Still cold in Prague? We continue with our perfect winter day in Prague. So far, we had breakfast and coffee, and continued with a visit to the gallery and a bowl of soup. This is the third and the next post of a series of six.
OK, sometimes you’re on a vacation and you just want to do something about those pounds you have put on during the trip. You have eaten too much food (happens to us all the time) and want to lose some. Or you were just walking around and want to do something a bit more fun. Easy. You just go to your hotel’s gym and have a small run, or pump some iron, as the former governor of California with a funny accent used to say. Or you’re not really on vacation, maybe you have just returned from one and are so freaking cold you would do anything to get the blood flowing a bit more. What do you do? We have two secret tips.
If you can bear the cold, what better is there during the winter than some ice-skating? Just let the blades hit the ice and spin a few circles? And we are not talking about the commercialized, touristy rink behind the Estates Theatre. Oh please. If we wanted to hear “All I want for Christmas” by Maria Carey, we’d just go to the mall. No. We are talking about a proper, local ice-skating rink only the locals know about.
There is one, right in the centre of Prague, run by the Prague 1 city council. You have to know about it because it is walled around and you can’t really see it from the street level, but it clearly shines through the night if you have a look at the centre from the Letna park on the hill across the river. And it is our favorite place for ice-skating in Prague.
The rink is located in the Kozi street right next to the Na Frantisku hospital, in the vicinity of two fairly recently opened venues: the Field restaurant and the Public Interest bar. The rink attracts families with small children, some younger skaters and also older ones. You can just rent some skates and go. The atmosphere is neighborly and nice, no pushing or shoving. We like it a lot: there is something unique to skate in the shade of the Convent of St Agnes, and getting to and from the rink through the small cobbled streets of the Stinadla district is one of our top winter things to do.
The rink is open Mondays through Fridays from 8am until 5:30pm (with a break between 3:30 and 4pm) and on the weekends from 10am until 7pm. They will close in March, so you have plenty of time to prove that those hours watching Brian Boitano videos did not go to waste.
After you are done, it is time to refill. After all these embarrassing falls on the ice, you deserve a treat. We'll leave Field and Public Interest for later, and instead walk East, possibly along the river, and have something wintery and filling at the recently opened Maso a kobliha, a new venture of Paul and Michaela of the Real Meat Society and Sansho fame. Paul, the man who truly rediscovered the Prestice pig, lets meat shine in this lovely, homey pub with great food and craft beers by Matuska. Their Scotch eggs, sandwiches or chili con carne are fantastic. But the donuts are becoming the starts here. The dough is elastic and delicious, and the vanilla filling is rich and abundant. Makes to reminisce the wonderful donuts we had at Dough in NYC recently. Yum! If you still crave something sweet, you can try Choco Cafe at Klimentska nearby for a cup of their rich, fudge-like hot chocolate.
But ok, we get it. Ice-skating may not be for everyone. If you are very cold, just like we are at the moment, even the thought of ice alone will send chills down your spine. Sometimes you just want to do some sports inside but keep your regular clothes on. You know how long it takes to dress and undress all those layers in the winter? You want to have the option to walk into a sporting arena, blow minds with your amazing moves, and then just put on your clothes and walk out just like nothing happened. Yes, you want to insert a quick ping-pong session into your day full of sightseeing or just hating the weather outside.
You can do that in the centre of Prague. And that is our second secret tip for today. The amazing Billiard centrum in the V Cipu street. Just finding the street is pretty hard: it is a tiny dead-end street behind the Palace Hotel near the Wenceslas Square (if you look at the Bourne Identity movie, that is where Bourne persuades the girl to take him to Paris) and we would understand if you had concerns walking in: it is fairly shabby and shady. And at the end, a door that opens into an even shadier and shabbier world: a huge Billiard centre with over twenty pool tables and - lo and behold - three ping-pong tables in the gallery. You can rent two paddles and a ball for a low price and just get some serious ping-pong action going on.
Now, admittedly, playing ping-pong in this venue is a fairly bizarre experience: the place is not really beautiful and smoking is allowed (there is a HUGE ashtray right next to the table on the top floor), but the whole place has a strangely cool, underground feel with a whiff of the dangerous. As if the Goodfellas played ping-pong once in a while in the movie, in their suits, just for fun for a few minutes. And that is what we recommend you do: find the place, rent the paddles, get a drink at the bar, play for a few minutes, and then leave. Why not, right? Playing ping-pong in the “magical Prague" may be the one experience you will remember till the end of your days. And if you are a local, this practice is strangely addictive. Trust us on that one.