Following my blog about our break in Prague, below are some of my favourite attractions.
While it’s fun exploring the Old Town it’s nice to know what you are actually looking at, so I would recommend taking one of the walking tours. Many are free and take in the most popular spots without you getting totally lost.
Old Town Square
Most tours start in, or close to, the Old Town Square. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the Church of our Lady before Týn, believed to have inspired the Disney logo. Built in the 12th century the golden balls on the spires supposedly hold the building plans in case the church is damaged.
Around the edge of the square are cafes but be aware prices are exorbitant and you can have the same coffee, beer or cake for much less down one of the side streets that lead off the square.
Astronomical Clock and Old Town Hall
Located in the Old Town Square the 15th century clock has been repaired many times. When it isn’t surrounded by scaffolding, as it is at the moment, crowds gather to watch the action. As well as keeping perfect time, it displays the lunar calendar. When the hour strikes, figures of the twelve apostles peep through the windows at the top of the tower. Below them, a skeleton representing death pulls a bell, and three figures shake their heads. These represent greed, vanity and lust. Supposedly the clock-maker was blinded so he could never replicate his masterpiece. Despite the scaffolding I found photos from previous visits so anyone reading can admire the clocks beauty.
In front of the Old Town Hall is a memorial to the martyrs beheaded in 1621, white crosses on the ground mark the spot. Next a huge statue of Jan Hus the Czech reformer. When Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, sitting at his feet became a way of quietly expressing opposition to Communism.
A small square, with a wrought-iron fountain and graffiti decorated building link the Old Town Square to the Charles Bridge. (Since the photo of the Rott building was taken the premises underneath are now a Hard Rock Cafe – I wasn’t impressed)
The Charles Bridge
The first thing I think of when Prague is mentioned is this bridge and walking across it is a must. I suggest walk it twice, once during the day when it is packed with tourists, buskers, artists and vendors selling souvenirs and again at dusk with the statues silhouetted against the skyline and the lights sparkling, it looks magical.
The bridge connects the Old Town to Malá Strana (the Lesser Town) which gets crowded as there are some gorgeous old buildings and excellent restaurants. You also pass through here to climb the picturesque Nerudova Street with its quirky numbered addresses to visit the Castle.
At the top of the hill is the enormous Prague Castle. It holds the record for the largest castle complex in the world. To reach it you can either walk up the very steep hill or take Tram 22 that stops outside. It’s best to visit in the morning because by afternoon it gets packed. There’s lots to see so I suggest booking a guided tour or rent an audio guide, then you won’t miss the best bits such as St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane.
If you’re feeling fit you can walk the winding paths through the park to visit Prague’s own “Eiffel Tower” however if like us your hiking days are over there is a funicular to the top and it is well worthwhile as the views are breathtaking. Probably even more spectacular if you climb the 300 steps to the top of Petrin Tower but we know our limitations.
In the heart of the New Town is Wenceslas Square. Centre of entertainment and nightlife and IMO dilapidated, noisy and full of ‘undesirables’ not the sort of place I would go after dark. At the far end is the National Museum with the statue of St.Wenceslas. This year it seemed worse than ever as police were moving on the beggars, drunks and those who looked as if they could possibly be on drugs. We didn’t even make it to the far end before we decided to retrace our steps back into the prettier, cobbled narrow streets where we didn’t feel threatened.
John Lennon Wall
In the 1980’s, as communism drew to an end, students started writing Lennon’s lyrics on a wall. Today there isn’t an inch of space that isn’t covered. Listening to a musician singing Beatles songs and seeing the psychedelic images from our youth it was a bit of a nostalgic moment as we watched today’s tourists added their own thoughts.
One of the most popular sights in Prague is the Jewish quarter. Ours was a fleeting visit this time as it was snowing but there were still several large groups gathered around the entrance. Free to walk around, but worth the admission to enter the synagogues / museums. If you don’t have time to see everything, at least visit the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Pinkas Synagogue (containing a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust). Legends abound that in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, the Golem, created to protect the Jewish Town is hidden and adjacent to the Synagogue is the Town Hall, notice the two clocks, on one the numerals go counter clockwise around the dial.
Sticking with cemeteries in Vyšehrad there is another which is less morbid where over 600 famous people are buried. I have only ever heard of one Dvorak, but I like it for the headstones several of which are ‘sculptures’
There are numerous imposing towers in Prague that used to mark a royal route and you can go up some to get a view of the city. There are also loads of museums dedicated to the arts, history, architecture and some quirky ones that leave little to the imagination. As well as Bric Brac shops and those selling Absynth. You don’t have to spend hours in them, but if the weather is cold there is something for everyone while you thaw out.
Of course you must try some Czech cakes. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog Trdelnik a cake made from dough rolled around sticks. It really is yummy. OH’s cake of choice is apple strudl which is very popular and in most bakers shops. Also for those with a sweet tooth pancakes, sweet, savoury, whichever way you fancy them – my excuse is you need to keep eating to stay warm and
Finally a selection of photos old and new that just bring back happy memories of a beautiful city.
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