Prague typically isn’t at the top of travelers’ bucket lists but we’re here to tell you that it should be. Recently named Europe’s prettiest city by The Huffington Post, the location is seriously stunning. Not to mention the beer is delicious—according to my husband—and conveniently cheaper than water.
FOUR SEASONS PRAGUE: Four Seasons Hotel Prague interweaves centuries of remarkable history and architecture with all the conveniences of modern technology. In the middle of vibrant Old Town Prague, you’ll experience an enclave at the edge of the Vltava River, just steps from the Charles Bridge.
Though competition in the five-star sector has heated up, the Four Seasons luxury chain is keeping up, with renovations to the modern wing of the hotel—there are three buildings in all; the modern structure is joined by existing buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries—outfitting rooms with flat-screen TVs, Eames desk chairs, a herringbone-patterned carpet and more. It’s classic Four Seasons throughout: exceedingly comfortable beds and pillows, stellar views of the Castle and Charles Bridge, and formal, conscientious service. CottoCrudo, the onsite restaurant, serves a great cocktail and an all raw menu paired with an all hot or cooked menu. The Four Season’s team even put together an special anniversary dessert that was waiting for us upon our arrival!
EAT + DRINK
LA FINESTRA: One of Prague’s hottest tables, La Finestra is the meaty counterpart to its sister restaurant Aromi, right down to the wooden tables and brick walls. Catering to local gourmands and boldface names, this restaurant lives up to the hype. Waiters display an array of freshly caught fish that comprise the day’s specials—and they also do the same with meat, including dry-aged cuts flown in from Italy.
Complimenting this array of protein are fried chickpeas and fresh foccacia to nibble on and expertly crafted, al dente pastas like my husband’s selection of Rigatoni Amatriciana with sweet onion purée and crispy guanciale—caramelized onions and bacon always seem to be a winning combination! We also enjoyed Rocket salad with tropical fruits and pecan nuts, topped with matured buffalo cheese—just like we were back in California with Green pea soup, spring mushrooms sautée, ham and parmigiano croquette—I actually though I might be eating something healthy seeing the Spring green coloration. We also love their bottega next door where we frequented breakfast and a picnic lunch!
LA DEGUSTATION: At Czech restaurants, traditional frequently implies heavy. Fortunately, the chefs at the simply stylish La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise prepare their Bohemian tasting menus with a lighter touch. Each of the six courses is preceded with its own amuse-bouche, so allow at least three hours for a meal here. But time flies thanks to the original fare, which is based on recipes from an 1880 Czech cookbook. Expect the likes of smoked beef tongue with chickpea puree and pickled shallots, and garlic beef tartare under a crusty pastry. There are also real surprises, like a gelatinous tomato meringue that melts to release honey and balsamic vinegar. We went for the wine pairing which allowed us to really experience the region’s varietals.
SANSHO: Owned and run by Paul Day, a former sous-chef at Nobu London who started his Asian culinary education as a butcher in London’s Chinatown, Sansho shuns Prague’s Old World traditions of stiff, formal dining. Instead, this small restaurant offers communal seating on benches and serves its dinners family-style—while à la carte options are offered at lunch, only one tasting menu is available for dinner, creating an informal, neighborly atmosphere quite unlike anything else in the Czech capital. The result is a small-scale revolution in Prague’s dining scene. Sansho is the first to serve anything like pork belly and watermelon salad. After the soft-shell crab sliders on fluffy rice buns dressed with peppery wasabi cream, after the fresh asparagus salad with tangy lime, aromatic mint and a blast of fiery chile, you’ll ask yourself, “When, exactly, did we leave Prague?”
GEORGE PRIME STEAK: George Prime Steak is the premier, quintessential American-style steakhouse located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town neighborhood. From the selection of the highest quality beef to the way it is presented—these guys know steak. The restaurant also boasts the freshest seafood, chef driven entrees, an extensive collection of Californian wines, handcrafted classic cocktails, and two private rooms, each designed for different dining experiences. We snuck in just before our visit to the symphony and had handcrafted cocktails, a lobster chopped salad and cheeseburger—simply scrumptious!
GROSSETO: You don’t have to splurge at expensive places like Kampa Park for regal dining vistas over Charles Bridge or Prague Castle. For the price of a pizza or pasta, you can sit on the deck of Grosseto Marina, anchored off the Vltava River. And on a warm summer evening, there’s almost no nicer place in town to take in the cityscape. The quality of the food is surprisingly good, especially when the kitchen and the staff aren’t too harried by the crowds. Understandably, you’ll have to book well in advance to secure one of the coveted deck-top tables. We rested our feet over a couple of cocktails while people watching and taking the magnificent view.
BAKESHOP PRAHA: We love this place!An American-style bakery and café counter that feels just like being in New York, Bakeshop Praha sells familiar U.S. favorites, from avocado BLTs to entire pumpkin pies. Though it gets crowded during peak lunch hours, there is indoor seating—and the space, with penny-tiled floors, ornate ceiling moldings paired with a wonderful modern spider-like fixture, has real a retro charm. Takeaway sandwiches, giant cookies and good coffee make it easy to grab-and-go option, too. We enjoyed the asparagus soup, a chicken kabob with cilantro and a mushroom quiche, which they have seemed to have perfected!
TOUR + DO
CHARLES BRIDGE: Commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, Prague’s most stunning bridge spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. The bridge’s 1,700 ft. of cobblestone are used for wholly temporal purposes, however. Each afternoon, painters and hot-dog vendors fight for space with — and custom from — the hordes of tourists who are themselves elbowing one another for the best views of the Vltava River. If you arrive at dawn, you’ll beat the crowds and enjoy a glorious sunrise.
PRAGUE CASTLE: Roughly the size of seven football fields, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Built and renovated during 13 centuries, the complex includes churches, gardens, alleyways and royal residences that would take days to appreciate. Don’t miss the St. Vitus Cathedral. In addition to Art Nouveau stained-glass windows and a wooden depiction of the crucifixion, it houses treasures like the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk — a blinding two-metric-ton vault that is held up by an army of silver angels.
PRAGUE SPRING MUSIC FESTIVAL: The 2014 festival introduced innovative programming features due to cooperation between Prague Spring and the festival’s Artistic Council led by Jiří Bělohlávek. One of these innovations established a new tradition – a debut concert for a conductor under the age of 32. The festival’s Artistic Council entrusted the first concert—of which we attended—to Pavel Trojan Jr., a talented conductor and composer who is also largely responsible for the interest of the younger generation in Prague Spring through the project “Blossom of Prague Spring.” There is a certain degree of symbolism in his engagement. The program is unusually attractive—introducing himself in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 was the outstanding pianist Roman Rabinovich, a winner of the Rubinstein Piano Competition. We were so thrilled to be able to support two young, talented artists while in Prague.
OLD TOWN SQUARE: Despite a number of foreign invaders, Prague’s Old Town Square has remained virtually untouched since the 10th century. Today’s marauders consist largely of tourists who congregate to eat alfresco while admiring a hodgepodge of architecture — including the Rococo Kinsky Palace, the Gothic Tyn Cathedral and the Baroque St. Nicholas Church, to name a few. An ever-changing cast of musicians, protesters, dance troupes, punks and vendors make the square as colorful as the buildings that surround it.
MANUFAKTURA: This shop features Czech folk craft and traditional wooden toys as well as a cosmetic brand-name, MANUFAKTURA—offering an attractive range of products for home spa. These stores are exceptional for inventive merchandising, gift packaging and original decor in a spa atmosphere. Quality staff, who is regularly professionally trained and who can provide customers with gift ideas is certainly an added perk. We left the store checking several gifts off of our shopping list.
PRAGUE MUNICIPAL LIBRARY
Known variously as a Book Tunnel, Book Wormhole, and Book Vortex, but officially titled “Idiom” by Slovakian-born sculptor and artist, Matej Kren, is installed in the Prague Municipal Library. Created in 1988, it is a column of books that were either donated or saved from landfill and striking to step in, look up and enjoy!
APROPO: This shop offers everything form furniture, lighting, textiles, carpets, fragrance and dishes to soaps and candles. Well lit and perfectly merchandised, you may just want to move to Prague so you can furnish your space in their wares. The shop is in a great location just on the skirt of Old Town surrounded by other design and antique shops.
PARIZSKA: These days the most fashionable address in Prague is the aptly-named Pařížská or Paris Street. Located in Old Town near the Jewish Quarter, Paris Street is home to the top designer shops in the world. On this beautiful tree-lined street linking the Old Town Square with the Čechův Bridge, all the best names in design have popped-up including Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Fendi, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, and Gucci.
DEBUT GALLERY: A small gallery on Malé Náměstí in the middle of the Old Town Prague, Debut offers a collection of the most interesting contemporary designs by Czech artisans. Beautiful original pieces can be found from clothing to jewelry and decorations—all very minimalistic with clean and unique styling. I left with a very cubist like pair of earrings and a quirky bust ring made of porcelain—all specific to Prague!