Forget the medieval towers and the cobbled courtyards of Prague. Forget the ticking Astronomical Clock and its UNESCO tag on the Old Town Square. Forget the touristy dumpling houses and Slavic eateries that tout Czech and English menus on the Vltava banks close to much-trodden Charles Bridge.
Forget all of those because there’s a whole other side to this city. Forget them because Prague has a hidden edge that hardly anyone encounter, mainly because they are too taken with what the Lonely Planet guides say they have to see. Forget them in favor of boho-cool Zizkov: a ramshackle neighborhood of old Soviet tenements and crumbling apartment blocks raised during post-war Communism.
Today, this area is slowly shedding its down-and-out shell. Like so many of the up-coming districts of capitals across Europe, the gentrification is being spearheaded by hip coffee houses and independent art galleries, each bursting with hand-roasted single origin beans (ethically sourced from Kenya, of course) or thought-provoking reworkings of Kandinsky al la 21st century.
Take some time to delve into the alleys and streets that shoot off from the wide Stalinist boulevards that cut through the heart of Zizkov. You’ll find yourself surrounded by quirky restaurants and interesting little cafes. In the shadow of the UFO-like Zizkov TV Tower (which can be seen from almost anywhere in Prague), you’ll find al fresco bakeries with tiny courtyard gardens and bicycle cafes with saddles for seats.
One of the defining places in Zizkov has to be the sprawling open-air beer garden of Nakladoveho Nadrazi. The place is reminiscent of the drinking terraces that line London’s Camden lock, or the post-industrial bars of Poland’s Krakow, where drinkers can be seen prepping for a night on the famous Krawl Through Krakow by pre-loading with craft beers and pizza pies.
Nakladoveho itself is set in the grounds of an old railroad depot. Patrons sit and sip and dine on rickety wood tables and the creaking platforms of old, where the rusting shells of aged freight trains still gather dust on the tracks. In the spring and summer, this huge venue hosts everything from food fests to film showings, and booms with drainpipe-jeans-wearing hipsters from right across Czechia.
Meanwhile, the nearby chairs and tables of Café Pavlac are one of the new breed of drinkeries that are being forged in Zizkov. Fusing art gallery with artisan coffee house, the spot lives in a worn-out brick building which it’s filled with metallic sculptures and murals. The menu fuses traditional Czech platters of meat of veg with tasty Francophone desserts in the form of sweet crepes, while the outdoor sitting area has to be one of the best in the city.
In short, little Zizkov promises bohemian vibes in an interesting setting. At least it’s something different to what most visitors get to see…