The Czechs have always been keen on sports and outdoor activities, and Prague’s extensive green spaces offer plenty of opportunity for exercise. Although hiking, swimming and ice hockey are the traditional favourites, recent years have seen a steady increase in the numbers of cyclists in the city as bike lanes and dedicated cycle trails have been introduced.
The Czech Republic is covered by a network of waymarked hiking trails, colour-coded and clearly marked on a range of excellent 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 hiking maps (turistické mapy). Prague has its share of trails – the Klub Českých Turistů (Czech Hiking Club) 1:50,000 map sheet 36, Okolí Prahy-západ (Prague & Around, West), covers the best in and around the city, including Beroun and Karlštejn.
For easy walks of an hour or two, you can head for the big parks and nature reserves – Stromovka in the north, Prokopské udolí in the southwest, and Michelský les and Kunratický les in the southeast – or follow the riverbank trails north from Prague Zoo to the little ferry at Roztoky, and return to the city by train.
A more challenging day hike, which takes in a visit to Karlštejn Castle, begins at the town of Beroun to the southwest of the city. From Beroun train station follow a red-marked trail east for 6km to the Monastery of St John under the Rock (Klášter sv Jan pod Skálou), situated in a spectacular limestone gorge. From here, continue on the red trail through wooded hills for another 8km to Karlštejn, where you can catch another train back to the city centre. Allow five hours from Beroun to Karlštejn.
Prague has a long way to go before it’s a cycling town comparable with big cities in Germany, or even Vienna. Nevertheless, there’s a group of hardcore cyclists at work promoting things like commuter cycling, extending bike paths and raising driver awareness. Their efforts are starting to bear fruit. Prague now has a relatively complete, if disjointed, network of bike paths – signposted in yellow – that criss-cross the city centre and fan out in all directions.
Recreational cyclists will probably be content just to putz around on one of the tours offered by the bike-rental companies. More serious cyclists should consider buying a good map, hiring a bike and hitting the outlying trails for a day or two. See www.prahounakole.cz (partly in English) for information.
The most popular bike trail is undoubtedly the riverside route that leads south from the city centre on the east bank of the Vltava River (waymarked A2); at Radotin you can cross the river and continue on a combination of signposted trails and minor roads to Karlštejn Castle (total 35km one way). Biko Adventures offers an excellent guided bike tour on this route, returning by train.
Another good route leads north along the Vltava in the direction of Germany, with a nearly complete trail as far as the town of Kralupy nad Vltavou (20km from Prague; it’s possible to return by rail). From here you can continue on back roads to Mělník. There are plenty of bridges and ferries to take you back and forth across the river, and some really great trails leading inland along the way.
There's also the Prague Circle (Pražské kolo), an 80km loop around the city limits (waymarked 8100 and A50).
Most large bookstores stock cycloturisticka mapa (cycling maps). One of the best ones to look out for is Freytag & Berndt's Praha a Okoli (Prague & Surroundings; 1:75,000), which costs about 157Kč. Another good choice is Z prahy na kole (Around Prague by Bike; 1:65,000), a series of five maps covering the city. Remember to pack water and sunscreen and always watch out for cars. Czech drivers, inexplicably, are rabidly anti-cyclist.
The Prague Marathon (www.runczech.com), established in 1989, is held annually in mid- to late May. It’s considered to be one of the world’s top 10 city marathons, attracting in excess of 10,000 entrants. There’s also a half-marathon, held in late March. If you’d like to compete, you can register online or obtain entry forms from the website.
Skating & Ice Hockey
With ice hockey probably the country’s most popular spectator sport, it’s no surprise that the Czechs are skate-mad. In winter, when the mercury drops below zero, sections of parks are sprayed with water and turned into makeshift ice rinks. In summer, ice skates are replaced with in-line skates and street hockey takes over, while the park trails and riverside cycle tracks are filled by whole families of rollerbladers. You can hire inline skates at Šlechtovka in Stromovka park.
Sparta Praha Ice Hockey
Czechs have an illustrious history in ice hockey, perennially placing at the top of the world rankings and regularly sending the cream of the crop to the North American National Hockey League. One of the top teams of the Czech Extraliga, HC Sparta Praha, plays its home games at O2 Arena. Tickets are usually available for matches during the regular season, which runs from September through April. Buy tickets online at TicketPortal (www.ticketportal.cz) or at the arena box office.