Old Town, Prague

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Staré Město

The 12th century Charles Bridge, a link between Old Town and Lesser Town, is so popular there are occasionally people-to-people pileups from one end to the other. For that reason, it’s best enjoyed at sunrise when you’re sure to meet canvas- or camera-wielding artists at work.

Arguably the city’s most famous attraction is the much-touted Astronomical Clock Tower. Crowds gather at the top of each hour in anticipation of its rotating rings, moving figures and chiming bells. Though the finale may underwhelm you, the artistry—and the fact that it’s survived Prague’s violent history—makes it worthy of attention.

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Dabble Savvy

365 traditional Czech names are carved onto the outer ring of the lower face. Czech natives celebrate their Name Day with small gifts such as chocolates or flowers.

A Guide to Old Town Prague

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Featuring prominently in Old Town Square is the bronze Art Nouveau fountain, a memorial to protestant reformer, Jan Hus. In the background, the shell-pink Kinsky Palace where Czech native Franz Kafka attended prep school.

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While people watching often takes precedence over sightseeing in Prague’s busy main square, Staromestské Námestí is home to a number of worthy sites. The imposing Gothic construction of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Tyn Church) with its not-quite-identical towers dominates Prague’s Old Town Square.

Shop

Hit the shops in nearby Ungelt Square which has a branch of contemporary glassware store Material as well as Botanicus, a Czech institution for lotions and potions. Nearby Dlouh Street is one of my favourite shopping destinations.

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Eat

Toasty warm, this traditional Slovakian treat (trdelnik) is dusted with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Look for open stalls or bakeries selling this perfect late afternoon pick-me-up.

Passersby are tempted by the cinnamon sweetness of trdelnik, a traditional pastry made daily in bakeries across the city.

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Stay

Four Seasons (Veleslav.nova 2A). If perfection is desired, look no further than this renowned chain where the setting, service and amenities are unsurpassed. Book an evening meal at Allegro to enjoy riverside views and the award-winning cuisine.

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Kimberley takes time out from filming to pose before heading out with CityTV’s CityLine cameraman Patrick Reynolds on the unusual seven-seater bike.

Beer Pressure

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At one popular joint known humbly as The Pub I encountered my first experience with “Beer Pressure”. The Pub has a large screen TV that tracks consumption at each table, against other pubs throughout the country. The bartender and other diners (let’s be honest, they were drinkers not diners) encouraged me (by way of derisive shouts and stares) to drink more beer and not allow our pub to look weak. I caved.

“To suggest Czechs are obsessed with beer (pivo) is akin to saying a human being is obsessed with breathing—it’s an instinct.”

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Popular Pubs

U Zeleného Stromu (Bel.msk. n.mesti 6)
If it’s a warm day, head to the outdoor garden patio.

U Medvídku (Na Perstýne 7)
There’s a brewery and a small gift shop with kitschy beer merchandise like pilsner lotion. It also has an outdoor patio where you can enjoy a plate of sausages, mustard and sauerkraut for about $7, including beer.

U Vejvodu (Jilsk. 4)
A popular Old Town destination.

Living in Old San Juan

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Extending a warm greeting, after a day’s work at the hospital, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez assures me he feels more like a ‘Carli’ than a ‘Dr. Gonzalez’ as he unlocks the door to his Old San Juan apartment. He offers chilled Medalla, the local brew, and talks passionately about his charming apartment, its tiled courtyard and the rare neighbourhood he calls home.

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“When you live in Old San Juan, everyone comes to you,” says Carli. And why wouldn’t they? “It’s a magical place that’s brimming with history and, unlike any other city in Puerto Rico, you can walk everywhere in the Old Town. In fact, on weekends, I rarely use my car.”

When you live in Old San Juan, everyone comes to you.

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1-2-3 Days in Prague

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“Once you’ve exhausted your comfortable walking shoes, take the reins of a horse drawn carriage and explore Old Town and New Town with a private guide.”

Day 1

MORNING While you’re fresh, head to the top of the city and begin your day at Prague Castle. There are a dozen noteworthy buildings and sites.

NOON Nearing lunch time? Head to the Strahov Monastic Brewery. Afterwards, take time to enjoy the Theological Library and gift shop.

AFTERNOON When it’s time to head back down the hill, take a stroll along popular Neruda Street. You may want to take a short detour to see John Lennon’s Peace Wall if you are not going to spend additional time in Lesser Town during your stay.

EVENING Make a reservation at Hergetova Cihelná (Ciheln. 2b) where the riverside seating and passing boats provide a moving dinner show.

Day 2

MORNING Start early in the Jewish Quarter as it’s easy to spend a full day touring exhibits.

NOON Stop for a quick lunch at King Solomon Restaurant (Širok. 7/37) which touts itself as ‘Madonna’s very own kosher bakery’ and then continue strolling down Parížská where, with cash in hand, you may be able to do more than window shop.

AFTERNOON Rent a bike from Praha Bike Tours and Rental for an afternoon tour around the city’s sites. Afterwards, stop at a local pub, like U Vejvodu, for a hard-earned pilsner.

EVENING You simply must take in a concert to fully appreciate Prague’s immersion in the classical arts. Kimberley’s picks? The more intimate venues of Lichtenstein Palace, home of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts, or the Neo-Classical Estates Theatre.

Day 3

MORNING After so much sightseeing you may be ready for a leisurely day of shopping. The term bohemian is synonymous with individual style and that’s what you’ll find on Dlouhá Street. Start with a visit to Coffee Fellows (20 Dlouh.). Great coffee and decadent pastries should fortify you for the day ahead.

Still have energy to shop? While Palladium (n.mest. Republiky 1) is a huge indoor mall with more than 200 stores, the real fun is shopping Prague’s lively streets—Na Prikope, U Prasné brány and Mostecká.

EVENING After a day on your feet, book passage on the Jazz Boat which docks near Cechuv Bridge on the Old Town side. Enjoy a peaceful cruise up the Vltava River with live music to serenade you.