Take to Prague by foot, and you’re bound to unearth 1,000 years of history in the detailing of the buildings, the monuments and the museums. Few cities in the world boast ancient chapels, hidden gardens and cafes as old as time, quite like Prague. As the sun traverses over the city, new tricks of light play off the walls and roofs of the buildings, creating the magical sensation which brings visitors, enchanted by Prague, returning to the city year after year.
And the cuisine of Prague is designed for walking, with rich foods powering you through the streets. The culinary offerings in the city are delicious, filling and satisfying, with thick stews and cured meats taking centre stage, and salads taking more of a back seat. The city is awash with small and modest diners, serving up the authentic Czech fare – all of which, of course, should be washed down with the nation’s favourite tipple.
There are few places in the world where you can simply place a beer mat on the bar table to alert the barman and order yourself a delicious pilsner. Prague is perhaps unique in this phenomenon. The locals here are incredibly proud of their brewing history, with the likes of Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar routinely earning plaudits around the world. But, perhaps even more exciting, is the uprising of small, boutique breweries taking the city’s beer to a whole new level.
The Jewish Quarter – With one of the saddest and darkest histories of any location in Europe, the Jewish Quarter may seem like a morbid place to visit during a stay in Prague. But today, the Jewish Quarter remains a testament to human resolve, and is packed with truly inspiring sights and stories.
The quarter dates back to the 13th century when it was developed as a ghetto for the Jewish population of the city. Ordered to relocate to this walled part of town, a significant population congregated and developed a small city within the city, and called it Josefov.
Today, the Jewish Quarter contains one of the world’s most complete collections of Jewish artefacts and historical monuments. During the Nazi population of Czechoslovakia, Hitler had ordered for Jewish artefacts to be transported to the Prague Jewish ghetto to form part of his planned Museum of an Extinct Race. Thankfully, history did not play out that way and today the Jewish Quarter stands proud with an amazing collection of museums dedicated to the strength of the Jewish population as well as some of Prague’s very best eateries, galleries and shops.
Prague Castle – Dating back to the 9th century, and the largest ancient castle in the world, Prague Castle dominates the backdrop of the city from almost all angles and views. Still the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic, the castle has previously served as the seat of kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia.
The incredible history of the castle is sure to enchant and intrigue visitors in equal measure. Entry to the castle grounds is completely free, although a combi ticket can be bought to gain access to many castle buildings including the St Vitus cathedral, Basilica of St George and Golden Lane. With more than a millennium of history on show, nowhere in the city demonstrates the unique and often turbulent story of Prague as well as its beloved castle.
Charles Bridge – If you are lucky enough to be staying overnight in Prague, head for the Charles Bridge at dusk when the city starts to light up. The twinkling lights either side of the Vltava river, and the impressive Prague Castle in the background are perhaps best viewed from this beautiful old Bridge, which can trace its roots back to the 14th-century.
A total of 30 Baroque statues are perched on the bridge, depicting various saints and patron saints, including St. Luthgard and John of Nepomuk. Inaccessible by motor vehicle, the bridge is beautifully peaceful, and the perfect place to start an evening stroll.
Prague Astronomical Clock – The 15th-century monument is the world’s oldest astronomical clock still in operation today. Mounted on the wall of Old Town Hall in Old Town Square, the clock feels like the very centre of Prague history, and retains a wonderfully old-worldly charm. The clock pitches the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky alongside other astronomical details, and still operates after 606 years in service.
Try to time your visit to the clock on the hour, when a medieval show is performed by figures flanking and above the clock face. At either side of the clock stands four figures representing the vain, the greedy, the lustful and Death. On the hour, Death will ring a bell before the 12 Apostles make an appearance above the clock face.
Golden Lane – Prague legend has it that Golden Lane, located within the grounds of the castle, is so called because alchemists took to this ancient street to find a reaction to turn ordinary objects into gold. Although evidence of alchemists achieving any kind of success is purely anecdotal, the street does possess a mysterious charm.
Even if you don’t stumble across the legendary secret of alchemy, the 15th-century street is certainly worth a visit. With 11 charmingly quaint wooden houses, all restored to show how the locals would have lived in the 1600s, the street even boasts tiny museums and textile galleries. For those looking for a little hands-on action, the street is also home to an authentic crossbow shooting range.
An endlessly fascinating city, here are a few of our favourite facts about the capital of the Czech Republic.
- The Guinness World Records recognise Prague Castle as the largest castle complex in the world.
- And the Rolling Stones apparently admired the castle so much, they paid to have the complex lit up so they could enjoy it by night as well as day.
- A wall opposite the French Embassy in Prague is repeatedly covered in images of John Lennon, and the late Beatle’s lyrics, despite being regularly whitewashed over.
- The Žižkov Television Tower in Prague is a large transmitter in the centre of Prague, and is unique for the sculptures of babies crawling up and down the transmitter’s pillars.
- Prague locals drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world, approximately 150 litres a year!
- Fittingly, Prague was the first city in the world to feature a sobering-up station, where inebriated locals could fight off the effects of the strong Czech pilsner.
- Prague-based composer Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony was played on the moon by Neil Armstrong.
- Other well-known names from Prague include Franz Kafka, one of the most influential figures in 20th-century literature.
Helping you explore the most wonderful cities and regions of Europe, you can visit Prague as part of the Emerald Waterways Prague & Danube Delights river cruise. For more details about our popular Prague & Danube Delights river cruise, click here or call our friendly sales team on 0808 301 4705.