Prague

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Prague is one of my favourite places in the world. The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic is the home of great beer, a famous bridge and incredible architecture.

Tyn Church, Old Town Square, Prague

Tyn Church, Old Town Square, Prague

Millions of visitors each year arrive in Prague to discover just how beautiful (and crowded) this city is. Stand on Charles Bridge with what feels like the rest of the world, and you can see some of the attractions that makes this city so popular.

The city began its life in the 9th century on the site of Prague Castle and since then has spread to cover the nine hills along the Vltava River. Views from these nine hills out over Prague will give you incredible but sometimes hazy vistas of the city and its hundred church spires and cupolas.

The best way to explore is on foot with a good pair of shoes. Walking through the maze of cobblestoned lanes that make up its three main districts, Stare Mesto (Old Town), Mala Strana and Nove Mesto (New Town), you will discover hidden courtyards, secret gardens, ancient chapels, quaint cafes and small bars that time forgot.

The cobblestoned streets of Prague

The cobblestoned streets of Prague

Lovers of architecture are in for a real treat in Prague with its buildings ranging in style from gothic, baroque, art nouveau and cubist. All styles sitting side by side with a touch of colour thrown in here and there giving off a dramatic effect I haven’t found in any other city to date.

If you love discovering new cuisines from around the world you won’t be disappointed in Prague. Although the food can be on the heavy side at times, enjoy it for its richness and wash it down with one of its world famous beers.

I absolutely loved my time in Prague, so much so that I didn’t want to leave. Some cities leave you thinking “I could live there” and this was one of them for me. To me it is like a fairytale for grown ups that I hope I get to visit again one day soon.

My Top 5 Sights

Charles Bridge

A rare moment of peace on Charles Bridge in the early morning.

A rare moment of peace on Charles Bridge in the early morning.

Stretching across the Vltava river, the iconic Charles Bridge connects the Old Town with Mala Strana and is where most people start their visit to Prague.

The bridge was commissioned in 1347 by King Charles IV replacing an earlier bridge which was destroyed by floods. Lining the bridge you will see 30 stone baroque statues of saints and various other significant persons from history. The statues you see today are unfortunately replicas but you can see the originals at the Lapidarium museum in the Prague district of Holešovice.

Also lining the bridge you will find vendors selling souvenirs, painters, sketch artists and street performers trying to attract your attention and musicians busking for your change.

Visiting the Bridge between the hours of 10am – 10pm, you will find what feels like the entire population of Europe strolling along it. Just after sunrise is a particularly nice time of day to visit as the bridge is generally uncrowded and has a magically feel about it. Try to get there well before 10am to avoid the crowds and get some great photos. Also try to visit at night to see Prague Castle all lit up on the hill.

Prague Castle

Inside Prague Castle

Inside Prague Castle

Currently the seat of the President, Prague Castle is a sprawling complex of buildings perched on a hill overlooking Prague. The castle originated from the 9th century and has been developed over the centuries into what is currently standing today.

There is a lot to see within the castle so I would suggest trying to allow half to a full day to see everything properly.

Head in through the main gates of the complex and onto the first main courtyard (pic above). There are two attractions to visit here. The Prague Castle Picture Gallery is a collection of paintings from Emperor Rudolph II collection including a few Rubens and the Treasury of St Vitus Cathedral displays items from the Cathedrals beginnings up to the middle ages.

When you walk through to the next courtyard be prepared for your jaw to drop. Right before you will be St Vitus Cathedral. Possibly, in my opinion, one of the most amazing Cathedrals in the world. More on the Cathedral further down the page.

Basilica of St George, Prague Castle

Basilica of St George, Prague Castle

Along with visiting St Vitus in this courtyard area, there are two other attractions. On the left around the side of St Vitus is the Powder Tower and Castle Guard collection. This is also a good place to view some of the spires of St Vitus without having the strain you neck. And on the right of St Vitus is the entrance to the Old Royal Palace featuring Vladislav Hall where the most important state events have occurred since the 16th century.

Continue around the back of St Vitus to visit The Story of Prague Exhibition and the lovely little Basilica of St George. You will start to head down hill now through a cobblestoned lane. Along the way stop by the St Wenceslas Vineyard, the oldest vineyard in the Czech Republic and further down to the lovely Golden Lane where Franz Kafka spent some time in No. 22.

You can also watch the changing of the guard on the hour outside the castle’s main entrance or the daily ceremony in the First Courtyard at noon, which includes a fanfare and flag ceremony.

(For more info on Prague Castle, it’s attractions, entry fees, hours etc. head to their website by clicking here.)

Old Town Square

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

The very pretty Old Town Square of Prague is located in the centre of the Old Town (believe it or not). Looking around the square you will see all of the architectural styles that Prague is famous for. You will find the square bustling with tourists and locals during the summer months so it is a great spot for people watching.

The gothic towers of the Tyn Chruch are what you will probably notice first. The current structure, founded in the 14th century, rises above the square with its towers of 80 metres tall. The interior is just as lovely and there is a decent gallery of Gothic, renaissance and Baroque art works on display.

Another main attraction of the square is the Astronomical Clock on the façade of the Old Town Hall. On the hour from 9am to 11pm daily large crowds form to see statues of the apostles make a mechanical procession through the windows of the clock. Some find it entertaining but I unfortunately couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

Lining the square are a number of restaurants, mostly touristy and a little on the expensive side for Prague. We did however enjoy a meal in one of these restaurants as the sun was setting on the surrounding buildings causing a beautiful light effect.

St Vitus Cathedral

Inside St Vitus Cathedral, Prague

Inside St Vitus Cathedral, Prague

As I mentioned above, St Vitus Cathedral is probably, in my opinion, one of the most amazing Cathedrals in the world. I was totally blown away by both the exterior and interior and would put it in my list of top five sights I have seen in the world.

The Cathedral which is visible from most of the Old Town of Prague, is the final resting place of Bohemian Kings, home to priceless works of art, St Wenceslas Chapel and Crypt and the Bohemian Crown Jewels.

The current Cathedral is the third religious building on this site. The one you see today was founded in 1344 and has had various additions and restorations since.

Take a walk around the outside of the Cathedral which is impossible to photograph in its entirety due to its positioning in the Castle. Make sure you also venture inside. The interiors glass windows, especially the Rose Window designed by Frantisek Kysela in 1925, are spectacular to say the least. (For more info on visiting St. Vitus Cathedral check out their website here.)

Walking Tour

The architecture of Prague

The architecture of Prague

A great way to introduce yourself to any walkable city like Prague is to take a walking tour. This is an especially good option if you have limited time in a city.

Sandemans New Europe would be my recommendation. Not only are the guides knowledgeable and entertaining but the tour is also free. How can this possibly be you ask? Well, basically the guides work for tips. So if you take the tour and enjoy it you can give the guide a tip (I usually give about 10 Euros depending on my experience) and if the tour wasn’t great you can just walk away at the end with no one chasing you down for payment.

I think it is a fantastic concept as it gives the guide incentive to try really hard to educate and entertain you. Having been on a few of their walking tours throughout Europe so far, we are yet to come across a guide that didn’t get a tip from us.

The tour usually runs twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, and sign up begins in the Old Town Square about 15 minutes prior to the start of the tour. Running for about three hours (depending on how slow your group walks and much your guide talks) you will be taken to a lot of the main sights in Prague including the Old New Synagogue, St Nicolas Church and Wenceslas Square. They will also take you to great spots to view Prague Castle and Charles Bridge away from the crowds.

The guides know their stuff and will entertain and educate you with interesting and sometimes funny stories about the history and sights of Prague. (For more info on Sandermans New Europe tours visit their website here.)

Other Notable Sights

Wenceslas Square – New Town home of shopping, entertainment and nightlife.

Old New synagogue – Oldest active synagogue in Europe.

Powder Tower – One of the original gates into Old Town Prague.

St Nicolas Church – Copper domed Baroque church in the Mala Strana district.

Petrin Hill Lookout Tower – Views over Prague from the Eiffel Tower like structure.

Accommdation

Just like most major European cities you will find all of the big international chain hotels in Prague as well a great range of smaller hotels, pensions, boutiques and hostels.

The Little Town Budget Hotel is where I stayed and would highly recommend. Its a cheap hotel and hostel in one with rooms ranging from private self-catering apartments to multi-bed dorms.  We booked double room with private bathroom and were given basically what looked to me like an apartment. We had a 4 single beds, a kitchenette, dining table and a bathroom big enough to host a party in. The room was clean, simple and incredibly spacious.

Located in a former palace in Mala Strana on the Lesser Town Square, you are seconds away from the stairs up to Prague Castle and a short stroll to Charles Bridge and the Old Town. There are a number of cheap and delicious restaurants and bars right outside the front door.

Amenities include courtyard and terrace with sitting area, TV room, Wi-Fi and computer terminals, laundry facilities and for an extra few Euros they offer a delicious hot and cold breakfast with some items cooked to order. The staff were very friendly and gave great recommendations.

Transport

Arriving/Leaving

Air: Prague Václav Havel Airport is where you will arrive when flying into Prague. International services arrive/depart for a lot of the major European cities and some destinations in the Middle East and Asia. There are a number of bus/transfer services such as Cedaz Minibus and Prague Airport Shuttle that can take you into the city centre in under 30 minutes with prices starting at around 120Kc. See their relevant info desks at the terminal. Alternatively you can take an airport taxi from about 600Kc with most drivers speaking a little English.

Train: Most domestic and international trains arrive/depart from Praha-hlavní nádraží, Praha-Holešovice or at Masarykovo nádraží (mainly domestic). All stations are centrally located and connected to the cities metro system making it easy to get to your accommodation. You will find regular services to/from Berlin, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna for international travel and lots of domestic connections to places like Brno and Kutna Hora.

Bus: Eurolines, Student Agency and Megabus all run domestic and international services from the main bus station, Florenc, located near Praha-hlavní nádraží.

Getting Around

Prague’s major public transport is operated by DPP and includes metro, trams, buses and the Petřín Hill funicular railway. Carrying nearly three million passengers a day, you can imagine it does get busy at times..

Transport is frequent, punctual, clean and safe as well as being well integrated. Everything is clearly signed making the system easy to understand especially for visitors. Displays and announcements on metro trains, trams and buses make it easy to know when to get off.

Tickets are purchased on a timed bases and allow for transfers between different lines or forms of transport. A 30 minute ticket costs 24Kc, 90 minutes is 32Kc, 24 hours is 110Kc and 72 hours is 310Kc.

If you are staying somewhere central I doubt you will need to use the transport other than to get to and from the airport, train or bus stations. Prague is best explored on foot. We only bought two 30 minute tickets each for our entire four night stay.

Final Note

I would love to hear about your experiences and sightseeing/accommodation recommendations in Prague so I can add and improve this page. Please feel free to contact me below or via the Contact page with any information you think will help future travellers to Prague.

For more pictures of Prague check out my Pinterest board dedicated to this beautiful city.

All prices and information above are current at the time of publishing this post.

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