1. Walk: In the cobbled streets of the Staré Mesto, or old city, as well as the New Town (built in the 14th century and baroque times), you can see Prague’s rich history for free – Charles Bridge lined with religious statues, Old Town Square with medieval, Renaissance and Baroque buildings and churches galore. Visit early or late in the day to avoid the teeming tourists, especially on Charles Bridge, which spans the wide Vltava river. When I visited at sunrise, there were already several brides and grooms posing for photographs.
2. Avoid: Don’t go to the big chain cafes with their terrible coffee. Instead, eat at the charming Savoy restaurant, which serves some of Prague’s best coffee and pastries. Or go to Tricafe near Charles Bridge for terrific coffee, cakes and food. Or visit Café Louvre, one of Prague’s oldest cafes, which opened in 1902.
3. Cross: Walk over Charles Bridge to the picturesque Lesser Town on the left side of the river and see David Cerny’s statues beside the Franz Kafka museum and his giant baby sculptures at Kampa contemporary art museum. Take your markers to the John Lennon wall, where protesters painted homages to The Beatles in communist days, and leave a message of peace and love.
4. Visit: At the communist museum you can hear about life under the dictatorship from 1948 to 1989 when the Russians drove out the Nazis who had occupied Czechoslovakia since 1938. The Russians stayed and established a secret police with over 200,000 informers to spy and report on family, friends and workers. The museum documents the harrowing 41 years that included sending anyone suspicious to labour camps, the Prague Spring uprising and the Velvet Revolution.
5. Ride: Take the funicular up to Pražský hrad, Europe’s biggest castle, to visit the 600-year-old St Vitus Cathedral. Its collection of gold ecumenical treasures studded with precious stones is a must-see. Walk through the palace buildings and parks, including Golden Lane, to see the colourful miniature houses of the workers.
Monumental view ... clockwise from above, Charles Bridge at sunrise; colourful baroque buildings; traditional pastry, known as trdelnik, filled with ice-cream for a modern twist; medieval astronomical clock.