A true crown jewel among the European capitals, Known as the “Golden Prague” or City of 100 Spires , once one of the hubs of European culture, with Mozart and Kafka among it’s many famous residents.
Prague fell into oblivion during the communist era but has now retaken it’s obvious place as one of Europe’s vibrant, romantic must see capitals.
With most of it’s attractions within walking distance from the city centre, Prague offers an architectonic feast for the eye, with all it’s well preserved splendour from different historical epoques like Medieval, Baroque, Renaissance, Art Noveau amongst others. Every corner you turn in the dwindling streets hides a new surprise. 2009 the city boost’s two guide Michelin one star restaurants and the city has made a meteoric rise since the velvet revolution in 1989.
1. Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is the main artery of central Prague connecting the Old Town with Lesser Town(Mala Strana) crossing the river Vltava also known as Moldau in the famous symphony by Smetana. The bridge is nowadays a pedestrian zone and very popular with various street artists and souvenir vendors. The bridge is a piece of artwork decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues, most of them baroque-style, erected around 1700. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. On Charles Bridge, there is a place on the statue of St. Jan on which visitors can place their hand to make a wish. Choose Queen Sofia, and keep a secret of your choice untold forever; choose the image of Jan being tossed off Charles Bridge, and you’ll return to Prague.Next to the Charles Bridge you have the Kampa Park restaurant, one of the city’s finest restaurants frequented by celebrities. Sit down, have meal and enjoy the Charles Bridge seen from the west shore of the old city.Photo by iLoveButter on Flickr
2. Prague Castle
The complex consists of Saint Vitus Cathedral (the most recognisable landmark in the city), viewing towers, museums and art galleries, a monastery, The Golden Lane, several palaces, including Lobkowicz Palace, and St. George’s Basilica; the latter being a popular venue for early evening classical concerts.
Perhaps the most interesting part is the Golden Lane, also known as the Goldsmiths or Alchemists Lane, with its “half” small houses attached to the outer wall of the castle. The famous author Franz Kafka once lived here for a while in his sisters house.
The Castle houses the Czech Crown Jewels, locked in, with seven different people each one holding a unique key to the vault. The crown jewels are on display on rare occasions. Some stones on the Crown of Saint Wenceslas are the biggest in the world.
3. Astronomical Clock
Be prepared for a big crowd in front of the Orloj in the old town square,old town city hall. Every hour, a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statue of a Turk. Richly ornamented this is a unique masterpiece of an astronomical clock with functions for the revolutions of the sun, moon and stars amongst others.Dating back to 1410 Various functions has been added during the years. It is unique being the oldest of similar clocks where the original clockwork has been in operation for whole six centuries. 80 years after it’s initial construction master Hanus rebuild the clock according to legend. The councillors had Hanus blinded that he would never manage to build another instrument greater than the Orloj. To revenge master Hanus deliberelity damaged the clock that no one could ever fix it again. He also put a spell which made anyone who tried, to go mad or died. Apparently it is a repaired version we see now, with a few clock repairers going mad down the years.With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches the old town square is one of the most beautiful historical sights in Europe. Domineering the old square is The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, or Tyn Church, (Týnský Chrám). With its two asymmetrical baroque towers this is a landmark to be seen from all over Prague, specially striking lit up at night time.
At the centre of the Old Town Square is the Jan Hus statue. The supporters for his beliefs during the 14th and 15th centuries eventually led to the Hussite wars.
Take your time, sit back and soak up the atmosphere over a coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés surrounding the square.
4. Old Jewish Cemetery
The entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery is through the courtyard in front of the Pinkas Synagogue and the exit is near the door to the Klausen Synagogue, where you also find a street full of souvenirs.
Many well-known Jews are buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery with Rabbi Judah Loewas the most famous. Rabbi Judah Loewas was the creator of the “golem” a Jewish version of the Frankenstein’s monster created of mud from the river Vltava. Golem run amok and had to be put down. He is still to this day supposed to rest in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue.
5. Wenceslas Square
The night life and entertainment is rife around the square and there is an array of hotels and international shops.
Look out for the Melantrich where Alexander Dubcek and Vaclav Havel appeared together on its balcony in November 1989, a major event of the Velvet Revolution.
6. U Fleku
is one of the finest, with it’s own micro brewery and restaurant in the many individual rooms with interesting names such as The Sausage, The Academy, The Knights Hall, The Cabaret, and the Suitcase.
Take a seat at the long tables and you will soon have a nice dark U Fleku lager in front of you, served buy a big Madame with a giant beer tray. A guy with an accordion entertains with traditional Czech songs which contributes to typical beer hall style atmosphere. After a few beers you might get hungry and are ready to enjoy the fine traditional Czech cuisine here. Watch out! As waiters walk around with trays of beer or Becherovka and will leave your drink at the table, settling the bill at the end of your visit. This system makes it quite easy to spend a lot more than you intended!U Fleku is extremely popular all year round because it is simply a great place to enjoy traditional Czech food, beer and entertainment. To get a seat, be there early!
7. Hotel Evropa
If you want to have a time travel back when Art Noveau was created, step in to the Hotel Evropa, located on the famous Wenceslas Square. Once the Grand Dame of the Wenceslas Square. This is the place where time stood still. In the restaurant you can have a dinner surrounded by palm trees in a typical fashion for that era. The Art Nouveau restaurant called “Titanic restaurant” is world renown as well as the Café Evropa and its wooden and etched-glass grandeur is well worth a coffee and a look. At times there will be a three man orchestra playing Wiener classics.Hotel Evropa’s unique interior has appeared in many films of various world productions, for example the well known “Mission Impossible” with Tom Cruise. You may also recognize the interior from the blockbuster Titanic. The movie based the dining room of the ship on the Evropa restaurant and cafe.
8. Lesser Town, Mala Strana
It used to be a main approach to Prague Castle. The street got its name after the famous Czech poet and writer Jan Neruda who lived in the house of The Two Suns (U Dvou sluncu). In the street you will find many quaint restaurants, shops with souvenirs and crafts and also hotels and embassies.
9. Holy Infant Jesus
The statuette was donated by Duchess Polyxena of Lobkovicz donated to the church in the first half of the 17th century. A collection of dresses that were given to the Holy Infant as an expression of gratefulness, is situated in a room in the upper floor, the entrance is on the left from the altar.Legend has it that the statuette was made by a Spanish monk after the infant Jesus appeared in front of him during garden work. Read more at Infant Jesus of Prague
10. Fred and Ginger or the Dancing House
Have a meal on the roof of the building in the French restaurant with magnificent views of the city.Photo by pawelbak at Flickr
Getting around in Prague
Public transport: Prague’s transit system (www.dpp.cz/en) is built during the ‘70s to quell dissent, with big, fast, clean and cheap Metro trains running on three lines and trams and night trams (those with numbers in the 50s) criss-crossing the city. The Metro stops at midnight and ticket cops make surprise inspections so be sure to have a valid one.
Buy a ticket at the machine by any Metro entrance or from most Tabák shops for 32 Kč for 90 minutes and unlimited transfers. Or get a day pass for 110 Kč or a three-day one for 310 Kč. You can also send a text (+420 90206) to buy a ticket via sms – DPT32, DPT110 or DPT310. That said, Old Town and Malá Strana are best explored by foot and are a manageable – and deeply enjoyable walk.
Tips: Don’t forget to validate transport tickets in the machines on board buses and trams.
Bikes: Cycling in the city is not nearly as dangerous as it used to be but tram tracks, ice and cobblestones still make it a venture for only the brave. Try City Bike (www.citybike-prague.com) for tours on wheels. The self-guided MP3 audio tour is a current hot seller for DIYers at 590 Kč (18£).
Hire a ca: There is hardly an reason to hire a car if you stay within Prague as parking is difficult and expensive. Even to travel out of the city, buses or trains are usually less hassle and far cheaper unless you’re headed for remote locales. Local firm Alimex (www.alimexcr.cz) offers good rates but is not rated well by users for service.