Prague is one of my favourite places to visit, and every time I come, I wish I could stay longer.
I decided to celebrate my first proper holiday in three years by booking myself into a hotel rather than an Airbnb. I love the space and freedom of having a whole apartment to myself, but I just fancied not having to wash my own towels or take out my own bins. I wanted somewhere central, within walking distance of the parts of the city I wanted to explore, and I wanted something fancy. We’re talking courtyard restaurant, massive beds, and at the very least some sort of suite. I have high expectations.
The hotel I went for was a 2 minute walk from Old Town Square and a camel’s spit from Palladium shopping centre. Why was proximity to a mall a selling point for me, you ask? Well if you’re as *coughcough* organised as I am and you forget to pack crucial items like tights, toothpaste, a phone charger and shampoo, you can mosey over to grab them at ten to 9 at night when you arrive.
Just joking. I’d never forget tights.
I stayed in the Grand Mark Hotel on Hybernská, and loved it. My bed was ridiculously comfortable, I had a decent sized sofa to throw my clothes on, and there was enough space to pretend I regularly do yoga in the morning. Oh, and there were insouciant headless statues guarding every floor, which is always a bonus.
Loving Hut (Nové Město)
I met a Twitter friend for lunch at Loving Hut, and filled up on a huge plate piled high with cauliflower fritters, vegan schnitzel, black bean rice, Singapore noodles, braised aubergine and a tofu curry. We chatted about how veganism has become so big in the city in the past few years; Prague now has more vegan and vegetarian restaurants than anywhere else in Europe – including Berlin!
The Prague branches of this chain are different to the one I visited last year in London; there are no menus, and food is served cafeteria-style. Your plate is weighed before you pay, and it’s some of the most reasonably priced food I’ve ever had.
World of Vegan, a plant-based health food shop, is located in the same building. I stocked up on chocolate to stash in my bedside table and a few boxes of robi, a popular plant-based protein similar to seitan. I also hit up the vegan cheesecake and smoothie vendor on my way out.
Loving Hut: Na Poříčí 25, Praha 1
Lego Museum (Nové Město)
Exploring a city with friends can be different from wandering around on your own. After lunch I met up with an old friend from high school and their partner for a wander around the city. Their kids wanted to go to the Lego Museum, and let’s be honest, I kinda fancied it too. This place has the largest collection in Europe of Lego models, vintage Lego from the dawn of time, a Star Wars room, and an incredible replica of the Charles Bridge that is impossible to photograph.
Lego Museum: Narodni 362/31, Praha 1
Doorways & Details
I’d say the sign of a patient friend is someone who will humour me as I stop and take photos of the most random things. Like doorways. Shop signs. A plaque. As a design nerd, my weakness is in the details, so I have a peculiar habit of stopping suddenly to admire a relief on a tobacconist’s door or an interesting archway.
Dancing House (Nové Město)
Every time I visit Prague, I’ll go to Frank Gehry’s “Dancing House” and just stare in awe; I even got a tattoo of it on my back a few years ago, because what says “architecture geek” more than having an actual building inked on your skin?
Gehry’s deconstructivist Nationale-Nederlanden building is more often known as the Dancing House because it resembles a pair of dancers; it stands amongst Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau structures in the surrounding neighbourhoods and was very controversial for its time. The design was a collaboration between Croatian-Czech Vlado Milunić and Canadian Frank Gehry in the 90s, and was set to be a cultural hub for the city. The construction is supported by 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and size, and must have been an absolute nightmare to build. No single beam in the entire structure is parallel to any other beam. It is incredible.
Dancing House: Jiráskovo námesti 1981/6, Praha 2
I love independent brands and retailers, and when I was last in Prague a couple years ago, I found a wee shop tucked away in the Old Town with the most fabulous selection of local designs, from clothing to accessories and homewares. I made a point of finding this place again. The company have since moved from Benediktská to their new location in Prague 7, which is thankfully not as far out of town as I thought. It’s probably only a 15-20 minute walk from their old place.
There is a huge selection of one-of-a-kind Czech and Slovak products for those who don’t quite fancy the cheesy souvenir shops in the centre of the Old Town. There is absolutely nothing wrong with some hand-carved marionettes, but I fear the three I already own are plotting to kill me. Many of the designers and makers here also use eco-friendly, ethical and upcycled materials, from handbags made of old seatbelts to hand-made notebooks and organic cotton t-shirts. Everything here is adorable.
Kuráž: Veletržní 48, Praha 7
Lehka Hlava (Staré Město)
This place is clearly hippie heaven; simple beakers of fresh flowers glow under the light of mushroom lamps, and I’m pretty sure they’re of the magic variety. The art covering the walls. The smell of lingering patchouli. Chilled out wee nooks to settle into a private dinner.
I knew what I wanted to try as soon as I opened my menu. Tafoie gras pâté of smoked tofu, barley miso and cashews, cranberries to start, and teriyaki noodles made with batatas (a kind of white yam-like root vegetable), baked pumpkin, pepper and fresh coriander. My drink of choice? Something called a “hot threesome”, a spicy drink of fresh ginger, maple syrup and fresh lemon.
Pate, REAL pate, is not something I ever thought about veganising. I’m going to sound like the most pretentious person in the world, but that umami flavour of the real thing is something I never thought could be recreated. Just one of those things.
Apparently I was wrong. That’s not umami, it’s just barley miso. That savoury tingle to your senses, that party in your mouth? That’s umam- I mean barley miso. This actually tastes like the real deal. Only without the metallic aftertaste and tinge of regret.
So I drank my “hot threesome”, and holy crap it’s spicy! That certainly cleared the cobwebs out, maybe even decluttered and reorganised a few boxes upstairs whilst it was there. Thick, hearty, and not for the faint of heart (or afraid of ginger). I will be making these aaaall winter long.
These noodles! I had sweet potato noodles in Canada once and I’ve never had them since because I didn’t know what the hell I should be asking for. Silky, slithery, perfectly slurpable glass noodles. The spaghetti of the glass noodle world, nay, the bucatini. Fucking delicious.
Next I’ll be heading to Brno to spend the day with my friends Terry and Anne, eating even more delicious vegan food, and causing the pedometer on my phone to nearly burn out with overuse. Join me then for more wanderings around the Czech Republic!