Nicknamed the “City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague is internationally famous for its rich, one thousand-year history and Gothic architecture. In this amazingly well-preserved old city, however, visitors may bump into many quirky, odd and modernist sites that stand out amongst the spires.
At the Franz Kafka Museum, get inside the mind of the man who wrote one of the most memorable first lines of literature – “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” Located in the heart of Prague, not far from the famous Charles Bridge, the Kafka Museum delves into the life of this literary great of Prague, who is famous for his existential, occasionally nightmarish works as well as his dark humour.
The exhibition features most of the first editions of Kafka’s work, which includes The Metamorphosis and The Trial; letters, diaries, manuscripts, and photographs; 3D installations and five audiovisual pieces and soundtracks created specifically for the museum. One of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Franz Kafka even earned his very own adjective: something that is horrendously complex, bizarre or illogical is said to be “Kafkaesque.” Look it up in the dictionary if you don’t believe us.
Find the Franz Kafka Museum at Cihelná 635/2b, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic.
Don’t worry, if you’re not quite ready to take to the floor at Prague’s (in)famous five-storey nightclub Karlovy Lázně, you can take in the graceful figure of the Dancing House, the photo-worthy postmodern building designed by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry.
Completed in 1996 on a WWII bombing site, the Dancing House stands out dramatically among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is known. Its curvy outlines make the building appear somewhat distorted, as though one is viewing it through a funhouse mirror. The leggy left tower seems to lean casually against the right tower, in a static/dynamic contrast that Milunić envisioned as representing Czechoslovakia’s transition from a communist regime to a parliamentary democracy.
Though officially the Nationale-Nederlanden building, “the Dancing House” has proven to be a much more enduring and evocative name for this architectural oddity.
Find the Dancing House at Jiráskovo nám. 1981/6, 120 00 Praha 2, Czech Republic.
After you’ve experienced the unconventional Dancing House, you might be ready for the sculptural installations of David Černý. A Czech native, Černý first came into the public eye for painting a Soviet tank pink. Since them he has risen in fame, consistently creating conspicuous, often controversial works.
You can admire his work in front of the Franz Kafka museum, where two mechanical men urinate onto a map of the Czech Republic. Elsewhere in Prague, you can spot his “Tower Babies” climbing up the side of the Žižkov Television Tower, or Sigmund Freud hanging one-handed from a beam, or St. Wenceslas riding an upside-down horse suspended from the ceiling inside Lucerna Palace.
Give Peace a Chance
Visit the John Lennon wall, a constantly changing and evolving graffiti wall that is located just south of the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana. Though John Lennon never visited Prague, he and his music inspired the pacifist youth during the Communist era. After Lennon’s murder in 1980, his picture was painted on this once-ordinary wall. Over time the wall has been painted over again and again with Beatles lyrics and messages of love and peace.
Today, though the original portrait of Lennon is long painted over, the wall is a constantly changing canvas of colourful graffiti and designs. Even when Czech authorities have attempted to repaint the wall back to its original appearance, within a day the wall is again covered with poems, flowers and portraits of Lennon.
Find the Lennon Wall at Velkopřevorské náměstí, 100 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic.
How to Get to Prague
By far the easiest way to get to Prague from London is by air. Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways and Smart Wings all offer nonstop flights to Prague, some for as low as £51. Once you’ve arrived at Prague Václav Havel airport, public buses and the Airport Express bus line can get you to the city centre or nearest metro station. If you’re travelling with a lot of luggage or a large group, you can book a private or shared Prague airport transfer with Shuttle Direct, which will await you at the airport.
Where to Stay
Hostel Downtown – Only a ten-minute walk from the historic Old Town Square, this colourfully decorated hostel gives you the perfect opportunity to meet your fellow travellers and relax with a pint of Prague’s hometown beer, Pilsner Urquell. Hostel Downtown offers daily free tours and activities with its friendly and enthusiastic staff.
Old Town Square Apartments – At 400 metres from Old Town Square, Old Town Square Apartments’ location is hard to beat. Wake up to a city view in one of these bright and airy apartments, and spend the day exploring some of the nearby historical monuments, theatres, restaurants and shops.
Grand Hotel Bohemia – If you’re looking for luxury during your stay in Prague, opt for the Grand Hotel Bohemia. With its magnificent curving facade, grand old-style dining room, and stunning city views, the Grand Hotel Bohemia invites you to spoil yourself in Prague.