June, summer, finally. Prague awakens with the season change. I’ve been waiting for the warmth and sunshine all these months. Winters tend to be cold, dark with the last bits of daylight disappearing as early as 4 pm. Summer is different. Days are long, warm, and the city literary invites you to explore its streets and neighborhoods.
Pražské Náplavky begin to boom at the start of May. Organizers of events test the weather and slowly get the population out of their winter shells; myself included. On a weekly basis, various events are held along either side of Vltava River. Wine and cheese tastings, barbecue evenings, farmer’s markets, live music, and others are in their full swing as long as the weather permits it. I mean, you want to be there.
I go at least once a week because; being outside, with a drink in my hand, a plate of delicious food in the other, surrounded by interesting people from all over the world is as close as to my natural habitat as it can be. Imagine a melting pot by the river. The best part? The view of the Prague Castle at golden hour. There’s nothing quite like that.
Once I am by the river shore, cannot help but venture out for a walk at one of the three Prague river islands, which are all near the city center: Kampa, Slovanský, and Střelecký island. Each island is different and unique but these are the things they have in common: plenty of space and grass to stretch out in the sun, sit by the river, drink beer, and rent out a boat or a šlapadlo. With friends, all of these are immediately more fun.
Spending afternoons off in the city’s countless beer gardens is a national pastime. Even though I do not drink beer (gasp), I happily participate with a glass of wine instead. Parks all over Prague bloom with green trees and flowers; become crowded with young and old, families and singles, couples and friends alike. Riegrovy Sady, Letná Park, Kampa Park, Stromovka, and Petřínské Sady are the most popular of places to spend some time in nature in Prague. With a friend, a book, and your favorite beverage, there’s nothing else to want in the world. The suntanning spot in Riegrovy Sady with the city’s panoramic view is a definitive favorite.
The soul of Prague can be discovered while chilling in a park or a pub, but there must be balance in everything. An active way of discovering and exploring Prague is to put on your most comfortable shoes and walk until you can’t anymore.
Walking around Prague
Everything is easy in Prague: drinking amazingly affordable beer (plus, it’s the best in the world); eating excellent food; getting to major sightseeing spots (which are mostly free); finding a park with a bench to relax on; moving around on public transport; getting from one side of the river to the other, and most magnificently: it’s easy to cover a lot of ground by just walking around. The entire city center can be covered on foot with enough breaks in between and a smart journey plan.
My usual start is at Národní Třída where Original Coffee offers excellent coffee to fuel me up for the journey. With a coffee in hand, you can walk toward the National Theatre and explore the streets immediately surrounding it. Knihovna Václava Havla and the Globe are two notable institutions that I don’t mind stopping by any time when in the neighborhood. After crossing Most Legií, the Kampa Park is right there to be explored. This is the park of my childhood and walking through it brings back beautiful memories. Along the river, there are a few spots to take a break, grab a bite, and admire the Charles Bridge.
A secret passage will reveal itself on the left-hand side near the park’s center. This little street leads to the famous John Lennon Wall. The area is usually crowded with tourists, and with a good reason: the John Lennon Wall has been represented the struggle for freedom and the resistance of young Czechs since Lennon’s murder in 1980. Today both locals and foreigners flock to the Wall to make their own contributions with messages of peace and love. Despite numerous attempts to whitewash the Wall, it remains as colorful and striking as ever.
Past the John Lennon Wall, towards the east, I usually head to Újezd in the direction of St. Nicholas Church in the Lesser Town. The baroque church in Prague is just as impressive as it is unassuming. As construction lasted over a hundred years and spanned three generations of architects, St. Nicholas Church is one of the valuable baroque buildings north of the Alps and together with Prague Castle it completes the panoramic images of any travel photographer.
At Malostranské Náměstí, I head upward through Nerudova Ulice, which has always been my favorite street in Prague. Lined with little stores, coffee shops, and boutique hotels, it is unlike any other street in the city. I take my time as I ascend the cobblestones, fully immersing myself into the culture. At the top, Prague Castle welcomes me with its grandiose atmosphere, guards standing erect and busloads of tourists taking photos of the view. Exploring Prague Castle makes for quiet, contemplative moments. St. Vitus Cathedral shocks with its majestic outlook and one can’t help but venture inside. A little bit farther down, the miniature Zlatá Ulička contrasts everything surrounding it, making it a memorable experience for both adults and littles.
Descending the stairs from the Prague Castle, another angle of the city’s panorama reveals itself. Prague is a beautiful city, even more so in the summer when shocks of green appear throughout all over. After crossing the river once more towards the Rudolfinum, I find myself streets away from the Old Town Square. For a traditional Czech lunch or dinner, Kolkovna is my choice; only steps away from the Astronomical Tower. The best thing to do is quench thirst with a pint of beer or a homemade lemonade, which is almost as popular in the summer.
After a break, I circle around the Old Square Town, admiring its historical beauty which doesn’t cease to impress, even after all these years. Street musicians and performers collect in the center, seeking the attention of crowds.
Take photos of everything; I always do, even though Prague is everything but unknown to me. This city will never wear off my heart; it clings to me with a warm familiarity and friendliness. Prašná Brána and Obecní Dům are located not a long walk from the Old Town Square. In near proximity of the Municipal House, Cacao Prague offers delicious scoops of in-house-made ice cream and healthy acai bowls. I cannot recommend this place enough to anyone who is even remotely interested.
Conclude the day in the neighborhood’s Dlouhá Street with a couple of drinks at any of the numerous bars and clubs that line the cobblestone street. Summers in Prague are my favorite for the never-ending nights, spectacular sightseeing spots, and historical classics that remind me on a daily basis why I chose to return to the heart of Europe.