You need to get lost at least once in Prague
. Only then does the Czech capital’s web of ancient streets turn full labyrinth and glow with an energy that makes alchemists, golems, and ghosts of headless Templars seem ready to step from the shadows. Scanning street corners and alleys for a familiar landmark draws your attention to more than a thousand years of rich architecture – Romanesque, medieval, baroque, art nouveau, deco, cubist – that somehow survived centuries of wars and revolutions.
“It’s fascinating to imagine how many generations have walked through the same door and up the same steps to houses, churches, and towers,” says Jana Frintova, owner of Patriot Travel
, Virtuoso’s Prague-based tour connection, who works with travel advisors on custom itineraries throughout central Europe. The city’s cost of living, excellent public transport, and liberal attitude lure numerous travelers, as well as expats like me – OK, the omnipresent beer gardens and a thriving social scene are pretty strong draws too.
For its 1.3 million residents, the tourist staples of Old Town, Mala Strana, and the Castle District are just postcard introductions to Prague. Surrounding neighborhoods such as Holesovice and Vinohrady reveal a more contemporary culture brimming with nouveau-Czech chefs, brewmasters, artists, fashion designers, and even circus performers, all of whom channel the city’s long-standing love of the avant-garde. Novelist and native son Franz Kafka got it right when he famously wrote in a 1902 letter to a friend, “Prague never lets you go ... this dear little mother has sharp claws.” Here’s to digging in.