There’s a modern side to the historic Czech capital – especially in the suburbs – if you follow our insider’s guide…
Raised in the beautiful Czech countryside, gallerist Blanka Cermakova has been living in Prague for more than two decades. She spent more than a dozen years working at the Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest art school in the country, located on the leafy edges of Stromovka Park, and now runs the Trafo Gallery in the formerly industrial Holesovice area. Whether you’re going for Christmas markets or spring blossoms, this portrait of Prague is one to muse over.
“The contemporary gallery I run is in the Prague Market, a former slaughterhouse near the Vltava River. But you won’t find any cattle or horses here now. We run six exhibitions a year, focused mainly on Czech art, but sometimes artists from abroad, too. You’ll find paintings, sculpture, video art, graphic, everything. Right now we’re prepping for our fifth-anniversary show and we have big names participating, including Jan Kaláb, a Czech visual artist who has exhibited in Hong Kong, Paris and the United States.”
“Right in District 1 (the medieval heart of the city), this hotel is in a great location for sightseeing. The street it’s on is actually really quiet – so it’s peaceful and cosy, too. It was designed by architect Eva Jiricna, and it is very contemporary, full of lovely art and decorations. They do a very good breakfast, baking all their own breads and pastries. The restaurant feels very modern and has big windows looking inwards to the hotel, rather than outside, so you really feel secreted away from the city.”
“In winter, locals love to wander around the streets drinking glühwein (mulled wine) – especially when the snow is falling and the city is lit up in the evening. But when you want a really good glass, try Bokovka. It’s really cosy, with just a couple of tables seating maybe 15 people. Alternatively, visit Jazz Dock on the river, where you can listen to music and look out to illuminated Prague. I order the Primitivo red wine and a cheese plate.”
“This hotel used to be very traditional and old-fashioned, but now they are focusing on a younger generation, and it’s been completely redone. We work with them on the art programme, sourcing pieces for the hotel rooms and lobby. Many of the works are very geometric and based on a type of street graffiti. They look abstract at first, but if you really focus on the paintings, after a while, you can start to see letters forming.”
“This huge gallery isn’t only a gallery – it also has a theatre. I visited recently and saw an exhibition of more than 50 artists that was themed all around childhood. Another time, the exhibition was all about death, exploring this thing in our lives that we try not to talk about. So, the programme is really varied. I’d also suggest the DSC Gallery, near Old Town Square. Of course, Prague has many open-air sculptures to see, too. The city, with its beautiful architecture, is like a 24-hour gallery.”
“This is part of a small chain of European hotels, but the Prague branch is very interesting. From the outside it doesn’t look nice, but step inside and the design is amazing: it’s very colourful and joyful, with lots of pop art. It’s not typical Czech. The location next to the National Gallery is very good, and nearby there is a great bar called Cobra if you feel like some great drinks and maybe some music.”
“Near our gallery in up-and-coming Letná, this lovely bookstore also sells great art prints. Mainly, they are by Czech artists from the Academy of Fine Arts, and they come in a mixture of styles, from geometric to pop art and street art. Once you’ve finished here, go next door to Fresh Labels, one of my favourite stores. They sell lots of nice everyday things like teacups, reusable bags, sunglasses and jewellery. There are so many nice design shops like this in the 7th district, so be sure to explore.”
“I often send clients or guests of Trafo to this restaurant in the 7th district, because it’s very close to the gallery. It’s a big concrete space but has intimate lighting – and very good food. The cuisine is Czech, prepared in a high-level way, so it’s surprising. You really eat it with your eyes. Last time, I had beef tartare and salad, and it was delicious. The Eatery has wonderful wines, too, and while you can order Czech bottles; I usually get an Austrian one because that’s my favourite.”
“Right next to our gallery in the Prague Market area, this theatre space is doing really interesting things. Many of the shows are like Cirque du Soleil, with acrobatics – it’s very surprising what the performers can do with their bodies. These shows are non-verbal, so you don’t need to speak Czech to enjoy them. But that’s not all they do. They work with a lot of theatre companies from abroad, and sometimes plays are shown in English, so it’s always worth checking out the latest programme.”
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