Prague is referred to as “an open-air architecture museum”. Arriving in the city, it is easy to see why. Due to an agreement between Hitler and Czech President Hacha on March 15th, 1939, German troops were allowed safe passage through Czech borders. By nightfall that same day, Hitler had entered Prague. This occupation through WW2 saved the city from destruction others faced, preserving architecture dating back to the 9th century.Cobbled streets open into spacious squares surrounded by gold highlighted, copper-domed churches, halls and towers. Don’t forget to look up, there’s always something striking to see. Alfresco cafes, street performers and market stalls fill the squares. At Old Town Square, the number of tour groups assembling is extraordinary. Walking tours, Vintage car tours and Segway tours are all there with the obligatory hop on hop off bus. For first-timers to Prague, I recommend Zuzi and Jan’s blog, Taste of Prague. Their tips before arriving will save time and money and they’ll guide you off the tourist track to see Prague like a local. Hire their personal wi-fi device to stay connected but book it early, it’s very popular.
I’m here for the first time on a spontaneous rendezvous with Johnny, an old mate from Adelaide. He’s arranged a tour 60km from Prague tomorrow so we’re seeing the famous sights today and there are many, so let’s get going. Here’s the map we’re following. It’s 7km in total, doable in a day, but I strongly suggest spreading it over 2 or 3 if you can.
Prague Castle stands majestically on the hill providing a bird’s eye view of the city. The original Romanesque Palace was built in the 9th century with Gothic and Renaissance structures added over time. The size and scope of the castle are overwhelming so the administration allows tickets to cover 2 consecutive days. Choose from 8 different ticket types here.Should there be a queue at St Vitus Cathedral I urge you to persevere. It really is worth the effort. Entrance is free for the front only so if the Chapel and tombs of Sovereigns and Noblemen are of interest ensure they are included in your ticket.Hungry? Even if you’re not the food stalls just outside the castle gates will have you salivating. Sausage stalls selling the Czech equivalent to Bratwurst with a dollop of mustard and a side of sauerkraut beg to be washed down with pivo (beer). Follow this with Trdelnik, dough wrapped around a pole and roasted over an open fire. Cinnamon, sugar, nuts and even Nutella are added to serve. (The clever Tomas Sedlacek has worked out how to cook Trdelnik at home. Dangerous for the waist, I know, but here’s the recipe anyway.) With high-quality produce and everything in one spot, the food stalls here provide a convenient sample of Prague flavours.At 12:00 we see the changing of the guard. Sadly, my videos don’t cut it so thank you to YesNomads.com for uploading this one to youtube. It’s fairly long so come back if you have to, but don’t miss it. They managed 16.5 minutes without a single head, phone, tablet or camera shoved in front of them. 😉
The famous Charles Bridge is a short downhill walk and we reach it via Lennon’s Wall. Beatles lyrics, John Lennon portraits and Lennon-inspired graffiti cover the wall. From John Lennon’s murder in 1980 to the end of communist rule in 1989 Czech youth would sneak here after dark, risking prison, to place their elegies of respect to John Lennon’s songs of peace and freedom.Charles Bridge has spanned the Vltava River since its completion in 1402. It replaced the Stone Bridge built in 1170 and destroyed by flood in 1342. Imposing sculptures of 30 Saints line the balustrades. The views of the river, back up to the Castle and across to Old Town are spectacular.Boat Cruises on Vltava River are many and varied. 1-hour, 2-hour, lunch and dinner cruises can be arranged by various tour companies. Ours is an entry level 1-hour tour with the Captain taking the route of a recorded guide. Informative with the added bonus of beer and ice cream we have a chance to sit and take it all in from a different perspective.Josefov, Prague’s Jewish Quarter, comprises the best-preserved Jewish monuments in Europe. 4 synagogues, a community hall and the cemetery, are known as “The Jewish Museum”. Historical exhibitions, customs and traditions are outlined in detail. Hitler had Jewish artifacts brought here from all over Europe preserving this area for an intended “museum of an extinct race”. Walking tours may be arranged through the Museum ticket office.Is it time for a short rest? There’s a selection of outdoor cafés at Old Town Square. On the hour daily from 09:00 – 23:00, 12 apostles appear from the astronomical clock at the town hall. With a tour of the Town Hall (and other buildings surrounding the square), there is a vantage point to view the apostles anytime.On the way to Wenceslas Square, you may want to check out some antique stores. Well preserved baroque and art deco pieces can be found in the city. However, locals suggest heading to the suburbs for serious antiquing where prices will be more attractive.Glass design is famous in the Czech Republic. Jewellery, vases and glassware are sold in many of the tourist shops so check here for a list of reputable stores who’s claims of true Czech Glass and Crystal can be relied upon.For a sugar hit, pop into Captain Candy. Breathing in the sweet aromas almost had me bouncing off the walls. It’s hard to resist the barrels of chewy sugary deliciousness.At Republic Square, stalls of vegetables, baked goods, wine, olive oil and flowers join jewellery designers, artists and street performers. Accommodation options in Prague are extensive. From international chains to boutique and budget hotels the accommodation booking apps have you covered. Marriott has their reliable generic hotel close to Republic Square, but it is worth mentioning their Autograph Collection. Boscolo Hotel Prague is located near Wenceslas Square in a neo-renaissance palace. A stunning hotel at a very affordable rate. Hotel Kings Court on Republic Square was previously the Czech Chamber of commerce. A very regal building lovingly repurposed and in a very central location.There are plenty of reasons to revisit Prague; tours of the Castle, exploring streets and lanes further afield and Frank Gehry’s famous Dancing House. The Taste of Prague Foodie Tour and Moravian Wine Tour are also on my list. Justifying a return trip to Prague: it’s a thing we love….