Prague, home of 1.4 million people is the capital of Czech Republic and the historical capital of Bohemia. The Gothic Renaissance and Baroque eras have impacted this city a lot. Fortunately, the city’s main attractions were not destructed during the 2nd World War and are well preserved giving the visitor the chance to experience how a medieval city was. Its extensive historic center is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Prague castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, actually a castle complex, occupying 70.000 square meters. Its construction started in 870!! and it is now the residence of the President of Czech Republic. You can visit the castle grounds for free but you need to pay an entrance fee to enter the buildings. Many churches, towers, galleries and gardens are part of this huge complex. Make sure you have at least 2 hours and comfortable shoes to visit Prague Castle.
One of the most enormous and imposing buildings in Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. The Cathedral is the burial place of many Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman emperors. The Cathedral is an example of Gothic masterpiece with numerous mosaics and gargoyles decorating its exterior. Its construction began in 1344 and took 6 centuries to be completed. Except from its interior and chapels you can also climb its Great South Tower, see the bell and enjoy a magnificent view of the city.
Leaving the castle to the West you enter the historic Mala Strana district (in Czech ‘Little side of the river’), full of pretty colorful buildings as well as souvenir shops and restaurants. Walk all the way down and you will arrive at another great sight of Prague, Charles Bridge (Karluv Most). This historic bridge crossing the Vltava river was the only means of crossing the river until 1841 and is protected by three bridge towers. 30 baroque statues depicting saints decorate the two sides of the stone bridge. Crossing the bridge during the night gave me the impression I was about to enter a medieval town. Unfortunately, during the day it is super crowded with tourists, street artists and various stalls that make crossing it an impossible and tiring mission.
After managing to cross this romantic bridge you will be entering the Old Town of Prague, also crowded with tourists and street artists all over. Its narrow, cobblestone streets will take you to the Old Town Square. The are several interesting buildings in the square, the Old Town Hall, where the medieval astronomical clock is located, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn as well as St. Nicholas Church. The Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj) is the third oldest in the world and the oldest one still working. Every hour the figures of the twelve Apostles are striking the time. There is a legend according to which the city will suffer in case the clock is neglected and stops operating. At Christmas and Easter markets that resemble medieval ones are held in the Old Town Square attracting millions of visitors. This makes me wonder how crowded it can get in there as it was already packed during my visit last week!
Another Gothic tower in the Old Town is the Powder Tower that is actually a gate to the city. For a very cheap fee, 100 CZK, you can enter the tower, reach its viewing gallery at 44m climbing some steps and enjoy some spectacular views to the city. I would highly recommend visiting the Powder Tower around sunset time.
One of the most beautiful neighbourhoods of Prague is the Jewish Quarter. It is very close to the Old Town and you should not miss it. It is the only part of the city that Jewish people were not banned from starting from the 13th century. You can visit any of the si synagogues, multiple museums and admire some really beautiful old buildings.
Aso don’ forget to take a picture of two well known modern art sites of Prague, the Dancing house and Kafka’s head.
Vysehrad (The Castle of the heights) is the second and not that famous castle of Prague that is said to be the first location of a settlement which later became Prague. It is a huge complex as well so I would recommend having at least 1 hour time to visit its grounds, the Rotunda of St. Martin, the 11th century Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the national cemetery and enjoy some stunning views of the city, the river and the bridges crossing it. There is no entrance fee for Vysehrad.
Of course, after visiting all these beautiful and enormous sights you will probably get hungry but don’t worry, Czech cuisine is a really tasty one. While in the Old city do not miss the chance to get a trdlenik, a roller dough wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut and then coming with various toppings.
For the original Czech culinary experience, I would suggest having a lunch at the traditional restaurant U Benedikta at Benediktska street 722/11, try the garlic soup, the roast duck with sauerkraut and goulash. Al those dishes are the perfect winter treat!
Do try some locals beers as Czechs are well known for their breweries. For a signature cocktail I highly recommend Hemingway Bar in the Old Town that has an American bar feel, terrific cocktails and very professional staff. This bar is a kind of place that you cannot easily forget.
Before my visit, I was advised Prague is a super cheap city but that was not quite true, I would say the prices are average central European city rates in general. Something I found quite annoying was how crowded it was with tourists and how difficult you could make your way to the next point you wished to sometimes due to that.
Prague is easily accessible by plane, bus or train. I arrived by a Eurolines.cz bus from Berlin for a very reasonable rate, in 4 hours an a half. Buses arrive at Florenc station which is just two stops away from the city center. The metro is really convenient and can take you everywhere and in case you want to get around during the night buses run very often, too.
The main sightseeings can be visited in 2 days time but to have enough of its vibe you better plan for 3 maybe even 4 in order to make a one day trip to Karlovy Vary, the famous spa town.
Have you ever been to Prague? What were your impressions and which part of it did you like the most? Add your replies in the comments.