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New edition of Prague USE-IT map shares tips from locals

New edition of Prague USE-IT map shares tips from locals

Photo: archive of Use-It Prague

The Use It Map is relatively small and easily fits into one’s pocket, but
it is literally packed with interesting facts and tips about the city,
highlighting venues that are popular with the locals, from hidden cafes and
pubs to galleries and music clubs. A new, updated version of Use-It Map
came out just recently. Eva Křížová, one of its authors, explains what
makes it different from the previous editions:

“Originally, Use-It Map was meant for travellers to make them enjoy the
city and to break the tourist bubble but since the recent wave of
over-tourism, we are trying to think more about the locals and the
relationship between locals and tourists. Our vision is to have a city
where you don’t really recognise a tourist.

“So we are trying to make tourists to get to know us closer, to learn
about our habits and to see what it means for us to live in a city so
overcrowded by tourists. That’s the main aim of the Use-It Map edition
this year.”

Although the map suggests dozens of lesser known, alternative tourist
destinations, most foreign visitors cannot leave Prague without seeing the
city’s main attractions, including Charles Bridge or the Astronomical
Clock on Old Town Square.
Eva Křížová says that with a bit of planning, they can still enjoy
these places without being pushed around by the crowds:

“It is still possible, although we don’t know for how long. There are
still some times during the day when Prague Castle and Charles Bridge are
close to empty, usually early in the morning and early in the evening. In
recent years, you are likely to meet Asian brides taking pictures on the
bridge for their wedding photo albums, but the atmosphere is still
there.”

To explore the city’s deeper layers, Use-It map creators suggest hopping
on a tram and going at least ten stops in the direction out of the city
centre. The tram number 18, for instance, will take you to Nusle, a former
working-class district located just below Vyšehrad Castle. Nusle is one of
the alternative tourist spots that made its way into the new edition of
Use-It Prague.

“This year we wanted to bring tourists to Vyšehrad and we were thinking
of how to lead them from there to some local district.

Nusle, photo: Kristýna Maková

“And we came up with the idea of crossing the Nusle Bridge and leading
the tourists to the district below, which is slowly becoming popular city
with more and more people moving there. We wanted to show it to people
before it really becomes popular.”

Apart from visiting one of the many pubs and non-stop bars around the
district’s main square, Náměstí bratří synků, Use-It suggests
taking a walk to the Folimanka Park to see the statue of R2D2. It was made
a few years ago by a group of unknown graffiti artists, who used an old air
vent for a nuclear shelter and transformed it into the Star Wars character.

To get a taste of how the real locals live, Use-It takes visitors on the
so-called “Suburban excursion” to one of Prague’s communist-era
prefabricated apartment blocks called Jižní město or Southern City.

“We chose just a small area surrounding the metro station Háje. There is
this lodging house called Kupa and on the top of it, on the 22nd floor,
there is this 1990’s style restaurant.

“It is also the highest point in Prague with a really great view. And it
is definitely an adventure and an experience to go there and it is worth
it.”

Also included on the Use-It Map are various tips on how to blend in with
the locals. If you feel like grabbing something to eat, Use-It creators
advise choosing a truly local choice of a snack, an open faced sandwich
known as chlebíček, over McDonalds.

If you don’t feel particularly classy, you can get some potato salad
spread in a plastic box, sit on a bench and scoop it up with a bread roll.
You can feed the left-overs to the swans, or even better, to the coypus, an
invasive rodent species which has grown increasingly common in Prague and
can be spotted on the banks of the Vltava River.

Use-It Prague also brings a list of popular lunch spots for the
Czech middle class in various districts of Prague, where you can enjoy a
typical lunch menu, such as goulash, svíčková and smažák, fried
cheese, which is often the only option of a vegetarian meal. To get a taste
of an authentic Czech student lunch, Use-It suggests getting a meal in the
student canteen in the basement of the Faculty of Law, which is open on
weekdays.

Smažák, photo: Dezidor / CC BY 3.0

The Use-It network was initiated in 1968 in Copenhagen in response to the
fact that all people coming to the city were hanging and sleeping outside.
In 1973, the first USE-IT map was published in London and Amsterdam. Soon,
other cities joined in, including Brussels, Dresden, Warsaw or Porto.
Prague joined the network with the first map in 2011 and has since issued a
new edition each year. But there are other towns and cities in the Czech
Republic that benefit from a Use-It guide. There are also maps for Brno,
Ostrava, Pilsen, České Budějovice, Český Krumlov, Zlín and Kutná
Hora. To publish a guide under the Use-it brand, however, it is necessary
to meet certain requirements, explains Eva Křížová:

“The most important one is that there are no commercials in the map. No
one pays to be on the map. It is really just what our team of volunteers
think should be on the map. It gives us a great freedom but at the same
time we struggle with financial resources.

“The map also has a strict square format and we have to issue a new
edition every year, or maximum one and a half years. Otherwise, we are
thrown out of the network.”

The Use-It map is prepared throughout the year by a group of volunteers and
enthusiasts, who explore the city in search of new, interesting venues. Eva
Křížová, who has been involved in the project for several years now,
says she never fails to make new discoveries.

“I live in the Žižkov neighbourhood and I discovered only through
creating this map that you can go up the Žižkov tower and have a coffee
in the café on top of the tower without paying for entry. You just pay for
a coffee and enjoy the great view. And also underneath the TV tower there
is the Jewish cemetery that is worth seeing.”

The new edition of Prague Use-it Map can be picked up at numerous sites in
the city of Prague from tourist offices to youth hostels. Use-It Maps for
Prague and other Czech towns and cities can also be downloaded online, at
use-it.cz.