|What to do in Prague?
Prague is simply one of the most beautiful cities in the
world. Built by Europes 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
vogueart nouveauare everywhere.
LANDMARKS AND HISTORICAL SITES
The center of Prague is basically one big landmark, monument and historic site, spread
across three districtsthe Old Town, the Lesser Town and the Jewish Quarter.
Its 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 youll find many food and drink options after a hard
days 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.
Georges Basilica (Bazilika sv. Jiri), the row of tiny former craftsmens 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, youll find a
great photo opone 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 Monasterys library contains
Bohemias 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
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) youll 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. (Youll see crowds gathering as the time approaches.)
Youll 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
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
If you turn right at the tower by the Powder Gate, youre 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 hes 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
For more information about worth-seeing and
worth-visiting places go to related pages :
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