Prague is the equal of Paris in terms of beauty. Its history goes back a millennium. And the beer? The best in Europe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Lonely Planet
Berlin’s combo of glamour and grit is bound to mesmerize anyone keen to explore its vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, intense parties and tangible history.
High on History
Bismarck and Marx, Einstein and Hitler, JFK and Bowie, they’ve all shaped – and been shaped by – Berlin, whose richly textured history stares you in the face at every turn. This is a city that staged a revolution, was headquartered by Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited – and that was just in the 20th century! Walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall, marvel at the splendour of a Prussian palace, visit Checkpoint Charlie or stand in the very room where the Holocaust was planned. Berlin is like an endlessly fascinating 3D textbook where the past is very much present wherever you go.
Berlin is a big multicultural metropolis but deep down it maintains the unpretentious charm of an international village. Locals follow the credo ‘live and let live’ and put greater emphasis on personal freedom and a creative lifestyle than on material wealth and status symbols. Cafes are jammed at all hours, drinking is a religious rite and clubs keep going until the wee hours or beyond. Size-wise, Berlin is pretty big but its key areas are wonderfully compact and easily navigated on foot, by bike or by using public transport.
Why I Love Berlin
By Andrea Schulte-Peevers, Writer
Berlin is a bon vivant, passionately feasting on the smorgasbord of life, never taking things – or itself – too seriously. To me, this city is nothing short of addictive. It embraces me, inspires me, accepts me and makes me feel good about myself, the world and other people. I enjoy its iconic sights, its vast swathes of green, its sky bars and chic restaurants, but I love its gritty sides more. There’s nothing static about Berlin: it’s unpredictable, unpretentious and irresistible. And it loves you back – if you let it in.
When it comes to creativity, the sky’s the limit in Berlin, Europe’s newest start-up capital. In the last 20 years, the city has become a giant lab of cultural experimentation thanks to an abundance of space, cheap rent and a free-wheeling spirit that nurtures and encourages new ideas. Top international performers grace its theatre, concert and opera stages; international art-world stars like Olafur Eliasson and Jonathan Meese make their home here; and Clooney and Hanks shoot blockbusters in the German capital. High-brow, low-brow and everything in between – there’s plenty of room for the full arc of cultural expression.
Forget about New York – Berlin is the city that truly never sleeps. Sometimes it seems as though Berliners are the lotus eaters of Germany, people who love nothing more than a good time. The city’s vast party spectrum caters for every taste, budget and age group. From tiny basement clubs to industrial techno temples, chestnut-canopied beer gardens to fancy cocktail caverns, saucy cabarets to ear-pleasing symphonies – Berlin delivers hot-stepping odysseys, and not just after dark and on weekends but pretty much 24/7. Pack your stamina!
Source: Lonely Planet