what to do in Prague

Things to do in Prague: independent cinemas

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We always love to see a movie when we travel. It's a great way to get a break from all the walking, exploring and eating and actually enjoy a movie we haven't seen yet. It's also a great way to blend in with the locals. Many times, we are the only foreigners in the movie theatre. Cinemas are a strange mix of the familiar and the new: you are totally off the beaten track but in a familiar environment of a movie theatre, and vice versa: movie theaters are similar all around the world but with small differences: what are the seating arrangements? Are there trailers before the movie? What do people eat and drink? Do they talk during the movie?   

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We encourage you to go see a movie in Prague. Czechs absolutely love movies, or at least the ones we know. You do not need to learn Czech to enjoy a movie here: due to cost cuts, most movies are not dubbed but subtitled only (with the exception of family movies and some 3D movies), so if you understand the original audio (English, French, Spanish and so on), you just disregard the subtitles and you'll be fine. 

We also want you to visit the smaller, independent movie theaters in Prague. While you can see a Hollywood blockbuster in a huge, multiplex movie theatre, but why? They'll have the same things you are used to from home. Popcorn? Check. Soft drinks in ridiculously large cups? Yep. Bored teenage attendants? Yes sir. Instead, we suggest you visit an independent cinema here in Prague - there's more local life here than you would imagine. 

Here are our six most favorite independent cinemas in Prague: 

Svetozor cinema

If you want to see a great movie but don't want to venture out of the centre, head over to the Svetozor cinema. This cinema offers a great selection of new and older movies in two screening halls. Svetozor is also home to many film festivals so if you like a great documentary or movies from other parts of the world, this is the place to go. This is also an "English friendly" cinema (just like Bio Oko and Aero below): if the original audio is English, it will be noted in the programme.

The Svetozor also includes a really great shop called Terry's Posters (Terryho ponozky in Czech), which sells vintage Czech and Polish posters for American and other movies that were shown in the Czech Republic and Poland under Communism and after its collapse - the perfect souvenir from Prague in our mind!

When there, make sure you stop at the bar to buy a glass of Kofola, the Czech answer to the Coke. Many Czechs have very fond and warm childhood memories associated with Kofola: it is often sold on tap and served in beer glasses, so even the kids had "their own beer" to drink, just like the adults. However, no popcorn is served at Svetozor, as clearly shown in this cute advertisement: 

What to do before and after the movie? If you want to grab a quick meal before the movie, make sure you stop at Home Kitchen at the Jungmannova street nearby. One of our favorite bistros in town, Home Kitchen really does look like a home kitchen: two large tables do not sit more than a dozen people or so, but still, their great soups and breads lure people from afar. You can take something to the Franciscan rose garden at the end of the street and have it on a bench when the weather is fine. The movie theatre is just next door. After the movie, you'll want a drink (or at least we do). Walk up the Wenceslas Square and turn to Krakovsta street, the last on the right. You'll find Parlour, a small but great cocktail bar, in the middle of it. There's nothing like talking about a movie you've just seen over a nice drink. Trust us.

Bio Oko

Nestled in the same building as our rental apartment, Bio Oko is one of the few old-school cinemas with a balcony remaining in Prague (they also offer "alternative seating" - a few beach stretchers and even a car that you can sit in for that drive-in feel. It is seated in a 1930s Czech Bauhaus (functionalist) residential building and features a great bar in the entrance lobby, which can be very lively at nights. You can get some beer or our favorite Fentimans soft drinks before (or after) the movie. Bio Oko is the natural center of the district and attracts young and independent crowds. 

What to do before and after the movie? Well, for culture, you can head over to the National Gallery just around the corner. From there, you can visit Page Five, an independent bookstore and publishing house at Veverkova street, and Bistro 8, a local favorite for younger and artsy types that offers homey dishes throughout the day. After the movie, walk back to the centre through the Letna park that offers fantastic views of the city and a popular beer garden during the warmer season.

Kino Aero

The mother of all independent cinemas in Prague, Aero is the place to go for a truly serious movie lover. Again, you can have Kofola or beer at the bar and there's a fast food stand right in the courtyard of the cinema. The feeling is relaxed but the movies shows are all top quality. 

What to do before and after the movie? Definitely visit the National Memorial at the Vitkov hill before the movie for the best view of the city and a great exhibition about the recent history of the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. The park virtually leads to the area that houses the cinema. After the movie, we recommend you take tram no. 16 to the Namesti Miru stop and finish the day off with some Czech cuisine and beers at Vinohradsky Parlament, a Czech pub where Staropramen, a Prague-based brewery, really wants to replicate what Pilsner Urquell did with Lokals - a great pub with great beer and honest Czech dishes.

Evald

Evald cinema has a special place in our hearts: we went there for one of our first dates (and boy, what a memorable date it was: we chose the White Ribbon, and let us tell you - it's not a date movie. The movie theatre is very small but cosy inside with nice and comfortable seats. Very small cafe inside, so we'd suggest you bring your own drinks and food. Again, the movies shown in Evald are higher quality movies. The location is very convenient, right next to the MyTesco store at Narodni triad street.

After the movie, we would head over to RedPif for a nice dinner and some wines. If you like modern design, you will love RedPif: bare concrete and minimalist interiors with custom-made, wine-inspired window blinds and nice staff make for a great atmosphere. After that, cross the river and have a walk through the Kampa park.

Kino Mat

The smallest cinema in Prague with only 46 seats, the Mat feels more like a bigger room than a smaller movie theatre. Housed in a functionalist building from 1934, the cinema was installed in 1994 in the former nuclear bomb shelter in the basement. The building also includes a small cafe and restaurant. We don't recommend either, but the cafe will do to buy something to drink or eat inside.

What to do before and after the movie? We would start at the Vysehrad fortress, a place loved by locals and neglected by tourists, then walk down to the river, walk on the embankment to the next bridge and walk up to have some coffee at I Need Coffee, a lovely café owned by the former co-owner of Leeda fashion house. It feels like a bit of Berlin in Prague and we never miss the opportunity to go there when we are in the neighborhood. The Mat cinema is then a few minutes away by walk. After the movie, we would take the 22 or 6 tram to I.P. Pavlova and finish the day with some nice Czech dish and beers from microbreweries at the popular Nota Bene restaurant.

Kino Atlas

The victim of two floods in the past two decades, the Atlas movie theatre has always risen partly thanks to the contribution of its fans. The Atlas is located right at the border of the historical centre and the Karlin districts. Two cinemas (a large and a small one) and the cafe are housed in a listed functionalist building from 1942.

What to do before and after the movie? You should explore the Karlin district: have coffee to go at Muj salek kavy, something small to eat at Mozaika Crystal Bistro and some Czech sweets at Simply Good and walk towards the centre and the cinema. After the movie, have a great Asian-fusion dinner at the nearby Sansho restaurant, or enjoy some beers at Pivovarsky Klub.

The tickets to all these smaller art house cinemas will cost around CZK 100 (USD 5, EUR 4), but the experience will be, as they say, priceless.

Fin.


Jogging in Prague - our favorite Prague jogging routes

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The temperatures outside are reaching 10C/50F and we've just read in the newspapers that the birds are returning to the Czech Republic after the winter, which means two things: (1) the spring is nearly here, and (2) it's time to kick it up a notch and catch up on some of these New Year's resolutions we have been neglecting so far. It's time to get a run. (A disclaimer here: we do run in two stages: stage 1: accessorize [buy shoes and apparel] - stage 2: run. We have mastered stage one nearly every year but we have found, through empirical research, that stage 2 is actually much harder to initiate. We don't know if your experience has been the same.)  

But the joking aside, let's be honest here: you cannot spend all your days just eating and drinking the mostly delicious food that can be found in the streets of Prague (assuming that you follow our advice). Sometimes, you have to make sure you also run off some of those calories you took in eating Czech food. And let's face it: Czech food packs lots of calories. And the calorie intake does not stop at food. The category that the Czechs love to call "calorie bombs" (which includes  virtually anything that's good) definitely includes something that accounts to a religion here: beer. Yes, in addition to panthenol and lots of B-vitamins, beer packs in an unholy amount of calories. Finally, we also must admit that Czech love big portions. When we visit the pastry shop as part of our tasting walks, our guests cannot believe they are eating the "mini" versions.

Our guests have often noted that given the type of cuisine we have here, they don't see many people who would be overweight in Prague. Two factors play role in this: first, Czechs do not eat Czech cuisine on a daily basis. There's only that many schnitzels and head cheeses you can eat in a week. We do eat lighter foods, although they may not be necessarily Czech. Second, Czech love sports (of course, there are exceptions): from the Small Football Prague Association (a 5-a-side amateur Prague soccer league that is incredibly popular among Prague men, including Jan) to skiing or trekking and inline skating, almost every Czech likes to move. As one of our friends recently said:

Everyone owns a pair of trekking boots, right?

(To which we politely nodded, too scared to confess that we actually don't.) But anyway, you get the point. Czech love sports. The two most popular sports (at least for viewing) are soccer in the summer and ice-hockey in the winter.

With the winter nearly behind us, we have decided to start jogging again, especially since Jan has, admittedly, let himself go a bit over the holidays and the winter months, indulging in way too much food recently (he blames Zuzi, of course). We think Prague is a great jogging town: parks actually make up for one fifth of its area, so you don't have to run through traffic unless you have to or want to. The cobblestones may pose a problem for those who are not used to it, but they are present only in the centre and are easy to avoid. The terrain in Prague is also very varied: flat areas or hills, asphalt or dirt, we have it all here. The convenient, safe and reliable public transport system helps, too: if you ran too far and don't want to walk back, there's always a tram stop nearby to take you there. Many of our guests say they need a run after the tour. Well, we listen. As a complimentary service to our guests, and a public service announcement to everybody else, we bring you a few jogging routes in Prague we really like. Of course, if you're an experienced runner, you may try some routes that are more local, but we are focusing on those near the centre:

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The "Riverside Run"

This route basically runs along the river. The shortest run (green) just copies the river embankment from the Zofin island to the Vysehrad castle. Please beware that the embankment below the Vysehrad castle hosts farmers' markets on Saturdays, so be careful - you may end up slowing down there, or, even worse, stop for a juicy sausage or a sweet merengue roll ("kremrole"). The middle route extends over to the other side of the river. You have to take the railway bridge under the Vysehrad castle to the other side and then negotiate some rubble on the Castle side behind the bridge, but after that it's all smooth sailing. The longest route is really recommended only in the early morning, because it takes you over the Charles Bridge. But it's a treat if you can summon the will to wake up and go for a run at about 7am at the latest. 

View Riverside jogging in a larger map

The Letna park run

We absolutely adore the Letna park: beginning just a few steps from our rental apartment, the park is an oasis of green that offers some stunning views of the entire centre. If you run from the historical centre, you have to cross the Cechuv bridge and negotiate some 200 stairs first (possibly ending with a recreation of the famous Rocky scene) but from then on, all the routes offer a fairly flat profile, save for the longest one, which takes you down to the Expo 58 building past the National Technical Museum. You may meet lots of other joggers and inline skaters on the way, especially in the spring.

View Jogging Letná in a larger map

The Stromovka park run

Our home turf (we live just about five minutes from one of its gates). The Stromovka park is the largest and the most popular park in Prague for jogging. We love jogging there in the morning of a sunny day: it just lights you up. The shortest route is the "classic round" - about a mile long, it circles around the inner parts of the park and attracts many joggers. The 5k run is something Jan likes to take at times: the parts around the Tesla Arena have some traffic and include cobblestoned parts, but it really is exactly 5 km - Jan vouches for it. Finally, the longest route actually crosses the river to the Troja district and heads over to the Troja chateau and the Prague ZOO under the Santa Clara vineyards. The scenery is beautiful there, and the Vltava river adds calm to the run.

View Stromovka run in a larger map

We hope you enjoy the routes that we have prepared, but if you don't like to run alone and look for a guided run, definitely contact our good friend Filippo of the awesome BIKO Adventure tours. In addition to really great bike tours, he also offers interesting jogging tours through Prague. Have fun!


What to do in Prague: Picnic at the Petrin hill

In case you're wondering what to do in Prague, Taste of Prague comes to the rescue! We will be posting some cool, secret Prague tips that may not be necessarily food-related but that will definitely guarantee you enjoy some quality time here in Prague. We love our city, and we want you to appreciate just how great it is.