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Prague will always have a special place in my heart as my first full solo trip to Prague to a country I wasn’t already familiar with for a weekend back in 2008 while I was still studying abroad in Germany. It was new and fresh for me as it was my first Eastern European country I had ever visited. I absolutely fell in love with the hundreds of spires and towers throughout the entire town. Now that I am only a few hours away from Prague, Hans and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch the first train to Prague for the weekend!
It is one of the most popular cities in Europe to visit right now as it is both cheap and absolutely beautiful at every turn. The town has spires upon spires that fill the skyline. Prague has a dark history, but today it is alive and thriving as everyone wants to fall in love with Prague. It’s also a great introduction to Eastern European cities, so if you’re looking to combine it with several other big European capitals, then be sure to grab my 12 day itinerary for Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. However, if you’re just into exploring the Czech Republic, then be sure to visit any of the following cities: Karlovy Vary, Ceske Budejvice and Cesky Krumlov, which are all great day trips from Prague! Or you could simply do a beer spa!
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As one of the best European capitals, we HAD to visit Prague, so we took advantage of Regensburg’s constant special offer to go from Regensburg to Prague and back for only 42euros a person! Hans had never been before so I kind of got to play tour guide. What made this trip special right from the beginning was staying on the Florentina, a boat hotel right in the heart of Prague! It was so surreal to wake up on a boat floating on the Vltava River with swans swimming down the river right out of our window!
Staying on the boat in the heart of Prague made it real easy to reach the city center. Within a few minutes we were in the heart of Prague in the Old Town Square which made it incredibly easy to peruse Prague’s main sights!
Old Town (Staré Město)
So we started first with the Old Town Square (Staré Město) and Josefov, which is one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen. Lots of cafes surround the square that is dominated by Church of Our Lady Before Tyn which was built in 1365 and eventually taken over by the Jesuits who renovated it with its present Gothic style.
Definitely sit down and have a meal at one of the restaurants that surrounds the Old Town Square. It is a tourist destination so prices are a bit higher, but thanks to the currency exchange, its actually pretty cheap. Be warned though it can get loud with all the passing tourists and horse carriages. But it is well worth the beautiful atmosphere to sit outside and look upon the town square.
Opposite the Church of Our Lady Tyn is the famous Old Town Hall with its Astronomical Clock Tower. Prague was no exception to the damage inflicted during the bombing raids during WWII, however, Prague did manage less damage than many other cities. To the left of the tower, you can purchase a ticket to take an elevator up or walk up the clock tower. I highly suggest doing it because it offers some of the best views of Prague! The astronomical clock was installed in 1410 making it the third oldest clock in the world, making it one of the best things to see when you visit Prague.
The views from the tower are absolutely wonderful and are highly recommended! The tower is one of the easier to climb as it is a circular, flat walkway to the top or if you’re looking to take it easy, there is an elevator to the top.
I refused to leave Prague without seeing one of the two beautiful libraries that Prague has to offer. One is on the castle side called the Stahov Monastery and the other is called the Klementinum (Clementinum). As we only had time for one, we went to the Klementinum in the Old Town.
The only way to see the beautiful library is to do a guided tour which shows you the Chapel of Mirrors and look at some astronomical objects before climbing the tower which also shows you fantastic views of the city and the castle.
After climbing back down the tower, you then can finally see the Clementium Library, one of Europe’s most beautiful libraries. You are not allowed to go in the library nor take pictures, but I was naughty and when the tour guide walked away, I snapped a quick picture!
The Municipal House which is Prague’s most prominent Art Nouveau building. To the left of the building is the Powder Tower. It is one of the original 13 city gates dating back to 1475. During the 17th century, this tower held gun powder, hence the new name.
To reach the Prague Castle you have to walk across one of the most fascinating and incredibly crowded bridges in Europe, the Charles Bridge. It was the only bridge to cross the Vltava River until 1741. The bridge is lines with statues but unfortunately many of them are copies due to wear and tear.
If you’re looking for great photos without anyone in it, I’m afraid to disappoint you, but you’ll have to wake up (or stay up) at least around 4-5am (depending on the sunrise). But even at this ungodly hour, you’ll find lots of other like-minded photographers scuttling hither and tither across the bridge trying to get great photos without other photographers in their pictures. But it’s totally worth it!
Hradčany and Lesser Town (Malá Strana)
Just after you cross over the Charles Bridge to get to the Malá Strana side of Prague, you’ll pass my absolute favorite street in all over Europe! Every building is a beautiful pastel color filled with tourist shops, cafes and restaurants.
Next we hit up the Prague Castle, one of the best sights in Prague! The Prague Castle sits perched atop a hill overlooking the Old Town, on the opposite side of the river called Hradčany and Lesser Town (Malá Strana).
The Prague Castle doesn’t look like a normal castle from afar because it mostly looks like a bunch of different mismatched buildings, but up close you can see how the castle was formed around the St. Vitus’s Cathedral. Prague Castle was founded in 880 AD and is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest ancient castle complex in the world.
You can still watch the changing of the guards hourly. We arrived right at noon to watch the changing of the guards which includes a banner exchange as well. There is no Royal Family that lives at the castle anymore. The President of the Czech Republic has an office here though.
The courtyard in which they actually perform the changing of the guard ceremony is quite small, surrounded by buildings and tourists are not allowed in this portion of the courtyard during the procession and must therefore, watch through the palace fence. However, for a great view, either get there early enough to grab a stop at the fence (obviously) or, watch the guards walk down the main street of the palace complex.
The first time I visited the St. Vitus’s Cathedral, I didn’t remember waiting in a long line to get in, nor having to pay to see the whole inside of the cathedral. You can still go in but only stand in the center of the church now crammed against lots of other tourists. The cathedral was built in 1344 and did not finish for another 600 years!
Both ends of the Charles Bridge has a tower. On the Staré Město side, the tower is called the Staré Město Bridge Tower and on the other side it is called the Malá Strana Bridge Tower. Staré Město Bridge Tower allows you to climb to the top of the tower for fantastic views of the bridge. (See my other post about Prague for more)
Not far from the bridge, on the Malá Strana side of Prague, is one of Prague’s most popular attractions, the John Lennon Wall, famous for graffiti. Not just any graffiti, but artwork dedicated to John Lennon, love, peace and happiness. They say that during the Communist era, the wall appeared after the assassination of John Lennon. It was painted white again by the Police only to be replaced the following day by more poems, drawings and flowers. Ever since, the wall has stayed as a tribute memorial that represents a symbol of global ideals that everyone wished to have, peace, love and happiness!
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
We decided to get up and walk around the Jewish Quarter which was just feet from our hotel. We first saw the Old-New Synagogue, but only from the outside. When we entered the Synagogue a lady yelled at us. No idea why. It was originally called the New Synagogue until a newer one was built and this became the Old-New Synagogue. This one was built around 1270 and is still a religious center for the Jews of Prague.
Then there is the Old Jewish Cemetery which was the only site for over 300 years where Jewish people were allowed to be buried. It was founded in 1478 and has up to 12 layers of burials and over 12,000 gravestones crammed into this tiny area making this one of the most interesting places to visit in Prague, however forgive the lack of photos. The last burial took place in 1787. Unfortunately it was very expensive to go in, so we only got a peek from the outside.
New Town (Nové Město)
Next we decided to grab our suitcases and make our way back to the train station via Wenceslas Square and the State Opera. Wenceslas Square is a long, skinny square that is dominated by the National Museum at the top of the hill. The square is lines with more shops and restaurants. Standing in front of the National Museum is the Wencelas Monument. This square has seen its fair share of history, which saw the student Jan Palach burn himself to death in 1969 and also the protest against police brutality in 1989 which led to the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.
Should you be interested in visiting Prague in summer, you can find many things to do and can see how the locals enjoy summer in Prague by paddle boating, going to some beaches, biergartens and more! But no matter what time of year you visit Prague, you absolutely must do a beer spa as it’s one of the most unique things to do in Prague!
If you’re interested in visiting the Czech Republic and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide and Lonely Planet! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!
Be sure to check out other posts related to the Czech Republic!
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