Prague Travel Guide
What to do in Prague?

Prague is simply one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Built by Europe’s finest architects and artists over the course of more than 600 years, its spired buildings, famed bridges, flowing river and cobbled streets are at once breathtaking and charming. Evidences of that graceful turn-of-the-century vogue—art nouveau—are everywhere.

LANDMARKS AND HISTORICAL SITES

The center of Prague is basically one big landmark, monument and historic site, spread across three districts—the Old Town, the Lesser Town and the Jewish Quarter. It’s all best taken in by foot: Public transportation only skirts the edges, taxis are criminally expensive, and a lot of the old city is zoned for pedestrians only.

A good route to follow is that known as the Royal Way, the ancient coronation route between the Powder Gate (Prasna Brana) and Prague Castle (Hradcany). We recommend starting at the castle and doing the route backward, moving downhill rather than up, and ending in the Old Town area, where you’ll find many food and drink options after a hard day’s sightseeing and souvenir buying.

Start walking at Prague Castle (Metro Malostranske) through the small walled garden and up the stairs behind the garden wall. The castle grounds include St. Vitus’ Cathedral (Katedrala sv. Vita) with its brilliant stained-glass windows, the Romanesque St. George’s Basilica (Bazilika sv. Jiri), the row of tiny former craftsmen’s houses called the Golden Lane (Zlata Ulicka), several small exhibitions, and many government offices, including that of President Vaclav Havel. (Guided walking tours will help sort out the tumultuous history that produced these structures.)

Most of the attractions in this area are free of charge. A 100Kc ticket, which is good for three days, will get you into the cathedral, basilica, Old Royal Palace and Powder Tower. Castle buildings are open daily 9 am-5 pm (4 pm in winter). Castle grounds are open in April-October from 5am - midnight, and in November-March from 5am - 8pm. Call 2437-1111 for tourist information.

Exit the castle area through the main front gate, where two serious guards unflinchingly tolerate photographers and tormenting tourists. Guards change on the hour, with an elaborate ceremony daily at noon. To your left as you leave the castle, you’ll find a great photo op—one of the best hilltop views of the city.

The Renaissance-style Belvedere (or Royal Summer Palace) is at Kralovska Zahrada, Prague 1, and is part of the Royal Gardens. Strahov Monastery’s library contains Bohemia’s most important collection of ancient literature. Open daily 9 am-noon and 1-5 pm. Adults 40 Kc, students 20 Kc, children under age 7 free. Strahovske Nadvori 1, Prague 1, phone 5732-0828.

Lesser Town Square (Malostranske Namesti) is capped by the domed, highly baroque St.Nicholas’ Cathedral (Chram sv. Mikulase), whose organ keys were actually played by Mozart.

Broad Charles Bridge (Karluv Most on your map) is lined with statues and affords great views of the city and river, as well as the opportunity to see and hear the talent of local artists as you cross from the castle area of the city into the Old Town.

At Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) you’ll find the former city hall (Radnice) with its tall tower and famous astronomical clock (orloj), whose moving figures do their thing at the top of each hour. (You’ll see crowds gathering as the time approaches.) You’ll also see the statue of Jan Hus, the “other” St. Nicholas Church (this one containing a magnificent crystal chandelier) and the many-spired Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.

Ornate Paris Street (Parizska) leads out of Old Town Square to the Jewish Quarter (Josefov), where several synagogues (some closed for reconstruction) house museum exhibits. You may want to pay 450 Kc for a guided tour, because it lets you into the interesting cemetery:
Consecrated land was in short supply, so caskets were sometimes stacked six or more deep, with a corresponding number of tombstones jutting from the ground at every angle. Stars of David appear on buildings and fences throughout.

Celetna is another street leading out of Old Town Square. Celetna leads to the Powder Gate (Prasna Brana), a tall stone medieval orphan in the midst of newer buildings. It was once used for the storage of gunpowder.

The striking building with the dome and large mosaic to the left of the tower is Obecni Dum (Municipal House), glistening after a three-year renovation. If Prague were a necklace, Obecni Dum would be the diamond pendant. This art-nouveau masterpiece houses the Prague Symphony Orchestra in spectacular Smetana Hall, three restaurants, space for traveling art exhibits, reception rooms for dignitaries and a gift shop. Truly, no expense was spared in restoring this building to its former splendor; gold, silver, stained glass, tile and murals throughout show the loving work of patriotic Czech artisans. Although you may tour the ground
floor without charge, we recommend the guided tour, which will show you Smetana Hall and the glittering reception rooms upstairs. Check for times in the downstairs gift shop; you may have to reserve for a tour in English. For information, call 2200-2101. Namesti Republiky 5.

If you turn right at the tower by the Powder Gate, you’re on Na Prikope, the banking street. Follow Na Prikope until it ends at the broad, open space called Mustek (Little Bridge), which forms the lower end of Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti). This is not so much a square as a broad, gently sloping, very commercial street with the National Museum (Narodni Muzeum) at the top and Mustek at the bottom. St. Wenceslas (Sv. Vaclav) sits astride his giant
horse at the top of the square, from which he’s silently watched kingdoms and regimes rise and fall. Warsaw Pact tanks moved through the square in 1968. Jan Palach set himself on fire in the square to protest that invasion (see the small memorial to him a few yards in front of Wenceslas’ statue), and hundreds of thousands of angry Czechs gathered in the square in November 1989 to
demand the end of communism. Many high-priced, purely capitalistic businesses line the square today.

For more information about worth-seeing and worth-visiting places go to related pages : 
[What's on][CultureArts][ Entertainment][Sports][Shopping][Food & drinks][Clubs][Guides to CR]

Back to top