Following my visits to the capitals of Hungary and Austria, I finished my February holiday with several days in Prague! Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and is nicknamed “The City of a Hundred Spires.” I was actually surprised at how small the historic center was! Though it is a large city, it has a small town feel with very well preserved architecture.
Prague is a beautiful city with lots of history. Of course, I went on a walking tour as soon as I arrived (shocker!). There are Sandemans Free Tours in Prague, unlike in Vienna. This walking tour was one of the longest I’ve been on (3 hours), but it was worth it! Prague was the capital of Bohemia in the 12th century, so it’s been an important city for centuries. Despite having been accidentally bombed by the US in WW2, the city was left almost unscathed after the two world wars. This is super lucky, because the historical center is absolutely stunning!
The historical center makes up a large part of the city, and contains nearly all of the tourist attractions! This is super convenient for touring because everything is close together. Old Town Square is gorgeous, framed by the Gothic Church of Our Lady, Baroque style St. Nicolas Church, and the medieval astronomical clock.
Pražský Orloj is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, and the oldest which is still in operation! If you’re around the clock near the top of the hour, you’ll see tons of tourists flocked around awaiting the “show.” Each hour there’s a 30-second show where Saints peek out little windows and a bell rings. This has actually been voted one of the most overrated tourist attractions! I’d say it is worth seeing if you happen to be there at the top of the hour, but no real upset if you miss it. The clock was installed in 1410 so it’s amazing that it’s still functioning. The clock tower apparently has a great view from the top, but I chose to climb up the tower by Charles Bridge instead.
On the way from the historic center to Charles Bridge, there is an AMAZING shop called Good Food where you can get chimney cakes or Kürtőskalács! I got a chimney cake with ice cream in it and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. Totally worth eating ice cream in the winter!
Charles Bridge is a Gothic Bridge built in the 1300s (formerly named Stone Bridge) by order of the Czech King and Holy Roman Emporer Charles IV. Connecting Old Town to the Lesser Quarter, Charles Bridge offers a beautiful view of the castle overlooking the river. Charles Bridge is the first thing I picture when I think of Prague. This pedestrian bridge is constantly bustling with tourists, artists, and entertainers.
There are 30 Baroque-style statues along the bridge, but it is easy to spot the most popular one! The statue for St. John of Nepomuk looks as though it has been polished – touching the statue is supposed to be good luck and to ensure your return to Prague! (So obviously I touched it too!!) St. John of Nepomuk was a Czech martyr saint who was executed by being thrown into the Vltava.
There are three Gothic bridge towers on either side of Charles Bridge. I went up the Old Town Bridge Tower, which is on the Old Town side of the bridge – hence the name. Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV also ordered the tower be built in the 14th century. The 138 steps to the viewing gallery is worth the stunning panoramic view of the city and the river!
The Lesser Quarter side contains the Castle and Monastery up on the hill. I chose to take a guided tour of the Castle grounds to hear about its history. The grounds are home to numerous different styles of architecture, each added under various rulers. Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, dating back to the 9th century! The President of Česká republika still lives in the castle to this day.
St. Vitus Cathedral is the huge cathedral within the castle grounds. This is the third church on this site dedicated to Saint Vitus. The current structure began in 1344 but has undergone changes through the 20th century. The doors at the main entrance include bronze reliefs showing scenes of the building of the cathedral from 925-1929.
Golden Lane is a small street is named for the goldsmiths that lived here in the 17th century in the castle grounds. These tiny homes now contain souvenir shops. The museum of medieval armoury is at the end of Golden Lane within the former 14th-century fortification.
John Lennon Wall
Closer to the river, you can find the famous John Lennon Wall! I first visited the wall when the sun was beginning to set. My initial impression wasn’t very good. I was pretty disappointed by all the irrelevant and lame tags covering the majority of the bottom half! I’d expected beautiful graffiti and inspiring quotes, not “MARY WAS HERE!”
However, once I revisited during the day with the sunshine bringing out the bright colors I was more impressed. The tags are unfortunate but there are still nice parts. It’s kind of a beautiful thing that the wall is ever changing. From one day to another, it’s never the same and the ugly tags will get covered by other messages soon enough.
Prague by Night
After having so much fun on the bar crawls in Budapest, I decided to try one out in Prague! There are several companies who host pub crawls there. With the company I chose, we had 2.5 hours in their bar to drink as much as we pleased before moving on to several other bars and finishing at the club, Duplex! The bar where the crawl starts is a really cool underground cave with several different rooms. Lots of drinking games, which is always fun. Duplex has two stories, one floor with a calm atmosphere and a regular bar, then the second floor with a DJ and GoGo dancers! I had a blast, and I met lots of fun people.
Outside of my bar crawl, I joined another solo traveler to meet up with a group through Couch Surfers to explore the city at night. It was really nice to meet some locals and other travelers! We got some hot wine in the lesser quarter and the locals showed us around. We each made a wish on Charles Bridge and rubbed the statue of St. John of Nepomuk!
Some of the girls staying in my hostel room had recommended a local bar that “has a huge dog and
fire shows!” After asking the hostel staff to point us in the direction, I went to this crazy bar with a couple of people from the Couch Surfer meet-up group. Vzorkovna is such a hidden gem. The huge sheepdog belongs to the owner and is possibly the most chill dog I’ve ever seen. There are several different rooms, one of which was filled with a group of locals playing music. I don’t think anything makes me as happy as live music. Further into the bar is a larger area with a stage where a band is constantly playing, even if they are switching out singers while some take a break. Sure enough, as the girls described there was a fire show! Oh and did I mention the bar has swings?!
Prague definitely offers a lot to do and see! The architecture is stunning and there are tons of fun bars and restaurants. I look forward to returning here some day! (And I must, because I rubbed the statue on Charles Bridge!)
Check out my upcoming post about the Sedlec Ossuary, an easy day-trip from Prague and one of the most unique places I have visited!