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While the King of Bohemia was drawing up his urban expansion plans for the neighborhood known as Nove Mesto, the Vinohrady area was being planted with grapes and remained little more than fields well into the 19th century.
In the late 1870s the southern area of the Vinohrady received a municipal charter and became its own town, which was incorporated into the growing capital in 1920. Vinohrady gives us a glimpse, with its busy boulevards crossed by narrow, cobbled, winding avenues, of what bourgeois life in Prague would have been like if it hadn't been stomped out by Communism.
As you stroll around, it's difficult not to look in the windows and wonder what life was like when these beautiful Art Nouveau and neo-Renaissance mansions were built. Peeping through the lace curtains you can see huge, ornate chandeliers illuminating high ceilings with intricate moldings and ceiling medallions crowning vast rooms.
Vinohrady begins behind Muzeum, on the edge of Riegrovy sady park. This beautiful and well laid-out park straddles the hill, continuing down the slope into the neighborhood. The height of the park provides beautiful views of the city, stretching all the way to Hradcany on a clear day. There is even a beer garden where a brass band plays on most summer evenings. It's a great place to avoid the mass of tourists choking the center of the city.
Just down the hill you'll find Manesova Street, a beautiful cobblestoned tributary of Vinohradska, the neighborhood's main artery. Cruise up this street from Blanicka, and you'll find an interesting array of restaurants, clothing stores and bazaars. Toalette, a boutique for the chic located at Mánesova 58 (Praha 2, Vinohrady Tel: +420 2225 3849), is notable for its selection of second hand scarves, clothing and cool shades.
If you're not in the market for women's clothing, check out the two best bazaars for beautiful, and fairly affordable, antiques. Vinohradsky Bazarek, at Mánesova 64 (Praha 2, Vinohrady, Tel: +420 22 24 37 59, Hours Mon-Fri, 10-6), offers unique items to decorate your flat in a manner befitting its original glory. Amazing glassware, picture frames, statuary, musical instruments and paintings clutter the interior of this appealing little shop. Located just next door, Trident, (Mánesova 64, Tel: 627 69 89, Hours Mon-Fri, 9-6), another bazaar of the same caliber, quietly sells some of the most beautiful antique jewelry, watches, clocks, and light fixtures in the city.
If shopping and walking makes you hungry, and your teeth are in good order, step down the street to Ambiente, the "living restaurant". Though it's difficult get an explanation of its moniker, they offer a very impressive selection of French, Italian, Australian, and Chilean wines to compliment a menu offering pasta, ribs, and steaks.
If meat doesn't equal a living restaurant to you, try Prašád, (Třebízského 5, Tel: +420 222 500 72, Hours Mon-Fri, 11:30-6) located caddy-corner from Ambiente and serving Indian-inspired vegetarian dishes for a mere 50-70Kcs. After your meal, walk back up the hill to Riegrovy sady, a wonder park with a summber beer garden right behind the McCann Erickson advertising agency, and enjoy life as it was meant to be in Vinohrady.