Martha Stewart’s Guide to Prague
Please join us in welcoming Martha Stewart to The Window Seat! This is an abbreviated version of Martha’s first travel column that debuted in the April 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. This article is a part of the new quarterly travel section and her next piece is scheduled for the August issue, which hits stands July 20, 2009. An abbreviated version of the next travel article will also be featured on The Window Seat so be sure to check back soon.
In the summer of 2008, I decided to travel to England, Ireland, and Poland to visit some of our company’s strategic partners. I also planned to sightsee and to film several segments for my TV show. This is not an unusual scenario. I frequently combine my love of travel with business because I go places that I think most of us would enjoy seeing and experiencing.
I arrived in Warsaw to visit our publishing partners (several Polish editions of Martha Stewart Living have been created ) and to give a speech at a large shopping mall. Between appointments I toured historic sites and savored the delicious foods of Poland.
When I found myself with a few days to fill, I started thinking about going on a new adventure. I had already traveled extensively in Poland with my mother, so I focused my attention on a Central European city that I had never visited: Prague. Within a few hours, two colleagues and I had plane tickets. And off we went—no plans, no itinerary, just vague suggestions of where to go and what to see. This kind of impromptu trip is the true test of a traveler’s mettle and resourcefulness.
Spur-of-the-moment travel is not always the most economical way to visit a new destination, but this was one time when everything fell nicely into place, thanks to some help from our New York office and a lovely English-speaking guide. On these pages, I hope you get a sense of the excitement I experienced as a first-time visitor to this charming city, so rich in history.
Martha’s 5 Travel Tips
Here’s how to make the most of a quick, spontaneous trip to a new destination.
1 Hotel Reserve comfortable lodging in a central location. A charming hotel that’s out of the way can cost you a lot in taxi fares—and time. Plus, a remote hotel makes it difficult to change clothes or retrieve a forgotten item.
2 Tour guide Hire one, especially if you have only a few days to visit. A well-informed guide will point you to the most important sites and can tailor the trip to your interests (for me, that includes gardens, museums, antiques shops, and markets).
3 Driver In a large city, it might be worth hiring a driver so you don’t waste time getting from place to place. Much of Prague can be seen on foot, so a car is not important. In Paris and London, public transportation makes navigating these cities easy. But in Beijing, Kyoto, and Tokyo, a car is essential.
4 Reservations when possible, make lunch and dinner reservations in advance if dining is going to be a big part of your trip.
5 Cafés Find a popular café. In Prague, we loved Cremeria Milano. Go there in the morning, when you plan out your day. I have found that locals sipping their cappuccinos offer great advice to foreigners.
Martha’s Black Book for Prague
Getting around Prague is a relatively compact city, so you can cover much of it on foot. For speedier transport, take the metro: It’s efficient, and the stations are attractively designed. If you need a taxi, calling one often beats hailing one. Ask someone at your hotel or at a restaurant to assist you.
Where to Stay:
When choosing accommodations, consider a hotel’s location as well as its architecture. Many are situated in restored historic buildings. Room rates may vary, depending on the time of year.
1. Four Seasons Near the Vltava River; offers panoramic views of Prague Castle, and a Michelin-ranked Mediterranean restaurant. Veleslavínova 2a/1098, Prague 1; +420-221-427-000; fourseasons.com.
2. Hotel Josef A boutique hotel with sleek interiors and high-tech amenities; close to must-see Old Town sites. Rybná 20, Prague 1; +420221-700-111; hoteljosef.com.
3. Hotel Le Palais Quiet, sumptuous rooms in a Belle Époque–style former residential palace; a five-minute drive from the city center. U Zvonařky 1, Prague 2; +420234-632-111; palaishotel.cz.
Where to Eat:
Hearty fare—think dumplings and rich stews—is the norm, but save room for the wide range of delicious local brews.
1. Bredovský Dvůr A casual spot for unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell, honeyed ribs, and other tasty Czech bar food. Politických vězňů 13, Prague 1; +420-224-215-428; bredovskydvur.unas.cz.
2. Cremeria Milano Superb gelato, cappuccino, and pastries, on one of the city’s fashionable streets. Pařížská 20, Prague 1; +420-224-811-010; cremeriamilano.com.
3. Gold Pralines Belgian-style chocolates, including exquisite truffles flavored with Becherovka, a local liqueur. Rybná 668, Prague 1; +420-222-316-227; goldpralines.cz.
What to See:
In Prague for a short stay? Put these sites on your itinerary.
1. Astronomical Clock Stop by on the hour to watch the figure of Death invert his hourglass at the famous 15th-century landmark in Old Town Square.
2. Charles Bridge Skip the crowds and take a stroll at dawn or dusk to see the weathered Baroque statues lining Prague’s oldest bridge.
3. Dancing Building A striking postmodern structure with a leaning glass tower. Rašínovo nábřeží 80, Prague 2.
Where to Shop:
Prague is a great source for crystal and fine antiques.
1. Antique Ungelt Furniture, ceramics, and silver pieces are the highlights at this antiques shop. Týn 1, Prague 1; +420-224-895-454; antiqueungelt.cz.
2. Material A stellar crystal shop showcasing work by local artists. U Lužického semináře 7, Prague 1; +420-257-530-046; i-material.com.
Photography by Martha Stewart and Kevin Sharkey
From time to time, the Window Seat publishes articles and blog posts written by guest authors to give you a fresh perspective on the world of travel.