7 Unusual Travel Guides That Will Inspire You to Visit Prague

7 Unusual Travel Guides That Will Inspire You to Visit Prague

Monday, 14 October, 2019

You can do plenty of research online to prepare for your travels — and we love Atlas Obscura for finding the weird and wonderful when we take off for new destinations.

But as book lovers, we are into dense little travel guides that feel good in our hands, are written by locals, and give us the inside scoop on the cool stuff that’s not included in traditional travel guides.

We live in Prague, and we use these seven offbeat books — and one ol’ reliable — almost every week to find new-to-us places to visit. These books are all well-written by people in Prague and will take you beyond the usual sights to create memories that are even better than selfies.


Prague: Artěl Style - Karen Feldman

Prague: Artěl Style
> Karen Feldman

This book is like having a super-cool friend tell you her favorite places in town… if that friend has impeccable taste, a great sense of humor, and an awareness that most of us are on some kind of budget.

Author Karen Feldman moved to Prague from the U.S. in 1994. Those were the early days after the fall of communism, and her adventurous spirit is to the benefit of us all. She’s ferreted out the best places to eat, sightsee, shop, sleep, and drink Czech beer — and she has an eye for the elegant and the eclectic.

This book was updated in 2013 and is still very relevant to current Prague. The snappy, scrapbook-inspired design is punctuated with charming vintage illustrations and photos of Prague, as well as the standard (stunning) beauty shots. Colorful sidebars and interviews with experts give you the inside scoop on Czech culture and history, beer and food, the challenging Czech language, and more. This handy guide is equal parts insight, humor, affection, and practicality. {more}

Look, everyone has a certain skill set, and mine includes locating fabulous items around the globe. Few things give me more pleasure than finding the perfect special something — be it a small trinket that I know a friend will absolutely love, or a vintage design item that has been on my own ‘must find’ list for months… — Karen Feldman

Secret Prague - Martin Stejskal

Secret Prague
> Martin Stejskal

Every page of this dense little book features a color photo of something fantastic or fantastical, especially the architectural elements and unusual objects you might miss if you weren’t specifically looking for them: a cannonball embedded in the wall of a church, the secret signs of alchemy throughout the city, a clock that runs backwards, and so much more.

Each chapter is dedicated to a different neighborhood and includes a handy map of all the sights, so no matter where you are in the city, you can find delights and diversions nearby. Most of the recommended stops are located on the outside of buildings, in public squares, or in nature, so you can enjoy them at your leisure — no tickets, fees, or reservations required. Along with the address and description, you’ll also find juicy gossip about the history and people involved.

A fun read all on its own for the stories from history and folklore, it’s an invaluable resource for visiting off-the-beaten-path Prague. {more}

The timing of the construction of Charles Bridge is extraordinary: after consultation with the mathematician Havel of Strahov to determine the best time to lay the first stone, Charles IV chose the date 9 July 1357, at 5:31 in the morning. This timing made it possible set up a rather remarkable numerical palindrome: 1357, 9 July (the 7th month), to 5 hours 31 minutes in the morning gives the number 135797531, which could be read in both directions… The sum of the digits of the year of construction [1+3+5+7+9] is the same as the number of arches in the bridge [25]. — Martin Stejskal

111 Places in Prague That You Shouldn’t Miss - Matej Cerny and Marie Perinova

111 Places in Prague That You Shouldn't Miss
> Matej Cerny, Marie Perinova

While Secret Prague turns a spotlight on tiny details, 111 Place directs you to grander sights: a creepy cemetery, a historically significant pub, outstanding architecture, and unusual museums. With full-page color photos and well-written descriptions, this book is an amusing way to learn more about the places that attract both locals and tourists.

Each description includes the address as well as super-handy suggestions for using public transportation, as well as an added tip that might be a historical fun fact, another cool sight to see in the same area, or advice on where to grab a snack and drink nearby. We like to pull this book out on the weekend, open to a random page, and build our Saturday afternoon around what we find. {more}

You don’t always have to go out to the edge of Prague, or search for obscure spots in the city centre, to discover something new. Even the best-known places in the city can surprise you. All you have to do is look at things from a different angle. — Matej Cerny & Marie Perinova

Prague: A Cultural History - Richard Burton

> Richard D.E. Burton

This essay collection offers an entirely different approach to travel. Rather than photos and the logistics of sightseeing, this book delves into the significance and history of various aspects of Czech culture.

Written with intelligence and insight, it delves into Jewish history in Prague (including the legend of the golem), Vyšehrad castle, the legacy of Franz Kafka, Czech theater and music, the significance of the architecture, life under communism, the drama of the Velvet Revolution, and more.

If Artel Style is narrated by your hip friend, then the details in A Cultural History are told to you by everybody’s favorite professor: knowledgable, accessible, and an erudite storyteller. You can enjoy this book without ever setting foot in Prague, and if (when?) you do visit, these essays will deepen your understanding of famous spots like Prague Castle, the National Theater, Wenceslas Square, and more. {more}

Visible from everywhere during the day, and now also dramatically floodlit at night, the cathedral and castle haunt the imagination of Prague… — Richard D.E. Burton

Honest Guide: Prague - Janek Rubeš, Honza Mikulka, Eliška Podzimková

Honest Guide Prague
> Janek Rubeš, Honza Mikulka, Eliška Podzimková

This scrappy guidebook with a quirky, friendly design is your local escort to all the best stuff to do in Prague. From the funky must-ride paternoster elevator to ‘secret’ cocktail bars and the best places for Czech grub, this is the book for travelers who want to hobnob with locals. Author Janek Rubeš and his creative partner (and friend) Honza Mikulka, are known as ‘the patron saints of Prague tourism.’ You can get hear and see their recommendations on the very practical and entertaining YouTube channel Honest Guide.

This book consolidates some of their favorite places in one handy manual you can easily tuck into your backpack. Each recommendation includes a text description with obvious affection for the city and a full-page color photo. There are also a handful of charming illustrations — by Eliška Podzimková — that give the guide a personal, handmade feel. This is the exact opposite of corporate, one-size-fits-all tourism, and we are 100% here for that.

Pro tip: You can order this book online and have it delivered to your hotel, so it’s waiting for you at the start of your Prague adventures. {more}

We love Prague and hate Prague. Prague is beautiful and ugly, empty and overcrowded, cheap and overpriced… all at the same time! It doesn’t only have two faces, it has more than a million… We were all born and raised in Prague and have tried to discover as much of it as we could every day since the day we were born. — Janek Rubeš

Faces of Vyšehrad - Petr Kučera

Faces of Vyšehrad
> Petr Kučera

This compact guide to the park and castle ruins of Vyšehrad is only available at the visitors center in the park. We included it so that when you visit Prague, you’ll know to stop by the little office — tucked inside the ancient fortification walls — to pick up a copy (just 90 Czech crowns… about $4).

The site on the top of the hill, overlooking the Vltava River and now facing Prague Castle, has had people living on it — in one way or another — since 2500 BC. The ruins you can see there today date back to the 10th century, and the surrounding park is dotted with statues, beer gardens, walking paths, churches, vineyards, and a stunning historical cemetery. The imposing stone walls that encircle the park offer breathtaking views of the Vltava, the castle, and striking orange tile roofs in the neighborhoods below.

The book provides an overview of Vyšehrad’s history through the centuries, as well as photos, drawings, and nifty descriptions of 40 sights within the park. {more}

The Gothic Spička Gate was built 1348-1350… The massive multi-story building with an inner courtyard was a small drive-through fortress attached to the outer side of the ramparts. The gate was topped with a roofed, half-timbered wall-walk with embrasures and turrets which inspired this name Spička (sharp tip). The nape in front of the gate was broken by a deep moat with a drawbridge. — Petr Kučera

Bonus: Old (Awesome) Reliable

Rick Steves Prague & The Czech Republic - Rick Steves and Honza Vihan

Rick Steves Prague & The Czech Republic
> Rick Steves, Honza Vihan

If you’re interested in culture and digging into a city beyond the general tourist recommendations, Rick Steves’ guides are for you. His books are packed with practical advice and guidance on hotels, restaurants, transportation, and more. Three more things make them essential: his walking tours, his history recaps, and his insider tips.

Interspersed among the main content of the guide, Rick always includes sidebars that dig into historical bits, cultural stories, and other background information that enhances the experience. His tips on which tours are worth the time and money, how to avoid long lines, best times to visit, public transport, and more are invaluable.

The Prague guide includes eight self-guided walking tours, and they are all excellent, as are his tips for exploring beyond the city limits. If you’re not visiting beyond Prague, you might find the more compact Rick Steves Pocket Prague useful; it’s the streamlined Prague content from the Czech Republic guide. {more}

Few cities can match Prague’s over-the-top romance [and] evocative Old World charm… It’s filled with sumptuous Art Nouveau facades, offers tons of cheap Mozart and Vivaldi concert, and brews some of the best beer in Europe. Cross the famous Charles Bridge… Hike up to the world’s biggest castle for a lesson in Czech history and sweeping views across the city’s spires and domes. — Rick Steves

Photo by Dmitry Goykolov.

Have you been to Prague? Planning a trip? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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keep reading

Episode 01 of The Strong Sense of Place podcast — Prague: Cobblestones and Castles. Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, world's best beer, and ghosts.
It's been 27 years since Melissa's last college French class. Now, as a resident of Prague, she's tackling the tricky grammar and pronunciation of the Czech language. Will she ever learn enough to read 'Jana Eyreova'?
Prague's stunning architecture and magical atmosphere make it one of Europe's must-visit cities. But we love it because it's full of stories. Everywhere you look, there's a tale to be told, a mystery to unravel.
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On Melissa and David's first trip to Prague, they had a master plan for battling jetlag: Go on the hunt for the city's best strudel. Along the way, they discovered a cache of vintage books at a dusty used book store.
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Soft light illuminates floor-to-ceiling shelves of gilt-spined books in the libraries of the Strahov Monastery. But it's not all Latin texts and antique globes: a narwhal horn and a giant crab decorate the hallway.
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