Prague Castle, San Vitus Cathedral, Old Town Hall with its astronomical clock, Charles Bridge, the lookout tower of Petřín, Wenceslas Square. According to Trip Advisor, those would be the most tourist-craved monuments and places throughout the city… So let’s skip them.
You can easily find them in every tourist guide about Prague ever written by anybody (except for those weird guys from Atlas Obscura). But if you are going to live in this thousand-year-old city of medieval legends and crooked streets, then perhaps a slightly different approach might come in handy. By all means – go and see all the recommended sites, but try to do it your way. If you still need a little push, here are four simple rules for you to follow (anywhere, not just in Prague):
1. Look for a different point of view
Charles Bridge visited at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t just provide you with a totally different experience – it changes to an entirely different place. Gone are the screaming crowds, the performing street artists and vendors of extravagant souvenirs. Gone are the people. Cold gazes of the baroque statues, the heavy six hundred years old stone and the ever running river remain. And the once-suffocating place suddenly reveals its eerie and truly beautiful face.
2. Always go for the originals
Did you like the stone figures of various saints on the bridge? All of them are copies, mainly for touristic display. The originals are safely stored in two places. The first one is a lapidary of the National Museum which you won’t be able to get into. But you can visit the second place, the casemate or underground tunnels running through the fortifications of Vyšehrad (the other, smaller castle on the opposite side of the river). And another tip: there is a small, inconspicuous cemetery hidden in the middle of the park that takes up most of the inner area of Vyšehrad castle. It is the resting place of great artists, scientists, writers and other important figures of Czech history, among them two of the most famous Czech composers, Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák.
3. Walk on foot
Whenever possible, use the metro as little as you can; walk through the city, explore and wander around. Forget the public transport and climb the steep hill to Vyšehrad from the river bank, called Náplavka by locals. Not only is it a popular public promenade that runs along the water, but it’s also the favourite hang-out spot of Prague’s young people. So expect crafted beer, farmers’ markets on weekends, some nice snacks and a lot of hipster kids sitting on the waterfront.
4. Don’t be afraid to stop, have a beer and relax a little
When the historical building fatigue sets in (and it will after a while), climb the hill of Letná and enjoy a nice beer with a view of the entire city. If you keep on walking towards Prague Castle, you’ll pass a Metronome, a symbol of time that never stops (except when it does, because the contraption runs on electricity) and the Chateau of Letná. On the approach to the castle, take the footbridge across Chotkova Street, go through the Deer Moat and walk around the castle itself. Eventually you’ll come along the monastery of Strahov with its historical library which is a marvel to see and its crafted beer which is a marvel to drink. Yet another, sister location with similar qualities, rests nearby – another monastery with an interesting precedence. The Monastery of Břevnov is the first documented brewery in the Czech Republic, with the tradition going all the way back to the year 993. And they sure have perfected the process since then.
5. If it’s on a hill, it’s probably interesting
Yeah, yeah. The Small Quarter, the Old Town and the Jewish quarter with its wonders and tourist traps are near the river. But the rule of thumb in Prague is “if it’s on a hill, it´s probably worth visiting.” The nicest view of the entire city actually isn’t from the walls of Prague Castle, but a little to the side. If you go through the aforementioned Monastery of Strahov and you sneak (or just walk, it’s not forbidden) through a little gate in the wall, you’ll be able to enter the gardens of Petřín Hill.
There you will find the lookout tower, build to resemble the Eiffel Tower, which provides one of the two best views of the entire city. The vista is well worth some sweat, but it’s definitely not the only reason to spend some time there. The park itself is a splendour filled with many secrets awaiting anybody who dares to wander a little bit further. Secrets such as a magic cave in a house of a local artist, a mirror maze, a space observatory or the unique wooden church of St. Michael that was transported log by log from Ukraine more than a hundred years ago.
The second best view of the city is from the monstrosity that you can see from almost anywhere in Prague – Žižkov Tv Tower. Yes, the thing that looks like an ugly spaceship ready to launch with faceless babies crawling up and down on it. Apart from being the tallest building in the Czech Republic, the vista is quite spectacular and you can even have breakfast or lunch there. Just don’t expect it to be cheap.
6. Ask the locals
If you are positively hooked and want to see some more attractions, ask your Czech schoolmates. They know the city better than anybody else, that’s a guarantee. And if by chance you’d like to impress them, here is a little tool to help you do so.