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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrPrague, the capital of the Czech Republic, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. With its beautiful riverside location linked by stone bridges, ancient squares, winding cobblestone streets and hilltop castle, it is one of Europe’s most attractive historic settlements. A medieval trading center grew wealthy as the seat of the Holy Roman Empire.
The city offers stunning architecture, from the soaring verticals of Gothic, and the richly sculpted Baroque, to the elegance of Art Nouveau, and the prominent Cubist facades. One of the great joys of the city is its potential for exploration. The city center is compact, bounded on three sides by a wide loop of the river. At its heart is Staré Mesto, the lively Old Town on the east bank of the Vltava , rich in architecture from different periods and full of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Despite a number of foreign invaders, Prague's Old Town Square has remained virtually untouched since the 10th century. An ever-changing cast of musicians, protesters, dance troupes and vendors make the square as colorful as the buildings that surround it.
The most picturesque and romantic area of the city is Mala Strana, on the banks of the Vltava River, home to Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. Visit Prague’s Jewish quarter, the Josefov, which has been transformed into a stylish neighborhood of Art Nouveau buildings, designer shops and cafés. Beer lovers will adore the Prague Beer Museum, not a museum at all, but a pub offering a unique selection of Czech micro-brews. There are over 30 different types served, from pale ales to honey wheat beers. If you’re more of a night owl, Prague won’t disappoint. There’s a distinctly underground club scene, but you will also find sophisticated cocktail bars, Irish pubs, plush whisky lounges, and hip DJ bars. The best times to visit Prague are the spring and the autumn, when the weather is mild and the tourists are few.
Prague CastlePrague Castle began as a wooden fortress with earthen bulwarks in the 9th century; by the 11th century, it included a royal palace and the 14th century saw the beginning of St. Vitus Cathedral. The castle has been a home to Holy Roman Emperors, Kings, Queens and Presidents. At least 18 buildings, from palaces to churches, halls to towers, and eight gardens are contained within the complex borders. It’s well worth exploring the grounds both inside and out, as most of the castle is accessible to visitors, despite being home to the day-to-day functioning of the Czech government.
Charles BridgePrague’s oldest bridge, and one of its most iconic structures, is Charles Bridge, which connects Old Town with Malá Strana. Dating to 1357, it was originally called the Stone Bridge, or Prague Bridge, before being named Charles Bridge in 1870, after its founder King Charles IV. The bridge spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. A bustling, busy area, the bridge is almost never empty of people, although seeing it at dawn or in the evening will mean fewer crowds.
Church TynThe Church of Our Lady before Tyn graces the Old Town Square. Among the most well-known attractions in Prague, the church’s Gothic towers soar 80 meters into the sky and can be seen from all parts of the city. The Gothic church was built in 1365 on the site of an earlier Romanesque church. Though impressively Gothic on the outside, the church’s interior is smothered in heavy Baroque.
Old New SynagogueIn Josefov, Prague’s former Jewish Quarter, is the oldest active synagogue in Europe, the Old-New Synagogue. Legend tells that stones from the Second Temple in Jerusalem were brought to Prague by angels to build the walls of the synagogue. Prague’s first Gothic building, the Old-New Synagogue was completed in 1270 and has held divine services ever since, except for the Nazi occupation between the years of 1942-45.
Astronomical ClockThe Astronomical Clock is one of Prague's main attractions which attracts crowds of tourists who want to admire the hourly parade of painted wooden statues: the apostles, Christ, the allegories of Death and of Vanity, the archangel, Michael, and etc. The clock was built in the 15th century and presents with two faces: the upper one indicates the time as well as the position of the sun, the moon, and the planets. The second one shows a calendar with illustrations of the months of the year and the corresponding zodiac signs. You can also visit the interior of the Old Town Hall. It is located in the Old Town Square.
Museum of CommunismPut together by an American expat and his Czech partner, the museum tells the story of Czechoslovakia’s years behind the Iron Curtain in photos, words, and a fascinating and varied collection. Be sure to watch the video about protests leading up to the Velvet Revolution and you’ll never think of it as a pushover again.
Dancing HouseThe Dancing House, or ‘Fred and Ginger’ is the nickname given to the building, is situated at the right riverbank for its unusual shape. The bizarrely designed Dancing House is closed to the public; still, travelers like to come take photos of the unique structure.
Food & DrinkPrague has many traditional Czech places supplemented by French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian restaurants. By far the highest prices and lowest quality are to be found in the tourist joints around Old Town Square and Karlova Street. You'll find the cheapest meals at traditional Czech pubs outside of the city center. There are three national foods always found on the menu: vepro, knedlo, and zelo, or pork, dumplings and cabbage respectively. Other popular main dishes include rostene (roast beef), grilovane kure, (roast chicken) and uzeniny (spicy cured meats). Cmunda is a local favorite; the dish consists of a steaming potato pancake topped with sweet, boiled red cabbage, and spicy Moravian smoked pork. As far as drinks go, a Czech meal is often accompanied by a beer.
Where to StayThe highest demand and highest prices are for accommodation in Malá Strana and Staré Mesto, widely considered the two most desirable places to stay. Prague's New Town lacks the medieval charm of Old Town, but more than makes up for it with lower prices, more rooms and better dining. Staying towards the edge of the city can mean fresher air, lots more neighborhood character, a chance to mix with locals and can also save you a lot of money.
ShoppingThe main Prague shopping area runs down Wenceslas Square, along Na Příkopě and into Republic Square. In this short distance you'll find several multilevel shopping gallerias, with foreign chains like H&M, Next, Kenvelo, Pierre Cardin, Adidas, and Zara. Between the centers is a wide array of boutiques and antiques shops. Around the Old Town Square and in the Lesser Town, small stores sell art, crystal, and tourist souvenirs. Pařížská has luxury, international boutique shops like Cartier, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, and Prada. Most shops are open Monday to Friday from about 9 AM to 7 PM and Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM, and sometimes much later. Many open on Sunday as well, though usually for a shorter time.
Getting AroundPublic transport is the easiest and cheapest way to get around the city, as there are plenty of trams, buses and metro. You can buy a ticket at the machine by any Metro entrance or from most Tabák shops. Don’t forget to validate tickets on buses and trams. Many of the most popular attractions are within walking distance of one another, and exploring this city on foot will be a treat for the eyes.
SafetyPrague is a relatively safe city. The rate of violent crime is low and most areas of Prague are safe to walk around, even after dark. Be careful on hot-spots like the Charles Bridge. It's a good idea to carry your valuables in a bag that can be closed or at least in your front pocket. And the park around the main train station is not the safest place after dark.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Apr 04, 2015