There are cities around the world where public transport is part of the appeal or a necessary evil. Lisbon is a good example of the former, its old-fashioned trams still gamely traversing its steep hills, while London’s famous Tube and red buses are a requirement for anyone wanting to see more than a small part of the city centre. Prague too has a great Metro and tram system, the latter an interesting way to get to less well-known but increasingly hip areas such as Holešovice and Anděl.
However, despite this, Prague, to my mind, is a city best enjoyed on foot, not least because its true gems are places you only discover by walking around. I lived in the Czech capital for three and a half years and the places that stick in my mind were all those discovered from aimless ambling. Take Kaaba, for example. Nestled on a quiet residential road in the trendy, relatively upmarket district of Vinohrady, it’s a cafe like no other, with stylish ‘70s style furniture, great music and even a wine cellar at the back. I spent many days and nights writing in the cafe, and even fell in love there (with a girl, not the coffee and cake).
Then there’s Kavarna Liberal, a 40’s-style spot I discovered one gloomy, winter day while strolling around with nothing to do but explore.
And for all secret cafes and other special spots hidden away, Prague has some of the best views of any city centre in the world which can only really be appreciated on foot. First and foremost, don’t bother with the Charles Bridge if you don’t like crowds. Beautiful as it is, the bridge is heaving with tourists (and hawkers selling cheap wares). It’s a wonderful place to walk across when it’s quiet, but that’s a rarity. A better option is to walk along the Vltava River and take some pictures of the bridge from afar, reading up on its unique history before you arrive. Another option is to walk along Most Legií and onto Střelecký Ostrov (Střelecký Island), which has a nice bar and café and views of Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, a stunning view both day and night.
Another crowded (but not so crowded) place worth visiting is of course central Staromětske Naměstí (Old Town Square), with its beautiful architecture and cobblestones. In my opinion, you should skip the astronomical clock. It chimes once an hour and while the figurines that emerge are pretty, it’s not worth waiting among the crowds. A better option is to take in the square before exploring the nearby streets. You’ll instantly notice that anywhere off the main drag is much cheaper than the square, and save a fortune in restaurants and bars.
Walking up to Wenceslas Square, head to the Metro station Muzeum but don’t take the train. Instead, look for signs to Vinohrady and emerge on the other side of the large road that runs through the centre of the city.
This will lead you to Vinohrady, one of the city’s prettiest districts, and Žižkov, one of its most up and coming. Saying that, people have been calling it up and coming for a long time. Žižkov is now established as arguably Prague’s best place to go for a drink, with more bars per square metre than anywhere else in Europe. Try Malkovitch for a cocktail, Akropolis for a beer and a bite to eat, Beer Geek for a stunning selection of crafts, or wander between Vinohrady and Žižkov to Riegrovy Sady, a medium-sized park with stunning views of the city.
Walking back towards Jiřího z Poděbrad nearby, you’ll find a number of cool wine bars, boutique shops such as the great Botas shoe shop and a church with strange but intriguing brickwork which was built in the 1960s. From there, be sure to make a stop at the TV Tower. Finished just before the end of Communism, it is best known for the ‘Baby’ sculptures by artist David Černý, which divide people almost as much as politics in the country. Have a look and decide for yourself. Other ‘Babies’ can also be seen in Kampa Park, close to the city centre and a good place from which to walk towards the castle district and Petřín Hill, home to a Eiffel Tower-like structure which also (it’s a theme here) has great views of Prague.
Oh, and leave yourself a couple more days to walk around the city. Because everything I’ve said? I’ve barely walked out the door.