Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Sitting astride the Vltava River, with its fairytale hilltop castle and soaring Gothic spires, Prague is one of Europe’s most attractive historic settlements. A medieval trading centre, the city grew wealthy as the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and it retains one of the most complete ensembles of Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture in Europe.
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. The complex dates from the 9th century and includes the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, the Vladislav Hall and the Renaissance Belvedere summer palace (00 420 224 372 423; 9am-6pm daily Apr-Oct, closes 4pm Nov-Mar; £13).
The Veletržní Palace was built to house trade exhibitions. Now it is home to the National Gallery's great collection of 19th-, 20thand 21st-century Czech and European art including works by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso (ngprague.cz; Dukelských Hrdin°u 47; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun; £9).
Letná is a vast park built on a plateau above the Vltava River. Come to the rickety benches of the Letná Beer Garden to enjoy one of the city's most impressive views, looking across the river to the spires of the Old Town and southwest to Malá Strana (Letná Gardens; 11am-11pm Apr-Oct).
The Strahov Library is the largest monastic library in the Czech Republic. The interior of the Philosophy Hall was built to house the carved and gilded, floor-to-ceiling walnut shelving from Louka monastery (strahovskyklaster.cz; Strahovská knihovna, Strahovské nádˇvoˇrí 1/132; 9am-5pm; £3).
Founded in the early 15th century, the Old Jewish Cemetery is Europe's oldest. Some 12,000 toppling, faded stones lean up against one another; beneath them are some 100,000 graves (Široká Street; free).
Eat and drink
Surrounded by a country-cottage decor, locals crowd in to Restaurace u Šumavy for lunch specials that remind them of their grandmother's cooking. The roast duck's good, as is the daily soup special (00 420 224 920 051; Štepánská 3; mains £3-£5).
Whenever you need a sugar boost, there's the delightful Cukrkávalimonáda café , which translates to 'sugar, coffee, lemonade'. Its dark 70 per cent hot chocolate is unfeasibly rich. There's also homemade pasta, frittata and salad (00 420 257 530628; Lázenská 7; mains £4-£6).
Located in a converted brickworks, Hergetova Cihelná has one of Prague's hottest riverside spots with a terrace offering views of Charles Bridge and the Old Town. There's an international menu with Italian, Thai, Chinese and Czech dishes and the wine list is one of Prague's best (00 420 257 535 534; kampagroup.com; Cihelná 2b; mains £10-£20).
Kampa Park was the pioneer of Prague's fine-dining scene, attracting celebs such as Mick Jagger and Bill Clinton. For a romantic dinner, reserve a candlelit table on the cobblestoned terrace (00 420 257 532 685; kampagroup.com; Na Kamp 8b; mains £15-£30).
La Degustation specialises in traditional Bohemian flavours in its tasting menus, including rabbit soup with pigeon dumplings (00 420 222 311 234; ladegustation.cz; Haštalská 18; lunch Tue-Thu, dinner Mon-Sat; three-course menu £35).
The suites and apartments of Castle Steps spread across several buildings in the Castle District. They sleep from two to eight, and offer great value for the location; all have been beautifully renovated and are furnished with antiques and pot plants (00 420 257 216337; castlesteps.com; Nerudova 7; from £33).
The Dahlia Inn is in a nondescript building, but don't let that put you off. It's a stylish b&b with spacious rooms decorated in lime green or fuchsia, and contemporary art work. The owner is a wealth of information on restaurants and bars (00 420 222 517518; dahliainn.com; Lípová 1444/20; from £44).
You can't get closer to the river than at the newly renovated boat hotel Botel Matylda. It has compact, wood-panelled cabins decked out with wood and leather furniture. The executive suites have flat-screen TVs and on the top deck is a romantic Italian restaurant (00 420 222 511826; botelmatylda.cz; Masarykovo Nábˇreží; from £70).
In a quiet, atmospheric corner Sleep of the Old Town, the eclectically furnished Hotel Sax has a 1960s vibe. Restored Eames, Guzinni or Colani furnishings in orange, green and purple make for fun rooms (00 420 257 531268; hotelsax.cz; Jánský vršek 328/3; from £130).
Hotel U Zlaté Studn, once the home of Emperor Rudolf II, is one of the Old Town's secrets and is tucked away in a cobbled cul-de-sac on the southern slope of the castle hill. The rooms are quiet and spacious, with reproduction period furniture; many have views over the palace gardens (00 420 257 011 213; goldenwell.cz; U Zlaté Studnˇe 166/4; from £160).
How to go
EasyJet flies to Prague-Ruzynˇe airport from Bristol and London Gatwick (from £48) and bmibaby flies from Manchester (£90). A shuttle runs to the town centre (£10; prague-airport-shuttle.cz).
Find your way
Prague's public transport system combines metro, tram and bus. Buy tickets at stations and at the airport's information desk, which also has a detailed English language guide to the system (tickets £1; dpp.cz). For a taxi, call City Taxi (00 420 777 257 257).