ES­CAP­ING ASIA

With fairy-tale fea­tures, Bo­hemian al­lure and some su­perb nightlife, Prague is the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for a Euro­pean city break.

Asia Dreams - - CONTENTS -

Visit the ex­otic far­away lands of Prague, with its fairy-tale fea­tures, Bo­hemian al­lure and su­perb nightlife, and Aus­tria's heaven on earth in Zell am See-kaprun.

Prague, The City of a Hun­dred Spires is the cap­i­tal of the Czech Repub­lic and one of the most pop­u­lar city-break des­ti­na­tions in Europe. The city is bi­sected by the wide and me­an­der­ing Vl­tava River and is fa­mous for its in­cred­i­bly well-pre­served baroque ar­chi­tec­ture, open plazas and gothic churches. But there's more to Prague than his­tor­i­cal build­ings, it has got a vi­brant nightlife, ex­cel­lent food and is home to some of the best art and mu­sic in Europe.

GET­TING THERE AND GET­TING AROUND

By Train: Train tick­ets can be eas­ily pur­chased in ad­vance via the in­te­grated Euro­pean rail tick­et­ing sys­tem. Prague is con­nected both east and west and less than two hours to Dres­den and just four hours to Ber­lin and Vienna.

By Air: Vá­clav Havel Air­port Prague is 10km from the cen­tre of Prague and a hub for Euro­pean low-cost car­ri­ers such as Easyjet and Vuel­ing and in­ter­na­tional car­ri­ers like Emi­rates and Lufthansa.

In Prague: The Prague Pub­lic Tran­sit Com­pany runs buses from T1 and T2 and there are am­ple tax­ies. Once in the city use taxis or the metro. With plenty of pedes­trian zones too, get­ting around is easy. City maps are avail­able just about ev­ery­where.

HO­TELS

The ac­com­mo­da­tion choice in Prague is a mix of lo­cal hos­tels, bou­tique ho­tels and in­ter­na­tional brands. Asia Dreams picks in­clude Golden Well Ho­tel, Ho­tel Paris Prague, Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Prague and just a few min­utes' walk from Charles Bridge our favourite, the mar­vel­lous Alchymist Grand Ho­tel & Spa.

Stun­ningly fur­nished and dec­o­rated in the Bo­hemian style, the Alchymist Grand Ho­tel & Spa makes full use of its baroque de­sign, in­clud­ing the arches of its 11th cen­tury cel­lars. Found in the Unesco­pro­tected baroque land­mark, the House of the In­fant Je­sus, the cur­rent build­ing dates back to the 16th cen­tury and is a sim­ply sen­sa­tional des­ti­na­tion.

MUST SEE

The city is burst­ing with must-see land­marks and his­tor­i­cal build­ings. Start at Prague Cas­tle, the largest an­cient cas­tle in the world and home of Miloš

Ze­man, Pres­i­dent of the Czech Repub­lic, be­fore head­ing down into the Old Town.

The cas­tle is vast and in­cludes the gothic St. Vi­tus Cathe­dral, ro­manesque Basil­ica of St. Ge­orge, the Na­tional Gallery col­lec­tion of Bo­hemian baroque and man­ner­ism art, the Prague Toy Mu­seum and the pic­ture gallery of Prague Cas­tle based on the col­lec­tion of Ru­dolph II (1552 - 1612), plus a monastery and sev­eral smaller palaces.

From there head down to­wards the river through the nar­row cob­bled streets and to­wards Charles Bridge. This is one of the most fa­mous river cross­ings in Europe and one with a bloody his­tory. To­day, rather than protests, it at­tracts street artists and tourists in seem­ingly equal num­bers. Con­struc­tion be­gan in 1357 but its av­enue of 30 baroque stat­ues was not added un­til 1683, cre­ated by the most prom­i­nent Bo­hemian sculp­tors of the time, in­clud­ing Matthias Braun and Jan Brokoff. As you cross on the far bank, to the right you will see the Muzeum Bedřicha Smetany whilst to the left is the Charles Bridge Mu­seum.

Once on the east bank head into the

Old Town, Staré Město, and dis­cover the Old Town Square and the roads sur­round­ing it packed with gal­leries, bistros and sou­venir shops, and a wealth of in­cred­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture. It's here that the Old Town Square Hall Astro­nom­i­cal Clock, now over 600 years old, can be seen. The clock chimes the­atri­cally ev­ery hour, an event wit­nessed by thou­sands ev­ery day. The square is dom­i­nated by fairy-tale 14th cen­tury Kos­tel Panny Marie Pred Tynem, an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­am­ple of gothic ar­chi­tec­ture. Staré Město is also fa­mous for its tra­di­tional Easter and Christ­mas mar­kets, which see even more mer­ri­ment than usual.

Walk­ing through the Old Town brings you to Wences­las Square, the cen­tre of new Prague and scene of some of the coun­try's most dra­matic re­cent his­tory. At its head sits the statue of St. Wences­las, where in 1918, Alois Jirásek read the procla­ma­tion of in­de­pen­dence. The square is dom­i­nated by the mon­u­men­tal Na­tional Mu­seum built by ar­chi­tect Josef Schulz be­tween 1885 – 1891 and which still car­ries the bat­tle scars of the Soviet era.

BARS & RES­TAU­RANTS

Lo­cal food is a mix of cen­tral and east­ern Euro­pean in­flu­ences and is of­ten eaten with the fa­mous lo­cal beers. Prague has an ex­cel­lent selec­tion of in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Czech in­flu­enced fine-din­ing op­tions and highly rec­om­mended is the tast­ing menu at Chef Tomáš Císařovský's Port­fo­lio Restau­rant. Lo­cated on Lan­nův Palác, not far from the Na­tional Mu­seum, book­ing is highly rec­om­mended.

For a truly mem­o­rable Prague ex­pe­ri­ence we sug­gest din­ing in the 12th cen­tury cel­lars of Restau­rant Bílý Koníček. Helmed by Chef Mar­tin Opršal, the restau­rant fo­cuses on tra­di­tional Czech cui­sine with an em­pha­sis on fresh and qual­ity sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents. There's live mu­sic ev­ery night cre­at­ing a uniquely Czech at­mos­phere. The roast pig is sen­sa­tional! Prague is awash with bars, from tra­di­tional inns serv­ing beers, pret­zels and good food, to snazzy cock­tail and speakeasy bars. For good clas­sic cock­tails, the Hem­ming­way Bar is one of the best and stocks over 200 dif­fer­ent rums in def­er­ence to Ernest Hem­ming­way's pas­sion for the spirit. For some­thing more con­tem­po­rary, check out Bugsy's Bar, a trendy cock­tail bar that's been turn­ing out qual­ity pro­hi­bi­tion-style cock­tails for al­most 20 years.

NIGHT LIFE

DANCE: Like most cities in Europe the club scene in Prague is su­perb. One of the most pop­u­lar clubs is ROXY, with its ware­house vibe, spe­cial­is­ing in trance. The MECCA Club, a three-floor mag­net for some of the world's lead­ing DJS is more up­mar­ket. Cul­ture: Vis­i­tors will come across clas­si­cal mu­si­cians play­ing on just about ev­ery street cor­ner but for a truly spec­tac­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence it's worth tak­ing in an opera, a clas­si­cal mu­sic per­for­mance or bal­let at the State Opera House, the Na­tional The­atre or any num­ber of other stunning venues.

ED­I­TOR'S PICK: The Kar­lin Mu­si­cal The­atre is a stunning nou­veau baroque build­ing con­structed in 1881 and first used as a cir­cus. To­day af­ter a some­what tu­mul­tuous his­tory, the fan­tas­tic the­atre plays host to some of the most sig­nif­i­cant mu­si­cals and op­eras ever scored. Show­ing through 2017 are Car­men, Drac­ula, Je­sus Christ Su­per­star and Aida. czech­tourism.com

The Cis­te­rian Con­vent in Brno

Astro­nom­i­cal Clock in the Old Town Square Karl­stejn Chapel Vaults

Charles Bridge at Dawn Tra­di­tional Roast Pork with Beer Roxy Club in the Old Town

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