Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as such it also attracts hordes of tourists. Don’t let all these people dissuade you, it’s still worth to go to this city. But if you want to minimize your irritation, adjust your schedule and get to the sites early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Also try to explore some of the less visited places this city has to offer.
The itinerary of the first day can easily be done by foot, if you have difficulty climbing and or walking for longer periods, take the cable cart to the top of Petřín hill or the bus to the castle.
Together with the Golden Gate bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the world, and with reason. This medieval bridge was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The bridge was decorated with 30 statues in the 18th century, all the statues you see today are replicas.
Petřín Strahov Monastery
As you walk up the Petřín Orchards, you can either go to the Petřín View Tower, a 60-meter high copy of the Eifel Tower. It was built for the world fair in 1891. Otherwise, you can directly go to the Strahov Monastery. This 12th-century monastery was rebuilt many times and its current face is a baroque one. It houses a picture gallery with 14-19th century paintings, a library with old books and the monastery itself.
The National Gallery has many buildings throughout the city. Just outside the castle complex are two palaces which have been completely renovated to act as museums. The Schwarzenberg Palace and the Sternberg Palace, both are beautiful buildings. Visit the Schwarzenberg Palace if you’re into Baroque art as the museum is focused on art from this period. The museum is currently closed and will open again later in 2019. The Sternberg Palace has a more eclectic collection covering the whole spectrum of European art from antiquity to the 18th century. The collection has some outstanding works of art so if you only want to visit one of the palaces, go here.
From the monastery it’s a short walk to the castle. This is another tourist magnet, expect it to be busy.
Outside you’ll find the president palace with the presidential guard. You can watch the changing of the guards here every hour from 7.00 in the morning. The big one is at noon, with fanfare and all.
Continue inside and decide whether you want to see the interior of any of the buildings and decide which ticket suits your wishes best. I would suggest the cheapest option, circuit B, as this gives you all the highlights without the unnecessary extra exhibitions. The highlights of the castle complex are the St Vitus Cathedral and the old royal palace. If included in your ticket don’t forget to visit the St. George’s Basilica. This old church dates back to the 10th century and has a beautiful Romanesque interior. The other thing every tourist seems to do, is visiting the Golden Lane. It’s a nice medieval looking street, where you can find the house where Franz Kafka used to live. But it’s usually overcrowded so you won’t have the opportunity to imagine what it would have looked like in the past.
St Vitus Cathedral
As with most Cathedrals, the St Vitus Cathedral was built on top of the earlier 10th-century church. Although construction of this Gothic Cathedral started in 1344 again by Charles IV, it was not consecrated until 1929. The biggest part of this cathedral is therefore not Gothic but Neo-Gothic which luckily complements each other well.
Old Royal Palace
There was a royal palace on this hill since the end of the 9th century. But the earliest remains are that of the 12th-century Romanesque palace, which can be seen in the underground. The present-day castle is a Gothic part started by emperor Charles IV and a late Gothic and Renaissance part from the end of the 15th century. The main attraction is the Vladislav Hall, this huge vaulted hall has been the scene of many important events in the country’s history. Don’t forget to go outside to the gallery for some great views of the Ramparts and Prague.
Best Viewpoints of the city
If you are looking for great viewpoints there are a couple with different perspectives.
St Vitus Cathedral great south tower
You need to buy a separate ticket for the tower of the cathedral. From there you’ll have marvellous views over the castle grounds towards Charles Bridge, the Moldau river and the old town.
Old Royal Palace balcony of Vladislav Hall
If you have bought a ticket for one of the castle circuits, then the Old Royal Palace and this viewpoint are included. From the balcony accessible from the Vladislav Hall in the palace you can view the ramparts of the castle, the Charles bridge and the old town. The view is nice but a bit inferior to the one from the cathedral tower.
For free views of the castle, the bridge and the old town, climb Petřín hill via the orchard. Besides this being a nice and relaxing walk away from the crowds it offers some of the best views of the city, and all for free. If you don’t feel like climbing, you can take the cable car to the top.
Petřín Tower provides slightly wider views than available for free from the hill. The view of the castle and old city won’t improve that much, but it does offer grander vistas of the surroundings of Prague and its suburbs. You’ll have to pay to go to the top.
You can get another free view with a different perspective from Letna. Letna park lies opposite the old town and provides magnificent views of the old town and the river. Depending on where you go you can also view the castle and the Charles bridge.
Old Town Hall Tower
This paid viewpoint is a great one for close-up views of the old town, since it stands right in the middle of the old town square.
The sites of the second day are a spread out more than on the first day. It’s still doable to walk but if you’re tired or want to speed things along, take a ride in a tram or metro. Prague has some beautiful metro stations and the trams are a nice way to explore the city while sitting.
Start your day with the Jewish Cemetery, since it is one of the busier places and cemeteries are better experienced without too many people around. Take your time to wander around, read up on the history of the Jewish community in Prague and its downfall during the Second World War.
Old New Synagogue
As you exit the cemetery make your way to the nearby Old-New synagogue, this is one the oldest still active synagogue in Europe. It’s a beautiful little Gothic building dating from 1270. It’s also the site of the mythical Golem of Prague.
Just a block away lies the most beautiful synagogue of Prague, the Spanish Synagogue. It’s the newest synagogue in the area built to replace the oldest synagogue of Prague in 1868. It’s built in a Moorish revival style with domes, gold and geometric patterns.
Convent st Agnes
Just a couple of minutes from the Jewish quarter lies the medieval 13th-century Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. The convent now is part of the National Gallery of Prague and houses its excellent medieval art collection. The collection focuses on art from Bohemia and Central Europe and has altarpieces and sculptures. The convent garden is freely accessible.
Old Town square
You can’t visit Prague without a visit to the Old town square. The square is lined with beautiful baroque buildings. Here you’ll also find the gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the Old Town hall with its famous Astronomical clock. So, join the crowds in anticipation of the clock striking the hour.
Let me start off by saying the Astronomical clock in Prague is a marvellous piece of engineering which is fun to watch. But don’t take all its claims to serious. It’s not the oldest in the world, just one earlier example is the Gros Horloge in Rouen, France which predates the Prague one by some 30 years. And be aware that much of what you see today is a restoration of the original. The statues are a 1948 reconstruction after the original statues were destroyed by fire in 1945, the same goes for much of the machinery. Don’t let this lessen your enjoyment of this great piece of art and engineering, but it doesn’t hurt to be informed.
While you’re on the square you can enjoy some more art if you want in the Kinský Palace. This is also a dependence of the National Gallery of Prague and is used as an exhibition space. So, check their website to see what is on. The palace itself dates from the second part of the 18th century, built on top of an earlier Romanesque and gothic structure which can still be seen in the basement.
The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates of the city of Prague. You can visit it for some views of the surrounding area. It was built at the end of the 15th century but suffered great damage at the Battle of Prague in 1757 so much of what you see today is a later reconstruction.
One of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists is Alphonse Mucha. Mucha is best known for his Art Nouveau advertisement posters. If you want to see his works of art, you can either visit the Mucha museum dedicated to the artist and his work or go to the National Gallery which has some of his major works like the Slav Epic. If you want to see his best work, go to the National Gallery, if you want to get an overview of his work visit the Mucha museum, or visit both for a complete picture.
Trade fair palace
If you’re not tired yet and love modern art, go visit the Trade Fair Palace dependence of the National Gallery. Here you will find an excellent collection of Czech art from the 1920s onwards.
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