When you stroll around the center in the summertime you might begin to wonder where all the Czechs are. Well, they might just be enjoying themselves in Letna Park. Praguers go here all year round to walk dogs, jog, roller skate, skateboard and, during the summertime, also for a beer after work and sun-tanning. Letna is a real Czech historical landmark: where you now see the gigantic Metronome, until 1962 there was a 15m monument to Stalin, and in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution it’s been the theater of the biggest demonstration, attended by nearly a million people.
| Namesti Miru
In spite of its central location, Namesti Miru (Square of Peace), is another one easy to miss spot in Prague. The beautiful neo-gothic church of Saint Ludmila by Josef Mocker at the center is surrounded by a nice garden. On one side of the square is the beautiful Art Nouveau Vinohrady Theater. The escalators of Namesti Miru’s metro station are the longest in Prague, taking more than 2 minutes to climb to the top.
| Cubist lampost
Right in the middle of tourist Prague, tucked away in a corner behind the big Bata building in Wenceslav square (Vaclavske namesti), is the only cubist lampost in the world, designed in 1913 by the cubist artist Vatislav Hofman; something you can definitely brag about with friends.
Wim Winders made Paris, Texas and Vratislav Pasovsky brought some french charm to Prague when in 1891 he designed a replica of the Eiffel’s tower to be placed on the top of Petrin’s hill in occasion of the Jubilee’s Exhibition. Despite the many entrances to Petrin hill, my favorite place to climb it is from the entrance near Ujezd, at the border between Prague 5 and Mala Strana. From here you walk past the ceramic museum and follow the path passing in front of some fountains and artificial falls to get to a big contemporary fountain where, if you made it thus far, you might want to enjoy some well deserved rest. On the same side of the hill, going in the direction of the funicular are some ruins from which one can enjoy one of the best views of Prague Castle.
| Vysehrad: the other Prague Castle
The hill of Vysehrad is where Prague was born. Dominating Vysehrad is the beautiful neo-gothic Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul that, thanks to a clever lighting, makes for a truly enchanting view at night. Next to the church is Vysehrad’s cemetery where many famous Czechs, including Alfons Mucha, Capek, and the composers Dvorak and Smetana, have their final resting place. The view from Vysehrad’s garden on a nice summer evening can be spectacular: with the glittering lights reflecting on the river’s surface and the tram-line passing under a very old tunnel in the mountain.
| Cerny’s horse
Probably millions of people pass by it every year, yet very few notice it. Those who do don’t miss the chance to snap a picture at this odd statue beautifully framed by Lucerna’s decorated roof, just off Wenceslav square. The author of this piece is the controversial artist David Cerny and the sculptur mocks the equestrian monument of St Wenceslav, patron of Czech Republic.
Despite its fame and tourist guide coverage, this building, being outside the main Prague tourist routes, is one that doesn’t get many visitors. Nicknamed Ginger and Fred and designed by the canadian architect Frank Gehry, its construction was subject to much controversy, due to it being a modern building in an otherwise late 19th century setting. For what it’s worth i think it contributes to the charming and fairy-tale atmosphere that Prague can express. Nowadays the building is rented out to some multinational companies and its roof is home to Celeste, a fine french restaurant.
| Palackeho namesti
Just a couple hundred meters from the Dancing House is one of my favorite squares in Prague: Palackeho namesti. The square in itself is nothing amazing but the statue at its center is incredibly haunting and dramatic especially if you have the luck to enjoy it against a gray cloudy sky. The man at the center is of course Frantisek Palacky; around him double headed deamons, a beautiful female fallen angel and other figures in a setting that reminds of the Apocalypse. The statute, in Art Nouveau style, was designed by Stanislav Sucharda.
Of this short list I saved the best for last. Would you have thought that, tucked away in Prague 7 you could have seen the famous Picasso self-portrait, several Braque paintings, Van Gogh, a huge Klimt, a collage by Guttuso and some incredibly good Czechoslovak arists such as Kupka, Schikaneder, Panuska, Mucha? My recommendation is to skip the top floor and go directly to the meat of the museum (the 3 middle floors, plus the Slav Epic room) where all the best stuff is kept. Veletrzni Palac could easily be the best gallery in Prague… if only people knew about it!