Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, frozen in medieval charm. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia (today called Czech Republic), whose charms inspired an entire movement of “La Boheme” artists, writers and musicians to pursue creativity, love, peace and freedom. I visited the enchanting city with my parents a few years ago, and instantly fell in love with it’s charms, architecture, and spirit. Here are my favourite things about Prague:
~ THE ARCHITECTURE ~
The city’s architecture is breath-taking reflecting work from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Unlike most European cities, Prague was not completely destroyed during WWII, and luckily most of its buildings have retained their original state, creating an open air museum of architectural masterpieces. I still marvel at the intricacy of work used to design the delicate facades, and wonder if we will ever be able to replicate such beauty.
Every single building has a beautiful embellishment and personal touch leaving behind a story, which shaped history. The city is surrounded by theatres, museums, and art galleries putting on shows every day, while cafes, traditional restaurants and pubs entice visitors with the aroma and entertainment. The spirit of La Boheme, can best be felt when the sun goes down and as nightlife becomes the only task on anyone’s agenda.
~ THE SIGHTS – OLD VS. NEW ~
Like most ancient medieval European cities, Prague is split between an Old Town “Stare Mesto” and a New Town “Nove Mesto“, both offering charming and important landmarks which defined Prague’s history.
Wenceslas Square – is one of Prague’s most prominent boulevards in the New Town district, named after Bohemia’s patron, Saint Wenceslas. It is filled with restaurants, cafes, street performers and quirky buildings, reflecting a kaleidoscope of colours and shapes.
Havelske Market “Havelske Trziste”– is an open-air market offering everything from the freshest produce, to beautiful blooms, art pieces and quirky souvenirs. Craftsman also sell puppets, wooden toys, leather, and ceramics, making it the ideal place to shop for gifts to take back home. It is a permanent market, open all year long and is located on Melantrichova street, one of the main pedestrian streets which leads to the Old Town Square.
Old Town Square “Staroměstské náměstí” – located between Wenceslas Square and King Charles Bridge, is one of Europe’s biggest and most beautiful squares. It is home to the Gothic style “Church of Our Lady before Tyn” which is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. The square is filled with food stands serving Czech delicacies such as meat cuts, sausages, fresh cream and local treat “trdelnik“. Visitors can also admire the city sights by horse drawn carriage which goes around the city. Christmas is a very special time as the square turns into a winter wonderland, hosting medieval themed Christmas markets, and all the goodies which come with it.
Old Town Hall – one of Prague’s most iconic landmarks, located in the Old Town as the name suggests. Built in 1338, it was the seat of the Old Town parliament, and it’s complex includes a stunning Gothic style tower, with a chapel and the famous astronomical clock “Orloj“. The 69.5m high tower offers a spectacular birds eye view of the entire city, and it is in this exact moment when you realize just how charming this medieval town really is!
Orloj (Astronomical clock) – is the world’s 3rd oldest clock, and the only one still working today. Installed in 1410 by a Catholic priest and scientist, this fascinating clock has seen over 600 years of history go by. Apart from its authenticity, every hour between 9am and 11pm, the striking of the clock is demonstrated by 12 Apostles appearing in procession, along with a skeleton which represents death, and a miser holding gold, which represents greed. The clock was severely damaged by the Nazi’s in 1945, however was repaired and restored to function in 1948.
King Charles Bridge – this sensational bridge merges the Old Town “Stare Mesto” with Lesser Quarter “Mala Strana“, and everything in between. Commissioned in 1357, the bridge has stood the test of time and natural disaster, overcoming all floods to hit the city. Beautiful Baroque style statues are spread out along including famous Czech philosophers, poets and patron saints, most notably St. John of Nepomuk, who was martyred by being thrown off the bridge. The pedestrian bridge is a popular spot for street artists and performers, showcasing their talents all year round, while offering breath-taking views of the Vltava river.
Mala Strana – once you cross over the bridge, you arrive to Mala Strana “Lesser Quarter”, Prague’s oldest neighborhood. Historically, the district was a complex of palaces and aristocratic homes which have today been transformed into the city’s administrative offices, shops, restaurants, embassies and hotels. It is characterized by charming walkways, cobblestone paths, vibrant street life, hidden gardens, and sits at the foothills of the majestic Prague Castle.
Prague Castle – majestically stands guard high above the city centre, with its Gothic style towers, just like in a fairy tale. It is the largest ancient castle in the world and Prague’s most iconic attraction, founded in 880 AD. It holds the greatest collection of Czech treasure spanning centuries of history, art and culture, and holds countless stories of kings and queens. St. Vitus Cathedral is located within the castle walls, and serves as Prague’s largest and most sacred religious place. The majestic cathedral has beautiful collections of glass stained mosaics on its windows, and characteristic gargoyles defending the walls. Built over a span of 600 years, various forms of architectural design can be seen within the cathedral from Gothic, to Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau and is a very important piece in Prague’s history, serving as the burial place of patron saints, kings and queens, archbishops and noblemen.
The castle also has the best viewpoints to appreciate the city sights, and I recommend walking down the cobblestone streets of Mala Strana after your visit, where you can enjoy refreshments and purchase some interesting souvenirs.
~ TASTY DELIGHTS ~
All the members in my family are foodies, and we make it our priority to taste the national dishes of each destination we visit. Similar to Serbian cuisine, the Czech love hearty dishes, heavy on pork and sauerkraut as well as stews like gulash. Throughout the streets, you can see little piggies roasting on a spit every 10 metres, which might seem slightly morbid, but for pork lovers – this place is a haven. My parents enjoyed a pork knee specialty served with sauerkraut, and naturally, paired with the best Czech beer.
In terms of sweet endings, Prague is famous for “trdelnik“, very similar to “kurtoskalas” from Hungray – also know as “chimney cake”. Leavened pastry is rolled onto a long stick to resemble a chimney and bakes on an open fire. Once ready, originally it is sprinkled with sugar, vanilla, toffee and almond, while piping hot, however can be garnished with anything, even chocolate. It’s a sweet sensation especially during the cooler months!
Czech Republic has also given the world “Absinthe“, also known as “the Green Fairy” – a very powerful alcohol (up to 89.9% to be precise), which is illegal in most countries due to its hallucinatory properties. In Prague, it is very much legal, and can be found in every single liquor shop, plus special dedicated Absinthe galleries. Guests can learn how to properly consume the drink, and take home some souvenirs.
~ PRAGUE ON WATER ~
One of the best ways to admire the city, is by hopping on a boat and enjoying a river cruise, which can be boarded just across King Charles Bridge in Mala Strana. While leisurely cruising along the Vltava river, you can really admire how diverse Prague really is; a mix of beautiful historical buildings and modern day high rises, such as that of the InterContinental Prague. Prague Castle dominates in the distance, offering a watchful eye of the city, while the old city and lesser quarter are connected by a total of 17 bridges.
Prague has automatically listed itself as one of my favourite cities, and I can’t think of a word, other than “enchanting” to describe the it.
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary, unless otherwise stated.