Prague is the equal of Paris in terms of beauty. Its history goes back a millennium. And the beer? The best in Europe.
A working-class area north of the centre, Holešovice is short on sights and good restaurants, but has some emerging art galleries and trendy clubs. Letná park is on the extreme western end.
Smíchov, south of Malá Strana, is a former industrial area that has seen a recent boom in office and luxury hotel construction. The area has few sights but lots of pubs. Vyšehrad, south of Nové Město, is a leafy residential area, dominated by an ancient castle said to be where Prague was founded.
Vinohrady (literally 'vineyards') is one of the city's most desirable residential neighbourhoods, known for its excellent restaurants and fashionable bars and cafes. Adjacent Vršovice is not quite as sophisticated, though parts are slowly gentrifying.
Žižkov is one of the city's liveliest districts, with more bars per capita than any other part of Prague, and home to two prominent, communist-vintage hilltop landmarks: the TV Tower and the National Monument. Karlín, to the north of Žižkov, is undergoing massive redevelopment, but along Křižíkova is an up-and-coming area with lovely art-nouveau buildings.
4 Nové Město
The 'New Town' – new in the 14th century, that is – wraps around the Old Town, and finds a focus in the broad, historic boulevard of Wenceslas Square. Its sprawl of mostly 19th- and early 20th-century buildings encompasses important museums and galleries, impressive architecture and the city centre's main shopping streets.
The 1989 Velvet Revolution that freed the Czechs from communism bequeathed to Europe a gem of a city to stand beside stalwarts such as Rome, Amsterdam and London. Not surprisingly, visitors from around the world have come in droves, and on a hot summer's day it can feel like you’re sharing Charles Bridge with half of humanity. But even the crowds can’t take away from the spectacle of a 14th-century stone bridge, a hilltop castle and a lovely, lazy river – the Vltava – that inspired one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of 19th-century classical music, Smetana’s Moldau.
Prague's maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards is a paradise for the aimless wanderer, always beckoning you to explore a little further. Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square you can stumble across ancient chapels, unexpected gardens, cute cafes and old-fashioned bars with hardly a tourist in sight. One of the great joys of the city is its potential for exploration – neighbourhoods such as Vinohrady and Bubeneč can reward the urban adventurer with countless memorable cameos, from the setting sun glinting off church domes, to the strains of Dvořák wafting from an open window.
2 Malá Strana
Malá Strana (the 'Little Quarter') is a charming district of Renaissance palaces and gardens, with an idyllic riverside setting. It is home to the beautiful baroque Church of St Nicholas, the elegant Wallenstein Garden and museums of music and modern art, as well as many excellent restaurants and bars. Prague's scenic centrepiece, Charles Bridge, links Malá Strana to Staré Město on the far side of the river.
Art All Around
Prague's art galleries may not have the allure of the Louvre, but Bohemian art offers much to admire, from the glowing Gothic altarpieces in the Convent of St Agnes, to the luscious art nouveau of Alfons Mucha, and the magnificent collection of 20th-century surrealists, cubists and constructivists in the Veletržní Palác. The weird and witty sculpture of David Černý punctuates Prague's public spaces, and the city itself offers a smorgasbord of stunning architecture, from the soaring verticals of Gothic and the exuberance of baroque to the sensual elegance of art nouveau and the chiselled cheekbones of cubist facades.
Where Beer is God
The best beer in the world just got better. Since the invention of Pilsner Urquell in 1842, the Czechs have been famous for producing some of the world's finest brews. But the internationally famous brand names – Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar – have been equalled, and even surpassed, by a bunch of regional Czech beers and microbreweries that are catering to a renewed interest in traditional brewing. Never before have Prague's pubs offered such a wide range of ales – names you'll now have to get your head around include Kout na Šumavě, Svijanský Rytíř and Velkopopovický Kozel.
Why I Love Prague
By Neil Wilson
How can you not love a city that has a pub with vinyl cushions on the wall above the gents' urinal, so you can rest your head while you 'go'? Where you can order a beer without speaking, simply by placing a beer mat on the table? And where that beer is probably the best in the world? But it's not just exquisite ale and a wonderfully relaxed drinking culture that keep bringing me back to Prague – there's wit and weirdness in equal measure: a public fountain where two figures pee in a puddle, spelling out literary quotations; a 1950s nuclear bunker hidden beneath a city-centre hotel; and a cubist lamppost. Quirky doesn't even begin to describe it.
3 Staré Město
Staré Město – meaning ‘Old Town’ – is the historic heart of medieval Prague, centred on one of Europe’s most spectacular town squares (Old Town Square, or Staroměstské náměstí). It is home to some of the city's most iconic sights, including the Old Town Hall Tower, the Astronomical Clock, the Municipal House and the Prague Jewish Museum. The maze of cobbled streets and narrow alleys leading away from Old Town Square is perfect for exploring.
Bubeneč and Dejvice are adjoining residential neighbourhoods north of the Old Town. Considered the city's most prestigious address, Bubeneč has nice hotels and a few good restaurants scattered about. Within its boundaries is the city's largest park, Stromovka.
The tourist hotspot of Prague Castle is perched on a hilltop above the Vltava River, with the attractive and peaceful residential area of Hradčany stretching westward to the Loreta and Strahov Monastery. Hradčany became a borough of Prague in 1598, after which the Habsburg nobility built many palaces here in the hope of cementing their influence with the rulers in the castle.