OK, the winter may not be the best time of the year for a long walk, but honestly, the temperatures are not at all bad and if you wear an extra layer, you can see a part of the town that is not on the radar for most foreign visitors. If you've done all the major sights (and we're guessing you have) and wish to see something less crowded, one of the options is our home district, Prague 7. It isn't far and we think it offers a great variety of things to see and do. (And eat, too, don't worry - we know how hungry you can get after a walk, ok?)
Some of our guests arrive in Prague with kids. We love kids, pay special attention to them on the tour, and (without bragging too much) we think that kids love us back, at least on the tour… We always try to provide traveling families with tips that might help them enjoy Prague as a family. Some parents then to avoid the major sights and take the family "out of the beaten path" (gosh, we love that cliche) but that's not a bad thing: we actually think that’s where kids can interact with local kids. (No, there’s not going to be too many local kids playing at the Charles Bridge.) To help parents navigate their way through Prague, we have designed three itineraries that we think your kids (and you, of course) will like.
Now we should first and foremost issue a disclaimer here: we do not have kids ourselves. However, we grew up in Prague, and still can remember the places and the things we did and loved growing up, and we have many friends with kids who can help us out. We created three full-day itineraries that the whole family could enjoy. You can combine them or do them in parts - it’s all up to you. That said, we don't think you necessarily have to have kids to enjoy these walks. There's lots of culture and fun stuff and food along the way, anyway! We do describe things we like ourselves, so if you are like us, you may like them too.
Itinerary 1: “Everybody loves chocolate, pizza and mirror mazes!”
Everybody loves a cup of hot chocolate, right? If you can subscribe to that notion, start your day at Choco Café. Their hot chocolate is phenomenal and a single cup contains about a whole bar of chocolate. If you want to go local, buy the "Horicke trubicky” rolls (a thin wafer rolled into a large canoli-style pastry and filled with whipped cream) and dip them in the hot chocolate. You can definitely skip lunch if you have this chocolate after breakfast because it is very, very rich. On the other hand, please avoid if your kids tend to go out of control after a substantial sugar intake.
From Choco Café, walk to the river bank, and turn left to the National Theatre. Cross the bridge and stop half way on the Strelecky ostrov island. Kids might enjoy the obstacle course that has been recently developed there. Continue further to the Ujezd area and take the funicular to the very top. It’s a great ride with really nice views of the city. When you’re at the top, you absolutely MUST visit a venue that no Sunday walk with the kids could do without when we were kids: the mirror maze and the mirror hall with the funny (distorting) concave and convex mirrors. We loved them, and we think your kids will, too.
After the climb to the top of the Petřín lookout tower (a small copy of the Eiffel tower), head over to the Prague Castle via the Strahov Monastery. We actually prefer the walk itself over the Castle itself (but then again, we've seen it already). The walk on the slope to the monastery offers great views of the city and space to run around. Do not make the mistake of taking the shortest route possible from the Monastery down to the Castle. Instead, turn left at the Loretta and walk down to the New World, an absolutely empty but fantastically picturesque area that avoids the crowds, and walk on into the Deer Moat, a beautiful park in the steep valley below the castle. (Deer Moat is usually closed during winters.) Beautiful gothic church or monumental courtyards full of history? Whatever! Your kids may love the Museum of Toys the best out of the entire castle.
We reckon this whole trip tool a few hours, and by the time you’ve visited the castle, you’ll be starving. There is an easy - and very popular - fix for that. Walk down to the Malostranske namesti square (about 10 minutes from the castle), hop on the tram (line no. 5) and go to Pizza Nuova for dinner. Who does not like pizza, right? And you’ll be eating well: the pizza there, praised by the famous Heston Blumenthal himself, is delicious, and the pasta dishes do not lag behind in quality. The restaurant is quite family oriented and kids love to run around the place, chased down by parents and members of staff.
Now, we have another tip after the kids have fallen asleep or passed on to the babysitter. Hemingway Bar. You know that after a day like this, you’ll be in dire need of a drink. And when you’re at it, you should do it well: Hemingay Bar is a local favorite and the place to go to for delicious drinks. Try one of their Becherovka drinks to taste a bit of the local poison!
Itinerary 2: "Walking with Animals”
This walk is more suitable for lovely and sunny days because there is some walking involved, mostly through the beautiful Stromovka park, our “home turf”, if you will (we live just behind the corner). One of the biggest parks in Prague, the Stromovka is a magnet for young families, joggers, dog walkers and even cross-country skiers when the snowfall allows it. Kids are welcome: the park incorporates several playgrounds and offers many activities for kids.
We start the walk at the Holesovice Exhibition Grounds. Built in 1891 for the Centennial State Fair (which also saw the development of the Petrin tower and the funicular to the Petrin hill, among other things), the Exhibition Grounds occupy a special place for all the kids (and adults) in Prague as the venue for the St Matthew’s fair, the annual fair with rides and shooting ranges and hot dogs and balloons and cotton candy etc. that takes place in March and April. Beyond this popular (read "crowded") event, the grounds today seem a bit derelict, especially when compared to their counterparts in Vienna or elsewhere. Still, the grounds accommodate the first stop on our walk: the Sea World ("Morsky Svet" in Czech). The Sea World is basically a series of smaller or larger aquariums showing the Czechs (who sadly live in a landlocked country) what fish and animals can be found under the sea. The Sea World organizes recurring daily events like the “shark feeding” and many others.
Walk into the Stromovka park past the Planetarium observatory and follow on to reach Vozovna, the old-tram-depot-station-turned-restaurant for a small snack. The food or coffee are nothing to write home about and not worth a special trip, but it is great as a stop on your way, and especially if the weather is nice, the visit can turn into a really pleasant experience. Did we mention there is a playground right next to it?
From there, walk past the “big circle”, avoiding joggers and in-line skaters, through the railway underpass and across the first bridge onto the Cisarsky ostrov island. If your kids love horses, they are going to love this place. The Cisarsky ostrov island is home to the Prague stables and features proper competition grounds for parkour competitions (not the hipster urban parkour but the real one, with horses).
After that, you cross the pedestrian bridge and turn left, waling along the river banks. After a minute, you will reach the gate to the Troja Chateau and their beautiful English garden. When you’re finished walking around the chateau, just cross the street from the side entry to reach the gate into the Prague ZOO, one of the top ten ZOOs in the World according to many surveys. In addition to the animals, the ZOO offers a kiddie train ride, a cable car (yes, the ZOO is set in a mountainy landscape), lots of playgrounds, a mountain walk with an unusual view of the city, and so on. You really don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the ZOO. Well, at least we love it. If you don’t like crowds, though, avoid the ZOO over sunny weekends.
The area offers something for the parents, too: in addition to the Troja Chateau with the beautiful English garden, you can enjoy the Botanic Garden, and the St Clara and Salabka vineyards that offer tastings of their wines. During the high season, you can get back to the centre by taking a steamboat. The ride back to the Jewish Quarter is nice and takes less than an hour.
Itinerary 3: “Sunday with something for everybody”
The third walk avoids the centre completely, and is a great local activity for an afternoon. Just like the previous walk, this one also takes place mostly within the district of Prague 7.
You will start at the Main Market in the Holesovice district with some food. Now, if it’s Sunday, you must visit the Sunday Family Brunch at SaSaZu. The Asian fusion restaurant, and the holder of the Bib Gourmand award, provides an army of nannies, lots of X-Box consoles and other games for kids, while the parents can enjoy a fantastic meal, get a quick massage and moms can get their nails done by the nail artist provided. In addition, kids prepare crepes for their parents in the kitchen with the chefs. It’s a very lively event with lots of expats visiting, so your kids can play with other kids and understand them, too. If you are not doing the walk on Sunday, we recommend instead visiting Hall 22 where local farmers sell their produce. It can be an educational event.
From there, walk to the Dox Centre for Contemporary Arts along the Osadni street (possibly buying nice cupcakes at Patissier at Osadni 5). The Dox centre, in addition to their exhibitions and an excellent design shop, organizes art classes for children and a toolkit for kids to turn their museum visit into a treasure hunt-like game. We think you can spend hours there. They also have a cafe inside if you’re thirsty.
After the visit, take the tram from the Ortenovo namesti stop to the Letenske namesti stop. This is the part where itinerary 2 and 3 overlap: if you get off at the second stop (Vystaviste), you can visit the Exhibition Grounds, the Sea World and continue on to the ZOO (see above) from here, if you wish. But you can continue on, up to the Letna district. When you get off the tram, you can ether walk back on the main street for a minute and have great cakes at the Erhart Café, a great 1930s-style patisserie, or turn right and walk to the National Technical Museum, stopping at Dum kavy in the Jireckova street if you crave good coffee along the way.
Nestled in the Letna park above the city, the National Technical Museum has been one of the most popular places for kids for nearly a century. A great exhibition (with texts in both Czech and English) of old and new cars, aeroplanes, trains, with installations about household products, astrology, photography, household products, TV broadcasting technology and so on. Fun for hours. Don’t forget to visit the small petting zoo behind the National Agricultural Museum next door!
From there, definitely visit the Letna park. Did we mention it has a huge, fenced playground? I guess we didn’t. The park is one of the most popular parks in Prague that offers stunning views of the city and great connectivity to the centre. We would recommend you walk the whole length of the park, finishing at Hradcanska subway stop.
Once you reach the stop, you can opt for any of the three suggestions we have for a great finish to a great afternoon. First, you can walk to the Prague Castle through the Royal Gardens, which is about ten minutes by walk from there. Second, you can take a tram for two stops to the Vozovna Stresovice stop and visit the Museum of Public Transit, a place we loved when we were kids: a museum devoted entirely to old trams, buses and subways. Third, you can walk for about five minutes and finish the day in a creative way at Vypalene kotatko, a cafe devoted to DYI decoration of porcelain products. Basically, you can buy any product they offer (cups, pottery, hair brushes etc.), use their brushes and paints, decorate the products in any way you desire, and let the staff complete the glazing and baking process of the porcelain with your decoration. We know you may not have the time to pick the products up a week later or so (which is the standard time for that), but we think they might be talked into shipping the finished products to your place. Well. you can at least try, right?
No matter where you end up, we wish you a great time! If you follow any of our suggestions, please share your experience in the comments below!
Matejska pout, or St Mathhew's Fair, is a cultural institution here in Prague that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. This annual spring fun fair attracts enormous crowds every single year, especially on weekends if the weather is nice. The fair has everything: plenty of rides (from modern to very old ones), food stands with cotton and hard candy, sausages and beer. We think it's a great venue when you have kids, and not only just because of St Matthew's Fair: the surroundings offer plenty of activities, too.
The fair is held each year on the old Holesovice Fair Grounds, just a short tram ride from the centre. The centre of the grounds is occupied by the old Fair Palace, one half of which burned down sadly a few years ago when someone forgot to put the kettle off during a dentistry trade show. The grounds also include an ice-hockey arena, a swimming pool and a famous fountain. The grounds are fairly empty throughout the year, only to come alive during St Matthew's Fair.
After you've enjoyed the rides, we recommend that you leave the fair and have a stroll in the adjacent Stromovka park, the biggest public park near the centre of Prague. It's one of our most favorite walks in Prague: you start from the fair grounds and walk into the park past the observatory to the "central circle" with a pond, benches and many joggers, families and lovers. We recommend you walk under the train tracks towards the river and cross it using the elevated bridge.
You enter Cisarsky ostrov, a lovely island in the river that accommodates an equestrian centre with a parkour pitch and stables. Parkour competitions sometimes take place there. From there, walk to the other side of the river using the pedestrian bridge and turn left. In about five minutes, you will enter the Troja Chateau - a big villa that dates back to the late 17th century with an impressive garden. Take a few snapshots and walk past the villa on the left. There, you have two choices: either the Prague Zoo, said to be one of the top ten zoos in the world by many, or the Botanical garden above it, which includes the Santa Clara winery: one of the best wineries in Prague that offers its visitors the chance to taste local wines.
We think this walk can create a wonderful afternoon that will bring many memories to kids and their parents alike. The whole walk should not take more than an hour, depending on your pace. If you don't feel like walking back the entire route, you can take the bus from the ZOO to the Holesovicke nadrazi subway stop and follow from there to the centre. St Matthew's Fair opened on 2 March and ends on 21 April. Enjoy!