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Prague - City that bursts into life with art exhibitions and classical concerts


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Summer is the best time to explore the Czech capital, as the city bursts into life with art exhibitions and classical concerts

The Czech capital comes alive in summer, its 18th-century Baroque architecture looking especially grand on sunny days. There are also exhibitions galore in its many museums. The Galerie Rudolfinum at Alsovo Nabrezi 12, is currently (until 6 July) focusing on German photographer Barbara Probst, who specialises in images of a single scene, shot from diverse angles. The gallery (galerierudolfinum.cz) is open daily, 10am-6pm, except Thursday (to 8pm) and Monday (closed), entry 130 koruna (£4).


Get your bearings
Prague is split in two by the River Vltava, which flows south-to-north through its heart — cleaving the historic Hradcany (castle district) and the elegant Mala Strana district on the west bank from the Stare Mesto (Old Town) and Nove Mesto (New Town) on the east. Trams, buses and the metro come under one banner. Single fares start at K24 (72p). A one-day pass is K110 (£3.30), a three-day pass K310 (£9.25). The tourist office is in the Old Town Hall at Staromestske namesti 1 (prague.eu), open daily 9am-7pm. It sells the Prague Card, which covers more than 50 sites — plus transport: K1280 (£38) for two days.

Take a hike
Start at the west end of Karluv Most (Charles Bridge). The most iconic of the Vltava crossings is always crowded. Its 30 saintly statues are copies of the originals — but it is still essentially the structure that has stood here since 1357.

The Charles in question, Charles IV, the 14th-century king of Bohemia who planned the city's layout, waits as another statue at the east end of the bridge, in Krizovnicke namesti. Give him a wave, then plunge into the Old Town, past the 16th-century church of St Salvator and on via the pedestrianised strip of Karlova. This draws to a close in Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square), where the astrological clock on the Old Town Hall gives times of sunset, sunrise and the hour at hand.

Window shopping
Karlova is awash with tourist traps, but halt at No 26, where Manufaktura sells Czech handicrafts, from crockery to stained glass (manufaktura.cz). Locally made jewellery is the star of AleAle, tucked into the church courtyard of St Mary Below the Chain at Lazenska 2 (aleale.cz). The shopping motherlode, though, is Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square) in Nove Mesto, where antique arcades linger amid brand names. Palac Knih at 41 (neoluxor.cz), is a bibliophile's dream. Palac Rokoko at No 38, has lovely Art Deco stylings (palacrokoko.cz).

Lunch on the run
The latter arcade has Cafe Lucerna (www.lucerna.cz), which combines Twenties décor with paninis (try the edam with salsa) for K65 (£2).

Cultural afternoon
The main building of the National Muzeum on Vaclavske namesti is closed until 2015, but its new building, immediately adjacent at Vinohradska 1, is open daily, 10am-6pm. The former stock exchange (nm.cz; K110/£3.30) currently has an exhibition (to 15 July), that gauges how currency effects art and morals.

In Mala Strana, the Czech Museum of Music at Karmelitska 2 (nm.cz; daily except Tuesday, 10am-6pm; K100/£3) hosts concerts and a piano that was played by Mozart in 1787 at the 17th-century church of St Maria Magdalena. Nearby, the Franz Kafka Museum at Cihelna 2b (kafka museum.cz; 10am-6pm; K200/£6), dissects Prague's gloomiest author.

Dining with the locals
U Maltezskych Rytiru (umaltezskychrytiru.cz) deals in Czech stodge – goulash with dumplings for K179 (£5.30) – at Prokopska 10.

Go to church
Prague's cathedral St Vitus (katedralasvatehovita.cz) is so huge that it dominates Hradcany. The 14th-century Gothic temple is open daily 9am-5pm, except Sunday (noon-5pm, with masses at 8.30am and 10am). Free access is limited to the nave's east end. To visit the whole building, you have to pay. The "Circuit B" ticket costs K250 (£7.40) (hrad.cz) and also gives entry to the Old Royal Palace, the 10th-century St George's Basilica and Golden Lane, whose pretty houses once hosted 16th-century alchemists.

Out to brunch
The western slope of the castle hill is adorned by St Wenceslas Vineyard on Stare Zamecke Schody (svatovaclavskavinice.cz), a leafy enclave that serves a "Richter Burger" with fries for K239 (£7). Below the hill in Mala Strana, Campanulla is in the garden of a priory that was once run by the Knights of Malta at Velkoprevorkse namesti 4 (campanulla.cz). A goat-cheese salad is K175 (£5.20).

A walk in the park
Kampa Park is the green heart of Kampa – an islet that juts into the Vltava. Locals come here to talk and sunbathe. Others come for Museum Kampa, a gallery at U Sovovych Mlynu 2 (museumkampa.cz). Daily, 10am-6pm, entry K260 (£7.70).

Take a ride
Departing from a base station at the junction of Ujezd and Lanove Drahy, the Petrin Funicular takes the legwork out of the ascent to Petrin Hill. Part of the city transport network (single fares K24/72p), it whirrs to the 327m summit of Prague's urban lung every 10 minutes (daily 9am-11.30pm). At the top, you can climb the Petrin Tower, a mini Eiffel Tower built in 1891. Daily 10am-10pm; K120 (£3.50) (muzeumprahy.cz).

Icing on the cake
Dash back to St Salvator, which stages concerts of the works of Mozart, Haydn and Bach every day except Tuesday, usually at 6pm (czechclassic.com) – from K550 (£16.30). Or call at Jiraskovo Nabrezi 6 in Nove Mesto, where The Dancing Building is one of Frank Gehry's most striking confections. It resembles two dancers leaning into each other – an idea furthered by its restaurant Ginger & Fred (ginger-fred-restaurant.cz), where the veal cutlet costs K650 (£19.25).

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