What to see in Prague
With it’s breathtaking scenery, tumultuous history, rich culture and food, it is easy to see why the UNESCO World Heritage site of Prague has become such a popular tourist destination. There are so many things to do in Prague.
From the medieval old town square, beautiful churches and the largest palace in Europe, to the natural beauty of the Vltava River and public gardens, Prague has much to offer when planning your trip to the Czech Republic
1. Visit the Statues on Charles Bridge
The Charles Bridge, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Prague, has spanned the Vltava River for over 650 years, linking Prague Castle with the Old Town.
The Czech king and Roman Emperor, Charles IV commenced work on the bridge in 1357.
Statues of 30 saints line the bridge, forming a unique open air baroque gallery. The statues form an eerie silhouette against the clouds at sunset.
Most famous of these statues is that of St John of Nepomuk, who was thrown into the river from the bridge as a martyr for refusing to reveal the Queen’s secrets to the king.
Legend says that if you rub the statue of St John you will return to Prague one day.
Do visit Charles Bridge either early in the morning or late in the afternoon if you want to fully appreciate the statues.
2. Explore Prague Castle
Dominating the Prague skyline, high on the hillside above Prague, the castle is the largest in the world and has been the seat of Czech rulers for over a thousand years.
You will need a whole day to fully explore the courtyards, museums, alleyways and gardens.
The Picture Gallery houses works of great masters including Titan and Rubens and a toy museum is a must for kids and kids at heart.
Roam the cobbled alleyways of Golden Lane, with colourful buildings originally built to house the castle guards during the 16th Century.
We chose a tour through Lobkowicz Palace, now a private museum exhibiting priceless paintings, furniture and musical artifacts including an original Beethoven manuscript.
3. Visit St Vitus Cathedral
Dominating Prague Castle is the 14th century St Vitus Cathedral. The interior is decorated by works of medieval masters, light streaming through the magnificent stained glass windows.
Here you will find the Chapel of St Wenceslas, decorated with early 16th century murals depicting the life of the Czech patron saint and earlier frescoes of biblical scenes.
The Cathedral was the coronation place of Czech kings and is the final resting place of kings, saints and some of the nation’s most notable figures.
Above the Golden Gate, the southern entrance to the cathedral, is a mosaic of the Last Judgement.
A climb to the top of the main tower offers spectacular views over Prague
4. Wander the Old Town Square
Dating back to the 10th Century, the old town square remains relatively unchanged by time, with medieval frescoed buildings and winding cobblestone alleyways. The old town hall dominates the square, featuring the medieval Astranomical Clock, which is one of the main tourist attractions in Prague. Here you will find medieval shopfronts offering everything from Bohemian crystal and souvenirs to local food and drink.
5. Admire the Astronomical Clock
Central to the square is the famous Astronomical Clock, which still puts on a display each hour, 600 years after completion.
“Death” tolls a bell and twelve apostles parade past the windows above the clock nodding to the crowds. The display takes approximately one minute, ending with a golden rooster crowing as the huge bell rings from the top of the tower.
Once you understand the workings of this complex time piece, it shows the day, week, month and year, as well as the position of the planets.
6. Visit the Old Jewish quarters
The Jewish Ghetto was situated in an overcroweded marshland close to the river. Much has been preserved and today features six synagogues, the Jewish Town Hall and the historic Jewish Cemetery. Up to 20 layers of graves were situated in the overcrowded cemetery, which was used until the late 18th century. The undulating headstones were replicated in the sarcophaghi of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin.
7. Relax in Wallenstein Palace Gardens
Escape the throngs of tourists in the Old Town Square and step into the peaceful oasis of the Wallenstein Palace gardens.
Now currently the seat of the Czech Senat, the gardens feature bubbling fountains, fish filled ponds and replicas of original statues by Dutch sculptor Adriaen De Vries. The shriek of peacocks echo through the gardens, roaming free
At first glance, one wall appears to be covered in cascading wisteria bushes. On closer inspection however we found it was in fact an artificial dripstone wall with grottos housing aviaries and an owl roost. Looking closely into the dripstone you can identify faces and animals in the stones. The gardens are the venue for outdoor concerts and cultural performances in the summer months, the frescoed pavillion serving as centre stage.
8. Visit Wenceslas Square
The centre of modern day Prague dates back to the 14th century, when Charles IV established a horse market which operated for hundreds of years. It has been the scene of executions, declarations and demonstrations over the years. Today you will find market stalls to browse through and no shortage of retail therapy. Take the lift to the top of the main shopping mall, where you will find a rooftop bar offering some of the best views over Prague.
9. Explore the Churches
You can’t visit the “City of 1000 spires” without visiting the many churches in and around the town squares. From magnificent cathedrals, to modest synagogues and smaller chapels, they each have a unique beauty and history to share. Many are open to the public during the day and are also used as concert venues of an evening. You could spend an entire day just visiting churches.
St Vitus and St Georges Basilica at Prague Castle and St Nicholas on the square were among our favourites during our short visit to Prague.
10 Walk along the Vltava River
Take in the breathtaking river scenery with a walk across the bridges of the Vltava River, through Kampa Park and discover some of the many artistic and historic sculptures along the way. Here we found three enormous bronze baby sculptures by David Czerny, replicas of the fibreglass statues which are attached to the TV tower.
11. Climb Prague TV Tower
Ten giant babies climb the 216 metre high TV tower in Mahler Gardens, the work of artist David Czerny. A ride to the top of the tower provides spectacular panoramic views across Prague. The tower also contains a restaurant, bar and six star hotel, if you are looking for something different in the way of accommodation.
12 Write on the John Lennon Wall
A graffittied wall known as the “Wailing Wall” was once a symbol of resistance against the totalitarian regime. Today paficists have enshrined the wall in Velkoprevorske Square as a memorial to murdered beatle John Lennon. Fans flock to leave messages of peace, Beatles song lyrics and love notes on the wall opposite the French Embassy.
13 Take High Tea
Cafe Louvre, near the National Theatre was once a favourite meeting place for Czech intellectuals. Famous patrons included Frank Kafka and Albert Einstein.
Today you can enjoy brunch a coffee or high tea in the art nouveau environment while browsing through the day’s papers.
14 Have a cocktail in a Beach Bar
If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, the Tiky Taky bar in Zizkov will transport you to an island beach resort. Decorated in ultimate kitsch, from tikis and leis, sarongs and island beach shades this little bar has a unique atmosphere. A great place to unwind after a day’s sightseeing and sample the extensive cocktail menu. We found the staff very friendly and welcoming. They also spoke fluent English which we found a huge bonus.
14 Sample the local delicacies
There is no shortage of food options in Prague. I became addicted to Trdlnik – a sugar coated donut-like sweet which is rolled into a cone and filled with cream, icecream or custard.
Also sample the brightly decorated gingerbread, which you will find readily available throughout Prague.
My favourite was the goulash with bread-dumplings, a hearty, delicious dish which is a Prague staple.
15. Visit the local markets
Browse along the market stalls, pick up some local handcrafts and sample the local delicacies. Here you will pay in the tourist centres.