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Hidden Prague: An Insider’s Guide

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Its storied past, stunning architecture and exceptional beers have made Prague one of the world’s most visited cities. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera described it as ‘the most beautiful city in the world’, in spite of the ominous words of Franz Kafka: ‘Prague doesn’t let go. This little mother has claws’. But beyond its mystique, the Czech capital offers much more than first meets the eye.

THE STROLL

Explore the fashion district

Just down from the Old Town Square, Prague’s Dlouha Street and its surrounding side streets are where many of the city’s leading high-end fashion designers have set up shop. Klara Nademlynska has been offering beautifully tailored wares for women from a coveted spot front and centre on Dlouha since launching her first collection in 1998.

Just around the corner on V Kolkovne Street, Timoure et Group offers classic pieces and precise workmanship. You’ll also find Chatty, a label led by designers Radka Sirkova and Anna Tuskova, specialising in bespoke denim. At the Old Town Square, the corner Cartier shop marks the start of Prague’s most exclusive shopping street, Parizska, where the likes of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Prada, are set inside some of the most exquisite 19th century buildings in styles ranging from Art Nouveau to Gothic.

Klara Nademlynska: Autum/Winter Collection 2017

Dlouha 3, +420 224 818 769, klaranademlynska.cz, 10am-7pm (until 6pm on Saturdays)

V Kolkovne 6, +420 222 327 358, timoure.cz, 10am – 7pm (until 5pm on Saturdays)

Hastalska 21, +420 608 139 967, chatty.cz, 1pm-6pm (or by appointment)

THE DESIGN INSPIRATION

Visit a jewellery studio

Janja Prokic and Zorya are award-winning jewellery design studios willing to open up their inspiring workspaces to visitors by appointment. Prokic, who studied painting and sculpture and has lived in Prague since the early 1990s, produces ethereal pieces on the quiet first floor of a building commissioned by Rudolph II’s alchemist in the 16th century.

Meanwhile, Zdenek Vacek and Daniel Posta are the duo behind Zorya, taking it names from a pair of goddesses from Slavic mythology. The duo work with diamonds, pearls, cultivated crystal and flaxen rope, their creations featured from LA to Dubai.

Natural crystal formation by ZoryaJanja Prokic, Uhelny trh 9, +420 721 640 020, janjaprokic.com, by appointment

Zorya, Jana Zajice 40, +420 777 609 121, zorya.eu, by appointment

THE GALLERY

Kampa Museum

On the banks of the river Vltava in a converted mill, the Kampa Museum is home to an exceptional collection of 20th century Czechoslovak and Central European art. Living in exile in the 1940s, art patron Meda Mladek bought her her first piece from abstract artist Frantisek Kupka in his Paris studio. Mladek and her husband continued to collect art throughout the 50s and 60s in the US, when she finally began visiting to Prague once again to buy from artists not free to exhibit. Today, Museum Kampa is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of work by Kupka, sculptor Otto Gutfreund and other artists of what was once the Eastern Bloc.

For more Czech contemporary art, head to Veletrzni Palace, part of the National Gallery, set inside a stunning functionalist building with a tiered atrium reminiscent of a cruise ship.

Vladmir Skoda – Mysterium Cosmograficum – Johanes Kepler

Kampa Musueum, U sovovych mlynu 2, museumkampa.cz, 10am to 6pm, Monday through Sunday

National Gallery, Dukelskych hrdinu 47, +420 224 301 122, ngprague.cz, 10am-6pm (closed Mondays)

THE VIEW

Letna Park

A city set on several hills, Prague offers myriad points from which to soak in stunning views. But there’s one that locals agree is perhaps the best. Rising above the city on the left bank of the Vltava, Letna Park offers a panorama sweeping across Prague’s succession of bridges, the castle and the rocket-like TV tower. You can take in the view from various perspectives as you stroll along the tree-lined paths of the park. Letna Park is also home to a Neo-Renaissance chateau, the cast-iron Hanavsky Pavilion (originally designed for Prague Jubilee in 1891) and the modernist Expo 58 World’s Fair pavilion. At Letna beer garden, you can watch the city transform from day to night over a drink.

Letna park garden

Letensky Sady, Holesovice district, Prague 7

THE HEALTH BOOST

Unique local soaps

Helena Heinz‘s collection of special handmade soaps began as her masters thesis project at Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in 2008. Inspired by the shapes of smooth stones, Heinz concocted six palm-size soaps each individually wrapped in a package she calls Box of Chocolates. A note inside reads: “Oh, go on! Try them all! And without remorse!” Today, her independent label – simply named Soap. – features limited-edition soaps made with locally sourced organic ingredients. Heinz makes every bar, and its packaging, in her bright white studio and shop.

SOAP by Helena – photo courtesy of LidovkyNaplavni 9, +420 776 227 976, helenaheinz.com, Tues-Friday 1pm-5pm

THE DISCOVERY

Villa Müller

Prague’s architectural heritage isn’t just limited to the centre of the city, and some of its most distinctive treasures are worth going further afield to discover. Set on a slope in a quiet residential area just a short trip from Prague Castle is Villa Müller, a home in the shape of a white cube, with yellow window frames. Designed by legendary modernist architect Adolf Loos and completed in 1930, the multi-level villa is an exquisite example of Loos’ Raumplan style. In lieu of floors, he designed interconnected spaces at varying heights, organised around a central axis. He replaced walls with columns, ornamentation with strong materials like mahogany, Cipollino marble and pear wood. It’s open to the public as a museum, but be sure to book in advance.

Villa Müller, Nad Hradnim vodojemem 14, +420 224 312 012, muzeumprahy.cz, by advance reservation (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 10am – 5pm)

THE CULINARY FIND

Indulge in exquisite hot chocolate

Prague’s winters are conducive to long lingering visits in cozy spots with warming comfort drinks. Thick cups of rich hot chocolate are a coveted indulgence. Continuing a long tradition of attracting Prague’s elite, Café Savoy is a First Republic style affair featuring a gorgeous 19th century Neo-Renaissance ceiling that allows for much sipping and staring. Along with delicious breakfasts, the cafe offers two types of hot chocolate: Hot Chocolate Savoy, made with chocolate from the Dominican Republic mixed with warm milk, and Dessert Hot Chocolate Savoy, made with French Valrhona and served with cream.

Cafe Savoy, Vitezna 5, +420 731 136 144, cafesavoy.ambi.cz, 8am – 10:30pm (from 9am on the weekend)

THE SOUNDSCAPE

A night at the opera

Open since 1783, Prague’s Stavovske Divadlo, or Estates Theatre, is one of Europe’s oldest running theatres. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is hosting the premiere of Don Giovanni, conducted by Mozart himself in 1787. It also hosted the premiere of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito in 1791. Today, with its Neo-classical architecture preserved nearly in its original state, its grand interiors decked in mint green and cream, the Estates Theatre continues to include Don Giovanni as part of its regular repertoire along with a full programme of opera, drama, ballet and concerts. Since 1920, the Estates Theatre has been part of the National Theatre, but its old values are still evident in the inscription Patriae et Musis (‘To the Fatherland and the Muses’) above the entrance.

Estates Theatre, Zelezna 24, +420 224 901 448, narodni-divadlo.cz

THE OUTDOOR ESCAPE

Vrtba Garden

In the quaint Mala Strana district, a series of Baroque palace gardens hidden behind a gate off of Karmelitska street offer a refreshing and enriching escape from the city. On the UNESCO World Heritage list, Vrtba Garden is one Europe’s most charming. Set on a small, slopped plot on Petrin hill, the Italian style Baroque garden was designed between 1715 and 1720 by Frantisek Maximillian Kanka, who used the site’s distinctive shape to sculpt a multi-level terraced garden. At the lower level, a central, rounded fountain is bordered by an apiary and gallery hall featuring frescoes by Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner. Staircases and curved walls run throughout the symmetrical green space, including a two-wing staircase featuring ornate balustrades and a wall adorned with statues of ancient gods and bas-relief vases by Matyas Bernard Braun. The climb to the top is worth it for the breathtaking view.

Vrtba Garden credit: Tour PragueKarmelitska 25, +420 272 088 350, vrtbovska.cz, 10am – 6pm (April-October)

THE EDGY

DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

Although once a cultural centre of Europe, Prague lacked a contemporary art centre for many years. That changed in 2008, when entrepreneur Leoš Válka opened the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art on the site of a former factory. Today DOX has put Prague back on the international art map and been a key driver of the Holesovice district’s transformation into the city’s arts hub. With over 3,000 square metres of gallery space, along with a café and design shop, DOX is a provocative multifunctional cultural centre hosting contemporary art exhibitions, lectures and programmes aimed at provoking debate and critical reflection on modern social issues. On the rooftop, a wooden ‘airship’ created by leading Czech architect Martin Rajnis is DOX’s spectacular venue for readings and literary events.

DOX Centre of Contemporary Art. Credit: Welcome to PragueDOX, Poupetova 1, +420 295 568 123, dox.cz, Saturday-Monday (10am-6pm), Wednesday and Friday, 11am-7pm, Thursday 11am-9pm, closed Tuesdays

To discover more of Prague’s lesser known marvels, contact our Concierge team at InterContinental Prague

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