Along with ‘largest’ and ‘oldest’ one other adjective that perfectly defines Prague is ‘Timeless.’ When I stood on the edge of many an edifice in the city and looked into the distance, my eyes strained to find a pause in the continuity of its horizon. The red roofs overlapped one another like gentle waves on a calm ocean, interrupted sporadically by minarets ensconced in their domes. The gently flowing Vltava river drew the eye again and again to the edge of a seemingly never-ending world.
Prague or Praha as it was known in ancient times, is as backdated as time itself. There is an immense old world charm to this city. The tourists who throng here all year round are of different types. Many have chosen to come to this Czech capital, as in recent times, it’s been placed on the map as a hot tourist destination. Yet, most others are discerning travelers who go a notch up in their evaluation of this city, clubbing it among those places in the world that are culturally vibrant and eternally appealing to the senses.
Indeed the ‘City of a hundred spires’, does have a lot of spires reaching up to the skies, probably more than a hundred. The spires, however, fit perfectly into the landscape and make for some great pictures.
Interesting City Spots:
The Old Town Square is a 12th-century cobblestoned relic that stands witness to past historical events. One can easily spend a few hours exploring the amalgamation of baroque churches, museums, and gothic architecture.
Talented buskers playing traditional Czech music add to the feeling of being taken back in time. There are lots of cafes selling beer, Czech food and little shops selling touristy souvenirs.
The Our Lady of Tyne Church which rises above the square holds works of religious art in the Renaissance, gothic and baroque styles and is definitely more impressive than the astronomical clock in the middle of the town square which has a horde of tourists waiting for the twelve wooden apostles to make an appearance. The Town Square when all lighted up at night is doubly enchanting.
For chocolate lovers, there is a quaint shop in Old Town Square called the ‘The Choco-Story’ where you can see a demonstration of how chocolate and candy is made. You can also buy delicious Belgian chocolate in all shapes, sizes, and assortments. A hot tourist spot, so the chocolate is unsurprisingly a little pricey.
Charles Bridge is walking distance from the Old Town Square. Bisecting the Vltava river, it more or less divides the old and new towns of Prague.
Made entirely of gothic stone, the bridge is a pleasure to walk on, despite the hordes of tourists vying for walking space.
Two towers flank the bridge on either end and 75 baroque statues line its length along with sketch artists, Jazz musicians (truly talented) and makeshift souvenir stalls. The sunset views from the bridge are awesome.
Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral – The castle is the official residence of the Czech Republic President and has within its premises some of Prague’s most important tourist attractions including St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Old Royal Palace and Powder Tower. The Cathedral has the most impressive gothic architecture and is the resting place of revered Catholic saints, including of course St. Vitus. Our tour of the Prague Castle ended at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, which has the miraculous image of the Infant Jesus of Prague.
Wenceslas Square is second to the old town square but only in terms of old world charm. This is where you should head to if you want to get into the clubbing scene and do a bit of shopping on the side.
Keeping to its new town location, the Wenceslas Square has clubs, shops, bars and restaurants offering less traditional fare. Just a short walking distance from Charles Bridge, this square is also home to the Grand National Museum and the State Opera.
Mala Strana is also known as the ‘Little Side of the River’ and visitors walk here (usually from Charles Bridge) to see the John Lennon graffiti wall. The wall is filled with political graffiti and expressions of freedom, music, art, and love, in fact, anything that is not communist related.
Close to the graffiti wall is a small pedestrian bridge that is known as the Love Lock Bridge.
Here, lovers from all over the world attach locks on the bridge and throw away the keys in the canal below. The authorities periodically remove the unsightly locks but newer ones appear.
Tips: I did all of the above in half a day. Though you can explore these and other places in the city on your own, having an English speaking local guide helps, especially if you have only a day or less to explore the city.
Eat, drink and make merry – Prague will not forgive you if you don’t – what with all the amazing food and drinks (read beer and wine) available in all the quaint restaurants in town.
Sure, it’s a meat lovers paradise with pork and beef topping the list but, vegetarians can have their fair share of variety too. In between the sightseeing, I managed to sample pork chops/ribs, beef steaks, cabbage rolls, sausages, goulash, dumplings with tasty fillings inside, crepes, bread rolls, fries and of course lots and lots of cheese.
Then, there is the ‘Trdelnik’ the famous sweet made popular by tourists – a fire cooked, cylindrical pastry rolled with cinnamon and sugar and topped with ice-cream or nuts.
All food can be generously washed down with tasty local beer or homegrown wine. In Prague, food, beer and wine are cheap when compared to many other places in the world.
All about the weather
I visited in the first week of September and found it was rather cold. Most days it drizzled on and off, which led me to hunt for an umbrella in the market square. I found the perfect one with scenes of Prague plastered all over it. When I returned from my trip, this umbrella somehow ended up being my most favorite keepsake from Prague.
Coming up soon: Day trips from Prague