The Queen of the Cities, The City of a Hundred Spires, The Jewel in the Heart of Europe, Mother of all the Cities. Despite being in the very centre of modern Europe, Prague somehow managed to keep all its medieval and romantic charms, secrets, and names. If the maxim is to see Rome and die, for Prague, it is the very opposite: Once you´ve seen it, you’ll want to move in.
Not to be mistaken with a bunch of its namesakes in the USA, Prague or Praha is so much more than a well-preserved monument of past ages. From the synagogues of Jewish Town to the illuminated walls of Prague Castle, every corner of the city is very much alive, breathing and pulsating with new energy. And it has many surprises hidden up its sleeves.
Small, green, affordable
Even though Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, compared to its siblings across Europe, it remains relatively small. It has less than one-eighth of London’s population, half of Rome’s, and approximately a third of Berlin’s. This allows the city to maintain its very specific character without being too vast to be properly comprehended. It is one of the greenest and most compact capitals you’ll ever see and a much more affordable variant than the rest of them.
The cultural hub in the centre of Europe
Just as San Francisco is a city of free culture and artists, Prague follows in the same open spirit, partially due to its large population of students and expats. The concentration of theatres, cinemas, music halls and clubs (including the iconic Reduta Jazz Club, where even Bill Clinton gave one of his famous sax performances), exhibition halls, and festivals of any conceivable theme is just overwhelming. There virtually isn’t a day in the week when you can’t find a cultural event taking place somewhere. If you ever feel like you don’t know what to do, just check here.
Home of Galileo
Apart from culture, Prague is also a city of science and research. Being the seat of kings and emperors, Prague has always been a nurturing home to alchemy, astrology, magic, and other rather obscure subjects as well as the formal scientific disciplines. Nowadays, it proudly hosts 39 out of 54 institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences, seven of the greatest and top-notch universities in the country, as well as the administration of the European navigation system, Galileo. And it was in Prague where the International Astronomical Union decided to strip Pluto of its planet status.
Prague isn’t just a place to visit. It’s a place to embrace, to experience, and to fall in love with. Come and see for yourself.
Must See in Prague
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 Vltava 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 origin point of Prague). 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 riverbank, 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 that time 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 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, built 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 – the 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.