48 Hours In: Prague

Summer is the best time to explore the Czech capital, as the city bursts into life with art exhibitions and classical concerts, writes Chris Leadbeater

Travel essentials

Why go now?

The Czech capital comes alive in summer, its 18th-century Baroque architecture looking especially grand on sunny days. There are also exhibitions galore in its many museums. The Galerie Rudolfinum (1) at Alsovo Nabrezi 12, is currently (until 6 July) focusing on German photographer Barbara Probst, who specialises in images of a single scene, shot from diverse angles. The gallery (00 420 227 059 205; galerierudolfinum.cz) is open daily, 10am-6pm, except Thursday (to 8pm) and Monday (closed), entry 130 koruna (£4).

The Independent Travel Offers: Our favourite Prague city break

Touch down

Vaclav Havel airport (00420 220 111 888; prg.aero) perches six miles to the west of the centre. Several airlines serve it from a range of UK airports: British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) from Heathrow; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Stansted and Gatwick; Jet2 (0800 408 1350; jet2.com) from Leeds/Bradford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and East Midlands; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted; Wizz Air (0906 959 0002; wizzair.com) from Luton.

A shuttle bus (00 420 220 116 758; cedaz.cz) runs into town – daily, every half an hour, 7.35am-7.05pm – taking 30 minutes to arrive at V Celnici street (2), just off Republiky namesti (square) (3). Taxis take 25 minutes to reach the centre, for around K750 (£22). Transfers may be included if you book a city-break package. I went with Parnassus Travel (020 3417 9839; parnassustravel.com), which has two-night breaks at the Four Seasons (4) from £352 per person (two sharing) including flights, transfers and breakfast.

prague map

Click here to see a bigger image of the map

Get your bearings

Prague is split in two by the River Vltava, which flows south-to-north through its heart – cleaving the historic Hradcany (castle district) and the elegant Mala Strana district on the west bank from the Stare Mesto (Old Town) and Nove Mesto (New Town) on the east. Trams, buses and the metro come under one banner (00 420 296 191 817; dpp.cz). Single fares start at K24 (72p). A one-day pass is K110 (£3.30), a three-day pass K310 (£9.25). The tourist office is in the Old Town Hall (5) at Staromestske namesti 1 (00420 221 714 714; prague.eu), open daily 9am-7pm. It sells the Prague Card, which covers more than 50 sites – plus transport: K1280 (£38) for two days.

Check in

Hotel Jungmann (6), a refurbished boutique retreat at Jungmannovo namesti 2 in Nove Mesto (00 420 224 219 501; antikhotels.com), has doubles from €79, including breakfast.

The four-star Hotel Archibald at The Charles Bridge (7) sits genteelly by the river at Na Kampe 15, with doubles from €103, room only (00 420 257 531 430; archibald.cz).

The Four Seasons (4) is the city's hotel dame, a sumptuous reminder of 1883 (00 420 221 427 000; fourseasons.com) at Veleslavinova 2a. Doubles start from €380, room only.

Focal point: Old Town Square Focal point: Old Town Square (Getty) Day One

Take a hike

Start at the west end of Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) (8). The most iconic of the Vltava crossings is always crowded. Its 30 saintly statues are copies of the originals – but it is still essentially the structure that has stood here since 1357.

The Charles in question, Charles IV, the 14th-century king of Bohemia who planned the city's layout, waits as another statue at the east end of the bridge, in Krizovnicke namesti (9). Give him a wave, then plunge into the Old Town, past the 16th-century church of St Salvator (10) and on via the pedestrianised strip of Karlova. This draws to a close in Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square) (11), where the astrological clock on the Old Town Hall (5) gives times of sunset, sunrise and the hour at hand.

Window shopping

Karlova is awash with tourist traps, but halt at No 26, where Manufaktura (12) sells Czech handicrafts, from crockery to stained glass (00 420 230 234 376; manufaktura.cz). Locally made jewellery is the star of AleAle (13), tucked into the church courtyard of St Mary Below the Chain at Lazenska 2 (00 420 483 390 865; aleale.cz). The shopping motherlode, though, is Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square) (14) in Nove Mesto, where antique arcades linger amid brand names. Palac Knih (15) at 41 (00 420 296 110370; neoluxor.cz), is a bibliophile's dream. Palac Rokoko (16) at No 38, has lovely Art Deco stylings (palacrokoko.cz).

Lunch on the run

The latter arcade has Cafe Lucerna (00 420 296 236223; www.lucerna.cz), which combines Twenties décor with paninis (try the edam with salsa) for K65 (£2).

Cultural afternoon

The main building of the National Muzeum on Vaclavske namesti is closed until 2015, but its New Building (17), immediately adjacent at Vinohradska 1, is open daily, 10am-6pm. The former stock exchange (00 420 224 497 111; nm.cz; K110/£3.30) currently has an exhibition (to 15 July), that gauges how currency effects art and morals.

In Mala Strana, the Czech Museum of Music (18) at Karmelitska 2 (00 420 257 257 777; nm.cz; daily except Tuesday, 10am-6pm; K100/£3) hosts concerts and a piano that was played by Mozart in 1787 at the 17th-century church of St Maria Magdalena.

Nearby, the Franz Kafka Museum (19) at Cihelna 2b (00 420257 535 373; kafka museum.cz; 10am-6pm; K200/£6), dissects Prague's gloomiest author.

An aperitif

Cafe Neustadt (20) sits in the courtyard of the Novomestska Radnice (New Town Hall) at Vodickova 3 – beers from K30/90p (00 420 731 105 764; facebook.com/cafeneustadt).

Dining with the locals

U Maltezskych Rytiru (21) (00 420 257 212 775; umaltezskychrytiru.cz) deals in Czech stodge – goulash with dumplings for K179 (£5.30) – at Prokopska 10.

In the one-time Jewish ghetto of Josefov, Kolonial (22) at Siroka 6 (00 420 224 818 322; kolonialpub.cz), offers pork schnitzel with potato salad (K175/£5.20) amid unusual window dressings – a clutch of penny farthing bikes.

Modern marvel: the Dancing House Modern marvel: the Dancing House (Getty) Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Prague's cathedral St Vitus (23) (00 420 724 933 441; katedralasvatehovita.cz) is so huge that it dominates Hradcany. The 14th-century Gothic temple is open daily 9am-5pm, except Sunday (noon-5pm, with masses at 8.30am and 10am). Free access is limited to the nave's east end. To visit the whole building, you have to pay. The "Circuit B" ticket costs K250 (£7.40) (00 420 224 372 434; hrad.cz) and also gives entry to the Old Royal Palace (24), the 10th-century St George's Basilica (25) and Golden Lane (26), whose pretty houses once hosted 16th-century alchemists.

Out to brunch

The western slope of the castle hill is adorned by St Wenceslas Vineyard (27) on Stare Zamecke Schody (00 420 257 219 079; svatovaclavskavinice.cz), a leafy enclave that serves a "Richter Burger" with fries for K239 (£7).

Below the hill in Mala Strana, Campanulla (28) is in the garden of a priory that was once run by the Knights of Malta at Velkoprevorkse namesti 4 (00 420 257 217 736; campanulla.cz). A goat-cheese salad is K175 (£5.20).

A walk in the park

Kampa Park (29) is the green heart of Kampa – an islet that juts into the Vltava. Locals come here to talk and sunbathe. Others come for Museum Kampa (30), a gallery at U Sovovych Mlynu 2 (00 420 257 286 147; museumkampa.cz). Daily, 10am-6pm, entry K260 (£7.70).

Take a ride

Departing from a base station (31) at the junction of Ujezd and Lanove Drahy, the Petrin Funicular takes the legwork out of the ascent to Petrin Hill (32). Part of the city transport network (single fares K24/72p), it whirrs to the 327m summit of Prague's urban lung every 10 minutes (daily 9am-11.30pm).

At the top, you can climb the Petrin Tower (33), a mini Eiffel Tower built in 1891. Daily 10am-10pm; K120 (£3.50) (00 42 725 831 633; muzeumprahy.cz).

Icing on the cake

Dash back to St Salvator (10), which stages concerts of the works of Mozart, Haydn and Bach every day except Tuesday, usually at 6pm (00420 603 460 283; czechclassic.com) – from K550 (£16.30).

Or call at Jiraskovo Nabrezi 6 in Nove Mesto, where The Dancing Building (34) is one of Frank Gehry's most striking confections. It resembles two dancers leaning into each other – an idea furthered by its restaurant Ginger & Fred (00 420 221 984 160; ginger-fred-restaurant.cz), where the veal cutlet costs K650 (£19.25).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect