Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It’s situated on a river, has a castle, famous bridge, and an active old town square. It’s a lovely city and like other major lovely cities…is packed with tourists!
Here are some of the major attractions:
Old Town Square
Dating back to the late 12th century, the Old Town Square started off as the central marketplace for Prague. Over time, many Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic style buildings were erected around the market. Today, there are many cafés with al fresco dining surrounding the square where you can order a drink, people-watch, and admire the many architectural styles around you.
Here's a top view of Old Town Square. There are a lot of people walking about, browsing shops, and buying food and beer.
The Old Town Square vendors sell various knick knacks and souvenirs, from jewelry to fuzzy slippers.
Jerry and I stopped by the food vendors to buy ourselves some potato crisps and sausage shish kebab on a bun. I was actually disappointed with the crisps. I think the potato crisps sold on a stick by street vendors in Korea are so much tastier. On another note, if you need to use the restroom (WC), they've got bright signs pointing you in the right direction.
Prague's Astronomical Clock and Old Town Hall Tower. This is one of the main sights at the Old Town Square. Right next to the clock tower is the meeting point for a ton of different tour groups where guides holding colored umbrellas meet up with tourists. Check out some of Prague's free walking tours. They provide a lot of information and are free, but you're welcome to tip as you see fit at the end.
This medieval clock was first installed in 1410, making it (according to wikipedia) the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the only one still working. The top is an astronomical dial and the bottom is a calendar. Every hour the figures flanking the clock go into motion and statues of the Apostles are presented above. This attracts a VERY large crowd.
I'm not kidding about the crowd. They're all waiting for the clock to go into motion. It's a brief show that lasts around 30 seconds.
At the last chime of the clock, a Czech in traditional red and yellow dress comes out to play the trumpet. He plays on each side of the tower and then waves to the tourists down below. You'll notice there are a bunch of tourists up in the clock tower with the trumpeter. You can pay to get a nice view of the city from up there.
It gets really crowded up in the clock tower as well. It can take awhile to make your way around the tower to see the city from different sides.
When you do get your turn to view the city though, it's worth it. Beyond the city on the left is Petřín hill, which is mostly covered with parks and has an observation tower. On the far right is Prague Castle in the distance.
To make your way towards Prague Castle, you can take a walk across the Vltava River via the Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge used to be the only solid-land connection from Prague Castle to the Old Town areas until 1841.
The bridge is decorated by 30 mostly baroque-style statues and statuaries. They were originally erected around 1700 but are now replaced by replicas. The bridge is also protected by three bridge towers, one of which you can see in the photo at the end of the bridge.
During the day, you'll find Charles Bridge bustling with activity. Alongside crowds of tourists, there are art, jewelry, and other souvenir vendors, as well as musicians and caricature artists.
This is the Vltava River at twilight.
According to Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world. There is a lot that goes on inside the complex.
This is part of the Royal Garden of the castle complex. It's a renaissance garden built in 1534 with a bronze Singing Fountain in the middle. If you put your ear to the bottom of the fountain, it sounds like it's singing. I guess you have to put your ear in the right spot though, since Jerry tried, but didn't hear it sing.
There is a falconry near Prague Castle with captive birds of prey on display near the Castle entrance. There were various hawks, owls, and falcons spread out on the lawn.
The main entrance to Prague Castle has a rococo-style gateway decorated with two battling statues, as well as two castle guards that change every hour.
This Roman Catholic St. Vitus Cathedral is inside the Prague Castle complex. It is the seat of the archbishop of Prague. It has wonderful Gothic architecture and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors.
The St. Vitus Cathedral has lovely stained glass windows.
There's also a beautiful (free!) view of Prague from the castle complex. Right behind Jerry is a small vineyard. There are many museums, shops, and restaurants to check out at the castle complex. I enjoyed the time we spent here more than Old Town Square.
If you’re interested in Jewish history and culture, you’ll definitely want to visit Josefov, Prague’s Jewish Quarter and former Jewish ghetto. Prague’s Jewish museum houses the largest collection of Bohemian and Moravian Jewish material in the world. I thought that the Jewish museum was one large building at first, and was confused when we couldn’t find it. Instead, it actually consists of many buildings housed throughout the former Jewish ghetto.
Prague's Jewish museum consists of four synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and Ceremonial Hall. The Old-New Synagogue, which is another historical site in Josefov is NOT included in the museum ticket.
There is a lot of history in this area, but one piece of information that I found particularly interesting is how this Jewish museum has been preserved. Most of the Jewish quarter was demolished between 1893 and 1913 as part of an urban initiative to model the city on Paris. The Jewish museum was originally founded to preserve Jewish artifacts from synagogues that were demolished due to Prague’s urban renewal. After this urban renewal, only six synagogues, the old cemetery, and old Jewish town hall remained. With the Nazi occupation during World War II, one would think that the rest of these buildings in the ghetto would have been demolished. However, in 1942, the Nazi regime established the Central Jewish Museum to commemorate the heritage of an exterminated people. That’s right…they wanted to curate an “exotic museum of an extinct race”. During that time, Nazis shipped Jewish artifacts from all over Bohemia and Moravia to the museum.
In 1950, ownership of the museum was transferred to the State, which was under communist control at the time. The Jewish Museum finally began to flourish after the communist regime collapsed and the museum became a non-state organization.
I expected a lot of World War II and communist era history in Berlin, but I never heard about how much Prague and the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia at the time) had been affected. In general, Prague is a fascinating city to explore. If the walking tours get too crowded during the summer, you can search for self-guided walking tours online to download and read at your own pace while touring Prague. Jerry and I did both. We downloaded a self-guided tour for Old Town, but went on a Prague Castle walking tour (which we got as a free bonus for visiting the Museum of Communism).
Have you visited Prague? What is your favorite part of the city? Would you ever wait again to watch the astronomical clock on the hour?
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