DAY ONE: OLD TOWNS, NEW TO WNS
The transport hub at the National Museum (Muzeum metro stop or the central rail station, Hlavni Nadrazi) is as good a place as any to start your time in Prague. Forget the museum itself -- it's dull, dead things in cases -- but go up the steps to try out the view down vast Wenceslas Square (Vaslavsk? namesti), site of the revolutionary demonstrations in 1989. As you walk down the square, pause by the memorial to Jan Palach, who died after incinerating himself in protest at the Soviet invasion in 1968. At the foot of the square, keep going straight ahead to reach Old Town Square (Staromestsk? namesti), the undisputed heart of the city. To your right are the fairytale gothic spires of Tyn Church (Tynsk? ulicka).
For breakfast, skip the tourist traps on the square itself and slip down the alley to the left of the church. Bear left through the medieval alleyways for a couple of minutes and you'll arrive at Bohemian Bagels (Masna 2, Old Town, Prague 1; +420-2/2481-2560, fax +420-2/2481-2560; 120-200 CZK). Back on the square you c an climb the tower in the Old Town Hall. If it's close to the hour, hang around the Town Hall's renaissance astronomical clock -- cutesy mechanical apostles trundle out of their pigeon holes, while Death rings his bell above their heads.
For lunch follow the Town Hall arches to "little Old-Town Square" and the restaurant U Rotta (Mal? namesti 3 ; +420-2/269-537; 100-150 CZK) and wash down traditional Czech dishes with Budweiser beer that actually comes from Budweis -- no comparison to the other stuff!
After lunch, take Karlova down to the famous Charles Bridge (Karluv most). Half a mile long, with a gothic tower and archway at each end and a series of biblical sculptures along each side, the bridge's wide-open views in all directions are stunning. You can listen to jazz bands busking or purchase crafts and paintings on the way across.
Before you're quite across, step down to Kampa Island. This relaxed park between a pretty millstream and the river is a great spot to chill and take things at an even more leisurely pace. Keep on walking through the park and you'll emerge near Legion Bridge (Most legii) which takes you back across the river to Narodni trida, the city's main shopping street.
To be honest, the shopping ain't great, so why not stop off in Caf? Slavia (Narodni Trida at Smetanovo Nabr; +420-2/2422-0957; 100-240 CZK), an elegant literary hangout since the 1920s. If you feel the need for some sightseeing after all that hard coffee-drinking, go back into the old town behind the caf? to Bethlehem Square (Betlemsk? namesti), with Jan Hus's chapel. You'll find statues of Jan most places in Prague -- the protestant reformer was the first Czech national hero. Hopefully by the time you get there the nearby popular gay caf? Friends (Naprstkova 1, +420-2/2163-5408; firstname.lastname@example.org; temporarily closed) will have re-opened.
For dinner try a bit of Czech tradition and some very fine beer at U Fleku (Kremencova 11, Prague 1; +420-2/292-436), a brewery since the 15th century. A superior brand of Czech country cooking is served at long trestle tables, in beer hall style. The peculiar hunting-gothic deco can seem a bit staged, and you'll certainly be joined by hordes of German tourists, but the place is quirky enough to rise above the tourist-trap tag.
If the unintentionally retro cabaret gets too much for you, escape round the corner to The Globe Bookstore and Caf? (Pstrossova 6; +420-2/2493-4203; email@example.com; 100-160 CZK), unofficial headquarters of Prague's American community. With great books, great coffee and a homey, laid-back atmosphere, it's very gay popular and friendly and a good place to meet English-speakers who know the local scene.
For the evening, try out some Black Theatre -- it's half puppets, half people -- at the All Colours Theatre (Ryt?_sk? 31, Old Town, Prague 1; +420-2/221-610-173, fax +420-2/221-610-177; firstname.lastname@example.org) before heading for the
clubs. Go for Gejzeee...r (Vinohradsks? 40; +420-2/2251-6036), Prague's biggest gay venue, for a friendly, party atmosphere for men and women both.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three