Visiting Prague means countless encounters with creativity, charm, and beauty. Photo / Anthony Delanoix; Unsplash
Known as the City of 100 Spires, visiting Prague means countless encounters with medieval towers, as well as creativity, charm, and beauty. Get lost in its old streets and let the city cast its spell on you, writes Yaren Fadiloglulari.
Prague is a fairytale city with Gothic architecture, old bridges, and picturesque castles and cathedrals. Indeed, the Czech capital has been bestowed with many glamorous nicknames — The Golden City, the Mother of Cities, the Heart of Europe, and the City of a Hundred Spires. While its historic beauty deserves mention, its creative spirit, lively parks, and rich culture are also top reasons to visit Prague.
What to see
Prague’s famous landmark, Charles Bridge connects two iconic districts: Mala Strana (Lesser Town) and Stare Mesto (Old Town). The construction of the medieval stone arch bridge started back in the 14th century, which makes it the oldest bridge in the city. While Charles Bridge is often swarming with visitors, there are creative ways to enjoy the bridge without the crowds. River banks, nearby cafes and the top floor of nearby high buildings all provide great views.
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A steep walk along the cobblestoned streets of Mala Strana leads to the magnificent Prague Castle. As the largest coherent castle complex in the world, the fortress overlooks the entire city. On its grounds, you will see St Vitus Cathedral, your first sneak peek into Kafka’s Prague. A local, Franz Kafka portrays many of the city’s landmarks in his work, and St Vitus is thought to be the cathedral in The Trial.
Staromestske namestí (Old Town Square)
With The Church of Mother of God before Tyn on one end, and the famous Astronomical Clock on the other, the Old Town Square is not short of historic views. Walk around the square to observe the city’s multicultural spirit as synagogues, churches, and buildings of different styles surround you.
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Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Street)
Stretching for around 700m, Wenceslas Street is one of Prague’s main streets. Lined with shops, historical buildings, and cafes, it is also home to important landmarks, such as The National Museum and the statue of St Wenceslas of Bohemia. Again, venturing away from the main street will lead you to passages, walkways, and alleys that add charm to the city.
For a view that never gets old, visit Letna Park, where you can take a walk along the lush greenery with a panoramic view of Prague’s old town in the backdrop. When it’s warmer, many locals flock to the park to grab a seat at its popular beer garden. On the west side of the park, there is a gigantic Metronome, which once used to be a statue of Joseph Stalin.
What to do
Cross the Vltava River
Crossing a bridge might sound mundane but in Prague, it’s a magical experience. As the historic buildings reflect on the Vltava, they generously share their splendour with the calm river. Don’t just stick to Charles Bridge, instead, cross other bridges — for example, Manes Bridge — so you will also see Charles Bridge from afar. After your walk, consider stopping by a nearby cafe to get a coffee with a view. Try Cafe Slavia which has inspired many artists since its opening in 1881.
Visit Prague’s lively parks and beer gardens
Good weather is a blessing in Prague. Besides Letna, Riegrovy Sady is a popular park to cool down with an ice-cold beer. Alongside the Naplavka area, there are plenty of places to combine your beer with gorgeous views. Head over to Čapadlo Summer Terrace for an unforgettable sunset as the river glows in the golden hues of the disappearing sun.
Taste Czech beer and food
You’re in the country that consumes the most beer per capita in the world. It’s only appropriate to delve into the city’s best beer spots. The newly-opened Pilsner Urquell Experience near Wenceslas St is a great place to start. Here, you will learn about the brewing process as well as the story of Pilsner Urquell, the iconic Czech beer brand. To continue drinking creamy, delicious beers, consider visiting local breweries like Dva Kohouti, Automat Matuska, and Lajka Pivovar. For Czech food, Lokal restaurant is the place to go. From goulash to hermelin cheese, you can find a wide range of Czech specialties depending on their daily offerings.
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Find art in the street, museums and theatres
In Prague, art and culture are not only in museums but also in the streets. A couple of minutes away from Old Town Square is the rotating statue of the Head of Franz Kafka, made by the Czech artist David Cerny. His other works can be found throughout the city, including inside Lucerna Passage and on top of Zizkov Television Tower. Located right off Wenceslas St, Lucerna Passage is where architecture, film, and modern art meet — the Art Nouveau building also has a cinema underneath Cerny’s upside-down horse statue.
Art lovers will also enjoy visiting The National Gallery and DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. For literature lovers, Franz Kafka Museum is a must. If you’d like to watch a performance instead, you’re in the right city. Rudolfinum and the National Theatre have operas, ballets, classical music concerts, and theatres throughout the year.
Soak up Prague’s creative spirit
The popular co-working cafe Kolektor turns into a brunch spot on the weekends and a lively bar at night. Creativity also comes alive at Vnitroblock, a place that is home to a cafe, a bar, a flower shop, and a clothing shop, run by Czech entrepreneurs. Kasarna Karlin, which translates into English as Karlin Barracks, is far from being the abandoned site it once used to be. Today, it operates as a cultural centre with an open-air cinema, bar, cafe, and sauna.
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Prague’s public transport system is one of the best in Europe. With three metro lines, 35 tram lines, and more than a hundred bus lines, you will be well-connected wherever you are. It is possible to purchase tickets or day passes at sale points, inside the tram or bus, or through the PID Lítačka app. Public transport is also available at the airport, which means that you can get there for 40 CZK (around NZ$3) if you’re in the city centre.
When to go
Spring and autumn are often considered the best times to visit. During springtime, blossoms breathe life into the city, decorating its streets and parks in vibrant colours. In autumn, the foliage creates a similar effect, setting the scene for peaceful strolls in parks. Winters are cold and dark in Prague; that said, the city looks beautiful under snow. As Christmas markets appear in Old Town Square, everyone gets into a festive mood.
Depending on the time of the year you’re visiting, you can find events and festivals, including some featuring food from all over the world, and music festivals featuring local and international artists.
For more, see visitczechrepublic.com and prague.eu/en