Prague feels different from any other European city I’ve been to (that list includes Dublin, Istanbul, Rome, and Zurich, among a few others). It feels old, though not ancient — it has existed for a little over a thousand years. It makes me think of an older lady, stately, elegant. She knows all about the world, and she’s got a little twinkle in her eye because she’s not afraid to show it, and she’s not trying to impress you; that’s just something that happens whether or not she means it.
We enjoyed Prague a lot. For Europe, it is comparably an inexpensive city. Food was delicious and so was the beer. There was a lot to see within a small area and it was easy to get around. There is so much history there too.
- Dates visited: April 28-30, 2014
- Base of operations: Hotel Ametyst, Praha 2 (highly recommended!)
- Currency: Czech koruna ($1 = about 25 CZK)
- Major attractions: Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock
How to Get Around Prague
The city itself is fairly large, but for those in town to see the sights, most things can be found in a smaller area in the center, in districts 1-6. It’s easy to walk from one place to another, and if you map your routes well enough, you should hit everything without having to backtrack.
There is also an abundance of trains, trams and buses that make it easy to get around the city, and get to and from the airport. Tickets are sold at ticket machines and besides single-journey tickets (24 CZK), one can purchase a tourist pass for 24 hours (110 CZK) or 72 hours (310 CZK). We found that single-journey tickets worked for us since we ended up mostly walking all over the place.
What to See in Prague
We started our exploration by taking the subway from our hotel to the Prague Castle (metro stop: Malostranska). Prague Castle is very old, dating back to about 870 AD. Architecture buffs will love the variety of styles present within the 70,000 square meters of its walls.
The castle is not actually one building as such. It is comprised of a collection of cathedrals, churches, palaces, and other buildings, as well as gardens and courtyards.
We started at the Belvedere Gardens, which requires no admission. Then we meandered west and south to the actual castle. Admission to Prague Castle varies depending on what you want to see. We chose to hit the big ones with the Circuit B ticket for 250 CZK each. We saw the massive Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, then continued east to the Romanesque St. George’s Basilica and the Golden Lane. We then headed back west out of the palace gates.
We walked along southeast from the castle, aiming for St. Nicholas Church and its distinctive green dome. Continuing east from there, we found ourselves at Charles Bridge. King Charles IV commanded its construction in 1457 and it was completed at the beginning of the 15th century. At the time, it was the only bridge across the Vltava river. It is decorated with 30 baroque-style statues of Christian saints.
After crossing Charles Bridge, we had a quick lunch at Kozlovna Apropos — David tried the “Old Prague plate” of sausages and cabbage and potato pancakes, while I had a variation of Czech goulash, this time with a creamy sauce and bacon dumplings. If you have not had Czech-style goulash, I urge you to give it a try! It has become one of my favorite foods. I ate it everywhere in Prague (and we were only there two days!). Sadly, it has proven rather difficult to find in Seattle. I will just have to try and make it one of these days.
We headed north from Charles Bridge into the Jewish Quarter. Some of the historical sights here are the Jewish Cemetery and various synagogues, notably the Old New Synagogue (that’s not a typo, that’s really its name) and the Spanish Synagogue.
Again, admission into the various historical buildings of the Jewish Quarter varies depending on inclusions. We chose to enter only the Spanish Synagogue. It’s not really Spanish; the decoration and style are actually Moorish. The interior is elaborate and gilded. Photography is not allowed inside.
Old Town Square
Old Town Square is a lovely courtyard surrounded by some of the most impressive and memorable of Prague’s sights. Among these are the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, St. Nicholas Church (yes, another one), and the Prague Astronomical Clock. The clock chimes every hour and animated figures are set in motion. The show is pretty popular and the courtyard can get crowded, so be ready to find a good vantage point.
Oddball Sight: The Sex Machines Museum
Near the Astronomical Clock, down an alley past the Starbucks, you can find the Sex Machines Museum. This is, obviously, not a good place for kids and admission is 250 CZK for the 18 and over crowd. The website says there are over 200 items on display: various paraphernalia that people have used through the ages to bring pleasure. They also show some porn movies from 1925. It was a fascinating visit and we definitely found it to be worth a couple of hours.