Concierge Recommendations

Prague

Jul 17, 2012

We asked Petr Zezula, Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Prague, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of the local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. In the very heart of Europe, Prague is one of the continent’s loveliest capitals thanks to its architecture, which ranges from a medieval cathedral and castle district to the Gehry-era leading edge by way of beautiful Baroque lanes and outstanding 20th-century Modernism.

Coffee: Historic Cafés

Czech coffee culture dates back to its days as a Habsburg capital, so perhaps it’s not surprising that one of its finest coffee houses is Café Imperial, which has been restored to its 19th-century splendour. Older still is Café & Restaurant Slavia, on the embankment of the Moldau River. The Czech painter Jan Zrzavy and writer Jaroslav Seifert used to frequent it, and writer and former president Vaclav Havel could occasionally be spotted there. The café maintains its original, shabby-chic look.

Art: Best Galleries

The Veletrzní Palác, the city’s fabulous functionalist modern art gallery, once was considered the best gallery in Prague. But it now has a rival in the Lobkowicz Palace, just below Prague Castle, which houses one of the world’s most extraordinary private art collections: works by Brueghel, Canaletto, Cranach and Velázquez. In addition to its collection of paintings, the museum has decorative arts, books, musical instruments and autograph manuscripts by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

Shopping: Gifts and Homewares

If a visit to the House of Black Madonna and the Czech Cubist paintings, furniture and ceramics it contains have inspired in you a love of such design, then make for Modernista, a remarkable furniture and homewares store that deals in first-rate reproductions of pieces by the likes of Adolf Loos, Ladislav Sutnar and Jindřich Halabala. Inspired by the design of same era, Kubista—on the ground floor of the House of the Black Madonna—is another good place for local gifts. For contemporary Czech design, try Designshop at the centre for contemporary art at DOX in Prague 7.

Bohemian Crystal

Bohemian crystal is rightly celebrated, and the two best places to buy it are Material, located next to the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana, and Artel, which has exquisite vases and tableware. Just be warned that it is very fragile, so be sure to tell them you’ll be travelling with it and have them wrap it carefully. Better yet, have it shipped.

Opera: Command Performances

To see Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the exquisitely compact, 18th-century Estates Theatre—the opera house that premiered it—gives it another dimension. The theatre itself is a riot of Rococo gilt against a powder-blue ground; the acoustic is warm; and the standard of performance exemplary. Only the sightlines in the narrow horseshoe auditorium are a problem, so insist on centre stalls. If jazz is more your bag, then check out JazzDock in Prague 5 right on the river.

Beer: Pubs and Breweries

Lokal is an excellent Czech pub, simple, easy-going and with a good line in traditional Czech draft beers. It’s also an exercise in nostalgia, for its retro restaurant is redolent of the dark days before the Velvet Revolution, right down to the fake graffiti, surly service and a menu that’s only in Czech. For something more historic, try Klásterní Pivovar in the Strahov Monastery at Prague Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. For something new, check out Novomestsky Pivovar—400 metres (1,300 feet) from Wenceslas Square—the first brewery to open in the New Town, where it was founded as recently as 1993.

Food: Best Italian

We’re not bragging when we say that CottoCrudo is the best Italian restaurant in town. Indeed it was the first in Central/Eastern Europe to win a Michelin star. It has marvellous river views, a great wine list, and, yes, there are some Bohemian influences on the menu. Gnocchi are only a variation on dumplings, after all.

Aromi is an inexpensive alternative, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant well off the tourist track in Prague, that’s well regarded for its great home cooking.

Itinerary: A Perfect Prague Day

Prague Castle may be on most tourist itineraries, but for a different spin on it, walk through the old area of Novy Svet, just beyond it. You’ll find very few people in the narrow cobblestone streets, and the gas street lamps give you a feel of how Prague was 200 years ago. Weather permitting, have lunch on the terrace of the Lvi Dvur restaurant, which faces the castle and cathedral. Then walk through Upper Deer Moat, a natural ravine below the castle with beautiful views. The Prague Castle Southern Gardens are always worth a look, as are the 17th-century Wallenstein Gardens, another essay in Baroque splendour, with dancing fountains, a loggia, an ornamental carp pond, box parterres, peacocks, and an astonishing curved grotto wall made of artificial dripstone, carved with stalactites, petrified (and petrifying) snakes, frogs and monsters. Round off the day with a night at the opera or a recital at the Rudolfinum Concert Hall.

 

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12 Comments about Prague

  1. Dennis Dunn says:

    I am curious about airport transfer for our upcoming stay. And we would like to visit Terezin, and wondered about your recommendation on how best to do that.

  2. Martin Smith says:

    Havel is dead so if he is showing up somewhere it would be real news. I agree with the article otherwise.

    • Caroline McCoy says:

      Hi Martin,
      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The article should have stated that Harvel could occasionally be spotted at Café Slavia. We regret the error and have corrected it.

  3. Randi Pellmar says:

    Staying at the Four Seasons Prague April 15-20,2013
    Monte and Randi Pellmar
    Could you forward information on tours to:
    Terezin
    Chateau Konopiste

    Private tours vs Group can this be combined in one day???
    Thank you,
    Randi Pellmar

  4. Petr Zezula says:

    Good afternoon from snowy Prague,

    The official city fireworks will take place on January 1, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. and the best place to watch them will be from the embankments of the Vltava river.

    There are going to be some small fireworks on NYE at midnight, not official, only as a part of the evening restaurant celebrations.

    Should you wish to dine with us in the hotel,please contact the hotel on +420 221 427 000 to reserve your table.

    Sincerely,

    Petr Zezula
    Chef Concierge

  5. Paula Radin says:

    This is not a tip but a question. We are going to be in Prague for New Year’s Eve, staying at the Four Seasons. Where do you recommend being to see the fireworks? Does the hotel have a special dinner that evening and can you see the fireworks from the hotel? thanks.

  6. Jose San Pedro says:

    Recomendations

  7. M.King says:

    I was just a guest at the Four Season Prague. It was fabulous. For a true Czech fine dinner, we took their suggestion and ate at the Little Blue Duck, in Czech: U Modré Kachničky.
    It was out of this world. Go in and relax, the entire staff will take care of you while they educate you on the real way to enjoy a meal. Keep quiet and listen to them. They’re the real deal with service, utmost respect, and gourmet knowledge. A Pulitzer Prize author sat at the table next to us.

  8. Chris says:

    Thought you would like this…

  9. rick toren says:

    The Old Synagogues and cemetery are worth a stop as well as a day trip to the Nazi-run ghetto in the town of Terezin.

  10. Cheryl Rybka says:

    I only know one place in the world that you can rent and drive Russian tanks through the countryside. It is to add to your once in a lifetime experiences…just outside of Prague.
    http://www.offroadaction.cz

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