Where to go and what to see in Prague
Fancy a weekend away in Prague, but don’t know where to go? We’ve got all the answers…
The stunning 15th century bridge, which connects the ‘Lesser Town’ and the old town, is adorned with 30 statues of saints and lined with old fashioned lanterns, making it the perfect spot for a romantic evening, or early morning stroll. However, it is best avoided during the middle of the day, as the crowds flock across the bridge in their masses taking in every photo opportunity, while entertainers and arts & crafts stalls set up business for the day.
Probably one of the most famous sites of Prague is the striking astronomical clock of the town hall, which also features a calendar painted by the famous Czech painter Josef Manes, and the charming procession of the 12 apostles who appear through the wooden doors that open at the top, drawing huge crowds of tourists on the hour every hour. The clock displays four times: central European time, old bohemian time, stellar time and the unique Babylonian time.
Possibly one of the most unusual and unexpected sights in Prague is the John Lennon wall in the Lesser town.
This graffiti-covered wall features an image of John Lennon’s face – who, despite having never visited Prague, became a hero to the young, particularly after his murder in the 1980s when western music was banned here. Anti-communists and peace activists daubed anti-government slogans on this wall and, since the collapse of communism, visitors from around the world have added words, poems and paintings of peace, creating a bright and colourful statement against the soft palette of the more traditional buildings of Prague.
If you cant get by without a bit of retail therapy – and have money to spend – then head to Pariska, which is just off the Old Town Square and is the equivalent of Londons Bond Street, where Dior, Gucci, Hermes, Burberry and Louis Vuitton (to name just a few) adorn this pretty tree-lined street, sitting comfortably alongside many inviting restaurants and cafes.
For more traditional souvenirs, there are dozens of shops selling bohemian garnet and silver jewellery. Crystal glass is another local trade and you can find everything from mirrors and heavy wine glasses to chandeliers (although the latter might not be so easy to slip into your suitcase). For familiar names and brands, head to the Palladium shopping centre opposite the Municipal House.
Marvel at this stunning art nouveau building right in the heart of the city. The Municipal House building is the site of the former Royal Court Palace, and is now a multi-functional venue and hosts many events, from classical music concerts to conferences and fashion shows. It also houses two restaurants, a bar and art gallery. The Kaverna café is situated on the ground floor and is open early for breakfast and speciality coffee and tea, serves light Czech national cuisine dishes for lunch and is open until late for alcoholic drinks and bar snacks. In the summer – tables and chairs are set up outside – it’s perfect for retail therapy refreshment as it is opposite one of Pragues main shopping centres!
Dominating the skyline of the city is the Prague Castle the largest ancient castle in the world. Over the centuries the castle has survived many invasions, fires and wars, and has been rebuilt many times, which has resulted in a mixture of architectural styles. The castle is currently the seat of the president of the Czech Republic, and each hour, on the hour, the changing of the guard takes place. If you catch it at midday, you can see the military fanfare, too. You will need at least half a day to explore the castle, its courtyards, surrounding churches and beautiful gardens, whilst taking in all the history. Make sure you finish off your visit with lunch in one of the surrounding cafes or restaurants.
The Lesser Town, on the left bank of the river, has remained practically unchanged since the end of the 18th century. Away from the bustling streets of the old town, with many bars and restaurants, you can sit and enjoy a drink and watch the world go by. The imposing baroque St Nicolas Cathedral is the prominent feature of this side of the river, boasting a large green dome and high bell tower. Once you step inside, magnificent frescos adorn the ceilings.
If you fancy heading out of the city for some fresh country air, then look no further than the beautiful Chateau Mcely. An hour’s drive from Prague in the heart of the St George forest, this is a real treasure (which I almost dont want to tell anyone about – and keep it my secret!) You can go for lunch, dinner or traditional cream tea – even stay for a weekend as it is also a hotel with 24 beautifully appointed rooms and suites. Chateau Mcely also offers a range of their own spa treatments created on the basis of ancient alchemy and using herbs from the St George forest.
The harrowing history of the Jewish community of Prague can be traced back as far as the 13th Century, when the Jewish Quarter was created. The Jewish people were not allowed to live in any other area of the City and had heavy restrictions imposed on them. As more and more people were forced to live in this area it became known as The Prague Ghetto until 1781. Many significant historical buildings remain here including many synagogues, The Jewish Town Hall and the Jewish cemetery – which is the oldest burial ground in the world, and where some 12,000 graves are piled one on top of the other.
Sitting proudly on Kampa Island – on the left bank of the Vltava River – is the Kampa Museum. Opened in 2002, it holds a large permanent collection of Central European art as well as visiting exhibitions throughout the year. Include a visit if you venture into the Lesser town for a relaxing and peaceful morning, and perhaps enjoy a coffee or lunch in the museum’s gorgeous riverside café.