the 10 best kept secrets in Prague: an off-the-beaten-path guide to the Czech capital

Prague had me so in love, I’ve already started looking at moving. Which, is a total mess given my love for Berlin and my opportunity in New Zealand. Genuinely, what. a. conundrum. One of my mission’s while in Prague was to hit up as many hidden spots as I could in four days. As an advocate of slow travel, four days is almost no time at all. As an advocate for making the most of every travel opportunity, it was all the time in the world.

We all get sick of seeing the same stuff repeated time and time again on blogs, Instagram, and travel T.V. shows, but Prague, a city visited by millions every year, has so many spots that get missed, works of art that never get noticed, and bars that are only regular-ed by locals— true hidden gems of the city! What you won’t find on this list: trying trdelnik, watching the Astronomical clock, and catching views at the top of the Hotel U Prince.


READ ON FOR THE BEST KEPT SECRETS OF PRAGUE


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FIND THE UPSIDE-DOWN HORSE SCULPTURE

The Prague Post Office famously commissioned a statue during the Communist era to represent Czech patriotism. Unbeknownst to them, they had hired David Černý, a rebel and advocate for a freer Czech Republic who wasn’t at all happy with his country’s leadership. So, Černý created the statue of King Wenceslas riding an upside-down, dead horse. Obviously, the Post Office wasn’t pleased and refused to showcase the artwork. The artist, instead, went to the owner of Art Nouveau Lucerna Palace near a vintage cinema to ask if they’d house the sculpture. The owner agreed to display the statue as long as their was corruption and shameful behavior being displayed by Czech Republic leadership. Spoiler alert: politics are as rotten as ever and the statue remains hanging.

TRIVIA: You might be wondering how the statue is hanging from a glass roof when it’s so large. It must be heavy, right? It’s made of styrofoam, guys. Is your mind blown? Mine was.

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JOYSTICK BAR

Down a basement in the back end of a shopping complex, is Joystick Bar, an arcade bar you never knew you needed in your life. Pilsner pints {you are in Prague after all} start at 35 CZK {USD $1.54} and will get you buzzing for all the old school arcade games you can get your hands on. Every game other than Super Smash Brothers on Wii U costs 10 CZK {USD $0.44}. If you don’t have change, the bar staff can break your notes for you. There is a limited snack menu available is you game so hard you work up an appetite. Those who follow my Insta-stories know I set the high score for Ms. Pac-Man at Joystick, so go try and beat my record and let me know if you succeed!

FUN FACT: For someone who was never a “gamer”, I am freakishly good at Pac-Man, pinball, and Mortal Kombat-type fighting games. I have no idea why I was given this blessing, but it’s my cross to bear. It’s one of my many secret superpowers that comes in handy almost never {like knowing celebrity hometowns and net worths}, but Joystick gave me the opportunity to showcase my skills…if you can call them that.

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FEAST YOUR EYES ON AN ARCHITECTURAL WONDER

This one might only be appealing to those who are big into history or architecture. The hexagon building, which sits amongst the more classically European buildings in Old Town Prague is something most people pass without a second thought. Locals tend to consider the building a real eye-sore, going as far as calling it “the ugliest building ever built in the city.” What’s fascinating about the Kotva Department Store is what it reveals about the Communist past of Prague.

During Communist rule, nothing that promoted Western ideals was allowed. Children weren’t allowed to watch Mickey Mouse for fear of the propaganda the little cartoon character might be filled with. However, the Communist party also didn’t want to lag behind the rest of the world in modernizing itself, ya dig? It was a real conundrum. So, they decided to commission professionals to create Czech spins on things perceived to be like they would be in the West. Many people say the building should be knocked down, while others believe that the Kotva Department building stands as a physical representation of the not-so-distant past when times were tougher and the future looked as bleak as the black hexagonal structure.

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spot SIGMUND FREUD hanging

People always say, “Don’t forget to look up!”, and, in this case, people aren’t wrong. “Man Hanging Out” is a statue that depicts the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud hanging onto a plank for his life. The concept behind the often missed piece is that Freud is supposed to be having an inner dilemma between whether he should hold on or not. For those who don’t know, Freud was born in a city that is now part of Czech Republic, thus he gets to be the subject of Czech satirical art. The statue’s sculptor, David Černý {yeah, the same guy who did the upside-down horse on this list}, has a seriously dark sense of humour, but Prague has a seriously dark past, so can you blame the man? The coolest part is that it’s located in the heart of Old Town Prague and so many people still neglect to see it.

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WALK DOWN THE NARROWEST STREET IN the city

Those who are out to see the quirkier side of Prague will love a {incredibly brief} stroll down the narrowest street in the city. The street is so narrow, it actually has its own stop light to let pedestrians on either side of the alley know when its their turn to walk! Perhaps not for the claustrophobic, it’s truly an off-the-beaten-path-type attraction since most people walk right by it without noticing.

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PEEP THE METALMORPHOSIS STATUE

If you’re a literature buff, you’ve likely heard of Franz Kafka. BUT! It’s still unlikely you know about the spinning head sculpture that exists in his honor outside a shopping complex in the New Town part of Prague. The Jewish, German-speaking, Bohemian novelist is much loved by his Czech countrymen. Kafka fans will know his work is sort of…strange. Many lit-buffs will tell you, Kafka’s novels are often dark and confusing with major political or social statements being made throughout. The moving head spins in representation of the confusion and complexity of Kafka’s writing— a metaphor for how his words make you feel after reading them.

SIDE NOTE: You may remember, I visited an almost identical sculpture in Charlotte North Carolina. Let me say…I’ll take Prague over Charlotte any day.

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RIDE THE paternoster LIFT IN NEW CITY HALL

Is it weird that this was the thing I was most looking forward to on our hunt for hidden treasures in Prague?! Thanks to Honest Guide, I heard about an open door elevator in New City Hall that you can ride round and round in circles. No need to push a button and wait for it to come to you, just jump onto the platform and jump off when you’ve arrived at your intended floor. Apparently, there are 12 of these bad boys lurking around Prague, but this one is the most accessible to the public, since others are in municipal police stations where there is more security to enter the building.

Go through the main entrance {good luck with the heavy ass door} to the back and turn the corner. Boom, you’re there! I went at around 9 AM and was the only one there and everyone we talked to hadn’t heard of it, so I feel safe saying you’ll definitely be able to avoid crowds at this stop.

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LEARN ABOUT THE HUSSITE WARS AT THE BONE CHURCH

Okay, this one feels like a bit of a cheat since it’s not directly in Prague and has been recorded as the second most visited site in Czech Republic. However, many of the people I talked to on my way to the Roman Catholic Chapel hadn’t actually heard of it, so I suppose it’s all about your demographic, right?

Sedlec Ossuray, the proper name for the Bone Church, is actually about an hour train ride outside of the city to a town called Kutna Hora, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site thanks to Sedlec Ossuary and its historical significance. The Bone Church is the final resting place of an estimated 60,000 people from the Hussite Wars {also called the Bohemian Wars}. It’s definitely an eery place to visit that’s worth a photo or two, but please be respectful of the cultural importance of the place and treat it with the kind of dignity it deserves. I saw so many people snapping photos with selfie sticks in front of the same altar people were praying at.

Dark tourism is such a strange part of modern travel, but I think it’s incredibly necessary to know about what humans are capable of doing to one another so that we can {hopefully} learn from the past and move forward towards a kinder future.

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GRAB A COCKTAIL ON THE TOP OF THE DANCING HOUSE

Everyone stops for a picture in front of the eye-catching Dancing House, however, few tourists know about the bar and viewing deck at the very top! If you walk into the Dancing House building, go up to the 7th floor on the lift, and walk up a flight of stairs, you’ll find the narrow entrance to Glass Bar. The bar serves up coffee, sodas, and cocktails to all those thirsty {get it?} for views of city.

INSIDER TIP: You’ll need to spend 100 CZK {USD $4.41} in order to use the out door viewing deck, but you can enjoy the heated indoor bar for the price of any drink. The indoor bar is glass, so you’ll still have 360° views, but it’s more fun to go outside where there isn’t anything between you and the sights!

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SPOT THE THieF’S ARM HANGING IN BASILICA OF ST. JAMEs

I left the creepiest, strangest one for last. I learned on my hosted food tour with Eating Europe Prague that Czech people are famously superstitious and love their folklore. An example of this is the story of the hanging arm in Basilica of St. James.

One night, a thief was hiding in the Basilica until dark so that he could steal a gold necklace adorning a statue of the Virgin Mary. As he reached up to grab the necklace, the Virgin Mary came to life and grabbed the thief’s arm. The thief screamed until morning when the priest came and found him there in the grasp of the Virgin Mary. To punish the boy for stealing, the priest cut off the thief’s arm and hung it above a painting of the Madonna to warn others who might try stealing from a holy place.

The arm is there to this day, still hanging as a grotesque reminder not to take what’s not yours…and to never cross the Virgin Mary. Photos inside are strictly prohibited, but I can say I’ve seen it with my own two eyes and it’ll give you goosebumps.

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YOU CAN FIND THESE HIDDEN SPOTS ON THE MAP BELOW


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