Prague is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s both architecturally stunning and culturally rich. Visitors love to get lost in the labyrinthine cobblestone streets of the Old Town and Malá Strana, tour the magnificent Castle and experience Czech beer culture firsthand. With so much to do and so much to see, we asked two of the city’s top hotel Concierges to help us navigate our way around. Here they open up their little black books and take us on a tour of their favorite local spots in our insider’s guide to the City of 100 Spires.
Meet Your Concierges
The fabulous Four Seasons Prague stands majestically along the Vlata River, right in the heart of the Old Town. Head Concierge Petr Zezula has been at the helm since the very beginning, when the hotel first opened its doors in 2001. With the exception of an 18 month stint in New York, Petr has called Prague his home for the better part of 35 years, making him a true authority on this wonderful city.
Music lovers, take note — the lovely boutique ARIA Hotel in Mala Strana has four perfectly appointed floors, each dedicated to a different musical genre including opera, classical, jazz and contemporary. Head Concierge Henry Sturm, a hospitality veteran with 25 years experience, has presided over the Concierge desk at many leading hotels throughout the city before landing at ARIA 4 years ago.
A special thanks to Petr and Henry for spilling their secrets and sharing personal faves
When To Go:
Petr: May, beginning of June and September because the weather is excellent, not too hot and Prague is buzzing.
Henry: I like Prague during the entire year because each season offers different activities.
Petr: Old Town Prague — everything is just steps away. The best way to explore is to walk, walk, walk…truly, Prague is a walking city and all the sights are within walking distance. La Bottega di Finestra is a great spot for a morning coffee. Start with the Prague Castle, stroll through the Royal Gardens, have a lunch by the river and continue over the Charles Bridge to the Old Town and Jewish Quarter.
Henry: Vinohrady & Žižkov. These independent quarters are different from the city centre — inspiring, multicultural and artistic. Take Tram No 22 from Mala Strana to Namesti Miru Square. Enjoy, taste and buy some local farmer’s products at Namesti Jiriho z Podebrad, the open air market. See the little centuries-old Jewish cemetery and get a bird’s eye view of the entire city from the Žižkov Television Tower. In the area, don’t miss Dum Porcelanu – a store with a huge selection of porcelain from producers within the Czech Republic, Cafe Miminoo for coffee and Vinohradsky Parlament for lunch – a modern Staroprament beer hall.
Where to Shop and What to Buy:
Petr: There are a few places where you can buy marionettes that are hand-made and gorgeous. Mr. Truhlar is one of the best craftsmen in Prague — he is even able to create a custom marionette from an actual picture, which I find makes an amazing gift. The small local glass stores such as Artel, Gallery Meridian or Arzenal by Borek Sipek are also very popular. My personal favorite would be glass maker Moser. The store is located on Na Prikope Street and has been there for nearly 100 years. The interior brings you back to the early 1900s and I just love it.
Henry: Manufaktura stocks everything from handmade soaps to Dead Sea salts to ceramics to beer cosmetics. Tonak manufactures high quality men’s and women’s hats. Botanicus is a family-owned chain of stores making organic, all-natural beauty products. For clothing and accessories, my favorite shop is men’s fashion designer Jozef Sloboda.
Petr: Visitors always miss the area of Novy Svet – a hidden part of Prague Castle with cobble stoned streets and beautiful small houses.
Henry: Rather than go cross the Charles Bridge in the evening, visitors should spend more time at the Prague Castle, when it is nearly empty.
Fondest Childhood Memory
Henry: My first visit to the Prague Castle.
Petr: My grand father used to take me to the National Technical Museum – it has been recently renovated and it is just amazing. The Transportation Hall is full of trains, planes, cars, motorbikes, bikes…just everything.
Where to Bring the Kids
Henry: Take the panoramic cable car up to Petrin Hill, where you can climb up a miniature copy of the Eiffel Tower. Young kids will enjoy the adjacent Mirror Maze. Zofin Garden is a great family-friendly restaurant near the National Theater — go before catching a ballet performance of a Czech fairytale. Also good for kids is the LEGO Museum, the Toy Museum at the Prague Castle and Detsky Ostrov (Kid’s Island – which is temporarily closed.)
Petr: The Kingdom of Railroads is a huge place in Prague 5 where you can see the whole Czech Republic as a miniature model, linked together with tiny railroads, trains, and cars. A visit to the Prague Zoo is a must – the new pavilion with elephants and rhinos is especially great. We also go biking in Stromovka Park or along the river.
Where to Eat and Drink
Petr: I love V Zatisi for its mix of international cuisine and Czech flavors, and have been returning with my family for the past 15 years. Olympia is a great beer house in Prague 5 with local local food and Pilsner Urquell on draft. Cerny Jelen is a small, cozy and kind of romantic restaurant behind Tyn Cathedral off the Old Town Square. For creative gastronomy, try Michelin starred restaurant La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise – the combination of food and ingredients is just spectacular.
Henry: I’d recommend Cukrkavalimonada Cafe –a restaurant, winebar and patisserie in Mala Strana, Pizza Persona and Carmelita for classic brick oven pizza and Bakeshop – a great local cafe and bistro. For fine dining – V Zatisi and for creative gastronomy – La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise.
Don’t Leave the City Without Having
Petr: “Svickova s knedlikem.” This is almost a national dish – roasted beef sirloin with creamy vegetable sauce and home made dumplings.
Henry: Definitely Svickova. Also Smazak – fried white cheese and Gulas – a typical beef goulash with onion, majoram and red pepper (best served with fresh bread.)
A Perfect Day in Prague
Petr: Wake up early and have a morning run along the embankments – it is beautiful to see Prague waking up. Have breakfast at Cafe Savoy or La Bottega. Visit Prague Castle including Novy Svet and walk through Upper Deer Moat, a natural ravine just below the castle, with beautiful views. Have lunch at Hergertova Cihelna, a lively restaurant on the banks of the Vltava River. Take a private boat ride on the river followed by a marionette making lesson or Omorovicza treatment in our Spa. If the Prague Philharmonic are playing at the Rudolfinum Concert Hall, this is a must. Finish the day at dinner with family or friends.
Henry: Take a morning walk over the Charles Bridge with no tourists. Enjoy breakfast and explore Mala Strana, the Jewish Quarter & Old Town with a private guide. Enjoy a short boat trip on an original wooden boat. Retreat to the hotel for a massage or a walk in the Vrtbovska Garden. Have a typical Czech dinner in one of the restaurants nearby.