Prague, the Gem of Central Europe, the City of the Hundred Spires, the Golden City… those are just some of the names given to the capital of the Czech Republic. According to one of the legends princess Libuše prophesied standing over the river Vltava: “I see a great city whose glory will touch the skies”.
After the Velvet Revolution Prague has been gaining lots of touristic popularity and rightly so: its beautiful architecture, vibrant nightlife and omnipresent history has attracted not only tourists from all over the globe but also many filmmakers.
You can keep coming back to Prague and always discover something new. However, if it’s your first time travelling to the Czech capital, here are the top 10 things you should see.
Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague Castle rises over the river Vltava in the very center of the city. It has been the office of every Czech president since 1918, but more importantly, it is the home of the Bohemian Crown Jewels. It is also the largest ancient castle in the world and a unique mixture of architecture styles. You would think wrong to suppose it to be only a castle. It is actually a complex of palaces, museums and churches – the most famous one being the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral.
If you ask any Czech what the most famous bridge in the Czech Republic is, no doubt they will name the Charles Bridge. It crosses the Vltava river and it takes its name after the monarch Charles IV, under whose reign the construction started. There are many legends surrounding this bridge and one of them says that there were eggs added to the cement. The bridge is a 516 meters long avenue decorated with 30 mostly baroque statues.
Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock
The Old Town Square features several interesting memorials and buildings such as the Old Town Hall with the Prague Astronomical Clock installed in 1410 and working ever since then. If you want to see the breathtaking show of moving Apostles and other sculptures, just be there at noon every day.
The Old Town Square hosts medieval opulent markets every Easter and Christmas. Did you know that the CNN rated Prague’s Christmas market (in Old Town and Wenceslas Square) among the 10 best in the world?
The Dancing House
The Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger, is a relatively recent sight, it was completed only in 1996. The credit for its design goes to the Czech-Croatian architect Vlado Miluni and the Canadian American architect Frank Gehry. The building won the Time Magazine’s design contest in 1997, however, it’s had to face a lot of negative criticism as it is placed between historical buildings and many still find its architecture and general style inappropriate. Whether you like it or not, it’s one of the most important sights of the modern architecture in Prague.
Another significant square, this time in the New Town. Wenceslas Square, colloquially called Václavák, was the main scene of the events of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The times when the square accommodated horse markets are long gone, now it’s a busy boulevard dominated by the National Museum and the Statue of Saint Wenceslas.
This 10th century fort is located not far from the Prague Castle. A visit to Vyšehrad is a must especially for its mystical ambient. Not only is it believed to be the first settlement from which the whole city grew, it is also decorated with the statues of several characters from the Czech mythology and the Vyšehrad cemetery is the final resting place of many famous Czechs such as the writer Karel Čapek or the composer Bedřich Smetana.
Petřín and its Lookout Tower
If you fancy some peace and quiet in the center of Prague, the hill of Petřín is the place to go. It’s a recreational area with parks, many sights such as the Hunger Wall or the Observatory and a lookout tower which features not only a cafeteria but also an exhibition area. The similarity with the Eiffel Tower is obvious and it is often called the Eiffel Tower of Prague.
An island inside the city? Yes, that’s Kampa, a small piece of land “floating” in the Vltava river. And what is there to see on this charming island? For example the water mills with the surrounding gardens, statues and memorials as well as the modern art gallery called Muzeum Kampa.
The Old Jewish Cemetery
The Old Jewish Cemetery was founded in the 15th century and it’s the burial site of many significant local Jewish personalities. The cemetery stopped serving its purpose in the late 18th century and nowadays it’s under the administration of the Jewish Museum. By the way, this cemetery is the one that inspired Umberto Eco in his novel The Prague Cemetery.
Although Karlštejn is located about 30 km from Prague, it is often included in the get-to-know-Prague tours and we consider it a Prague essential. This medieval castle was built by the above-mentioned King of Bohemia and Roman emperor Charles IV and it’s been attracting tourists since it’s permanent opening in 1905. It is in the protected area of Český kras so breathtaking views of nature are assured.
Read also our post Afternoon walk in Lesser Town, Prague and take the walk with us!