Praha hlavní nádraží; Wilsonova 2, Nové Město; h9am-7pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm Sat & Sun)

Malá Strana Bridge Tower (Charles Bridge; h10am- 6pm Apr-Oct)

Travel Agencies

CKM Travel Centre (Tel 222 721 595; http://www.ckm.cz/; Mánesova 77, Vinohrady; h10am-6pm Mon-Thu, 10am- 4pm Fri) Books air and bus tickets and sells youth cards.

GTS International (Tel 222 119 700; www.gtstravel.cz; Ve Smečkách 33, Nové Město; h9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat) Youth cards and air, bus and train tickets.

Student Agency (Tel 0800 100 1300; http://www.studentagency.cz/; Ječná 37, Vinohrady; h9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat) Air and domestic and international bus tickets. Also has an office in the Florenc bus station.

Prague Castle & Hradčany

The city’s number-one attraction is Prague Castle (Pražský hrad; Tel 224 373 368; http://www.hrad.cz/, in Czech; h9am-5pm Apr-Oct, 9am-4pm Nov-Mar, grounds 5am-midnight Apr-Oct, 9am-11pm Nov-Mar). Castle highlights include jewel-studded St Wenceslas Chapel in St Vitus Cathedral; the view from the cathedral tower; the spectacular Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Palace; and the Basilica of St George, Prague’s finest Romanesque church. The Long Tour (adult/concession 350/175Kč) gives access to the Basilica of St George, the Convent of St George, the Old Royal Palace, Golden Lane and the Story of Prague Castle Exhibit (essential for taking in the castle’s history and scope). The truncated Short Tour (250/125Kč) omits a visit to the Old Royal Palace.

There’s no charge to wander around the castle courtyards and gardens, and you can also watch the changing of the guard at noon for free. Tickets are valid for two days, but you can only visit each attraction once. Get to the castle on tram 22 or 23 (from Národní třída on the southern edge of Staré Město, Malostranská nám in Malá Strana, or Malostranská metro station) to the Prazský Hrad tram stop.

The Convent of St George (http://www.ngprague.cz/; adult/concession 100/50Kč; h10am-6pm Tue-Sun) houses the National Gallery’s collection of Czech art from the 16th to 18th centuries. Outside the castle entrance is the 18th-century Šternberg Palace housing the National Gallery (Tel 220 514 599; www.ngprague.cz; adult/concession 150/80Kč; h10am-6pm Tue-Sun), the country’s principal collection of 14th- to 18th-century European art.

Malá Strana

Head downhill from the castle to the baroque backstreets of Malá Strana (Little Quarter). Close to the cafe-crowded main square, Malostranské nám, is St Nicholas Church (www.psalterium.cz; adult/concession 70/35Kč; h9am-5pm Mar-Oct, 9am-4pm Nov-Feb), one of the city’s greatest baroque buildings.

To escape Malá Strana’s tourist throng, head for Kampa, a broad park beside the river. The innovative Franz Kafka Museum (Tel 257 535 507; http://kafkamuseum.tyden.cz/ShowPage.aspx?tabId=-1; Cihelná 2b; adult/concession 120/60Kč; h10am-6pm) proves the writer was much more than the T-shirt logo he’s become.

Adjacent is the ‘Piss’ sculpture by Czech artist David Černý with two stylised figures piddling in a puddle shaped like the Czech Republic. Interrupt the flow of famous Prague literary quotations by sending your own message via SMS to Tel 420 724 370 770.

At the north end of Kampa is the elegant Charles Bridge (Karlův Most), built in 1357 and graced by 30 statues dating from the 18th century. Try and visit at dawn before the hordes arrive.

From 2006 to 2010, Charles Bridge underwent significant reconstruction. Across the river, the Charles Bridge Museum (Tel 739 309 551; http://www.muzeumkarlovamostu.cz/; Křížovnické nám, Staré Město; adult/concession150/100Kč; h10am-8pm) showcases 650 years of turbulent history.

Staré Město

On the Staré Město (Old Town) side of Charles Bridge, narrow and crowded Karlova leads east to Staroměstské nám, dominated by the Gothic steeples of Týn Church (1365) and St Nicholas Church (1730s), and the clock tower of the Old Town Hall, where the astronomical clock (1410) entertains the crowds on the hour with its parade of apostles and a bell-ringing skeleton. Don’t be too surprised to hear random mutterings of ‘Is that it?’ At the square’s centre is the Jan Hus Monument, erected in 1915 on the 500th anniversary of the religious reformer’s execution.

East along Celetná is the art nouveau Municipal House (Obecní dům; Tel 222 002 100; nám Republiky 5; guided tours 150Kč; h10am-1pm), a cultural centre decorated by the finest Czech artists of the early 20th century. If the murals inside pique your interest in Alfons Mucha, delve into the nearby Mucha Museum (Tel 221 451 333; http://mucha.tyden.cz/; Panská 7; adult/concession 120/60Kč; h10am-6pm).

Josefov was once the city’s Jewish Quarter, and its fascinating monuments now comprise the Prague Jewish Museum (Tel 222 317 191; http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/; adult/concession 300/200Kč; h9am-6pm Sun-Fri Apr-Oct, to 4.30pm Nov- Mar). Highlights are the Old-New Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Nové Město

Literally ‘New Town’, Nové Město is new only in relation to Staré Město, which was founded in 1348. The broad, sloping avenue of Wenceslas Square (Václavské nám) is lined with shops, banks and restaurants, and dominated by a statue of St Wenceslas on horseback. Beneath is a shrine to the victims of communism, including students Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc, both of whom burned themselves alive in 1969 in protest at the Soviet invasion.

Take a picnic and the metro to Vyšehrad (Tel 241 410 348; V Pevnosti 5, Vyšehrad; admission free; h9.30am-6pm Apr-Oct, 9.30am-5pm Nov-Mar) on the southern edge of Nové Město. This ancient hilltop fortress has superb views.

Festivals & Events

Prague Spring (http://www.festival.cz/) From 12 May to 3 June, classical music kicks off summer.

Prague Fringe Festival (http://www.praguefringe.com/2011/) Eclectic action in late May.

Khamoro (http://www.khamoro.cz/) Late May’s annual celebration of Roma culture.

United Islands (http://www.unitedislands.cz/) World music in mid-June.

Prague Autumn (http://www.pragueautumn.cz/) Celebrates summer’s end from 12 September to 1 October.

Prague International Jazz Festival (http://www.jazzfestivalpraha.cz/_jazz/) Late November.

Traditional Czech cuisine is strong on meat,dumplings and gravy. Try knedlo-zelo-vepřo(bread dumplings, sauerkraut and roastpork), cesneková (garlic soup) or kapr nakmíní (carp with caraway seed). Prague’salso got an range of international eateries.

Café Vesmírna (Tel 222 212 363; Ve Smečkách 5, NovéMěsto; snacks 30-70Kč; h9am-10pm Mon-Fri, noon-8pmSat, closed Sun; i) Vesmírna provides trainingand opportunities for people with specialneeds. There are healthy snacks like savourycrepes and a ‘how do I choose?’ selection ofteas and coffees.

Country Life Nové Město (Tel 224 247 280; Jungmannova1; h9.30am-6.30pm Mon-Thu, 9am-6pm Fri); StaréMěsto (Tel 224 213 366; Melantrichova 15; mains 75-150Kč;h9am-8.30pm Mon-Thu, 9am-6pm Fri, 11am-8.30pm Sat& Sun) These all-vegan cafeterias feature inexpensivesalads, sandwiches, soy drinksand sunflower-seed burgers.

Beas (Tel 608 035 727; Týnská 19, Staré Město; mains90-120Kč) Tucked away in an Old Town courtyard,Beas dishes up good-value Indianvegetarian food. There’s another branch(at Bělehradská 90, Vinohrady; Tel 608 035727) near the IP Pavlova metro station.

Giallo Rossa (Tel 604 898 989; Jakubská 2; mains 100-180Kč; i) Dine in on rustic pizza’n’pasta,or duck next door to the takeaway window and grab a few late night/early morningslices (from 30Kč). Another deal you can’trefuse is free internet.

Siam Orchid (Tel 222 319 410; Na poříčí 21, NovéMěsto; mains 160-280Kč) The waiter’s Cambodian,but that doesn’t stop this Thai restaurantfrom being Prague’s most authenticAsian eatery.

Na Verandách (Tel 257 191 200; Nádražní 84, Smíchov;meals 150-300Kč) Across the river in Smíchov,the Staropramen brewery’s restaurant is amodern spot crowded with locals enjoyingsuperior versions of favourite Czech dishes,and lots of different brews. Na Verandách isa short walk from Anděl metro station.

Pastička (Tel 222 253 228; Blanikcá 24, Vinohrady;mains 150-350Kč; hfrom 5pm Sat & Sun) Vinohrady’semerging dining scene around Mánesovanow features the unpretentious ‘Mousetrap’.Locals come for excellent Bernardbeer, huge meaty meals, and to feel goodabout living in the funky part of town.

Dahab (Tel 224 837 375; Dlouhá 33, Staré Město;mains 200-400Kč; hnoon-1am) Morocco meetsthe Middle East amid Dahab’s softly litsouk-like ambience. Relax with a mint teaand a hookah (hubble-bubble pipe) beforediving into tagines and couscous. There’salso takeaway falafel and shawarma wraps.

Káva.Káva.Káva Nové Město (Tel 224 228 862;Národní třída 37; h7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 9am-10pmSat & Sun; i); Smíchov (Tel 257 314 277; Lidicka 42;h7am-10pm Mon-Thu, 7am-midnight Fri, 9am-midnightSat, 9am-10pm Sun; i) This courtyard cafe offerssmoothies and tasty nibbles. Access theinternet (2Kč per minute or 15 minutes freewith a purchase) or use the inhouse wi-fi.

Tesco (Tel 222 003 111; Národní třída 26, Nové Město;h7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm Sat, 9am-8pm Sun)Prague’s best-stocked supermarket.

Pubs & Bars

Bohemian beer is one of the world’s best.The most famous brands are Budvar,Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) andPrague’s own Staropramen. Avoid the touristareas and you’ll discover local bars sellinghalf-litres for 35Kč or less.

Čili Bar (Kožná 10, Staré Město; hfrom 5pm) Thisraffish bar is more Žižkov than Staré Město,with cool cocktails and a grungy style inwelcome contrast to the crystal shops and Russian dolls just around the corner.

Bukowski’s (Bořivojova 86, Žižkov; hfrom 6pm)This late-night cocktail bar is drivinggrungy Žižkov’s inevitable transformationinto Prague’s hottest after-dark neighbourhood.Leave the Old Town pubs to theeasyJet masses, and sip on cool concoctionshere instead.

U Sadu (Tel 222 727 072; Škroupovo nám, Žižkov)Escape the overpriced tyranny of centralPrague at this neighbourhood pub inŽižkov. With its ragtag collection of memorabiliaincluding Communist-era postersof forgotten politicians, nothing’s reallychanged here in a few decades. An essentialstop before or after gigs at the PalácAkropolis (below).

Hapu (Tel 222 720 158; Orlická 8, Vinohrady; hfrom6pm) ‘Pop round for a drink after work.’Well, that’s what it feels like anyway at this shabby but chic basement bar that’s a dead ringerfor a friend’s front room. That’s if you had mates with superb cocktail-making skills anyway.

Letenské sady (Letna Gardens, Bubeneč) This gardenbar has views across the river of the OldTown and southwest to the castle. In summerit’s packed with a young crowd enjoyingcheap beer and grilled sausages. Sometimesthe simple things in life are the best.

Lucerna Music Bar (Tel 224 217 108; http://lucerna.musicbar.cz/;Lucerna pasaž, Vodičkova 36, Nové Město; h8pm-3am) Lucerna features local bands and almost-famous international acts. Jettison your musical snobbery at the wildly popular ’80s and’90s nights (admission 100Kč, open 8pm to1am Friday and Saturday).

Palác Akropolis (Tel 296 330 911; http://www.palacakropolis.cz/; Kubelikova 27, Žižkov; hclub 7pm-5am) Getlost in the labyrinth of theatre, live music, clubbing, drinking and eating that makesup Prague’s coolest venue. Hip-hop, house,reggae or rocking Gypsy bands from Romania– anything goes. Kick off at the nearbyU Sadu (above).

Club Radost FX (Tel 224 254 776; http://www.radostfx.cz/; Bělehradská 120, Vinohrady; admission 120-280Kč;h10pm-6am) Prague’s most stylish club remainship for its bohemian-boudoir decorand its popular Thursday hip-hop nightFXBounce (http://www.fxbounce.com/).

Roxy (Tel 224 826 296; http://www.roxy.cz/; Dlouhá 33, StaréMěsto; admission 120-250Kč; h10pm-4am) In a resurrectedold cinema, the Roxy presents innovativeDJs and the occasional global act.‘Free Mondays’ will give you more moneyfor beer.

For current listings, see Culture in Prague (available from PIS offices), http://prague.tv/, or the monthly free Provokátor magazine (http://www.provokator.org/), from clubs, cafes and art-house cinemas.

For classical music, opera, ballet, theatre and some rock concerts – even the most vyprodáno (sold-out) events – a few tickets are usually on sale at the box office 30 minutes before concert time. Tickets can cost as little as 100Kč for standing-room only to over 1000Kč for the best seats; the average price is about 600Kč.

Be wary of touts selling concert tickets in the street. You may end up sitting on stacking chairs in a cramped hall listening to amateur musicians, rather than in the grand concert hall that was implied.

Ticket agencies include the following: Ticketpro (Tel 296 333 333; http://www.ticketpro.cz/jnp/home/index.html; pasáž Lucerna, Štěpánská 61, Nové Město; h9am-12.30pm & 1-5pm Mon-Fri) Also has branches in PIS offices (p288). Ticketstream (http://www.ticketstream.cz/czts/site.frame.jsp?thread) Online bookings.

Live Music

USP Jazz Lounge (Tel 603 551 680; http://www.jazzlounge.cz/en/; Michalská 9, Staré Město; h8pm-3am) Modern jazz from 10pm with DJs after midnight.

AghaRTA Jazz Centrum (Tel 222 221 275; http://www.agharta.cz/; Železná 16, Staré Město; admission 200Kč; h6pm-1am) Rock up early for a table or book online the day before.

Cinemas

Most films are screened in their original language with Czech subtitles (české titulky), but Hollywood blockbusters are sometimes dubbed into Czech (dabing); look for the labels ‘tit.’ or ‘dab.’ on listings. Tickets are around 180Kč.

Kino Aero (Tel 271 771 349; http://www.kinoaero.cz/cz/; Biskupcova 31, Žižkov) This art-house cinema offers themed weeks and retrospectives; it often uses English subtitles.

Kino Světozor (Tel 224 946 824; http://www.kinosvetozor.cz/cz/; Vodičkova 41, Nové Město) The same management as Kino Aero but more central, and with a good Czech DVD shop.

Palace Cinemas (Tel 257 181 212; http://www.palacecinemas.cz/; Slovanský dům, Na příkopě 22, Nové Město) For Hollywood blockbusters.

Classical Music & Performance Arts

Prague’s main venues are the Rudolfinum (nám Jana Palacha, Staré Město) and the art nouveau Municipal House (Obecní dům; nám Republiky 5, Staré Město). See http://www.obecnidum.cz/.

Opera and ballet is performed at the Prague State Opera (Tel 224 227 266; Wilsonova, Nové Město) and National Theatre (Tel 224 901 377; Národní třída 2, Nové Město). Adjacent is Laterna Magika (Tel 224 931 482; Národní třída 4, Nové Město), combining theatre, dance and film.

Public Transport

Buy a ticket before you enter a tram, bus or metro – available from metro stations, vending machines, newsstands, tobacco kiosks, hotels and tourist information offices.

Validate your ticket in the yellow machine in the metro station or on the bus or tram. Once validated, a 26Kč jízdenka (ticket) remains valid for 75 minutes from the time of stamping (90 minutes if stamped between 8pm and 5am weekdays, or at any time on weekends). Within this period, unlimited transfers between tram, metro and bus are allowed. You also need a half-fare ticket (13Kč) for large backpacks.

There’s also an 18Kč ticket, valid for 20 minutes on buses and trams, or for up to five metro stations. No transfers are allowed, and they’re not valid on night trams or night buses.

The metro operates from 5am to midnight daily. Night trams and buses traverse the city every 40 minutes.

Taxi

Avoid getting a taxi in tourist areas. To avoid being ripped off, phone a reliable company such as AAA (Tel 14 014; http://aaa.radiotaxi.cz/index.php?xSET=lang&xLANG=2) or City Taxi (Tel 257 257 257; http://www.citytaxi.cz/). Both companies offer online bookings.

Prague has the ‘Taxi Fair Place’ scheme with authorised taxis. Drivers can charge a maximum of 28Kč per kilometre and must announce the estimated price in advance. Look for the yellow and red signs.