2 Day Guide – Prague Czech Republic
Welcome to my new series of travel guides for people with just a couple of days in a city. I travel a bit for work and usually find myself in cities for a day or two, especially around weekends and I like to see as much of the city as possible.
In June 2012 I visited Prague for a conference and had about 24 hours to explore the city before the conference started. I had arrived from Australia via Frankfurt earlier in the day, so after a quick shower and a change of clothes I headed out to lunch to take in the sights.
I was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel near the river, so once refreshed I headed to the Square to start my adventure.
The best place to start is at the Old Town Square, this is a wonderful medieval square with dark cobblestones laced with white stones for decoration. When I was there the city centre was set up for the European Cup, so it had lost some of its magic.
1. Old Town Square
This is the heart of Prague - a very popular spot for locals and tourists. The square is surrounded by many gorgeous buildings with the statue of Jan Hus.
Find 27 white crosses on the pavement to mark the place where 27 Bohemian nobles where executed in the year 1621 after Czechs lost the pivotal battle to Austrian Hapsburgs. Climb up the Old Town Hall tower for panoramic views of the square and the whole city. (source: EveryTrail)
2. Astronomical Clock
Locate the Astronomical Clock out the front of the old Town Hall. You will find people milling around to get a good view, but my recommendation is to choose one of the many restaurant/cafes located in front of the clock. When I visited it was lunchtime so I had a burger and a beer while I watched the show that occurred on the hour, every hour. HINT – arrive 30-45 mins before the hour and get a seat, that way you are guaranteed to see a great view while you eat and then you save time by having lunch as well.
3. Powder Tower
Powder Tower (Prašná brána) was one of the several entrances to the city in 15th century. Origins of its name date back to the 17th century when the tower was used to store gun powder. The Powder Tower is also where so called "Royal Way" starts - this artery runs through the city and was used for parade by almost all the Bohemian kings upon coronation. (source: EveryTrail)
Near the Powder Tower is the Theatre District. Find the one with a restaurant in the cellar. Make sure you remember where this is located as it is an ideal (and cheap) spot to enjoy traditional Czech fare for dinner.
4. Track back to the Old Town
Then back track to the square to discover hidden gems like an outside market and many shops. I spent some time at Erpet buying crystal glasses, at various shops buying gifts for my children, including a colour lead soldier in one of the shops nears the market. Alcohol is also very cheap and a visit to Prague is not complete without buying a bottle of Absinthe.
5. Wenceslas Square
"Vaclavak" in local slang, is not exactly a square, it is in fact a "Champs-Élysées" style wide, long and airy avenue.
It is a gathering spot like most squares for locals and tourist alike. The square is engulfed by a mix of modern and rustic buildings, specialty shops and restaurants. (source: EveryTrail)
6. The Horse
You will find in the square a cross laid into the pavement. This is memorial to Jan Palach, a Czech student who burnt himself to death in January 1969 in protest against the Soviet occupation of his country. The cross marks exact spot where Jan Palach fell. Behind is the National Museum (only for those with more time to explore, otherwise miss this) (source: EveryTrail)
7. Head back to the Old Town, towards the Hotel and walk Paris Avenue
This is a street full of designer goods. You will find many Russians in this area with their young mistresses buying up in the shops.
8. Old-New Synagogue
Just across the road from the Intercontinental is the Jewish Quarter. This is a fascinating part of Prague and is not to be missed. Buy a full museum pass 480 Kroner (A$25) to be able to visit every one of these – takes about 2 hours and every synagogue is within walking distance.
What is saddening is that the Nazi Party all but exterminated the Prague Jews and to have this history preserved as a shrine of remembrance and as history means that we are fortunate in many ways as well.
This is the oldest synagogue in Europe (build around 1260), a beautiful Gothic structure. It’s rumoured that a ‘Golem’ is hidden in the attic of this very building. (source: EveryTrail)
9. Jewish Quarter
Jewish Quarter or ‘Josefov’ is one of the most important Jewish areas outside of Israel. Dating back to 13th century the quarter hosts several significant buildings like the Old-New Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue and many others. The best way to experience this area is to slowly wander around the old streets and inhale the atmosphere. (source: EveryTrail)
10. The Little Door
I am not going to help you with a photo of this location, the challenge is to try to find this place yourself. Need a hint? Tiny little door with a cute little window to peek through into old Jewish cemetery. Nice place for a memorable photo. (source: EveryTrail)
11. Charles Bridge
Take a walk now to the Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge is the icon of the city. It’s a beautiful stone structure from the 14th century. Highly recommended is an early morning visit to the bridge. Just before sunrise, the predawn light gives this place a very eerie feel, and it’s also a great way to beat the crowds! (source: EveryTrail)
Being conveniently located in the middle of the city, Charles Bridge is a common point of interest in this series of guides of Prague.
12. More Attractions
At the end of the bridge take the first right and back track along the river. Here you will find the Pilsner Urquell Experience. Forget the museum ‘experience’, but make sure that you buy a souvenir beer mug that gives you bottomless tastings of the beer! By this time you would have earned a thrist quencher.
A little further down the road you will discover the Kafta museum. There is an interesting statue at the front and worth a visit if you have time and inclination. Near the museum are some great antique shops. I bought a coin from the 1620’s when the Lords were executed in the Old Town Square!
Also look for an unexpected crevice… a very, very narrow gap between two buildings leading down to a pub and some spectacular views of the Charles Bridge and Vltava river.
13. Manesuv Bridge
Prague has many pretty bridges that run across the river Vltava. Manesuv Bridge is one of them. From the bridge you can get a great view of the city. (source: EveryTrail)
Just up stream from Manesuv Bridge is the landmark Charles Bridge.
14. Back to the Hotel
After this walk you will be ready to return to the Hotel and to have a nice long cool drink before heading out for dinner.
Today the time is best spent visiting Prague Castle.
Head out after breakfast crossing the river at either the Charles Bridge or the Manesuv Bridge. Then pass the old Cathedral and head up the long steep road to the Castle. I remember thinking of how hard it would have been invaders to trek up this hill!
Along the way there are many shops, my colleague bought some old Soviet memorabilia on our journey up the hill!
Once you get to the castle (HINT – get there before the crowds so you can view unimpeded) here’s the best way to explore each section:
1. Start with St Vitus Catherdral
2. Then the Old Royal Palace
3. Basilica of St George
4. Convent of St George
5. Golden Lane
6. Daliborka Tower
7. Black Tower
8. Lobkovic Palace
9. Theresian Wing
10. Imperial Stable
11. Spanish Hall
And if you get time see the changing of the Guard.
You will need between 4-6 hours to see the castle complex in detail for 350 Kroner...about AUD $20.
I hope this helps those of you interested in visiting Prague. Two days in the city will mean that you have discovered the main attractions and hopefully find some secret places (I found one bar selling beer for 40 Kroner a pint (A$3!).