Welcome to the fairy tale city; Prague
As one of Europe’s best preserved cities, Prague will amaze you not only with its alluring architecture and abundant brews but also the inherently romantic atmosphere. The capital of Czechia’s various epochs – Slavic, Habsburgian, Communist – are still visible and make for fascinating explorations. The UNESCO World Heritage site owes surviving both World Wars largely undamaged to being Hitler's favorite city and the 1938 Munich Agreement that didn't let them fight against the Nazis, however.
Built on nine hills, Prague is a great walking city with a little help from tram if you need. Visit Prague in the spring when the weather is mild with temperatures. Here's an idea of an itinerary for a long weekend for you:
Day 1: Old Town, Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge
Day 2: Prague Castle Area, Lesser Town
Day 3: Museums, Off the Beaten Path, Shopping
The heart of Prague's historical center is the Old Town Square which is a good place to start your Prague visit.
You will find the gothic spires of the Týn Church towering over the square, the statue of reformer Jan Hus, the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall and St. Nicholas Church in the heart of the city.
The detail and artistry of the Astronomical Clock from 1410 make it one of the most beautiful. And surely, it has a legend similar to Taj Mahal's. When the clock maker Hanuš was blinded on the order of the Prague Councillors in order not to repeat his work, he disabled the clock. It wasn't until 1552 that it could be repaired. Check it out every hour for the display of the 12 apostles.
While the view from the Old Town Hall Tower is highly recommendable, you also have a sight down under the Town Hall. A series of catacombs stand as an exhibit showcasing medieval life.
The Rococo Kinsky Palace was built between 1755 and 1765 on the site of three existing buildings with medieval foundations that have been preserved in the cellars of the palace. You will find the permanent exhibition of the Art of Asia and more in cooperation with the National Museum.
Walk down Celetná to the Powder Tower, one of the historical entrances to the Old Town. Connected to the tower is the exquisite Municipal House, Prague's Art Nouveau gem.
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is not far from Old Town Square. Home to six synagogues, a Jewish Ceremonial Hall, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, the quarter honors the history of what was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Hitler saved it from Nazi destruction because he wanted to make the area a museum to the lost Jewish race.
Beautiful to behold, the Spanish Synagogue is built in a wonderful Moorish Revival style and is the last synagogue to have been built in the quarter. Dating back to 1868, it is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful synagogues in Europe. While you can visit the Spanish Synagogue as part of a tour or regular visit, it often hosts classical music concerts.
Lying right in front of the Spanish Synagogue, the Franz Kafka Monument is a lovely statue that was erected to commemorate the famous writer who was born and grew up in Prague. It is very distinctive to behold, as the statue shows Kafka sitting on the shoulders of a headless figure. This design was inspired by his short story – Description of a Struggle.
Lying right in front of Prague’s main railway station, the Jubilee Synagogue also goes by the name of Jerusalem Synagogue, as it is located on Jerusalem Street. The red brick Moorish Revival and Art Nouveau facade looks stunning! Built in 1906, it was named to celebrate and honor Emperor Josef I of Austria’s silver jubilee. During the Second World War, it was one of the places used to store Jewish artifacts that the Nazis stole from around Europe.
Pass onto the beautiful Charles Bridge which has its legend as well. It’s said that construction began on Charles Bridge at 5:31am on July, 9 1357 because Charles IV believed in numerology and this specific time formed a palindrome (1357 9, 7 5:31) which would transfer more strength to the bridge itself.You can climb the towers on both sides of Charles Bridge; the one on the Old Town side, offers beautiful views.
The main sightseeing areas of Prague are separated by the Vltava River. On the left bank of the Charles Bridge, there is the Prague Castle area and Lesser Town. The right bank is home to the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, and the New Town.
Prague Castle, also called “Hrad”, is the largest castle complex in the world and has been the seat of the Czech monarchs since the 9th century. The complex consists of multiple sections: St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, The Story of Prague Castle, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, the Powder Tower, and Rosenberg Palace. If you don't have half a day to spend here, I recommend you to visit St. Vitus Cathedral as the largest and most significant church in the country. The gothic cathedral was founded in 1344, but construction was not completed until 1929. Could it compete with La Sagrada Familia 😀 ?
The Golden Lane is a small picturesque street, part of the castle complex. It originated after the construction of a new northern wall of the Castle. The name of the Lane is derived from goldsmiths who used to live there. Czech-Jewish writer Franz Kafka used a house on the street for around two years as he enjoyed the peaceful environment it provided whilst writing.
After the castle, head over to the hill behind it to see the baroque styled Strahov Monastery. Founded in 1143 by a community of Premonstratensian monks, Strahov Monastery has survived fires, wars, and revolutions. The monastery complex contains landscaped gardens and a basilica with two spires that can be seen from across Prague, as well as the world-famous library. Home to rare gems like the Strahov Gospel from 860 AD, Strahov Library is one of the world's most beautiful, thanks to its outstanding baroque halls adorned with frescos and stucco decoration depicting historical and mythological scenes. Theology and the Philosophy Halls contain around 60,000 books making it the second oldest library in Bohemia.
Can you imagine a functioning brewery at a monastery? Well you have one here! Restored in 2000, Strahov Monastic Brewery offers freshly brewed St. Norbert beer (you can check out St. Norbert Restaurant, where you can also enjoy traditional Czech cuisine).
Continue to the German district, Lesser Town (Malá Strana) either through the castle gardens or the historic Nerudova Street. A short walk down Karmelitská Street will bring you to the Church of Our Lady of Victory where the world-famous Infant Jesus of Prague is kept.
Visit Petrín Hill for Prag's biggest park and a magnificent view from the lookout tower (resembling Eiffel) overlooking the Charles Bridge, Vltava River, Prague Castle, and Snezka - the highest peak in the Czech Republic. The complex is ideal for family visits as it also houses a Mirror Maze with distorting mirrors and Štefánik Observatory.
Prague is home to many museums and galleries. You can learn about traditional folk culture of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia in the Ethnographic Museum; visit the Franz Kafka Museum to catch up with his life and works; see a collection of Czech Cubist furniture and other objects at the Cubist House of the Black Madonna; admire the paintings of the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha in the Mucha Museum, to mention a few ideas.
Although overshadowed by the famous Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square is in fact the largest in the city. The National Museum’s neo-renaissance building on the square is the oldest museum in Bohemia that was founded 200 years ago.
Check out the Dancing House, which is inspired by famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The stone tower symbolizes Fred and the glass his partner Ginger. Built between 1992-1996, The Nationale Nederlanden building is home to office, a restaurant, a gallery, a conference center as well as a sightseeing terrace.
Take a cruise on the Vltava River. Seeing Prague from the river Vltava is a unique experience and offers a way to see the many historical buildings and monuments from a different perspective.
A trip to the Czech Republic is not complete without drinking some great lager in a proper Czech pub. Famous for being the birthplace of pilsner, the country consumes more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world. An average Czech citizen consumes a liter a DAY. The first brewery in the kingdom of Bohemia had opened in 993 AD. Beer was often brewed by monks in monasteries, who were allowed to drink beer during fasting periods. For many centuries, nearly every Czech town and village had their own local brewery. But the nationalization of the brewing industry after the fall of the Iron Curtain, killed most of them. Don't be surprised by the categorization of the beer in the menus by the way. The Balling scale represents the “weight” of liquids; higher degree means more sugar and a higher alcohol content and a stronger flavor.
Take a walk around and admire the architecture!
Learn some interesting facts. For instance, did you know Einstein took a teaching position at Charles University and Mozart composed some of his best Opera's in Prague?
Be amazed by the beauty of the sculptures!
Prague is a city that captures your heart and attention with it’s monumental architecture, history, and character. It's definitely my favorite European city (after Istanbul of course ;))
Ready to find out more?
Have you seen my gallery?