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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Prague Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Prague Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in bohemian Prague.

Prague's legendary beauty isn't fading, and it makes a perfect destination for a short break. It's not the place for shopping or a whole lot of sophisticated nightlife, but if you want to swoon over fairy-tale spires, sneak under baroque archways or linger in hidden palace gardens, Prague's your town. Increasingly, the city also has something specific to offer lesbian and gay travelers as new clubs and bars have populated what, even a few years back, was a bit of a social desert for gay people.

LAY OF THE LAND
Prague is tucked inside a canyon of the Vltava (say 'Vull-tah-va') river, which can make for some confusing geography, as there always seems to be a hillside looming up where you least expect it. But the historic center is compact and walkable -- in fact half the fun of the place is just strolling round the medieval streets. The river loops around the districts of Old Town (Star? Mesto), New Town (Nov? Mesto; well, it was new in the 14th century) and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) on the right bank, while the Castle District (Hradcany) and 'Little Side' (Mal? Strana) cling onto the steep slopes of the left bank. Beyond those five districts is the whole rest of the city, which tourists rarely see. Gay visitors in search of nightlife may well find themselves in upscale Vinohrady (the 'Vineyards' district) just outside the New Town or a little further afield in working-class Zizkov (pronounced 'Zheeshkoff').

Luckily the transport system of subway, trams and buses is blissfully efficient. The Prague Card (690 CZK, available in advance from www.czechcenter.com or at many tourist-oriented vendors in the city) i s a handy way of getting around without losing half your time in the search for elusive ticket machines. It includes all transport and entrance to almost every museum or sight in the city.

STAY
Prague's accommodations are slowly catching up with demand, but it is still always advisable to book well in advance. In the summer months you don't have a hope of finding something upon arrival. Our favorite hotel in Prague is the Hotel U Zlat? Studny (Karlova 3; tel/fax +420-2/2222-0262; uzlatestudny@motylek.com; 4,540-5,400 CZK). You don't get more central than this old-fashioned, slightly higgledy-piggledy hotel off Old Town Square. There are only six rooms, all different sizes and decorated individually with antique furnishings. However, it can be noisy and the lack of an elevator is a hassle for guests with limited mobility.

If you prefer sleek comfort to quaint charm, the Inter-Continental Prague (Nam. Curieovych 43, Praha 1; +420-2/9663-1111, fax: +420-2/24 81-1216; prague@interconti.com; 169-325 EUR) has another great location, in the Jewish Quarter at the turn in the river, which gives it fantastic views on three sides. It has a good gym, open to non-guests and gay-popular.

The Hotel Pariz (Obecni Domu 1; +420-2/2219-5195 or 800/888-4747, fax +420-2/2422-5475; booking@hotel-pariz.cz; 160-230 EUR) is an Art Nouveau landmark at the gates of the Old Town. The complex also hosts restaurants, gallery-space and concert venues.

As you move away from central Prague, the accommodations are more reasonably priced. The Hotel Petr (Drtinova 17, Praha 5; +420-2/5731-4068, fax +420-2/5731-0067; info@hotelpetr.cz; 1,900-3,200 CZK) is a likeable small hotel just south of the Mal? Strana. The location at the foot of Petrin Hill's historic gardens makes up for the 10- or 1 5 minute walk into town. In Vinohrady, the gay-owned Guest House Arco (+36-309/32-3334; Voron?zsk? 21, Praha 10; arco@gaystay.net; 950-2,800 CZK) is close to some of the most popular clubs. There are frequent and reliable tram connections into the center.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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