Prague Travel Guide
As the unofficial social and cultural capital of central Europe, Prague’s Old Town is a beguiling mix of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, which gives the Czech capital its nickname, the City of a Hundred Spires. The city’s 280 museums are just the beginning of Prague tourist attractions, and residents certainly know how to have a good time, guzzling more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world. Located in one of central Europe’s most liberal nations, Prague is particularly renowned for its liberal attitudes and gay-friendly venues, so enjoy a midday stroll or a night-time romp through the Vinohrady district, a gay quarter with more than 20 bars and clubs proudly flying the rainbow flag. For your definitive Prague gay guide, you’ve come to the right place.
The best hotels in Prague
Let’s start this gay Prague travel guide with a roundup of the best hotels in Prague. Located on a quiet street in the city centre, the boutique Cosmopolitan Hotel Prague started life as a simple townhouse in 1889. The owners have brought it fully up to date while preserving its historic quirks, such as the original ceiling frescoes adorning the in-house restaurant called Next Door, which is headed by celebrity chef Zdenek Pohlreich. Meanwhile, the 59 rooms at The Emblem Hotel have been designed to maximize ease and luxury. The building places a particular emphasis on communal spaces, be it the comfy M Lounge, spa, or rooftop terrace, to put travellers at ease from the moment they step inside.
Less than five minutes’ walk from Wenceslas Square and right at the heart of the Prague gay scene, Deminka Palace has individually styled each room with an Italian flourish. Many rooms also feature a large kitchen area, giving you plenty of space to try your hand at traditional Czech cuisine. Also close to Wenceslas Square, the contemporary luxury rooms at BoHo Prague provide a classy and sophisticated base from which to explore all old Prague’s points of interest. On the opposite bank of the Vltava River, check out Remember Residence, whose clean-lined Scandinavian-style apartments offer an ideal romantic escape, thanks not only to their prime location between the river and the expansive Petrin Park, but also to little touches such as hammocks, sheep-skin rugs, and a mini-bar stocked with ice-cream.
Appreciate the most important sites from a new vantage point: the water
Things to do in Prague
The narrow cobblestone streets of Prague’s Old Town are endearingly walkable, but you can also appreciate the most important sites from a new vantage point: the water. Rent a boat to slip downriver beneath the Charles Bridge and through the heart of Prague’s tourist attractions for a relaxing—and unconventional—tour of the city. Day or night, as your sails fill with wind and your kerosene lamp flickers, take in Prague Castle, Zofin Palace, and the historic waterfront by row, pedal, or motorboat. Afterwards, dock your boat and unwind at Prague Beer Museum. In its thirteenth-century beer cellars, tour tastings trace the history of the brewing process from its monastic beginnings. The highlight is undoubtedly the chance to produce your own beer, custom bottle label and all.
Should you need time away from the city’s drinking culture, the tranquil surroundings of Strahov Monastery offer the perfect detox. Located behind Prague Castle and Petrin Park, the monastery was established in 1143, although the current building dates from the nineteenth century and is best known for its library of 16,000 books and 100,000 manuscripts. Dating back just as far is Prague’s obsession with puppetry; marionettes are thought to have entertained the tables of medieval royal banquets. Today you don’t have to be of royal blood to enjoy the spectacle, with the National Marionette Theatre staging regular adaptations of classic opera and plays. Their retelling of the Mozart opera Don Giovanni has surpassed an incredible 4,000 performances. If you’re visiting the city in November, you might instead opt to take in a screening at Mezipatra, central Europe’s largest LGBTQ film festival. Hosting 100 films, in addition to exhibitions, parties, and discussions with stars, directors, and filmmakers (many in English), this festival is a must for cinephiles.
Things to see in Prague
Don’t let the fact it’s a hill put you off exploring Petrin Park, the city’s lungs, especially as a funicular railway connects the Lesser Quarter with the summit. However you get there, you won’t be able to miss the Lookout Tower. Loosely based on the Eiffel Tower, it was constructed to celebrate the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891. On a clear day, it’s well worth climbing the 299 steps to the top for the views across much of the Bohemia region. Smaller but no less pleasant space, Vojan Gardens (Vojanovy Sady) was created around 1670, when the frescoed chapel of Saint Elijah was built in the unusual form of a stalactite-ridden cave. Open to the public since 1954, the park also boasts modern sculptures by important Czech artists such as Jan Kodet and Jan Kavan.
Tucked away in an ordinary side street opposite the French Embassy, the John Lennon Wall has become a focal point for the city’s street artists. An everchanging artwork, it began with the appearance of an image of Lennon after his 1980 murder and soon swelled to include Beatle’s lyrics and protest slogans. More recently in 2014, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the country’s Velvet Revolution, the whole wall was whitewashed except for the words ‘Wall Is Over’.
Without a doubt, one of the most important things to do in Prague is admired the intricate mechanisms of the Astronomical Clock, dating back more than 600 years to 1410. Located in Old Town Square on the southern side of the Old Town Hall, this stunning work of Renaissance craftsmanship is best appreciated during its hourly Walk of the Apostles automaton parade. While in the square, be sure to check out another of Old Town’s major attractions, the twin-towered gothic church of Our Lady before Týn, before heading to the historic Charles Bridge. Bedecked with statues of Catholic saints, the bridge has connected the two halves of the city for centuries, becoming one of the city’s icons.
The Michelin-starred La Degustation uses the traditional flavours of Czech cuisine as a base for the finest of seasonal ingredients
Where to eat in Prague
As far from the idea of heavy central European dishes as it’s possible to get, the Michelin-starred La Degustation instead uses the traditional flavours of Czech cuisine as a base for the finest of seasonal ingredients. It is as proud of its menu as it is its relationship with small-scale farmers, hunters, and even wine-growers. Also boasting a Michelin star, Field takes pride in its stylishly underrated interior, which creates a warm atmosphere. Its Scandinavian-inspired haute cuisine is matched by wine pairings that are unparalleled, particularly when opting for the ten-course evening tasting menu. Transition from Scandinavia to Provence with Bílá Kráva, which evokes the spirit of the French countryside from the moment you step across the threshold. With the largest selection of steaks in the city, it’s an ideal evening stop for those staying in and around the gay quarter.
The more casual dining experience can be enjoyed at Sansho, a pan-Asian establishment that opened in 2011 as Prague’s first whole animal restaurant, using cuts from nose to tail. Sourcing its meat solely from farms in the Czech Republic, its Asian ingredients are curated with equal care from the markets serving the city’s large Vietnamese community. Another great casual dinner choice is Eska, which marries the traditional and the modern, whether you’re looking for a relaxed breakfast, lazy lunch, or multiple course evening meal. Espousing the special Josper method of cooking is Nejen Bistro. The soft industrial restaurant has mastered this method, perfectly crisping dishes over charcoal. The lunch menu changes daily, and the à la carte menu changes as the seasons dictate. Natural seasonality is equally important to the stalls of Havelské Tržiště, the fruit and vegetable market on Havelská Street, which has expanded in recent years to include craft and souvenir stalls as well.
Shopping in Prague
Long gone are the days when fashion in Prague counted for little more than an ill-fitting leather jacket to keep the winter chill at bay. One of central Europe’s creative hubs, with a youthful population born after the fall of communism, contemporary Prague boasts a bevvy of stores offering more than the usual. Room by Basmatee collaborates with Czech graphic designers to produce its own line of T-shirts and canvas bags, in addition to stocking products by the likes of Sixpack France and Volta footwear. For the city’s biggest choice of denims, head to Denim Heads, a concept store stocking rare jeans alongside experimental pieces of porcelain, and which is just as welcoming to visitors seeking a coffee or a beer. However, the city’s largest concept store vending sustainable fashion and interior décor is undoubtedly Vnitroblock. The 2,000m2 floor space hosts live DJ sets and weekly workshops, while there’s also a small cinema, café, and even a dance school.
Sustainability takes on a different look at the quirky Skoba, located in the trendy Žižkov district. It’s a must-visit for any bibliophile or souvenir-hunter thanks to its range of original handmade diaries, notebooks, and sketchbooks, all created from upcycled plastic bags, newspapers, and clothes. One of the country’s more traditional products is glassware, and the Rony Plesl Studio creates exquisitely designed, limited edition pieces of art made from uranium glass.
For cocktails, Hemingway Bar is unmatched, inspired by cocktail-aficionado and author Ernest Hemingway
And now for Mr Hudson’s Prague gay scene guide. Prague’s Vinohrady gay quarter provides ample opportunities for a great night out. Though small, Saints Bar sits right at the heart of the action. Its welcoming ambience and low-key music make it ideal for enjoying a relaxed drink while quizzing the English-speaking barmen on what to do in Prague and the best of the local scene. Having a more local clientele and the vibe of a traditional Czech pub is Piano Bar. The music is a mix of international pop and local hits, with regular cabaret nights drawing in the crowds.
For cocktails, Hemingway Bar is unmatched, inspired by cocktail-aficionado and author Ernest Hemingway. Its drinks list includes its very own distillation of absinthe as well as more than 200 different kinds of rum, with which the bartenders show off their mixology skills. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails made from premium ingredients can also be found at Nightmare Prague Horror Bar, the first horror bar in the downtown area, which features a gothic interior and ever-changing spooky drinks menu. One of the city’s best-kept secrets is Dandy, a straight-friendly bar whipping up cocktails and exotic liquors, where you can enjoy casual seating both inside and out.
Within walking distance of Saints Bar is the stylish Club TerMIX, whose policy of free entry attracts young local LGBT clientele. The small dance floor gets particularly crowded after midnight on weekends, but Thursday night karaoke always draws quite a crowd. Escape the crowds at the chill out room upstairs or down the street at the nearby Klub 21. Also popular with LGBT locals, the bare brick walls of this quaint cellar bar are hung with artworks for sale, should you still be looking for that lasting memory of your time in the City of a Hundred Spires.
Photo: Clem Onojeghuo
Strahov Library | Photo: Jonathan Francisca
Photo: Peter Lewicki
Photo: Alejandro Alvarez