After you have navigated the route, begin your sightseeing at the hugely impressive Prague Castle, the seat of Czech power for centuries and comprising of churches, chapels, museums and state buildings all linked by the winding cobbled streets. Further down the hill, the Mala Strana district begins to unfold as houses and shops teeter precariously on the hillside. A certain magical Romance pervades the area at night when the residents are all in bed and the alleys are deserted. Then cross the famous Charles Bridge and watch the lamp lights flickering in the clear waters of the Vltava River before crossing into the Old Town. Here you can find one of Europe’s most aesthetically pleasing squares dominated by the imposing medieval church and crammed with cafes and stalls selling colourful souvenirs to anyone that stops. Exploring the passageways behind the square leads to all sorts of discoveries including delicious smells creeping out from family-run restaurants and tiny shops selling Czech sweetmeats.
The New Town has more recent architecture and is home to the city’s department stores and retail avenues. This is where the mighty National Gallery and historical Wenceslas Square can be found keeping an eye on the new fangled modernity and to the north-west lies the Jewish Quarter or Josefov, an intriguing place to spend an afternoon. Spectacular synagogues jostle for space with immense crumbling graveyards and there is history oozing from every chink of stone.
Below are some of Prague’s most popular attractions with information about admission costs and opening times.
Telephone – 224 373 368
Opening hours – Apr-Oct 9am-5pm, Nov-Mar 9am-4pm
To reach this amazing citadel, take either tram #22 or #23, or alight at the Malostranska metro stop. You could spend days exploring the numerous courtyards and lanes surrounding the castle with their tombs, churches and changing of the guard rituals sp be prepared to set at least half a day aside. The buildings are a wonderful mix of delicate neo-classical facades and solid, grey slate – materials that hark back to the Communist regimes. There are two ticket combinations offered; either buy ticket A, Kc220, which admits you into St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace and the Golden Lane or ticket B, Kc350, which includes all of the above and the Basilica of St George and the Powder Tower.
Built in 1357 and providing a walkway between the fairytale spires of Hradcany and the Mala Strana, the bridge is flanked by two imposing gothic gateways and lined with 30 statues that stare quizzically at you when you wonder by. Spectacular during the day and even better at night when the hawkers pack up their craft stalls, the river runs silently beneath and the stars twinkle down on the deserted bridge.
Old Town Square
Rightly the tourist-heart of Prague, this gorgeous square is lined by numerous sugar-sweet crooked houses, bustling café’s serving milky hot chocolates and such delights as the astrological clock, Old Town Hall and Jan Hus memorial. Order a refreshing drink, relax and watch the world go by.
Old Town Square
Hoards of people cluster around the historical clock to see the hourly procession of the 12 apostles with the eventual appearance of the cockerel signalling the end of the show before the chimes begin. The clock has been keeping time for over six centuries and is still extremely accurate. Expertly crafted, the masterpiece also charts the movements of the sun and the planets around the earth, hence its name.
Petrin Hill and Tower
Opening hours – Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat & Sun 10am-5pm Apr-Oct, 10am-5pm Nov-Mar
Take the dinky funicular railway up Petrin Hill for breathtaking views of Prague and the surrounding countryside. On top of the hill there is also a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower, wooden church, mirror maze, observatory and sweet-smelling rose garden all of which look beautiful in summer or winter.
Cervena 1, Josefov
Possibly one of the country’s most impressive examples of early-medieval architecture, the Old-New Synagogue is still being used as a place of worship and the main hall is particularly stunning. Still being renovated after the devastating floods that stuck the city a couple of years ago, this building is well worth a visit. Note: all males need to cover their heads when entering the site.
The Old Jewish Cemetery
Siroka 3, Praha 1, Stare Mesto
Booking a guided tour is perhaps the best way to navigate this enormous graveyard that houses over 20,000 of the of the Jewish deceased. At one point it became so crowded that people were buried in layers, some up to 12 deep, as it was forbidden to increase the size of the cemetery outside the walled ghetto. You can still see these tombs as well the symbols on the gravestones that denote the occupation of the departed.
Opening hours – 10am-5pm Sat & Sun
Home to the Czech Republic Senate, this suitable grandiose building was one of the first grand palaces to be constructed in the city. However, the gardens are even more beautiful than the Palace with ornamental statues and ponds accessorising the manicured lawns – there’s even a grotto to discover. Admission is free.
The Wenceslas Square is the main centre of modern Prague surrounded by shops, cinemas, office blocks, hotels, restaurants and cafés. The 750 m long and 60 m wide square has been the backdrop of a great deal of Czech history. In November 1989, protest meetings against police brutality were held here and led to the Velvet Revolution and consequently end of communism in Czechoslovakia. In the middle of the square is a monument of St Wenceslas on a horse accompanied with sculptures of four Czech patron saints.
A pint of the local brew
It goes without saying that no trip to Prague is complete until you’ve ordered and consumed a large glass of Czech beer. Bohemian-brewed beer is world-renowned and includes famous brands such as Budvar and Pilsner Urquell. Find one of the beer halls away from the tourist haunts and you’ll be smiling at the price as well as the alcoholic effects!