The Czech Republic’s majestic capital is near the top of many travelers list of cities to visit. In recent years Prague has become a top destination for culture vultures and party animals alike. In a city with so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to go first: our rundown of what to see on your trip to Prague will help you to narrow it down.
Prague’s majestic castle dominates the city’s skyline, and anyone visiting the city would be mad not to go in for a closer look. The castle is the world’s largest, with an area of over 70,000m². Originally built in the 9th Century, it has been restored and extended several times over the centuries and now represents a mash of architectural styles. The castle complex also contains the majestic St. Vitus Cathedral; one of Europe’s finest examples of Gothic Architecture, and the site of the tombs of Kings and Emperors spanning hundreds of years are located here. The complex is open all of the time, although certain areas close up each night and have different seasonal opening hours.
Prague’s Museum of Communism paints a vivid picture of what life was like for the citizens of Czechoslovakia during their 40 years behind the iron curtain of Soviet rule. There are exhibits on everyday life, politics, police & the military and much more. The museum’s centerpiece is a simple Memorial to those who suffered under Soviet Rule, depicting 6 different sculptures of a man in progressive stages of decay. Some of exhibits are not for the faint hearted, with photographs and detailed depictions of the state sponsored terrorism. The story ends on a lighter note, with exhibits detailing the country’s relatively peaceful ‘velvet revolution’, which began the transition away from Soviet rule. The Museum of Communism is open year round, except for December 24th. Opening hours are 09:00 untill 21:00, entry costs 190 Czech Korunas per adult.
Old Town Square
Prague’s historic center is one of the most beautiful in Europe; and the Old Town Square is at the heart of it. Originally a market place, established in the 12th Century, the square is now lined with bars and restaurants, with some fantastic architecture on display as well. At the entrance to the square stands the Astronomic Clock, one of Prague’s most iconic sights. The clock is the oldest of its kind still working anywhere in the world – originally installed in 1410. It features a dial illustrating the position of the sun and the moon, each hour is met with a clockwork show; featuring Death striking the chimes. Other things to spot in Old Town Square include the St. Nicholas Church and the statue of Jan Hus.
Set within a beautifully landscaped garden, the Petrin Hill tower is one of the best places in town for a view of the entire city. On a clear day it’s even possible to see Sněžka, the Czech Republic’s highest peak, 150km from the capital, in the distance. Inside the gardens there is a hall of mirrors and a beautiful old Church to explore. It’s a steep but pleasant walk through the gardens up to the top of the hill; there is also a funicular that will deliver you to the summit: The 299 steps up to the top of the 60m tall tower can only be conquered on foot.
Divoká Šárka Natural Park
Just outside of Prague’s busy central area, Divoká Šárka Natural Park is an incredibly beautiful area and the perfect place to shrug off the stress of city life for a day and enjoy some beautiful nature and wildlife. The park has rivers and lakes to swim in during the summer months, and endless paths and trails through the woods to explore on foot or by bike. Climb up high and you’ll be rewarded with some breathtaking views, as well as plenty of restaurants and terraces where you can enjoy the view with a drink.
Try the Beer
More beer is consumed per person in the Czech Republic than in any other country; People here are serious about their beer! Czech beer enjoys a reputation among the world’s best. Prague has long been a popular destination among beer enthusiasts; and even for the casual drinker a trip to the city won’t be complete without trying a few of the local tipples. Local beers are available at plenty of bars throughout the city. One of the best places to learn about the country’s brewing history is the Prague Beer Museum, which holds daily tasting sessions.
Seek out David Černý’s Sculptures
Sculptor David Černý’s provocative works of art have appeared in high profile exhibitions all over the world; perhaps most notable at the 2012 Olympic Games. Prague is the artist’s home city, and his pieces are dotted all over the place here, including in some of key historic locations. Černý’s work is typically quirky and often overtly political, such as the ‘Horse’ sculpture, which hangs in the entrance to the Lucerna Pasaz, a parody of the original Statue of Wenceslas in the square, often interpreted as derisive attack on the Czech Government. Other pieces include the often overlooked statue of Sigmund Freud, who is depicted hanging by one arm from a rooftop, and the lighthearted ‘Piss’: a pair of statues urinating onto a map of the Czech Republic.
Check out Malá Strana – the ‘Lesser Quarter’
The area clustered around the hillside leading up towards the Castle is one of the city’s most picturesque; often chosen as a background for films and TV shows. It’s a fantastic place for an afternoon’s exploring – visitors will really get the feeling of being transported to a different time. There are some beautiful shops to explore, great local food on offer and views across the river back towards the city centre. Some of the city’s most beautiful architecture is located in the lesser quarter; from Baroque Mansions of the 17th Century, through to much older buildings, which have survived fire and historic battles to remain standing today.
Visit the John Lennon Wall
John Lennon was a major counter culture figure in Central and Eastern Europe during the communist years; regarded as a hero to many people in Prague and other cities. Western music was banned by the Soviet authorities; musicians caught playing his music could be imprisoned for ‘subversive activities’. John Lennon never actually visited Prague, so while the wall is a memorial to him, it is more valuable as a monument to free speech and expression; the Soviet police repeatedly tried to whitewash the wall, and artists continually risked imprisonment to repaint the walls murals and quotes about peace.
Prague’s National Theater is one of Europe’s top art institutions. It is a symbol of the Czech Republic’s revival in recent years and a key figure in promoting the Czech language and arts across the continent.The theater is home to a proud tradition of Opera, Drama and Ballet; with performances alternating regularly between the theater itself and several other locations. Even if the Opera is not your thing, the theater is worth visiting for the beauty of the building alone: Completed in 1881, the style is a unique mixture of Slavonic and Neo renaissance architecture which has gone on to inspire a whole generation of Czech artists.