Beyond its grand monuments and rich history, there’s a rather quirky side to Prague that makes the Czech capital the kind of place that keeps visitors on their toes. Plenty of surprises await, like a bar that serves cocktails in garden gnome, and elevators that never, ever stop. Or how about the fact that you can soak in an entire tub full of ale at one of the city’s beer spas? And let’s not forget its infamous TV Tower, which has been declared one of the world’s ugliest buildings and features huge metal babies crawling up the side (not to be outdone by the larger-than-life crawling babies in Kampa park, which just might have inspired Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hit Baby Got Back).
For those wanting to experience the best of the city beyond its pastel facades and famous brew scene, here are some of the most unusual, quirky and fun things to do in Prague.
Globe Guide tip: There are so many cool places in Prague worth checking out that you could spend an entire week here and feel like you’ve still hardly scratched the surface—never mind all of the great day trips found just an hour or two outside the city. Air Canada Vacations makes booking a Prague holiday package easy, with its Prague Your Way package which includes flights from Canada, seven nights accommodation, some meals and airport transfers. Pricing starts at $1899 from Toronto and also includes three excursions (try to book the guided Prague city tour when you first arrive to get the lay of the land), and since there’s no set itinerary you’re free to explore as you please.
Ride up an endless elevator
One of the most crazy things to do in Prague is something that few tourists even know about: riding a paternoster lift, which is essentially an elevator that never stops. This contraption looks like a normal elevator, but is actually made up of several compartments that travel in a loop up and down the building without a door. That means users have to perfectly time their entrances and exits by quickly hopping in or out when the platform gets to their floor which takes some getting used to, and hopefully you won’t have your hands full with say, groceries, while trying to attempt this.
Despite the obvious safety concerns (production of the elevators ended in the 1970s) there are still quite a few paternoster lifts functioning in Prague. A couple found near the city centre include one in the city administration building Škodův palác across from the famous Statue of Kafka, and another in the building heading up to the Lucerna Rooftop event space.
Soak in a beer bath
Considering people in the Czech Republic are famously fond of beer, it’s no wonder they found a way to integrate the brew into bath time. There are a number of beer spas found throughout the country, including a handful in the capital where guests can experience the therapeutic benefits of a spa while simultaneously enjoying happy hour.
The concept sees guest soak for half an hour in a wooden tub filled with–you guessed it–beer, then relax for another 20 minutes on a straw bed or heated lounger to allow the nourishing ingredients found in the combination of brewer’s yeast, water and hops to absorb into their skin. Benefits are said to include increased circulation and metabolism, softer hair, and treatment of skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. Oh, and there just so happens to be a personal keg within arm’s reach of the tub, so you can fill your belly with beer at the same time.
Even those who prefer wine over ale are sure to love this experience, which is surprisingly relaxing and definitely makes your hair and skin feel better if you soak long enough. Thanks to its novelty factor, this is definitely one of the more weird things to do in Prague! Click here to book
Marvel at a dancing tower
Think the iconic Charles Bridge is the city’s most photographed landmark? Turns out Instagrammers prefer a different spot: the Dancing House, found just a few blocks away.
Inspired by the fast-footed skills of film couple Fred and Ginger, this concrete hotel is one of the top Prague attractions thanks to its incredible design which is meant to symbolize a ‘dance over the end of totalitarianism.’ Found at the corner of Rašín’s waterfront and The Square of Jirásek, renowned architects including Frank Gehry joined forces to create this masterpiece where a stone tower represents a dancer, side-by-side with a glass tower meant to mimic a female partner. You’ll likely have to butt elbows with a selfie-stick wielding crowd to capture a shot in front of it, then can head inside to the restaurant which has a 360° view of Prague. Click here to book
Dine in a cave
There are only a few places in the world where you can dine in a cave, and Prague is one of them. In the lower level of the Adria Hotel in Wenceslas Square, there’s a quirky spot called Triton Restaurant that’s just as well-known for its ambiance as it is for Michelen-trained chef Tomas Horak’s culinary prowess.
Based in a stalactite cave, the art nouveau decor adorning the craggy walls is an ode to Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies, and represents the underworld Hades. Centered around the story of Orpheus and his wife, diners are kept guessing as they try to discover the hidden details and symbolism found in the artwork surrounding them while tucking into elevated dishes, which makes eating a meal here one of the more unusual things to do in Prague.
Drink out of a gnome
If there was a textbook example of the quintessential bar, The Hemingway Bar would be it. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway (they stock Absinthe, champagne and 200 kinds of rum in an ode to the author), you’ll find millennial-cool bartenders with leather overalls and twirled moustaches expertly concocting cocktails from a drinks list so varied the menu is literally an entire book. Heck, there’s even a list of rules for patrons to follow, like #6: “If you want to buy somebody a drink, please ask the bartender first. He will find out if that person is interested in your offer.”
But despite its inventive libations and understated atmosphere, what most people come here for is the gnome. That’s right: the Guardian of the Garden drink, which is served in a copper garden gnome.
Let’s be honest: even if the concoction inside which includes vodka, apple liqueur and poppyseed milk isn’t what you’re in the mood for, you’d better order this thing because WHEN THE HECK ELSE WILL YOU EVER GET THE CHANCE TO DRINK OUT OF A GNOME?!
Other fun sips worth the calorie count are the Blackberry and Vanilla Caipiroska which is served in a mason jar and is like a boozy shaved ice, and The Revenant made from Absinthe, ginger cordial and kombucha lemongrass. It drains out of a pitcher, so patience is the key with this bevy as it takes a while to trickle out!
Sit at an eclectic bar
Speaking of bars, another quirky spot to check out is Kavárna Mlýnská (also known as Mlýn), found on the uber-cool Střelecký Island which is hipster heaven thanks to its food trucks and Pinterest-worthy hangout spaces complete with hanging lanterns and hammocks.
What’s notable about this one is the actual bar top, which is made up of a random assortment of objects—think badminton racquets, Lego, cigarette packs, mobile phones and even a badminton racquet.
The story goes that renowned artist David Černý, who’s a regular at this watering hole, was commissioned to craft a creative bar. So, he decided to crowdsource it by asking fellow patrons to donate whatever they had on them for his project, and the rest is history. Beside the notable art, grabbing a drink at Myln is also one of the great, non-touristy things to do in Prague since it’s more popular with locals than the tour bus crowd.
Shimmy down Narrow Street
One of the top places to visit in Prague is historic Malá Strana, also known as “Little Corner” which is one of the oldest parts of the city. Most people head there to admire the charming streetscapes with pastel facades and bustling plazas, but few realize it’s also home to a blink-and-you-might-miss it claim to fame.
Vinárna Čertovka (commonly called Narrow Street) is one of the world’s slimmest passageways, as the 10-metre stretch between a couple houses is only about 20 inches wide. After being tipped off to its popularity, traffic lights were installed on each end to signal to pedestrians if anyone else was passing through, since it’s virtually impossible to walk through at the same time as anyone else. Of course, that doesn’t mean camera-wielding tourists will play by the rules of red light, green light…
Take a boat ride—in a car
One of the cool things to do in Prague is explore the city from the water, which is why boat rides along the Vltava River are so popular on sunny, summer days. To take the experience up a notch, skip the traditional, hour-long scenic cruise that most people do in favour of a peddling yourself around in a boat shaped like a car.
For about 70 CZK per hour, you can hire a vessel resembling things like a swan, old-fashioned automobile or race car, and cruise at your own pace around Prague’s islands. Enjoy a different perspective of landmarks like the castle and historic bridges along the picture-perfect waterfront, or enjoy the ultimate date night with a late-night sail to marvel at the city skyline lit up at night. Boats can be booked around Slovanský ostrov near the National Theatre, and fit up to six people.
Where to stay in Prague
Alchymist Grandhotel & Spa: The sweet suites in this 16th century building found across from the American embassy in the Lesser Quarter are the ultimate in luxury: think elegant rooms with a flair of baroque touches, crystal chandeliers and canopy beds fit for royalty. Guests love the attentive service, gorgeous terrace and restaurant, and fabulous in-house spa. Click here to book
Adria Hotel Prague: The Adria is one of the hotels included in Air Canada Vacations’ Prague Your Way package, and its location in the heart of Wenceslas Square can’t be beat. The property dates back to 1912, and its traditional rooms are clean and quiet which makes for a nice respite from the bustling action found outside the front doors. Click here to book
Globe Guide explored Prague as a guest of the Czech Tourism Board and Air Canada Vacations. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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