Best of Prague

Romantic beyond description, Prague has old world charm mixed with modern thinking.  Walking the tiny cobblestone streets brimming in delectable cafés and interesting shops, the city bustles with life. The Prague population loves life and enjoys it to the fullest.  Loving music there is a multitude of nightclubs to choose from filled with glass clinking locals swaying and moving to the jazz tunes.  The younger generation dance and mingle with disco till the early hours of the morning.

Prague Castle in the Czech Republic behind the Vlatava River

Prague Castle from Vltava River

Go to the street markets located throughout the old town and watch the locals barter and chatter over the myriad of colors beckoning one to buy the freshest produce.  Like Photography?  What a great place to be at the crack of dawn!

Relax at one of the many cafés that look out at one of the town squares relaxing with a hot cup of coffee or sparkling glass of wine.  Watch as tourists meander by with their heads and eyes in the clouds staring at the beauty and excitement of the city.  See the young college students walk by arm and arm 10 people wide having the time of their lives laughing and just acting silly.

Christmas time is extra special when they decorate small kiosks with garlands of fir and red ribbons underneath towering spires of Old Town Square.  There is nothing like walking up and down the aisles with a hot cup of gluwein checking out the goods.  With Christmas music booming from local artists the festive feel is addicting.  They also celebrate with an Easter Market filled with fun merchandise and specialize in highly decorated Easter eggs.

With so much of the Renaissance and Baroque Architecture it’s hard to choose what to visit first.  Everywhere you look will be a spire raging up to the heavens from churches and towers.  Walk through the doors of a church and gaze at the meaningful artwork from past civilizations.  Shop in the Jewish Quarter for best prices in town, and their historic cemetery filled with interesting stories from WWII.  Stroll over the statue lined Charles Bridge filled with vendors selling everything from oil paintings to jewelry to toys for the kids on your way to Prague Castle.

St. Vitus Cathedral

Found in the center of the castle and the most important cathedral in all of the Czech republic. This was the place of royal coronations and also the location of the remains of several famous Czech kings (notably Charles IV, of Charles Bridge fame).  Check out Alfons Mucha’s stained glass window with his famed Art Nouveau style, along with a bevy of other historic and colorful windows.   (Second on the left as you enter through the main entry) Also don’t miss the Royal Tomb in the crypt underneath the church. If you’re willing to hike the 287 stairs to the top of the St. Vitus Tower you’ll be rewarded with excellent views of the castle and the surrounding area.   Most impressive is the Golden Portal on the outside, to the right of the entry.  A shimmering golden mosaic portraying the Last Judgment of Christ with St. Vitus and King Wenceslas on his left and surrounded by angels.

St. Vitus Cathedral towers

St. Vitus Cathedral towers

Old Royal Palace

Original seat of Czech rulers. Visitors first enter the Vladislav hall, the largest high-Gothic vaulted space in Central Europe. Other rooms include the Palace chapel and throne room. At the end of the exhibit is “The Story of Prague Castle” exhibit, which features artifacts from the castle’s past.

St. George’s Basilica

The 2nd oldest church in the castle and features a colorful baroque facade. The interior is visibly older and is the burial place of the Premyslid family and the first Czech saint, Princess Ludmila.

St. George’s Convent

National Gallery one of several branches of the National Gallery is located inside this, the first convent in Bohemia. Today it houses the collection of Czech Mannerist and Baroque art.

The Golden Lane

During the reign of Rudolf II, goldsmiths lived in a lively alleyway filled with tiny workshops, which were also their residence, hence it’s name.  Tiny, cobblestoned walkway filled with brightly-painted little houses, where modern man has a hard time standing with the low ceiling. (It’s tough to realize just how tiny our pre-20th-century ancestors were until you go somewhere like this). Franz Kafka occupied one of the houses for a short time, and this is why most people visit the Golden Lane. There really isn’t another good reason unless you want to buy some overpriced souvenirs in the small shops now occupying the houses, or need to cut through the crowds to see the Daliborka.

The Daliborka

Built by Prince Vladislav in 1496 the tower at the far end of the castle is part of a new fortified wall. Its first prisoner was a recalcitrant knight named Dalibor who, according to legend, played his violin very sadly at the wall serenading the castle residents. Though, the thickness of the walls makes that legend a little unlikely.  No one would have been able to hear him outside! Today the tower holds a small display of prison and torture techniques used during that time.

Prague Castle Picture Gallery

Housed in the original castle stables. It contains Renaissance and Baroque art, including parts of the original collection of Rudolph II.

The Royal Garden

East-north-east of the palace is a large park. Aside from its own beauty, it has an excellent view of the east bank of the river. Entrance is free.

State Rooms

The State Rooms at Prague Castle are open to the public two days of the year, as they are mostly used exclusively by the president. Contact the Castle Information office for more details.

Lesser Town or Malá Strana

The settlement around the castle; location of most governmental authorities, including Czech Parliament.  The hill slopes down from the Castle and Strahov Monastery to Mala Strana and Malostranske namesti metro station. It affords an amazing view of the city on a clear day, and in springtime the trees are in bloom. This is possibly the nicest place to kick back with a bottle of wine and your significant other to watch the sunset over the city. Just be careful not to trip over the modesty-lacking couples that will probably already be there. In a city filled with apartment buildings and only a handful of single family houses (almost all in the diplomats’ favored housing area, Dejvice, and priced far above the average Czech family’s wage) parks take on a greater importance. Petrin has a miniature Eiffel Tower that offers a nice view over Prague and its suburbs. The most famous “inhabitant” of the park is a statue of poet Karel Hynek Macha, at whose feet lovers leave wreaths every spring in honor of his romantic poem Maj.

Old Town

Old Prague with narrow cobbled streets line with shops and eateries. Old apartments with a long history of those who lived there.

Old Town Prague

Old Town Square

The center of festivals, music restaurants and fun. The Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings were perfectly preserved here. Originally built up from its beginnings as a market place around 1000 AD, it is now the center point for tourism.  The unique spires of the Tyne Church dominates the skyline, the Baroque inspired St. Nicholas Church, and the towering Astronomical Clock. There is also a Tourism Office next to the clock for those looking for great information.

Jan Hus monument

That striking man standing atop a patina-green metal mountain in the center of Old Town Square is not Jesus, though he resembles him. It’s Jan Hus, the great Czech religious reformer whose Hussite movement caused as much, if not more, friction within the Christian community as Martin Luther. The statue was erected on the 500th anniversary of his death (6 July 1915). Hus preached in the Bethlehem Church in Old Town and was himself not particularly radical, unlike some of the sects who followed him. He believed in Bibles written in the worshiper’s language, in the importance of faith instead of a clergyman’s intermediation with God – in other words, concepts, which threatened the status quo. He was summoned to the Church’s Council of Constance in Switzerland by representatives of the emperor, and given a letter of safe conduct to get there and back. Like every member of the Habsburg family, before and after him, the emperor was Catholic. After Hus refused to repent for his so-called sins and come back into the Church, he was burned at the stake, despite the promise of the emperor.

Astronomical Clock

The Astronomical Clock located on a side tower of the Old Town Hall (reasonably enough, on Old Town Square) is easy to find – just wait until a few minutes before the hour and look for a large group of tourists standing around waiting for something to happen! It also one of the most popular gathering places in Prague.

The clock (called Orloj – meaning “the horologe” – by natives) was built in 1410 and can be thought as example of 15th century hi-tech device, projected with participation of math and astronomy professor at Prague University. The mail dial is in principle mechanical astrolabe, showing not only the current time, but also the placement of Sun and Moon in Zodiac, phase of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, length of astronomical night, time in old Bohemian hours, in unequal hours and other data. From gathering crowds hardly anybody understands all data astronomical dial displays.

Then there is a slow-moving 12-month calendar with incredibly delicate, small figure paintings by 19th century Czech painter Josef Manes. Every day on the hour, the upper, glockenspiel-style section of the clock performs the same scene: Death waves an hourglass, the 12 apostles shuffle past small windows, and a rooster crows. After the hour strikes, a Turk wags his head.

Prague Astronomical Clock

Municipal Hall

The Obecní dům was built near the Powder Tower (a storage place for gunpowder and a major trade route entry into the city) on a site called King’s Court where once a royal residence stood. In 1901, the Prague Civic Society made a proposal to city authorities to build a center for Czech official and social events.

Lovers of Art Nouveau should bless the memories of the Prague Civic Society’s officials, because the Obecní dům would become one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Prague.

Convent of St Agnes

The Anezsky klaster is the first Early Gothic building in Prague founded 1234, something notable in a city filled with amazingly well-preserved examples of Gothic architecture such as St Vitus, the Charles Bridge and the Powder Tower.

Museum of Communism

An interesting museum that follows the history of communism in Czech Republic until it’s fall with the Velvet Revolution. The museum has several interesting communist propaganda artifacts, which are worth a look.

Mucha Museum

This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Alphonse Mucha, a leading artist in the Art Nouveau movement.

New Town

The district adjacent to Old Town, established in the 14th century.

Wenceslas Square

The road is a wide boulevard running down from the National Museum and it’s brimming with bars, restaurants and casinos. It’s truly a heart of central Prague.

National Museum

A huge nature and history museum in upper part of the Wenceslas Square. Its’ building was built by prominent Czech neo-renaissance architect Josef Schulz in years 1885 – 1891.

Fred and Ginger Building

The Rasin Building is the work of the twentieth century architect Frank Gehry, and is said to be shaped like a man and a woman dancing; hence “Fred and Ginger”.

Jewish Town

Otherwise known as Josefov or the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter lends itself to exploration, contemplation and a deeper understanding of what Prague’s Jews have endured throughout the centuries. Paradoxically, Hitler is to thank for the Quarter’s continued existence – he intended to create an “Exotic Museum of an Extinct Race” here after the end of the war.

Pinkas Synagogue

Inside the front door of the Pinkas Synagogue, inscribed in tiny red and black letters on almost every square inch of wall space are the names of 77,297 Jews who were killed in the war. This visual representation humanizes such a number, attaching names to the statistics. The second floor houses a moving exhibit of children’s art.

Old Jewish Cemetery

Over 20,000 people are buried in about twelve layers of graves, stacked to save space.

Headstones at the Jewish Quarter Cemetery in Prague

Headstones at the Jewish Quarter Cemetery

The Spanish Synagogue

So called because Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century built a previous synagogue on this site. The architecture is Renaissance with a bit of Moorish style.

One Comment:

  1. Nice list, the Spanish Synagogue was for us a pleasant surprise. Another relatively unknown highlight is the fort of Vyšehrad which has nice views of the river and gets few tourists. Has an impressive cemetery and pretty old church.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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