Ditching that precious folded map, getting lost instead in small cobblestoned alleys is generally the best way to discover Prague. Sometimes, after walking a couple of hours or more eventually you will find your way back to where you first set off. But, while the alleys are charming, populated with pretty cafes, souvenir shops and quirky bookshops, they can be overwhelmingly crowded. Luckily, Prague has another secret kept for curious on-foot explorers: pasazes or passageways.
Passageways are pedestrian shortcuts common in European city buildings and are everywhere in Prague if you know where to look. They are not exactly tourist attractions. But the concept is pretty alien to a Southeast Asian like me. I mean, pedestrian shortcuts you would find in Indonesia are mostly alleyways wide enough for two passing adults, or one motorcyle. Office buildings usually frown upon people who pass through with no business.
European passageways on the other hand, are usually inside office buildings or commercial centers. Connecting winding streets, they are perfect for escaping cold weather. During one of my afternoon walks, I found one passage -that later I found was in the “queen mother of Prague arcades”- off of Wenceslas Square, called Lucerna Pasaz.
Judging from its size and character, Lucerna was definitely more than just a functional passageway. People weren’t only passing through Lucerna. Some went there to hang out in Art Deco-style Lucerna Café on the second floor, accessible by stairs or a door-less elevator. Some went to browse through a collection of old records at a small shop on the first floor before catching a movie or a rock concert. Some also dined in classic style at the famous Restaurace Monarchie. Lucerna was definitely a real treasure.