PRAGUE TRAVEL GUIDE
Prague Travel Guide – Dreamy gothic spires, winding cobbled streets and cosy taverns serving beer resembling liquid gold, presided over by a thousand year old castle – no wonder Prague resembles a Brothers Grimm fairytale, particularly when flecked with snow. Having escaped the clutches of Communism, the capital of Bohemia is now one of the Europe’s prime tourist destinations and has the aesthetic beauty and historical background to keep the masses panting for more. No matter the season, you will be seduced by the pastel-fronted houses, Baroque statues and glinting boutiques that nestle down the lamp lit streets all winking at you from beneath the vast canvas of sky.
The city is divided into roughly six sections, each containing a unique collection of historical monuments and meseums. Firstly there is the vast and imposing Prague Castle and Hradcany that has been the seat of Czech Power since the ninth century and is comprised of a plethora of mix and match styles as each ruler puts their stamp on the citadel. The complex takes a least a day to explore with churches, chapels and State buildings jostling for space around the three central courtyards.
The ‘Lesser Town’ spills down the slopes from underneath the Castle towards the Vltava River and has done so since 1257. Be sure to take a walk down the narrow, weaving streets edged with Renaissance buildings, darkened pubs and bustling restaurants before you reach the famous Charles Bridge that spans the River and provides a link to the Old Town or Stare Mesto. The only method of crossing the river for hundreds of years, the structure and its fabulous statues have seen millions pour across its cobbled surface and will continue to do so for many more years.
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For a wonderful stroll, wander through the Royal Way, past the Powder Tower and down Celetna to the Old Town Square - thought to be in existence during the eleventh century and the very heart of the metropolis. Dominated by the grand medieval church at one end, slithers of houses painted pastel shades prop each other up, while stressed waiters rush about below serving steaming mugs to sparkling-eyed tourists. The Jan Hus memorial is an evocative sight while the intricate Astrological clock thrills the people below when the hour begins to chime.
Once you’ve dragged yourself away from the Old Town, towards the north-west of the city you will find Josefov, the historical Jewish Quarter. Filled with fascinating museums, synagogues and sombre graveyards, the area is a thoughtful and educational place to spend an afternoon.
In the New Town, or Nove Mesto, the best shopping can be found, in particular down the Vaclavske nam, Na Prikope, 28.rijna and Narodni triad streets. Although a more modern area and consequently not as twee as its older neighbour, the Nove Mesto still has a number of impressive buildings such as the National Museum and State Opera. There is also Wenceslas Square, the site of some bloody public demonstrations during the dark days of Communism.
If you fancy testing out the public transport and seeing the surrounding countryside for a day then why not head to another story-book location in the form of Karlstejn with its delightful castle, or Konopiste where the aristocrat responsible for triggering WW1 spent his summers? Alternatively, the town of Kutna Hora is a Unesco World Heritage site with an Alchemy museum for the mad scientist lurking within you. If physics doesn’t intrigue you then try trawling through the medieval mines that once made Kutna Hora rival Prague in terms of power and wealth.
Back in Prague, unlike 10 years ago, accommodation to suit all budgets is easy to find. Make sure you book ahead, particularly over the Christmas, New Year and Easter period and during the Prague Spring Festival in May. Prices can increase by up to 15 per cent at this time whereas during the winter months hoteliers slash their prices by 20 to 40 per cent. Prague Hotels tend to charge per room, and not per person, but always ask for a discount because many are willing to negotiate their prices. Pensions are also very popular, the only difference from a hotel being that it occupies a floor or floors of a building rather than the entire property.