If you want to experience an authentic old Prague, you should definitely visit Café Alchymista. Once you enter, you might discover that there is something magical about this place.
The Spirit of Café Alchymista
When you enter Café Alchymista, you feel like traveling back in time about one hundred years ago. This is also the moment when the first magical moment might come. Look up at the ceiling, and let yourself wonder about the alchemistic painting. When you look around, you can feel retro vibes with comfortable armchairs, decorations, and pictures. The “homey” feeling is even enhanced by the huge Monstera plant and smell of the freshly roasted coffee.
If you think that it’s all, I might assure you that it’s just beginning. When you pass the counter with delicious home-made cakes, you will discover another room that looks like a stylish granny living room. The atmosphere is enhanced with old piano standing in the corner, birds twittering by the window and if you are lucky, even cats lying around.
You might guess that it’s still not the end. The cherry on the cake is coming when you open a glass door and enter the charming backyard. This is another magical moment that you might expect.
Let yourself draw inside the magical garden full of trees, flowers, and birds. Choose one of the tables under the tree or by a small fish-pond.
When you look around carefully, you might even discover several sculptures of modern art. If you would like to discover the whole beauty of the garden, you can do it as a visitor to the Prague Coffee Museum that is connected with Café Alchymista.
Besides the magical atmosphere, you should definitely discover another dimension of this café, and these are homemade cakes together with freshly roasted coffee. All the cakes are produced right in this café or by small-scale producers that are securing the best quality of ingredients.
Our favorite one is a chocolate cake with mint and fresh herbs (see the picture), but you can have a great variety of cakes that satisfies all your taste buds.
As we already mentioned, coffee beans are roasted just here, so you can be sure that coffee is fresh and prepared with love. Whatever coffee you choose, you will receive it in original mugs specially prepared for Café Alchymista.
What we really appreciate is the option to have a coffee with plant-based milk, such as soya milk. Last time, they had even freshly homemade almond milk, unbelievable.
Prague Coffee Museum and Museum of Marionettes
Café Alchymista is closely connected with the Prague Coffee Museum. You can learn about the story of coffee beans from the plant itself right to your cup, or about the coffee culture both from international and Czech perspectives.
What we find interesting was the different kinds of coffee substitutes that contain no caffeine. Just next to the museum used to be a gallery of contemporary art. Today, you can find here an interesting exhibition of marionettes.
The Story Behind Alchymista
The founder of the whole place is the artist Kateřina Ebelová. In 1995, she found the apartment house with a neglected courtyard and turned it into a green paradise.
Furthermore, she opened this wonderful café, founded the coffee museum and the gallery itself. Thanks to her vision and devotion, you can now enjoy this small hidden paradise in the middle of the city. Today, the café is run by her daughter Patricie and her husband, Petr.
National park Bohemian Switzerland is a great hiking destination. You might already hear about Pravčická gate or iconic viewpoints around Jetřichovice.
If you decide to explore more about this hiking paradise, you need quality accommodation. I tried several pensions in this area, but I can recommend only one – Krásná samota. It means “beautiful solitude,” and once you visit this place, you understand why.
Bohemian Switzerland is my favorite place where I like to take my foreign friends for hiking. Our main destination is usually hiking trek to Pravčická gate, unique stone formation in Europe.
However, I always had an issue finding appropriate accommodation that would allow us to stay for several days and explore the area more. Don’t take me wrong, there are some hotels in Hřensko or pensions in typical Czech cottages, but there was always something that I would not completely recommend it. Until I found Krásná Samota, thanks to Amazing Places recommendation.
Two hundreds years of history
Despite the fact, that pension is really a solitude outside of the civilization, we found it through villages and forest thanks to well-prepared signs. Once we arrived, we were welcomed by friendly dog Lajla and by Marcela with her little daughter Magdalenka. Michal just had a yoga lesson in the attic. Marcela showed us our double room, breakfast area with a fireplace and a huge garden. It was about sunset time, and I cannot help myself and start photographing, it was just magical.
Pension used to be a farmhouse founded in 1818. However, it deteriorated over time, especially during the communist period when private farming was prohibited. In 2013, Michal found this place and started with reconstruction. The whole building is made of natural materials such as wood, sandstone, and clay plasters.
During five years of reconstruction, Michal combined it with his regular job as a hairdresser. Today, he is not pursuing a professional career anymore, and rather enjoys life in the countryside. However, you can still take advantage of his professionalism and have a new haircut.
Krásná samota was finally open in 2018 when Michal and Marcela had a one-year-old girl Magdalenka. If you are wondering how they come up with this suitable name, the responsible one is the little one. Although she was not speaking at this time, she brought a book with this name at the moment when her parents were discussing the name. And here it is, the beautiful solitude.
Today, you can find accommodation in one double room or three apartments, each one with a private kitchen and bathroom. You can prepare food by yourself or have a vegetarian breakfast by the fireplace downstairs. The pension can accommodate up to 17 people.
What you can do and see at Krásná samota
The pension itself is a great place for relaxation. You can explore the garden with growing flowers and vegetables, range with sheep and goats, fireplace under the stars, grill place under the shelter or hammock under the trees. In the middle of the garden is a pond with various fishes. Close by; you can even find a beehive thanks to which Michal can provide you, homemade honey.
During the winter, the garden is still charming, but you can take advantage of fireplace and choice of local wines, have a yoga lesson with Michal, enjoy the sauna with wellness and massages or relax with your book, anywhere you like.
Therefore, Krásná samota is a great place to relax and active holiday for the whole year. I would highly recommend hiking to Pravčická brána (about 30 min drive to Hřensko) and hiking to viewpoints around Jetřichovice (about 20 min drive). Pension is a great starting point for bikers and cross-country skiers. If you prefer just a relaxing walk, the nearby village Chřibská is full of charming timbered houses.
How to get to Krásná Samota
You can drive to Chřibská by highway direction to Dresden and then turn North to Česká Kamenice and village Chřibská. It is about 2 hours drive. In Chřibská, you can find several signs on the way that will take you through the forest to Beautiful Solitude…
Address: Horní Chřibská 84, Chřibská, 407 44
The State Opera finally opened its doors after a three-year renovation period. This majestic building offers top-class performances of opera and ballet. Let`s explore more about the repertoire and the surprising history of the building.
Experience the State Opera
Visiting the State Opera is like a cultural trip back in time to the Austrian-Hungarian empire when the theatre was born. The theatre is among the most beautiful ones in Europe thanks to its neo-Renaissance façade and neo-Rococo interior décor. The whole design is featured in white and gold colors with red velvet fabrics. It is like a place for princes and princesses, so make sure you dress up for a visit.
Thanks to the renovation, the Opera gained a new rotating stage, but also new seats with touchscreen displays offering surtitles in several languages. What I really like is the new stage curtain, because there is an interesting story behind it. The new curtain was created by stage design students in Prague according to the original curtain from 1888, which mysteriously disappeared in 1945.
The repertoire consists mainly of opera (of course) and ballet. You can expect classics such as Aida, Nabucco, or La traviata from Giuseppe Verdi, or Madama Butterfly, and La Bohéme from Giacomo Puccini. Soon, you can even expect typical Czech opera Rusalka from Antonín Dvořák or Fidelio from Ludwig van Beethoven. From the ballet repertoire, there is currently a modern version in popular performance Timeless. In the longer term, there is also a plan to include works of contemporary composers and attract the younger audience. For actual information, check the program of the State Opera and choose whatever you like.
History of the Opera
The Prague State Opera opened its doors for the first time in 1888 as a German Theater. During this period, our country was still part of the Austrian – Hungarian Empire, and both Czech and Austrians strived for their own cultural platform. In 1881 opened the National Theater devoted solely for performances in the Czech language. The German-speaking artists attempted for their own theater. Their wishes come true, and the German Theater finally opened in 1888.
With World War II and the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands, the building served the needs of the NSDAP and their political gatherings. At the façade of the Opera appeared the Imperial Eagle and the building hosted only several performances from Reich aiming to spread the propaganda.
During the Communist period, opera was renamed as the Smetana Theatre and became a part of the National Theatre ensemble. Thanks to its large-scale facilities, it served for international guest performances of opera, ballet, and drama, both from the Eastern and the Western blocks.
With the fall of the Communist period, the theatre was renamed to the Prague State Opera and opened its door to the broader spectrum of media to attract more visitors. In 2017, the Opera closed to the public for a long three years to restore and modernize the whole building. In January 2020, the State Opera reopened its doors to the audience, and you can finally admire the restored glory of this marvelous place.
Check the program of the State Opera and savor the atmosphere. I believe you will like it!
The Old Town Hall, with its medieval tower and Astronomical clock, has been dominant in the Old Town Square for centuries. Hundreds of people are standing below the Astronomical clock every hour to watch the moving marionettes. However, I would take you inside the hall that is hiding several gems to discover.
The Astronomical Clock
All year round from 9 am until 9 pm, you can watch every hour a process of moving marionettes on the top of the Astronomical clock. This technical wonder of the Middle Age recently celebrated 600 years of its operation. The Clock was first installed in 1410, making it the oldest clock that is still operating.
The marionettes that are appearing every hour in small windows are the Apostles. Beside the two small windows, pay attention to small figures below the windows. There is also skeleton pulling on the string, a Turk shaking its head, a figure of Vanity looking itself in the mirror, and a figure of Miserliness shaking a money bag. At the end of this small performance, a cock crows, and then the bells start to strike the hour.
The Clock was restored several times, lastly, in 2018. According to a legend, the city would suffer if the clock is neglected. So, the municipality is making sure that it is operating accordingly. The Clock underwent the most substantial damage on May 8, 1945, during the Prague uprising against the Nazis. Part of the Municipal hall burned (and never restored), and the clock was severely damaged. Thanks to the significant effort of the municipality, the machinery was repaired, the Apostles restored and the whole mechanism started to work again in 1948.
For me, the main highlight of the Old Town Hall is the view from its tower, which is original from the 14th century. I really like a restored “staircase” leading to the top, which actually is not a staircase, so the tower is entirely wheelchair accessible. When you climb the high of 70 meters up, you are rewarded with a magnificent view of the city center. Then you will understand why Prague is called the city of thousands of spires.
The Old Town Hall Tour
You can take a guided tour inside the Old Town Hall. What I like the most about the tour are the beginning and the end. In the beginning, you get inside the Gothic chapel, and you can check the inside mechanism of the Astronomical clock with wooden marionettes. Then, you will pass through several council chambers. In the end, you will get underground the Old Town Square to the original cellars dating back to the Romanesque period. Today, the city government has a seat in a different place, so the Old City Hall is open to the public and is especially popular with weddings.
The Old Town Square is one of the most touristic places in Prague and locals rather avoid its tourist traps and high prices. However, there is one hidden gem that is pretty well hidden, without any sights and direction. It’s Skautský Institut, fabulous place with courtyard, reasonable prices and friendly atmosphere created by local scouts.
Meeting place not only for Scouts
Once you find the entrance, pass the reception, and see the impressive courtyard, that looks like from the old Czech movies. Climb the stairs up to the first floor, and you will find a maze with corridors and numerous doors. Just follow the sign to the café and/or admire the view to the courtyard where you can take your drink and grab a book from bookshelves.
Café itself is in a minimalistic style, with wooden decor, branches over the ceilings and furniture crafted by scouts and volunteers. You can find three rooms full of chairs, tables, bookshelves, and even with a piano. My favorite spot is definitely in a small spire with a tiny table where you can observe people at the Oldtown square watching the Astronomical clock because you are almost next to it! Another great place to sit down is courtyard balconies with tables alongside the wall on several floors.
The menu is simple and affordable, just in the spirit of scout philosophy, such as coffee, wine, Czech beer (for 35 CZK is the cheapest one at the Old Town Square), homemade lemonades, cakes, and cold snacks. People behind the bar are scouts, of course. They are chilled out and friendly, like the atmosphere in the café.
Skautský institute is very active in organizing various events for the public. They organize lectures, workshops, summer cinema and lectures of swing. Unfortunately, the site is available only in Czech, but have a look at their program at Facebook at least.
Scouting in the Czech history
With the establishment of scouting in 1907, Czechoslovakia followed the idea in 1911. Since then, the organization has been forced to disband three times – by the Nazi regime in 1940, by Communists in 1948 and again in 1970 after the Prague Spring. Despite all these experiences, the Scout movement always re-emerged. Today, after more than 100-year existence, the membership is growing and reached over 60 000 members in 2018.