Prague is a beautiful city with more than enough to keep you busy as a tourist. If you have ticked the main sights off your list or you want to do something a bit different how about discovering the best kept secrets in Prague? You may know about some of these, but they are not high up on most peoples “to do” list.
The best kept secrets in Prague
An underground world
Did you know that beneath the town is another city? In the 13th century, Prague was much lower than it is now. The new city was built on its foundations. In many cases what you think of as the ground floor is actually the first floor. As you stand admiring the astronomical clock there is another world beneath your feet connected by a series of underground tunnels. The entrance is through a locked door under the clock. Underneath the building, many of the catacombs and chambers have been restored. These include a courtroom, a dungeon which was mostly used for prisoners whose religious beliefs were not acceptable at the time and alchemist’s laboratory. There are numerous tours available, but this one is free.
The Dancing House
The Dancing House lies on the banks of the Vltava River. It was inspired by the iconic 30’s – 40’s dance partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The stone tower symbolises Fred while the glass tower represents Ginger. The bits sticking out of the top of Fred’s tower are meant to be his hair. The designers coined the term “New Baroque” to describe its style. The dancing shape is held up by 99 concrete panels, each of which is unique. It has a restaurant in the building with a terrace offering a fantastic 360° degree view of Prague.
This is a fun piece of art with a much deeper meaning. The Cracking Art Group is a group made up of 6 international artists. Their mission is to send a message to the world about the dangers of climate change and the urgency for our positive action to protect the environment that we live in.
The 34 penguins can be found, standing in a line, on the banks of the Vltava River near Kampa Park and light up at night. They are marching in protest of what is happening to their home in the Antarctic due to global warming. They are made from recycled water bottles recovered from landfill sites. Not only does this send a message, but something beautiful has been made from recycled waste.
Eat local food
Being a foodie I just had to include this. La Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise in the old town offers a tasting menu dedicated only to Czech food. Its inspiration comes from a 19th-century recipe book that was found in a junk shop. It is an interesting concept and a taste of the real McCoy.
If you don’t have the time for a leisurely meal then as you wander through the lanes of the old town be on the lookout for goulash, a thick, hearty stew flavoured with loads of spicy paprika rather than the milder sweet paprika used in the Hungarian version. Why the difference? Well, naturally because the spice is better suited to the Czech beer. Don’t be surprised when you are served a whole load of bread, scooped out, with the stew inside it.
The narrowest street in the city
Once you have crossed the Charles bridge you are in the Mala Strana or Lesser Town. The main square has been the heart of this district since the 10th century carefully guarded by the St. Nicholas church. Most visitors skip this part of town, but there is so much to see that you could happily spend a day just wandering around the pretty cobbled squares and exploring the hidden lanes.
Would you believe that the narrowest street in Prague is just 50 cm wide? It’s so small that it has a traffic light installed to stop people colliding in the middle. It’s called Vinarna Certovka if you want to search for it, look in this part of the city. How’s that for one of the best kept secrets in Prague?
Žižkov TV Tower
The tower was once voted the second ugliest building in the world in an online poll conducted by the website Virtual Tourist. In a bid to improve its appearance ten fibreglass babies crawling up the tower were added by the controversial Czech artist David Cerny. It is quite a bizarre installation in my opinion, but you will have to visit to see for yourself. You can also climb to the top of the tower for some stunning views of Prague.
The Žižkov neighbourhood also has the highest concentration of bars per capita in case you’re thirsty after your climb.
When you visit the castle be sure that you buy a ticket that includes a visit to the Golden Lane. There are 11 houses that have been restored to show what life was like for the artisans that lived here from the late 15th century until the 1900’s. I was astounded at just how small they were.
Rudolf II built these colourful houses originally for the marksmen who protected the castle. According to legend, Rudolf housed some of his alchemists here who were tasked with changing base metals into gold. This might be the origin of the name “Golden Lane”. By the end of the 18th century, most of the residents were craftsmen and goldsmiths. The oldest house in the street no 20 that looks exactly the same as it did in the 16th century.
I know that I said seven things, but this is an indulgence just because I thought that they were an attractive sight. You know the story about why there are locks on bridges around the world so I am not going to bore you. These can be found at the Čertovka pedestrian bridge next to the John Lennon Wall. I also noticed a few springing up on the railings to the right of the Charles Bridge.
How many of the 7 best kept secrets did you know about? Do you know any others that I have missed? Drop me a note in the comments. I would love to discover more of Prague’s secrets.
If you enjoyed this post please Pin it!