48 Hours in Prague
Winter lends an atmospheric charm to the beautiful and historic Czech capital as it gears up for the festive season. By Harriet O'Brien.
Why go now?
If you need a timely excuse to visit one of the world's most beautiful cities, try this: because Prague's magical array of spires, domes, cobbled streets and graceful bridges look magnificent in the haunting winter daylight, and indeed in the city's striking illuminations thereafter. What's more, two weeks from now, the capital of the Czech Republic gets into festive mode: Christmas markets are held in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square from 1 December to New Year's Day, with Czech choirs adding atmosphere most afternoons.
The widest choice of flights from across the UK is offered by easyJet (0871 244 2366; www.easyjet.com), with services from Gatwick, Stansted, Belfast, Bristol, East Midlands and Newcastle. British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Gatwick; bmibaby (0871 224 0224; www.bmibaby.com) from Birmingham, Manchester and East Midlands; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; www.jet2.com) from Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds/Bradford and Manchester; Czech Airlines (0870 444 3747; www.czechairlines.co.uk) from Heathrow, Stansted and Manchester; Flyglobespan (08712 710 415; www.flyglobespan.com) from Edinburgh and Glasgow; and Thomsonfly (0870 165 0079; www.thomson.co.uk) from Bournemouth and Doncaster.
Prague's Ruzyne airport is 20km north-west of the city centre. The cheapest way into town is to take bus 119 (departing every 10 minutes between 4.25am and 11.40pm) for Dejvicka station (1) at the start of the green Metro Line A; the ticket costs 20 crowns (Ck20/ 52p). Large luggage is charged at Ck10 (26p) per item on public transport. Taxis cost Ck600-800 (16-21), if you pre-pay at the stand outside the exit from Customs. To the right are stalls for slightly cheaper "hotel shuttle" taxis costing from Ck440 (12) for up to four people.
Get your bearings
Prague is majestically set astride the Vltava river. On the right bank is the original medieval hub, the Stare Mesto (or Old Town). Immediately above this is the Jewish quarter amid elegant early 20th- century avenues. South and east of the ancient core is the Nove Mesto, or New Town, actually founded in the 14th century and now the main commercial quarter. Across on the left bank, Prague's vast castle, with the cathedral (2) at its heart, dominates the north- west skyline. Between these mighty landmarks and the river lies the Mala Strana, "Little Quarter", crammed with Baroque mansions and cobbled alleyways.
The most central tourist information office (3) is at the Old Town Square (00 420 221 714 444; www.pis.cz; open 9am-6pm daily, except weekends to 5pm). It lies behind a pink faade in part of the old town hall and next to the city's ornate, 15th-century astronomical clock, which offers a mechanical parade of figures on the hour from 8am to 8pm.
Well-located just outside the remaining Gothic gate to the Old Town, the Hilton Prague Old Town (4) at Celnici 7 (00 420 221 822 100; www.hilton.com) opened just a couple of weeks ago after a refurbishment in Czech cubism style (a major influence on the Art Deco movement). This 305-room hotel presents the city with a bold new gourmet experience: Gordon Ramsay's "maze Prague", a sister outlet to the British chef's "maze" restaurants in London and New York. Doubles are priced at $299 (214) excluding breakfast, though specials are often available.
For a smaller design option head for Dum U Tri Capu (The House of the Three Storks) (5) on the left bank near the Baroque church of St Nicolas at Tomasska 20 (00 420 257 210 779). Inside this late 18th- century building are 20 bedrooms where clean lines and funky furnishings combine to give a comfortably chic look. Doubles start at $270 (192) including …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: 48 Hours in Prague. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 17, 2007. Page number: 12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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