Sights in Prague
While Prague may not be as big as cities like London or Paris there is still a ton to see and do there. In my humble opinion, Prague Castle, the Jewish Quarter and wandering in the Old Town are a must for every visitor to Prague. The other places that I list here are things I personally wanted to check out.
(Author’s note: I’m going to be writing about Prague’s Jewish Quarter in a separate post since I felt it deserved its own write up.)
Let’s be clear-the name Prague Castle is a bit of a misnomer since it’s so much more than “just” a castle (it’s the largest castle area in the world and comprises over 18 acres). It’s also one of the most mobbed attractions in the city so plan your visit accordingly. Admission to the castle grounds is free but you need a ticket to enter any of the sites. Most people opt for the “circuit B” ticket (myself included) which covers admission to St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica of St. George, and the Golden Lane (biggest disappointment ever).
In St. Vitus (the big kahuna) you will undoubtedly spar against the huge number of obnoxiously large tour groups that crowd every spare crevice of space. The highlights include the Relief of Prague, which was carved in the 17th century (it depicts the aftermath of the Battle of Mountain when a Protestant king escaped over the Charles Bridge); Wenceslas Chapel, which contains the tomb of the famous Czech saint (it’s also where Bohemia’s kings were crowned); and the Mucha stained-glass window which celebrates the birth of the Czech nation and the life of Wenceslas (Mucha is one of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists).
The Old Royal Palace had been the seat of the Bohemian princes since the 9th century. Today its highlights include the ridiculously large Vladislav Hall (200 feet long), its beautiful views of the city, and a painting of Habsburg ruler Joseph II dressed up as George Washington (yes, that George Washington).
The Basilica of St. George was founded by Wenceslas’s dad in the 10th century and the structure you can visit today dates from the 12th century. Compared to the lavish and architecturally impressive St. Vitus, the Basilica seems quite plain and basic; however, its simplistic design is most impressive when you consider how old the structure is. Wenceslas’s grandmother Ludmila was also reburied here.
The pictures I had seen of Golden Lane looked lovely-a charming street featuring very small colorfully painted houses. Visiting in person is another matter. Due to the tiny size of the street and the even tinier size of the houses, it’s somewhat hard to get a feel for what this used to be, a street that was once home to castle servants and goldsmiths (hence the name), with the number of tourists and tour groups constantly pouring in. Today the houses display small exhibits on topics like medieval torture, alchemy, armor, a goldsmith’s workshop and more. The houses themselves were still occupied until World War II and the famous Czech writer Franz Kafka lived at #22 for a brief time during World War I.
Specifics on visiting:
Take tram #22 from either Old or New Town; it then takes you right up to the castle. Plan to walk back through Little Town and across the Charles Bridge when finished.
Circuit B ticket (what I described above) costs 250 Czech koruna. Circuit A includes a few more sights, mostly exhibits, and costs 350 Czech koruna. Tickets are good for two days and can be purchased in any of the three ticket offices on the grounds of the castle.
Old Town (Staré Město)
While there are a slew of sights in the city’s Old Town to check out (Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church, and St. Nicholas Church), it’s the neighborhood that was meant for wandering around in and just gazing at all of the stunning architecture. Having never been to Prague before, I was amazed by all the beautiful buildings and their vast array of colors; while not as shockingly bright, in many ways it reminded me of Latin America. You’ll of course want to check out the “show” put on at the Astronomical Clock at the top of each hour. Take note of the white crosses on the pavement outside of the Old Town Hall which represent the 27 martyrs who were beheaded there by the Hapsburg royals after the Battle of White Mountain. There’s also the Estates Theater which has a strong connection to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It served as the site of the world premiere of the opera “Don Giovanni” and is the only theater still standing that Mozart performed in.
The tower at the Church of St. Nicholas (Malá Strana)
Not to be confused with the St. Nicholas Church in Old Town Square, this Church of St. Nicholas is entirely different. I decided to visit here after reading you could climb its tower which during Communist rule was off limits to people because state officials used it to spy on the American, British, and West German embassies. The views of the city are striking from here (prime close views of the grounds of Prague Castle) and the best part, it was quite deserted compared to the mobs of people I always saw queuing up to visit the observatory on top of the Old Town Hall.
Malostranské nám., 118 00
There were two museums I was interested in visiting in Prague, the Communist Museum and the Mucha Museum (Mucha was one of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists, world renowned for his Art Nouveau pieces). But I knew I wouldn’t have time to visit both. I ended up choosing the Communist Museum since one, I had never been to a former communist country before and it seemed fitting, and two, how often do you have the chance to visit a communist museum? My Rick Steves guidebook did describe the exhibits as being as old and dusty as communism and he was just about spot on; everything was circa 1985, nothing high tech or interactive. While the information was thorough and available in multiple languages, it was just dry, although seeing some of the former communism relics was certainly unique.
Na Příkopě 10
190 CZK for adults/ 150 CZK for university and high school students/ children under 10 accompanied by an adult are free
*It’s open until 9 PM every night which does make it easier to visit when other attractions have already closed*
Charles Bridge (Karlův most)
It’s the heart of Prague, and also one of the most mobbed parts of the city. Unless you visit incredibly early in the morning or late at night, you will not remotely have the bridge to yourself (or the chance to take an iconic photo sans people). But you’ll still want to visit for those stunning views of Castle Hill and of course the Old Town. Considering it opened in 1402, that’s highly impressive in itself.
Little Town (Malá Strana)
Little Town is the neighborhood below Castle Hill and it’s truly a visual gem to walk through. It’s home to numerous foreign embassies today, many of which are located in former centuries old mansions.
If I had had more time (other places I would have liked to visit):
-Seeing Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic works
– Petřín Hill (one of the city’s greenest spaces)
– Klementinum Library
-Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius