Prague, is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is divided by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its the Gothic Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful Baroque buildings, Gothic churches, and the medieval Astronomical Clock that provides an animated show every hour on the hour.
Located on a hill, Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral dominate the west side of the Vltava River known as Hradcany.
Charles Bridge is the most visited of Prague’s bridges. Finished in 1402, this pedestrian bridge is lined with dozens of huge statues of Catholic saints and more than one of Jesus Christ. The city recently started to clean the statues.
The previously mentioned Charles Bridge is one of a kind. Besides the beautiful city views on both sides of the bridge, there’s the Old Town Bridge Tower and viewing gallery you can visit. More than two dozen large religious statues line the two sides of the 520 meter long structure. Several of the statues have bronze areas that people rub for good luck.
You’ll also enjoy seeing many artists selling their drawings and paintings of Prague as well as some caricaturists ready to draw you as well.
Almost any time you cross this oldest bridge in Prague you’ll probably hear some musicians playing anything from ragtime to jazz or pop; stop and listen, then drop some change in their hat or open instrument case.
The city has close to a dozen major museums, and the most spectacular building is the History Museum. The Neo-Renaissance marbled decoration inside is an incredible work of art itself.
Located at the top end of Wenceslas Square, it is also the largest museum in the country. The grand staircase, arches and dome are quite spectacular.
The museum is going through a major renovation, and while there’s a huge whale skeleton and a medium sized dinosaur as well, the best exhibit is one of Czech WWII Fighter Pilots. But in my opinion, the best thing to enjoy during your visit is the impressive building itself.
Prague Castle, its interior and all its’ surrounding buildings are a highlight of Prague. The entrance guarded by soldiers features 2 sculptures of Fighting Giants by Ignaz Platzer. You’ll also find The St. Vitus Cathedral which features thousands of years of history. The many side chapels inside the cathedral are a feast for the eyes.
The Royal Palace was the seat of Bohemian princes since the castle was fortified in the 11th century. St. George’s Convent with its extensive art collection of Gothic and Baroque art along with the Sternberg Palace collection are just two more sections of the castle highlights. You must buy tickets to enter the castle and there are always long lines of tourists.
Another interesting part of the city is its Jewish Quarter. Although the old ghetto has disappeared, the Old Jewish Cemetery is completely packed with headstones and tombs. The Gothic Old New Synagogue offers a glimpse into the area’s fascinating Jewish history.
The surrounding streets of the Jewish Quarter have some magnificent Art Nouveau buildings, many housing high-end designers you’re familiar with from Louis Vuitton and Prada to Cartier, Gucci and Dior.
These days Prague has many dozens of restaurants, cafes and bars all over the tourist center of town. Many of these restaurants with outdoor seating are located near and around the Old Town Square area.
Sitting at one of these outdoor restaurants provides great views of the Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and its two 80 meters tall towers, as well as scores of tourists walking the around the area. Even more than typical Czech cuisine, you’ll be amazed at the numerous Italian Restaurants all over Prague.
Old Town Square is the first must when visiting Prague. Try to visit both during the day and at night when buildings are lit and impressive.
We enjoyed several terrific Italian meals during our stay. You’ll also see numerous cafes selling gelato and a newer treat: A chimney cake consisting of a rolled cinnamon cone filled with ice cream, chocolate and/or fruit.
Prague also has some interesting outdoor markets selling everything from tourist souvenirs, local fashions to typical foods (all types of sausages) and Czech beers. Prague is also home to many historical breweries and newer micro-breweries and they have a large beer festival every year.
Besides these markets they also features some first-class modern indoor malls with all the major designer brands and some you’ve never heard of in the states. Also you’ll find well known fast food establishments from the USA, from Starbucks to McD’s, BK and KFC. The smaller Cerna Ruze mall and the larger Palladium are two of the best indoor malls in central Prague.
A couple of newer attractions around town that were not there when I had previously visited Prague are the Franz Kafka Head, a silver rotating sculpture composed of multiple slivers that form the Czech writer’s head. The sculpture is located outside the Quadrio Shopping Station Mall.
Also the nicknamed “Fred & Ginger” Dancing building. The curving modern office block by architect Frank Gehry, with top-floor restaurant offering city views is located near the river by the Jiraskuv Bridge. It is a modern masterpiece of design. Both the Kafka sculpture and the dancing building are a must see if you have the extra time in Prague.
Prague has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations since the fall of the Iron Curtain. We saw many tour groups from Spain and Asia. Prague has become, specially in the last few years, a very popular destination for Asian tourists.
Besides tour groups, you’ll likely to spot a few brides and grooms, mostly from China, posing for wedding photos along the most popular tourist sites like Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.
There are many, many more places of interest you might be interested in visiting in this marvelous city including the National Theater, St. Nicholas Church, and the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul. You can also climb to the top of the Powder Gate for city views.
Beatle music fans might like to check out the colorful graffiti wall that always features a John Lennon face. The Grand Priory Square mural is located on the Little Quarter side near the Charles Bridge. For animal lovers there’s the impressive Prague Zoo you can enjoy.
If you’re traveling to Prague on your own, I would recommend staying in a hotel near the center of town. Not far from Old Town Square, there are numerous fine hotels that are quite reasonably priced. If you’re flying in, I also suggest having your hotel arrange for a car to pick you up at the airport and take you directly to your hotel. It will save you time and not cost much more than by taxi.
Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe and is currently ranked 5th most visited. It is definitely a city for you not to miss when discovering dream vacation locations. It is one you’ll truly enjoy!
® 2019 All photos property of Ray & Peg Raposo