26 June, 2017
On account of its historic legacy, Prague is a jewel sculpted by the passage of time and one of the leading tourist destinations. If you happen to be in the capital of the Czech Republic, you are bound to visit its popular castle, cross the well-known Charles Bridge and have a revitalising Pilsner in any of the city’s myriad beer halls. But, when you are done with the typical tour for flip-flop and sock-wearing guiris, set off to explore the Prague which Czechs usually keep to themselves. This is the city, as fascinating as it is alternative, which we reveal in the following.
David Cerný has turned Prague into his own huge museum. A St Wenceslas on an upside-down horse, a statue of two men peeing facing each other, Freud hanging from a building, babies transformed into machines… These are but some of the works which the most widely acclaimed yet corrosive and controversial contemporary Czech artist has strewn about the streets, avenues and public spaces of the Czech capital.
DOX is housed in a refurbished building in the working class suburb of Holešovice. Inaugurated in 2008, Prague’s contemporary art centre boasts the largest collection of modern works in the country. This is a must-visit venue for all art lovers. We recommend you end the visit by making a foray into their interesting shop – their café is nothing to scoff at either.
The Dancing House
Originally known as Fred and Ginger, in honour of the famous dancing couple, it was eventually named The Dancing House. This construction with its fascinating curved forms is highly conspicuous in a city celebrated for its centuries-old buildings. It was designed by Frank Gehry, the architect behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, who executed the project in collaboration with the Croatian-Czech architect, Vlado Milunic.
The Malá Strana district is a refuge for the inhabitants of Prague when inundated by droves of tourists. A backwater of calm and quiet in the heart of the city, it is bounded by several green areas, notably Kampa Island. The latter is separated from Malá Strana by a channel popularly known as the Devil’s Stream and its basks in bucolic beauty all year around. It is the ideal spot to get away from it all and to enjoy a stint of reading while sipping a coffee in one of the inviting cafés secreted along its streets.
This spot in the south of Prague’s Old Town, on the right bank of the river Moldava, was once the major meeting place of hippies. It has now become the focal point of hipster Prague. The area has a thriving art and culture scene and the best time to visit is on Saturdays, when the so-called Farmer’s Market is held from ten in the morning until nine in the evening. It is devoted to regional farm products, with stalls selling organic produce, craft beer and street food. You are likely to even gobble up the paper serviettes (recycled ones, of course).
When it comes to Cubist art, what normally springs to mind are works by such figures as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger and Juan Gris. And, if we push it a little further, the sculptures of Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz and Henri Laurens, and the literary experiments of Guillaume Apollinaire. However, we hardly ever think of Cubism as applied to architecture which had in Prague once of its paramount expressions, thanks to the architectural trio made up of Josef Chochol, Pavel Janák and Josef Gocár. Visitors can delight in a number of their constructions around the city, but you should make a special point of seeing the building which epitomises the movement, Gocár’s House of the Black Madonna. Located on the corner of Celetná Street and Ovocný Square in the heart of Prague, it now houses the Czech Museum of Cubism.
Wallpaper Magazine rated it one of the classiest districts in the world. Indeed, SoNa (short for “South of Národní”) is worthy of that distinction, what with its winding streets, cafés bustling with lively folk and exotic restaurants where you can sink your teeth into specialities from some of the remotest spots on earth. And, if you feel like doing some shopping, wander down Karoliny Svetle, where you will come across the stores of the most avant-garde local designers.
No alternative guidebook to Prague would leave out a visit to Vyšehrad, the Czech capital’s “other castle”. Rather than a castle, it is actually a ruined fort. Apart from interest in the landmark itself, Vyšehrad affords some of the finest views of Prague and the river Moldava.
The Alternative Tour
If you’re keen on delving further into alternative Prague, you can get help from Prague Alternative Tours. They will take you through the flip side of the Czech capital, past the walls displaying the city’s most amazing street art and to the flashiest clubs. They will also get you into the most innovative contemporary art galleries, and community centres where you can meet the most promising young local creators.
Book your Vueling to Prague and gear up to discover the alternative side of the Czech capital.
Text by Oriol Rodríguez
26 June, 2017