The Czech Republic lies at the heart of Central Europe and at its center is the beautiful and historic city of Prague. With a population of some 1.3 million residents, the city lies on either side of the Vltava River in the middle of Bohemia that is one of the three historic Czech territories; the others being Moravia and Silesia. The city has seven "Chapter Divisions" or districts.
North & Western Suburbs
This is mainly an area of residential buildings and parkland, containing Prague's largest park — Stromovka . The park was originally a hunting ground and is now home to many attractions including the Vystaviste Exhibition Grounds , the Prumyslovy Palace , the Planetarium , and the Lapidarium.
A walk to the west of the park brings the visitor to the Royal Summer Palace (Letohrádek královny Anny) , a neo-Gothic building where the National Museum stores some of its treasures.
To the south of Stromovka lies Letna Park . A walk farther south brings one to a plateau overlooking the main city and river. Here, you will see the large Metronome that replaced the monument to Stalin—the largest in the world, which was destroyed on the orders of Krushchev in 1962. Other places of interest are the National Technical Museum and the National Gallery Collection of Modern & Contemporary Art . Walks through the residential areas will expose you to many styles of architecture here.
Situated on the hill overlooking Prague, Hradcany is made up of Prague Castle , St Vitus Cathedral and the Strahov Monastery —all places that are steeped in history. The Army Museum , the Royal Gardens and the Toy Museum are also nearby.
St Vitus' Cathedral was commissioned by Charles IV (1316-1378) and its foundation was laid in 1344. However, work on it went on for nearly 600 years before being finalized in 1929, which means that the architecture is from many different periods and in different styles. Attractions inside include the crown jewels, the crypt and the South Tower. The Strahov Monastery was founded in 1140 by the Premonstratensian Order, although its present day baroque appearance dates from the late-17th and 18th Centuries.
Covering the area just below Hradcany and bordering the river, Mala Strana is just across Charles Bridge from the main city. Now home to many foreign embassies occupying a number of buildings built by the Catholic nobility, the area is full of palaces, gardens and baroque churches including the Church of St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikulas). Open daily, this is an example of Prague baroque architecture; it was built between 1702 and 1753 by Christoph Dientzenhofer and later also worked on by his son. Frequent concerts and recitals (both at lunchtime and in the evenings) are held here featuring the works of Mozart.
Prague's Jewish Quarter can be reached by a short walk from Wenceslas Square or by taking the metro to Staromestska, Line A.
Dating back to at least the 13th century, this area is rich in history. Places to visit include the Jewish Cemetery , its five synagogues, the Jewish State Museum and the Jewish Ceremonial Hall with its Hebrew clock dating from the 15th century. The narrow cobbled streets lend a unique atmosphere to the area, especially at night. The Kafka Museum is located on the border of Josefov and Stare Mesto.
Prague's Old Town is centered around Old Town Square , the Jan Hus Monument and the Old Town Clock Tower featuring its astronomical clock dating back to the 15th century. The Old Town Hall is open daily. It is only a short walk away from Wenceslas Square.
There are several churches of note here including the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn as well as courtyards and numerous cafes, bars and restaurants catering to every taste.
This is Prague's main commercial and business district. It is based around Wenceslas Square at the top of which is the National Museum and the two main commercial streets—Na Prikope and Narodni. Running from these streets are many smaller streets and courtyards. Hotels, bars and restaurants abound in this area.
Walking along Legerova or Ke Karlovu (where you will find the Dvorak Museum ) will bring you to the Police Museum from where you can take a walk along the top of the Botic Valley towards the river.
Vysehrad & the Eastern Suburbs
Centered upon the ancient rocky fortress of Vysehrad (the Republic's most-revered landmark) and containing the Vysehrad Cemetery , a Romanesque rotunda and the Gothic church of St. Peter and Paul, this area stretches to the working-class suburb of Zizkov. It is home to the TV Tower (from which you can enjoy panoramic views of Prague) and the ancient Zizkov Hill, atop which stands a statue of Jan Zizka (a 15th-century army general) and the mausoleum in which the remains of the three Communist presidents of the Republic and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier can be found. The suburb of Vinohrady contains Prague's most modern church, the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord (Kostel Nejsvetejšího srdce Páne) , which was built in 1928.
The growing number of visitors to Prague and the widespread availability of accommodation since 1989 has led to an increase in the number of restaurants, together with a great improvement in hygiene standards. The influx of people of other nationalities coming to live in Prague has had an impact on the nature of the cuisine, which has become much more cosmopolitan.
While restaurants up to the early 1990's were predominantly Czech - both in terms of food and decor - new restaurants have been refurbished and the standard of service has improved. There are restaurants in the city centre that only a limited number of Czechs can afford to visit, so the cuisine tends to be mainly either French or international, catering predominantly to European or American tourists and business people. There are however, innumerable restaurants catering to those on a more modest budget, and these tend to attract the Czech business and professional classes. These offer both Czech and international food of the highest quality.
North & Western Suburbs
These farther out suburb areas of the city still offer everything you would expect to find in more crowded areas, but with a neighborhood feel. For Italian food that will please the whole family, try the incredibly popular Pizzeria Grosseto , considered by many to be the best in the whole city. For a more local flavor, traditional Czech eateries abound in this area, as in the rest of the city. U Kavalira is a friendly Czech restaurant, specializing in chicken and pork dishes, with a great atmosphere. Kavarna Kabinet is an artsy, friendly neighborhood cafe and bar, with a good value. For something a little more upscale that digs a little deeper into your wallet, Le Bistrot de Marlene is a quaint little traditional French restaurant near the river that may be a nice break from traditional Czech fare.
This neighborhood, slightly removed from Old Town and touristy centers boasts a number of high quality, and high cost restaurants. Restaurant ADA is popular with Parliament members and stars, and features French and international cuisine. Likewise, Restaurant Hradcany has been voted one of the best restaurants in Prague, basing its changing local and international menu on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Also nearby Hradcany are a number of cheaper, more casual options such as Cantina , for those craving something a little spicier and more exotic than the Czech food you may have had enough of. Also nearby is JJ Murphy's , another departure from traditional fare, but with some of the best burgers in Prague.
This elegant part of town definitely boasts its fair share equally elegant eateries such as David Restaurant , specializing in game dishes. U Patrona has been named one of the most romantic in the city, with a five course menu you won't soon forget. Also quite common here, as in other parts of the city as well, are hotel restaurants being quite noteworthy, like U Tri Pstrosu , a historical restaurant in a hotel boasting traditional Czech dishes such as Goulash with Dumplings. Another popular restaurant located inside a hotel is Essensia inside the Mandarin Oriental, which provides its guests with fresh, refined Asian and international food. Restaurace Pálffy Palác serves up French cuisine inside a baroque palace, complete with rooftop terrace for warmer months. Hergetova Cihelna provides stunning views to go along with their elegant international menu.
Vysehrad & the Eastern Suburbs
These suburban areas of town have no shortage of variety when it comes to the food offerings. For traditional Czech meals, U Sadlu II , specializing in all kinds of game as well as other traditional Czech specialties. For something a little more on the lighter side, venture over to Knihomola for a good selection of sandwiches and salads, along with the live entertainment Wednesdays through Sundays. For great Italian food, Crazy Daisy serves up homemade pastas along with their full bar. The cuisine doesn't stop with Europe, however, as there are more exotic options available as well. Yang Zi Jiang in the Zizkov area dishes out typical Chinese fare, along with some more adventurous selections. Also in Zizkov is Mailsi , an excellent Pakistani eatery specializing in lamb dishes.
The Czech Republic has been producing some of the best beers in the world for centuries - in fact it has the highest rate of beer consumption (per capita) in the world. It was in Plzen that the first bottom-fermented beer was introduced in 1842, (hence pils) and production still continues there with Pilsner Urquell - the most famous brand - (For brewery tours, check out Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus lager). The other main production centre is Ceske Budejovice in South Bohemia where Budvar is produced. Until recently, most pubs brewed their own beers but now the larger breweries have taken over - Western companies such as Bass have moved into the Czech Republic in a big way.
Wines from South Moravia and Melnik are the best of many produced in the Republic, but are still generally considered inferior to the best of the French and German wines. Spirits are readily available, but should you have stomach problems, try Becherovka, a herbal spirit from the Karlovy Vary area.