Steeped in history and showcasing an enchanting array of architectural styles, Prague has long been known as a fairytale destination of red tiled rooftops, historic squares and scenic bridges crisscrossing the Vltava River. Old Town Square, Prague Castle and the Jewish Quarter remain among the city’s top UNESCO-protected attractions, but Prague’s burgeoning restaurant and design scene have also been gaining well-deserved recognition. Ambitious new chefs and artists are reinterpreting classics in food and form, their energy and creativity palpable throughout the city. Indagare contributor Tanvi Chheda brings back the latest intel on where to stay, eat and shop in the Czech capital.
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Close to the Vltava River, the 157-room Four Seasons Prague melds four different buildings—in Baroque, neo-Classical, neo-Renaissance and Modern styles—into one luxury property, and its river-facing rooms have some of the best views of the Charles Bridge in all of Prague. The hotel also operates a private riverboat, allowing interested guests to see the city (and the Vltava’s resident swans) from the water. In medieval Mala Strana, the storied Augustine, a Luxury Collection hotel, comprises seven buildings built around a 13th-century Augustinian monastery. The 101 rooms each have vaulted ceilings and marble baths, but the three-story Tower Suite is one of the most sought-after in the city. Four friars are still in residence here and have occasionally been known to share a glimpse of their library and living quarters with lucky guests. In the past, the monks also brewed a delicious beer on-site. Though no longer produced here, the Saint Thomas beer can be sampled in the hotel’s cellar bar or in the Refectory. Guests should be sure to visit the Wallenstein garden, located just behind the hotel. Also in Mala Strana, the 99-room Mandarin Oriental feels elegant and tranquil, with some of the largest rooms in the city. Opt for one of its special suites: one is decorated with Moser crystal throughout, while another displays artwork from the Lobkowicz Collections, the oldest and largest private art collection in the Czech Republic.
For repeat visitors looking to experience a night away from the city, Château Mcely is located only an hour outside Prague. Perched on a hilltop surrounded by forest and a tiny village, the 25-room château offers a peaceful contrast to the bustling Czech capital. Dedicated to sustainable practices, the property has a zero-waste kitchen in its award-winning Piano Nobile restaurant, and herbs grown on the property appear in the food and cocktails, as well as the spa products. If you’re looking to splurge, try the St. George Herbal massage treatment, which uses nine local flowers, and spend the night in the nearly 4,000-square-foot Legend Suite.
Czech food has evolved significantly in the decades following the Velvet Revolution, and Prague’s dining scene is currently flourishing thanks to innovative restaurants, such as Lokal, a communist-era pub with delicious beer, and the upscale Eska, which is housed in a converted factory in the Karlin district and received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2018 (try the burnt potato in ash with potato espuma, grilled chicken and cabbage with gooseberries, and zemlovka, a bread pudding with plum and vanilla cream—and spiked with rum). Like other European capitals, Prague is known for its café culture, which visitors should embrace. Stop by Café Savoy, a bright Art Nouveau-style eatery near the Vltava River, during the early morning hours when the place is quiet, or perhaps join the buzzy scene that develops by midday. Along Vodickova Street in New Town, Mysak is a beautiful patisserie dating back to 1911 that serves exquisite cakes. Also popular among locals is Café Lounge, a café by day and wine bar by night. At Cukrar Skala bakery, treats include the traditional Czech pastry of poppy seed and cherry kolache. Prague’s Michelin-starred offerings include La Dégustation, where elevated Czech cuisine is paired with rare wines in a stunning dining room, and the more contemporary Field, offering such dishes as pattypan squash with pear and blue cheese and sika deer with elderberry and truffles.
From the centuries-old tradition of glassmaking in Bohemia to young creatives currently experimenting with jewelry and fashion, Prague’s reputation for producing beautiful handcrafted art endures. Dating back to 1857 and based out of Karlovy Vary in the western Czech Republic, Moser is often referred to as “the king of glass and the glass of kings,” since its pieces have been used by many royals around the world, including the Austrian court. At its Prague flagship, alongside bowls and glasses, the colorful collection stands out for its bold design. Preciosa produces gorgeous chandeliers and lighting fixtures: its Maria Theresa chandelier was first created in 1724, but some of the brand’s more contemporary styles can be found in luxury hotels across the globe. During the early 20th century, Czech architects and artists applied Cubist designs to housewares, furniture and lighting fixtures. Design fans can browse originals as well as new pieces at Kubista, located on the ground level of the House of the Black Madonna designed by Czech architect Josef Gocar.
The city has also welcomed a new crop of design stores showcasing jewelry, fashion, furniture and more, often with a minimalist aesthetic. Close to the river, the recently-opened Deelive is a 2,000-square-foot showroom featuring modern glassware by Dechem, jewelry by designer Hana Polívková (who has her studio upstairs), soft pink leather backpacks by Ether and bamboo charcoal soaps and serums by Ushuaya. Tucked away along Elisky Krasnohorske Street in the Jewish quarter, Gallery Novesta houses more than 30 Czech and Slovak fashion labels, along with its namesake Novesta canvas and rubber sneakers. For Czech-made gifts and souvenirs, visit pint-sized Lipa, where the selection includes jams, chocolates, children’s toys, porcelain plates and linen placemats with leaf motifs (“lipa” means “linden tree,” the country's national tree, in Czech).
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Though all travelers to Prague should see the Castle complex, St. Vitus Cathedral and the synagogues of the Jewish quarter, there are also several museums worth visiting. After a three-year, $11 million renovation, the Museum of Decorative Arts reopened its doors with a new garden and restaurant. Its collection includes glass, ceramics, graphic art, jewelry, clocks, textiles, furniture and toys, but the building alone is a worth a visit to see the Italian Renaissance interiors by architect Josef Schulz. On Kampa Island, former mills have been transformed into the Museum Kampa, housing modern artwork from the 20th century. Czech modernist Frantisek Kupka figures prominently in the museum’s collection, along with other Central European artists.
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