5 Apr,2019 By Jagabond
Prague is easy to love. The city literally looks like a postcard, and the medieval magic persists in cobblestone streets, cathedral spires and royal walks across majestic bridges. The author Gustav Meyrink even called Prague “a threshold between the life on Earth and Heaven,” so if he was a travel blogger you know what his top European city would be.
Although Prague didn’t make my list of favorite European cities, I’ve learned to appreciate it. Specifically, it’s the ideal trip for a long weekend as the condensed city lends itself to a thorough and quick exploration by foot. I’ve listed some ideas below to help fill in your Prague itinerary.
This is part one of the three-part walking tour that will allow you to see the spotlight attractions in Prague. Old Town Square is vast, I’d almost call it more of a rectangle. The first thing you see is a giant statue, a requirement for all main squares in Europe.
Check out the astronomical clock next, mounted on Old Town Hall. These clocks display not only the time, but planetary and zodiac information as well. Copernicus would scoff at the geocentric depiction of the solar system. The four figures on either side of the Prague clock represent vanity, greed, lust and death, and circle around every hour.
People often congregate in this square to kill time and people watch. For this reason it’s not uncommon to see live music, theatre, or other sorts of artistic expression.
For part two of the walking tour meander from Old Town Square towards the Vltava river and the famous Charles Bridge. How does one ‘experience’ a bridge? Don’t you just walk across it? Usually, but Charles Bridge is something special. Baroque statues line both sides, mostly celebrating saints. Photographers have a field day with this, as you can make an epic capture with the statue in the forefront and view in the background.
Human traffic across the bridge is typically heavy, even in the off-season. Vendors have figured this out, so expect to see various junk for sale. Street musicians also frequent the bridge to perform for a captive audience.
The final part of the walking tour takes you across Charles Bridge and up the hill to the castle. It’s not a difficult walk, but unless you’re in shape you will definitely feel it. The castle is somewhat deceiving. From a distance it looks like a typical castle, but when you get there you are basically walking the castle grounds, which resemble a city square. The cathedral is definitely the main sight here. I found it challenging to capture this glorious beauty in a single photo.
Since you walked such a steep uphill path to get here, you should take advantage of the views. This is where a zoom lens comes in handy, as normal iPhone shots are a bit far away.
Now that you’ve covered the big three attractions of Prague, you can move on to other things. Lovers of the Beatles need to check out the Lennon wall. Street artists have covered it over the years with messages of peace and love that would make Lennon proud. I was there after the Boston Marathon bombing, and they had a nice memorial to the victims. Visit this wall for some instant karma…see what I did there?
Prague is full of specialty museums. Learn a deeper meaning of brew history, live out a cold war fantasy, or explore the mind of a depressed writer. I chose to glimpse into the artistic genius of a filmmaker at the Karel Zeman museum. Zeman was instrumental for his animation techniques, and is known for such movies as ‘Journey to the Beginning of Time’, ‘The Fabulous World of Jules Verne’, and ‘On the Comet’.
Go crazy with the world renown pubs and clubs, or opt for a laid back cocktail bar. I chose the latter. Black Angel’s Bar in Old Town Square is maybe my favorite cocktail bar in Europe. The bartenders focus on crafting drinks that meet your preferences, so they ask what you like and propose a unique recipe. I had an amazing gin Manhattan, and another drink that was served while smoking.
Prague has a rich jazz history, as it has always been a rebellious form of music. Both the Nazis and communists wanted to ban it in the former Czechoslovakia, not often they agreed on much. Reduta is a famous jazz club in Prague, where U.S. President Bill Clinton graced the stage for a saxophone performance in the 90s. I remember relaxing there, sipping on a martini while watching a Dixieland group.
That head shown below is Klement Gottwald. He was the first president of the newly communist Czech Republic back in 1948. The museum of communism tells the sad Czech story of four decades under a Stalinist thumb, and shows why the Soviet model was so flawed. Read about synchronized exercise events, empty store shelves, a toilet paper crisis, and the “new socialist man.” Visit this museum on a rainy day.
A Google search will quickly identify the top options for day trips from Prague. I would disregard Karlovy Vary, as I previously wrote of its weird vibes. That leaves Cesky Krumlov and Kutna Hora.
Cesky Krumlov is terribly touristic, as the never-ending flow of buses enter town regularly. However, sometimes touristy places are worth visiting, and other times they just check a box (e.g. Pisa). Dodge the mobs and make your way to the castle, where you can see some incredible views of this town still lost in the medieval times.
What do you think of a church made of human bones? Creepy? How about if the bones were from people who died of the plague? Even creepier! The Sedlec Ossuary near Kutna Hora is just as described. Although it’s technically Catholic, I doubt the Vatican touts this at their annual conference. I have never recommended visiting an attraction just for an Instagram shot…until now.
You could try the summer, but then you’ll be with endless crowds in the sweltering heat. For a city like Prague the best months to visit are May or September, the bookend months around the busy tourist season. Another option is December for their Christmas market, which is getting attention in recent years as one of the best in Europe. My personal favorite time to visit is Easter, where giant, cartoonish rabbits help you welcome in the spring season.
I always like to remind readers of all the other great travel bloggers out there with their own unique opinions. I’ve listed some of my favorite links below.