EYE CANDY: With its medieval hotels, castles and churches, Prague offers visitors plenty to see.
EYE CANDY: With its medieval hotels, castles and churches, Prague offers visitors plenty to see.
5 Prague, Czech Republic
5 Prague, Czech Republic

The Czech capital resounds to music at this time of year. With the Prague Proms starting later this month you’re almost bound to bump into a Barenboim, Bartoli or Bostridge somewhere around Stare Mesto (Old Town). But there’s plenty of music on the other side of the Charles Bridge too. Rocky Mala Strana (Lesser Quarter) is where Beethoven chose to stay when he visited in 1796, turning his back on the fashionable Stare Mesto, with its opera houses and concert halls.

Start your walk here in the gardens of the Wallenstein Palace, where the brass band of the Castle Guard often performs. In 1858, Smetana wrote a symphonic poem, Wallenstein’s Camp, about the hubristic count who built this palace to outshine the Holy Roman Emperor.

Leaving the palace gardens, turn right along Letenske, past The Augustine Hotel, built on the site of the St Thomas Monastery and Brewery. Here, you can still sample its dark brew.

A right turn brings you quickly up to Malostranske Namesti (Lesser Town Square). This collection of baroque mansions and bijou palaces is dominated by the massive dome and towers of St Nicholas Church. When Mozart died on December 5 1791, more than 4 000 people met here to honour the composer. These days there are choir and organ concerts most evenings at 6pm. Opposite St Nicholas, dip into the music shop under the Lichtenstein Palace.

Heading out of the square, up Nerudova, note house No 12 with its cartouche of three violins. This is the House at the Three Fiddles where, in 1796, Beethoven arrived to have his violin repaired by the Edlinger family. Today, it is a traditional restaurant and a reasonable place for a pit stop.

Nerudova, with its colourful baroque façades, is one of the most picturesque streets in Mala Strana. Look out for the Italian embassy in the Thun-Hohenstein Palace with two gigantic, menacing-looking eagles over the main doorway. If you carry on up the street, it’s only 500m on the left to the Premonstratensian Monastery where Mozart was overheard improvising at the organ after the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787. What he was playing was transcribed by the order’s organist and is now known as Fantasia in G minor.

Taking a steep left from the top of Nerudova down Jansky Vrsek brings you past the KGB Muzeum on Vlasska and then the Aria Hotel on Trziste with its superb composer cartoons by Josef Blecha. Each of the music-themed rooms is dedicated to a particular composer or style of music.

As Jansky Vrsek joins the main drag of Karmelitska, there’s a plaque to Giovanni Punto (pioneer of horn technique). When he met Mozart in Paris in 1778, the latter wrote to his father describing Punto’s playing as “magnifique!” Punto died at 2 Jansky Vrsek in 1803 and his funeral was accompanied by Mozart’s Requiem.

Turning right down Karmelitska brings you to the Czech Museum of Music in an old Dominican monastery on the corner of Harantova. Walk north-east to Lazenska and, at No 25, the Palac Beethoven rears up. Today, it’s an apartment block but in 1796 it was the Inn at the Golden Unicorn, where the taciturn composer lodged. Here, he composed four chamber works dedicated to the Czech countess Josephine de Clary.

Turning right down Velkoprevorske Namesti towards the River Vltava brings you to the most unusual music memorial in Prague, the John Lennon Wall, with graffiti created by students after Lennon’s death in 1981.

The Prague Proms start on June 16 for three weeks. Highlights include Death in Opera, a collection of opera finales, and Carl Davis conducts Broadway showstoppers.

The Museum of Alchemy is on Jansky Vrsek in a tower where the 16th-century English alchemist Edward Kelley lived. – The Independent on Sunday