After one glance at the multitude of black-tipped spires that beautifully dissect every view, you’ll see why many call Prague the City of a Hundred Spires. Yet this beloved capital of the Czech Republic could also be called the City of Wide Eyes, for its beauty comes at you from every angle, and visitors and citizens alike cannot help but walk around wide-eyed with wonder trying to soak it all in.
Travel agents want you to know that Prague is not just for history professors and architecture students. This capital city is also a modern metropolis full of energy, art, shopping, and music, appealing to young and old alike. Numerous gardens and parks fill in the gaps between the neck-craning structures, with some of the best on islands-like Kampa just off the Charles Bridge-filling the city of castles and cobblestones with welcoming, relaxing patches of green.
This City Was Made for Walking
The best way to experience these castles, cobblestones, and gardens are with a good pair of shoes, walking through the four major districts that straddle both sides of the Vltava River: New Town (Nove Mesto), Old Town (Stare Mesto), and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) on the eastern bank, and Little Quarter (Mala Strana) on the western bank in the shadows of Prague Castle. Your tour begins in New Town at Wenceslas Square, Prague`s main boulevard that began as a horse market 600 years ago. The massive National Museum and the State Opera dominate the square, shielding you from the morning sun as you walk north to the Old Town Square, a centerpiece of Prague’s profound history. Here you can gaze leisurely past the buskers and performing dogs to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, the Astronomical Clock, and the beautiful St. Nicolas Church while sipping a late-morning latte at an outdoor café.
Further north is Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, and the hauntingly beautiful remains of the once-thriving Jewish ghetto. Here you’ll be drawn to the Old Jewish Cemetery, Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish burial ground, and Prague’s most riveting memorial. The cemetery-where thousands of crumbling tombstones lean against each other high above bodies buried 12-deep due to lack of space-seizes the minds and hearts of all visitors.
City of Bridges
The Charles Bridge also offers the best view of Prague Castle, but then again, Prague Castle is breathtaking from every angle. With a magnificent cliff-top outlook and a stunning scale that qualifies it as the largest ancient castle in the world, Prague Castle is the political and historic center of the city. Spend half a day in awe here to tour the Spanish Hall, Rudolf Gallery, and St. Vitas Cathedral, but only if you have awe left to spare.
After a revitalizing afternoon cappuccino, head down the bank to the Little Quarter, also known as the Lesser or Small Quarter. In a picturesque city like Prague, the Little Quarter may be the most picturesque, which is why many movies are filmed on its narrow streets. After strolling the manicured grounds of Vojan Park, a quiet refuge since 1248, end the day at a common beer cellar in Little Town Square to slay your hunger with sausages and pork knuckles, if you’re a sausage and pork knuckle kind of person.
Exploring Prague the right way takes a lot of walking, but the first place you should walk is your neighborhood travel agency. Travel agents know which hotels are reputable and which tour operators you can trust-valuable information that can catapult a good vacation into the ‘best vacation ever’ category. They can also set up extended itineraries for you to explore the rest of the Czech Republic, which boasts 10 locations listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, in addition to countless castles, chateaux, and monasteries.
Czech it out!