Walking around Prague on our own, we started from Old Town, crossed the Charles Bridge, climbed up to the Castle Hill neighborhood and back down again.
A day spent walking around Prague is about as fine a day a traveler might imagine. We’d hoarded this day, giving it no specific plans, guarding against all sorts of temptations, and when it came we were ready.
We were staying at the Clarion Hotel – Old Town using points on this trip, so our room was free. Its location felt ever so slightly out of the way, but this also served as a daily reminder: there was far more to modern-day Prague than we were going to see on this trip. Setting out from the Clarion (the starting point A on this map), we headed down Hradebni to Dlouha, which would angle our way in to Old Town Square.
Dlouha had been described as a “shopping street,” and there were a variety of establishments, high end and mid-range. We were taken with the antique stores whose wares awakened memories of dark fairy tales. There was an underlay of sadness with just a little danger in their energy. The traditional marionettes wore garish facial expressions, faded fixtures could have been looted from who knows where. Outside, the building facades were ornamented with Baroque details, but the flavoring was still medieval. Even a modern-day sculpture, In Utero by David Cerny, felt a bit threatening in its provocation.
We’d had a late breakfast before starting. As we lingered in front of a restaurant menu for curiosity’s sake, we were approached by an attractive couple who said, “Oh no, please don’t go there, too touristy.” Instead, we were invited to an early lunch with them at Katr, a block and a half away. We should have gone and had a coffee; I have a feeling it may have been a most interesting conversation. Instead we resumed our walk. Next time there is a serendipitous encounter, I’m going with it.
Prague’s Old Town Square has determined energy. It’s large, the center of things. A vibrant mix of Gothic and Baroque influences, it’s ringed by the Tyn Church, St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Town Hall, which has the famous Astronomical Clock. In the center is the Jan Hus monument.
There are numerous places to while away the hour before the astronomical clock strikes again. We wandered around in a rough circle before setting off toward the Charles Bridge.
When you’re walking around Prague, be aware the neighborhood gets a little rough in certain pockets between Old Town Square and the Bridge. This is one of the oldest parts of Old Town. There was a bit of mayhem here and there, and we saw our first gypsies on the approach to the bridge. King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor was the grandson of King Wenceslas, appointed by Pope Clement after an alliance with his father, King John the Blind. King Charles reigned over the Golden Age of Bohemia, and is regarded as the father of their country by the Czech people.
The Mala Strana, or “Lesser Town,” is the district just below the Palace across the Charles Bridge from Old Town. One of its main streets is Nerudova, named for Jan Neruda, the patriotic Czech novelist from the 19th century. You might like The Three Fiddles restaurant, which is located at Nerudova 12. The building was home to the Edlinger family of violin makers, whose instruments were played by Beethoven among others. We stopped at the restaurant in Zlate Podkovy Aparthouse (“F” on the map) for a hot drink and their famous roasted nuts.
Fortified for the climb to Novy Svet, our favorite street in Prague, we set off again, passing the beautiful Loreto, and then circling back toward the Castle.
Walking around Prague in the cold had done us for a loop when we found a little hidden gem: the Antique Cafe on Thunovska street in what is called the first step of the Lesser Town Castle (item J on the map). It’s a beautiful house dating back to the 15th century, when it was owned by a government official. Today, the atmosphere is cloistered and cozy. We lingered over frothy hot drinks and charged up our phones.
As the winter afternoon waned, we made our way back towards the Charles Bridge through other historic neighborhoods where diplomats live and embassies flank the government. In no time, we were back across the river and home again. Walking around Prague on this day was a great way to scratch the surface of a new favorite city.
Tips: Sandeman’s offers a free general walking tour of Prague, specific neighborhood tours in the Castle district and Jewish quarter, and even a beer tour. We chose to take a WWII specific tour a few days later, preferring this opportunity to wander about on our own. A Kauai friend who lived in Prague recommended additional restaurants and bars pinned on the map. While we didn’t have time to visit them all, they range from edgy club to traditional Czech atmosphere, so there’s something for everyone. This walking route took us a full day from about 10am until about 5pm. We stroll and stop, as you will want to do, too.