Prague is one of those places in Europe where you can find the historical gems of all eras and for everyone: for kids, for adults, for history and art lovers, for food gourmands…
I’ve been lucky to visit it a half-dozen times, and with this blog, I’m starting my introduction to Prague! At least two more parts are due – stay tuned.
1. The Old Town Square
Old town square, or Staroměstské náměstí, is probably the first landmark everyone visits in Prague. The center of social, commercial, and political life has been on this site since the 12th century. It’s framed with restaurants and food stalls. If you’re visiting during the national holidays, you can also shop here in the seasonal markets!
There are quite a few sites to explore: the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Old Town hall with famous Astronomical clock, Church of St Nicholas, the Jan Hus monument dedicated to the famous church reformer executed by burning for his ideas in 1415, the Prague Meridian and a Marian column, erected there in 1652, removed in 1918 and then reconstructed again in 2020, and Kinský Palace where a museum resides now, – see below.
For the best views, I’d recommend going to the Old Town Hall tower and a few years ago, I loved the Hotel U Prince, where you can grab a drink and some food on its terrace!
2.Church of Our Lady before Týn
The gothic towers of Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem, Church of Our Lady before Týn, dominate the Old Town square. Its entrance is hidden by the lower building in front of it – don’t miss this small passage!
The construction began in the 14th century, and the plaque outside was initially adorned with a statue of King George of Poděbrady. However, the church was rebuilt on a few occasions later on; thus, now, it’s a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles. The king’s sculpture was replaced with a figure of the Virgin Mary with a halo around her.
However, the famous Jesus statue – Infant Jesus of Prague – is located in another religious building: The Church of Our Lady of Victories.
3. Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock
Old Town Hall (Staromestská radnice), which is actually a complex of a few buildings, and its Astronomical Clock are other highlights of the city.
This is probably one of the best-preserved medieval clocks in the world: it dates to the 15th century. Every hour you can see the clock striking an hour, and the clock mechanism makes the 12 figures of Apostles move and come out of the small windows!
Make sure you also explore the interior of the hall because it has lots of hidden gems: the historic rooms, a chapel dating to 1381, the backside of the clock where you can observe the Apostles from the short distance, and an amazing mosaic on the ground floor.
And of course, the observational point with the best views over Prague old Town: you can see the Old town square, Prague castle, Petrin Hill and many more landmarks I’ll be covering here not to mention magnificent red tiled roofs of the houses!
You can pay extra for elevator access to the top. See other panoramic spots in Prague here.
4. Church of St Nicholas (Staré Město)
The gorgeous Baroque church of St Nicholas, built in 1732-1737, also is located in the Old Town Hall square. Now it’s the main church of Czechoslovak Hussite Church – make sure you see its splendid interiors!
There are two churches dedicated to this saint in Prague; thus, don’t mix it up with another Church of St Nicholas in the Lesser Strana part of the city, which is actually Roman Catholic.
5. Charles Bridge
No visit to Prague is complete without crossing the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River connecting Prague Castle and Old Town.
Although it gets very busy, it won’t stop you from admiring this architectural gem: it was commissioned in 1357 by King Charles IV (hence the name allocated to it in the 19th century) on the site of an older bridge. Signature statues were added in the 17th century.
You can also climb both towers of the bridge – the Lesser Town Bridge Tower and The Old Town Bridge Tower – to learn more about the city and admire the panorama.
6. Prague Castle
Prague Castle, sitting on the hill and built in the 9th century for Prince Borivoj, is probably the most Royal-related location in Prague, and it’s the seat of the President of the Czech Republic.
Its territory is quite big, and there are quite a few attractions to see there (scroll below): St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala St. Vita), a room with the Czech Crown Jewels, Golden Lane (Zlatá ulicka), the Old Royal Palace (Starý Královský Palác), Basilica of St George, All Saints Church (Chrám Všech svatých), the gardens – so make sure you have plenty of time to explore it.
At 12pm, you can also see the Changing of the Guard in the First Courtyard of the Prague Castle.
7. St. Vitus Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert, or St Vitus Cathedral in short, is the largest church in Czechia. Originally it was dedicated solely to St Vitus; however, in 1997, it was dedicated to two other saints: Saint Wenceslaus and Saint Adalbert.
Built on the site of the 10th-century rotunda, its construction started in 1344 and lasted for over 5 centuries (no surprise, again, you can notice the mixture of different styles here) and was completed only in 1929.
Visit it from the inside to see incredible Art Nouveau stained glass windows, including the Holy Trinity, a Rose window designed by Frantisek Kysela in 1925, and the one designed by Alphonse Mucha in the 1930s dedicated to the Slavic Nations (there’s also his museum in Prague, I’ll talk about in my next blog!), the 14th century Last Judgement mosaic and the altar of St. Wenceslas Chapel.
The burials of local saints are located there, as well as the tombs of three Bohemian kings.
8. Golden Lane
Golden Lane, or Zlatá ulička, is a notorious part of the Prague castle once occupied by the royal guards and later the goldsmiths. Some legends also say that the alchemists worked here, proceeding with the experiments to turn different substances into gold. The bright paint over the houses was introduced only in the 20th century.
Franz Kafka also was a resident of one of the houses – number 22 – back in the 20th century as well as writer Jaroslav Seifert, the Nobel Prize winner.
9. Lennon Wall
Lennon Wall is quite an unusual but pretty famous landmark of Prague dedicated to John Lennon and The Beatles. It surrounds the seat of the Maltese order that has been here since the 12th century.
Since John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, the wall that used to be covered with some graffiti expressing love messages has been covered with graffiti related to Lennon, manifestations of peace, and it still gets continuously evolving.
10. Dancing House
If you love modern art and modern architecture, the Dancing House is the landmark for you, consisting of two distinguishably different parts. The idea was developed by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry and built in the 90s. Did you know that it was initially cold ‘Fred & Ginger’ after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who danced together in 9 movies in the 1930s? You can get a nice view from the top of the building where the restaurant is located.
…Wait till the other parts of my guide!
You might also like my guide to rooftops in Prague.
Hope you liked my blog,