?The Golden City of One Hundred Spires.?
The political, cultural and economic hub of Central Europe. The capital and largest city in the Czech Republic. The fifth most visited European city. But, you can just call it Prague. This historic city dates back thousands of years, so most of the city?s architecture mirrors ancient time periods. The center of the metropolitan is bisected by the Vltava River, which provides scenic waterfront views for even the most dense tourist areas.
The Prague Castle, built in 875, is one of the oldest standing buildings in the city. Since the castle?s creation, the grounds have had major additions. Prague Castle is believed to be one of (if not the) largest ancient castle in the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world! The property is home to a mixture of buildings and palaces that showcases the era in which they were built: Roman-style from the 10th century through Gothic-style of the 14th century. The grounds now serve as the official residence of the Czech Republic?s president and as one of the city?s most visited tourist attractions. Prague Castle is located on so much property that it actually houses other tourist destinations as well!
There?s St. Vitus Cathedral, built in 825, which is the Czech Republic?s largest Christian church and seat of the Archbishop of Prague. (If you?re willing and able to climb up the cathedral?s nearly 320 foot main tower, you?ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city.) There?s also the Powder Tower (or the Powder Gate), which is a Gothic tower in Prague and one of the original city gates. This historic landmark dates back to the 11th century and acts as the divider of Old Town versus New Town. Prague Castle also has Golden Lane: this simple street was named after the 16th century alchemists who had to look there for a reaction to produce gold.
However, most locals claim that Prague is famous for its Old Town Square. Standing tall in this ancient town is the early 15th century astronomical clock. Each hour, it springs to life as the 12 Apostles and other figures parade across the clock face.
Beyond these two more well-known attractions, history buffs will quickly fall in love with all that the city has hidden down side streets and tucked between buildings.
Originally located in the Castle District was the Jewish Quarter. After decades of neglect, the area was renovated and transformed in the 1800s into one of the city?s most interesting and important districts.
Charles Bridge was built in 1357 and has 32 points of interest along its 1,700 foot span. As visitors make the trek across the bridge, they can stop and gawk at the beautiful buildings, statues and other landmarks dotting the city. The bridge is also a subject of superstition. Legend has it that the builders laid the initial bridge stone on July 9 at exactly 5:31 a.m.; this precise set of numbers is believed to give the structure additional strength, but it was constructed in perfect alignment with the tomb of St. Vitus and the setting sun on equinox, just for good measure.
Charles University is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic, founded back in 1348. The university was actually the first in Central Europe (well, east of France and north of the Alps that is).
If walking the length (or as far as possible) on the Charles Bridge didn?t wear you out, then try climbing the Pet??n Lookout Tower. Standing at over 200 feet tall, this tower is a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower, but in Prague. It was built in 1890 for a major exhibition from used railway tracks, but it was later moved to Pet??n Hill in the 1930s, where it got its name. Visitors can make the 30-minute walk up the hill to the tower?s base (or take a more relaxing trip via cable car) before climbing the 299 steps to the top, where a caf? now sits.
Whether you decide to climb the Pet??n Lookout Tower, walk the length of Charles Bridge or roam around the never-ending property of Prague Castle, you will be starving and ready for a hearty meal by the time you?re done for the day.
To get a better feel of what Prague has to offer gluten-free eaters, I spoke to the duo of Jan and Zuzi behind Taste of Prague (www.tasteofprague.com). Jan and Zuzi created Taste of Prague to ?provide an authentic, local experience beyond the sights. We like to think of our tours as crash courses in the local life in Prague and the Czech Republic.?
According to these Prague locals, ?Czechs eat mostly meaty dishes with sauces: a protein, sauce and some side. This is Central Europe, so you should expect comfort food, lots of butter and pork or beef. Wash down with gluten-free beer. Repeat.?
Given this traditional fare, I had to ask if there are any places that gluten could be hiding. They said, ?You should ask about the sauces. Do you add flour to the sauce? The same applies to sausages and charcuterie: for textural reasons, some lower-end manufacturers add flour to them.?
When asked which restaurant they would recommend gluten-free diners try, Jan and Zuzi replied: ?The executive chef at Field (www.fieldrestaurant.cz/en), a recent newcomer at the Prague fine dining scene, is a wizard with sauces, and does not add any gluten to them. They also serve gluten-free bread, and our gluten-intolerant guests have always eaten well at Field.?
Although this Prague favorite is known for its Naples-style pizza (and, unfortunately, doesn?t have a gluten-free version), Pizza Nuova does offer gluten-free pasta. Their menu details which allergens each dish has, so celiacs can quickly scan the list and pick out the most appetizing meal. The restaurant boasts its authentic pizza, so we?re hoping they can boast the same about their pasta dishes because their Penne alla Tagliata sounds divine: slices of entrecote (fine slice of sirloin) cooked in rosemary with spinach, tomatoes, Grana Padano cheese and green pepper.
Pasta Fresca is actually the sister restaurant of Pizza Nuova, and this Italian haven makes gluten-free penne and spaghetti! Although you?re technically in Prague, once you taste a dish crafted by Chef Tom?? Mykytyn, your taste buds are in Italy. All meals are made from fresh, seasonal ingredients, according to Italian tradition. Beyond their pasta dishes, Pasta Fresca serves soups, salads and seafood with the flavors of Italy in mind.
Rice lies at the heart of Alriso, and this foundation means this Italian restaurant is naturally gluten-free. The goal at Alriso is to use rice in a variety of forms?from appetizer to dessert and just about everything in between. Although their menu centers around one main ingredient, the dishes that are being made here are everything but ordinary. They use rice flour to make homemade penne, spaghetti, tagliatelle and lasagna pastas, and of course, they make a mean risotto. For dessert, the restaurant offers gluten-free tiramisu!
If you?ve never experienced gelato, then you?re not living. During your Prague vacation, be sure to squeeze a trip (or two?or three) to Angelato into your schedule. Nearly all of their gelato is gluten-free; the normal offenders, like tiramisu or other flavors with cookies or cake, are off-limits. Their website states: ?In all our flavors, all work-related as well as personal stress, worries and sadness will melt since we are watched over by our ice cream guarding Angel(ato).? The creamery offers the typical gelato flavors ? Dark Chocolate, Chili Chocolate, Hazelnut, Coconut, Pistachio ? but they also have some very daring combinations: Avocado, Olive Oil and even a Parmesan and Walnut flavor! In addition to their worry-dissolving gelato, the creamery also serves lactose-free sorbet. However, since their sorbet is made using the freshest fruits, you?ll find the most flavors available during the summer months, when these fruits are ripe. Oh, and did we mention that Angelato is a place where gluten-free individuals can have their ice cream in a cone and eat it too?
U Mal? velryby (Little Whale)
Vacations always need at least one special night out to that fancy restaurant in the city, and Little Whale is that destination. In fact, Little Whale is nearly entirely gluten-free, all due to culinary preference: the chef simply prefers to cook without it! All dishes are gluten-free unless specified as other, such as some of their specials or their homemade bread. Once you?ve searched through their entire menu and your mouth is watering and your stomach growling, we dare you to settle upon just one dish. There?s the Char-grilled Swordfish with Wok-fried Sesame Vegetables served alongside Mango Salsa. Sounds delicious, right? But there?s also an Angus short rib that?s been slow roasting in red wine, which will be served with a star anise glaze, sweet potato puree and corn on the cob. The decision is a tough one, indeed.
Maitrea is an entirely vegetarian restaurant located in the center of Prague. In addition to their permanent menu, the restaurant also has a rotating daily menu. Luckily for those vegetarian and gluten-free travelers, Maitrea has plenty for you to choose from! For appetizers, there are a variety of dips, such as pumpkin chickpea hummus or guacamole, to get your appetite ready. For your main course, order the Thai Eggplant, which is served with tofu, coriander, lemon grass, chili peppers, coconut milk and rice. Whatever you do, make sure you save room for a slice of their Raw ?Cheesecake? with strawberry sauce!
When Sansho opened in 2011, they were Prague?s first whole animal restaurant. This casual fine-dining restaurant serves seasonal Asian cuisine for lunch and dinner. Each meal is a combination of fresh, local produce, the best of Prague?s Vietnamese markets and high-quality meat. Most of their dishes are naturally gluten-free, but be sure to specify with your waiter so the proper precautions can be taken to ensure an entirely gluten-free meal. If you?re lucky enough to go to the Czech Republic during asparagus season, then order the Asparagus Salad with green chili, a deep fried egg and shrimp floss ? it?s a chef favorite! <
?vejk Restaurant U Karla
Located in the center of the city sits ?vejk. The atmosphere of this restaurant will transport you back in time to the early 20th century during the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Unlike restaurants during that time, however, ?vejk has a gluten-free menu! All gluten-free meals and side dishes are prepared in a separate area with different utensils to reduce the cross-contamination factor to as close to zero as possible. Their menu is filled with Czech favorites, but a customer favorite has to be their Svickova, a classic Czech meal of sirloin slices in sour cream with dumplings. And yes, the restaurant serves gluten-free dumplings! As with the rest of their gluten-free meals, the dumplings are made using strictly gluten-free utensils in a designated area and the main ingredient is a Czech-made gluten-free flour. ?vejk gives gluten-free travelers the option to dine in a historic setting and indulge in the city?s favorite meals.