I’ve been to Prague twice. Once on an orchestra tour where I lugged around a double bass and performed in hidden churches dotted around the Capital. And once when I sneaked out of uni for a few days with my room mate because we thought our student loans would be better spent on foreign adventures than lectures on globalisation. I certainly didn’t regret our rash actions, since medieval Prague is a place full of character with a deeply romantic history and plenty for the discerning 21st Century traveller to see and do.
Nicknamed the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’ thanks to its many Gothic churches, Prague is the Capital of the Czech Republic and has one of the best historical old towns in all of Europe. Colourful Baroque buildings line the main square, which is home to the famous Astronomical Clock. There are a fair few bridges too which traverse the Vltava River and are a great way of hopping from bank to bank in pursuit of seeing all the sights.
If you’re thinking of heading to Prague here’s what we think you shouldn’t miss. Some are the obvious sights, but others are quirky little places I discovered on my visits to the city.
Sights you shouldn’t miss in Prague
This pedestrian bridge is one of the most photographed spots in all of Prague, with its avenue of stone statues of Catholic saints and fairy tale views up towards Prague Castle. Dating back to 1402 and named for Charles IV, it’s best to visit early in the morning for an atmospheric stroll, or come as the sun sets in the evening for what might just be the most romantic backdrop in Europe. Whilst you’re there, climb up to the viewing platform of the 14th century Old Town Hall Tower for panoramic views out across the city. The Gothic tower was built as a triumphal arch used for the coronation of Czech kings as they travelled in procession over the bridge towards St Vitus Cathedral up on the hill.
Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock
One thing you mustn’t miss is the Astronomical Clock which puts on a show every hour at the old town hall. This 15th century mechanical clock is one of best examples of this type of clock in the world, so make sure you’re there at least once on the hour so you can see what all the fuss is about. You’ll find the clock in the heart of Prague at the Old Town Square, a space which has changed little over the centuries. Come here to admire the architecture, enjoy street performances and do a bit of people watching. It’s a popular spot for travellers on a Prague stag do to start their trip off, with a wide range of restaurants nearby including eateries in medieval cellars, jazz clubs and even beer halls. The square does get busy during the day so try and visit first thing in the morning or early evening if you can.
Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral
I have to be honest, I wasn’t wowed by Prague Castle. I think I was probably unfairly comparing it to all the other castles I’ve visited in the UK and across Europe and my expectations were no doubt too high. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth a visit, and many see it as a highlight of their trip to the city. Traditionally the castle has been the seat of the country’s rulers, and today it’s where the president has an official residence. You’ll also find St Vitus Cathedral up here on the hill, and that truly is worth a visit with spectacular architecture, stained glass windows and the tombs of many previous kings.
Before you leave the castle grounds, have a stroll down the colourful Golden Lane, a legendary 16th century street where alchemists are supposed to have lived and worked, taking everyday materials and turning them into gold. Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter, it’s a great story and a pretty street, and once home to the Czech writer Franz Kafka as well as castle servants, marksmen and even fortune tellers.
You may not have heard of the composer Bedřich Smetana, but you may recognise his most popular work ‘Vltava’, named after the river that runs through Prague. It’s one of my favourite pieces of music as you can really hear the river as it makes its long journey through the Czech countryside. The Smetana museum isn’t far from Charles Bridge, and is housed in a beautiful neo-Renaissance water-station building on the banks of the river. The exhibits showcase his life and work, and it’s rather cool seeing many of his personal possessions and manuscripts, including the desk where he wrote so many of his compositions. Even if you’re not a budding musician, you’ll be sure to find this place fascinating.
Whilst we’re talking about the Vltava, I should mention that there are several river cruises available which is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the city as well as helping to get your bearings. Floating past the historical buildings gives a unique perspective, and it’s a very leisurely way to explore without having to walk for miles and ending up with aching feet! Some cruises run over lunch or dinner so you can eat whilst you sightsee!
These were some of my favourite things to do in Prague. Do you have any to add?
This post has been written in partnership with Stagmadness.