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What To See and Do in Prague, Czech Repubic
A Tip About Where to Stay
Hotels are fairly easy to get, especially with the internet these days. However, a really awesome and cost effective experience is to rent an apartment flat. They cost less than, if not equal to a hotel, and you get to stay in a complex where residents actually live. It's great because you have the comfort of having a home away from home, which can often include a dishwasher, washing machine, and your own patio to relax on at night. While there is no room service, it's an extremely fun way to experience your trip. Also, Wi-Fi is usually available in the flats that you stay in.
Prague is the most well known city in the Czech Republic, as well as the country's capital. There is so much rich history in this city that it's hard not to be entertained and amused, even if you aren't much of a historian. From the cobble stone roads to the Gothic-style buildings, you will find this city to be breathtaking and make you feel like you have gone back 200 years in time. The nice thing about Prague is that there is no one season that is the best time to go. Every time of year holds special events, and the city gets dressed up according to the season. For example, in the summer there are lots of wine and beer festivals, and in the winter the Christmas markets bring that holiday feel to Old Town Square. Along with this, Prague is always a very busy tourist city at all times during the year. But from my experience it is always worth it. I also have never felt so safe walking through a large city at all hours of the night. While pickpocket-ers do exist, the overall feel of the city is generally pretty safe.
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Get to know the Czech Republic!
How to get around....
- By Foot: The best way to get around is by foot if you can help it. Arrange to get a taxi ride from the airport and stay within the down town area, is the best way to do it. Relying on walking allows you to see the sights at a nice pace, and get to know the area! Also, it is far more convenient than dealing with the hassle of parking.
- Trains : Train stations are all over the place, and they are fairly easy to use. You can take trains as far as another city, or as close as a few blocks. It is extremely convenient and a popular way to travel.
- Taxis : A warning about taxis! Taxis are a good way to get to a specific location in town, or across town, and you will see a bunch of taxi drivers waiting on sides of the road to get passengers. If you can help it, don't use these guys! They hike the price up big time, so the best way to get a taxi in Prague is to ask a local for a number to call. The taxis businesses that you can call to come get you will give you a much more reasonable price than the ones geared towards picking up lost tourists.
- Buses : A great way to get from city to city is also by bus. There is a company I'd like to recommend called "Student Agency", and despite it's name, it is NOT just for students :) It is a first class way to travel to the cities outside of Prague in comfort. Similar to an airplane, it has staff that serves beverages and they often play a film. Also, these buses generally have Wi-Fi on the bus itself.
Originally constructed in 1357, the Charles Bridge is one of the most well known icons of Prague and the Czech Republic. This has always been one of my very first stops every time I have gone to Prague. This is not your average bridge, as it is often filled with street vendors, musicians, painters, and tourists of all kinds, and at all hours of the day. Before the crowds hit the bridge, try taking an early morning walk over it, as it is one of the most peaceful places you will find in Prague. On a typical afternoon, however, it really comes to life filled with vibrant entertainment. The view of the Prague Castle is most optimal on the bridge as well, and if you walk across it you will find yourself on the path towards the castle grounds. The other most notable thing about this bridge is the 30 statues which live upon it. Most sculptures were erected between 1683 and 1714, (and have a familiar Gothic or baroque style to them) and are depicted after various saints that were patronized at the time. There is one statue on the bridge that tends to be more popular than the others, the statue of John of Nepomuk, and it's not hard to find at all. It comes with a metal plaque of a dog, and from the looks of it he tends to be more polished than any other statue on the bridge. This is because it is believed to be lucky to rub the dog and make a wish, a good luck stone of a sort. You may have to wait a minute in line to do it, but it doesn't cost anything! So give it a try :) Overall, Charles Bridge is definitely a must-see when traveling through Prague.
Want to Know More about Charles Bridge?
- The Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) in Prague, Czech Republic: Put it on your bucket list!
One of the most fascinating places on earth, and the most famous bridge in Europe!
Saturday nights in Old Town Square...
On Saturday nights, I believe around 9 or 10pm, there is an amazing light show projected right onto the Astronomical Clock. It shows a very visual and impressive history of the Czech lands, Czech culture, and the clock through the past several decades. You will have to ask someone to be sure of the schedule they play it on, but it is VERY worth it! Below is a video of the show.
WATCH HERE! The Prague Clock Tower Light Show :)
Old Town Square
The Old Town Square (Stary Mesto) is probably the most famous locations in Prague. Not only does it have St. Bethany's Cathedral (Which is shown in practically every postcard), but it is also home to the Astronomical Clock which is recognized world wide. One the hour of every hour, the clock goes off and the 12 saints come out to wave to the public, two by two. If you happen to arrive into Old Town Square at least 10 minutes before the hour, there is no way you will not notice the massive crowds gathering beneath the clock to watch the show, and it usually follows with a great applause. There is quite an array of shops in Old Town, and I would also recommend taking the tour of the clock tower. You can climb all the way to the top, and if you are lucky enough, you get to see the action from the inside! One of the most impressive views I had was seeing all the people gather below to watch the clock go off.
Another fun thing to do in the night time are the ghost tours. You will see certain men and women standing around the area dressed like crypt creepers. Now even if you aren't a believer or anything, it is a lot of fun. They talk a lot about some of the more sinister history of the area, as well as the old myths and legends...which to me, has always been an entertaining spin on learning anything historical. The tour also involves going into the old prison beneath the clock tower, which had only recently come to my attention that it even existed.
And if you are in the mood to do some walking, explore the streets and alleys! It will seem like you are in a maze at times, but there are so many tiny shops, bakeries, and pubs that you may have never seen otherwise. There are also a couple awesome street markets where you can buy anything from fresh produce to clothing, to trinket souvenirs.
A comprehensive list of awesome pubs in Prague!
- Prague's Best Bars and Pubs - Czech Republic
In Prague? Thirsty?
Pubs and Beer
Ok, let's face it....people associated beer with the Czech Republic. And for good reason too! The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other country in the world. It would be a crime to visit the place and not have a beer, even if drinking is not your thing. Not only is the beer of great quality there, but you really can't complain about the price either. One of the stories I like to tell people about my visits there is how I happened to stop by a convenience store only to find that a bottle of water cost almost twice as much as a bottle of beer. Neither of which were all that expensive anyway, but if a bottle of water cost about $1.00 USD, a beer cost about 46 cents. It was great, and also kind of funny. Czechs take pride in their beer culture and manufacturing history. After all, it is said the original Budweiser came from the Budvar province. And if you are not a fan of the famous Pilsner Urquell, there are so many other varieties that have never hit shelves outside of the country. Also, a lot of restaurants in down town Prague will often include beer as part of the price of a meal. Sounds like a good deal to me! I would definitely recommend exploring the beer scene, including the massive number of pubs. As they say, when in Rome....do as the Romans do!
The Prague Castle has been around since the 9th century, and it has a secret room somewhere inside it where the Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept! The ones on the display are duplicates for their safety.
Prague Castle, or Prazky Hrad, is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in the world. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has labeled it to be the " largest ancient castle in the world." Now that alone makes it worth a visit, but there's so many other reasons. Aside from how well it has been maintained, it's incredibly large and manicured environment gives it's tourists an authentic visit to the past. Not only can you see several artifacts that have been around since the castle was in it's prime, but they have set up several stations They give you a map with about 8 or 9 places, and explain the significance of each one. And in the areas outside the castle itself they have replicated rooms and exhibits to show you what life was like during different periods of history in the Czech lands. This is an attraction that does involve a lot of waking, so be prepared to wear good footware. Another cool thing about the Prague Castle is you can walk down the stairs down to the modern city area (it is a very grueling uphill walk on the way up, but good exercise!). The Prague Castle has not only been where the kings of the past of ruled, but is also the current location of the Czech President these days, which makes it still an important venue to the Czech government!
How to Find the Prague Castle
St. Wenceslas Square and the Museum of Communism
St. Wenceslas Square: St. Wencesleas Square is consider the "New Town" part of Prague. This part of town has just as much history as the rest of it, however some of it's history is more recent. You may have seen footage from the 1980s of riots and tanks fighting people off in this square. It was a popular place to protest the communist government. It is also where the National Museum is located, and has a wide variety of artifacts that speak for the history and changes of the country throughout the ages. Also nearby is the the Museum of Communism, which ties in to this area specifically as mentioned above.
The Museum of Communism: This was quite an experience to visit. It may not be the first thing that pops up in your book of tourist attractions, but it is by far a must see place. For those who don't really enjoy the typical museum, not to worry, this is by far it's own animal! Communism is not something that is yet openly spoken about among the Czech people, so this museum in a way speaks for them all. I personally know that my Czech family (both in the USA and that still live in Czech Republic) like to avoid the topic like the plague. It is still too fresh in their minds to explain what life was like during the time the communists were in charge. The museum, though, really gets into the depth of it. There are artifacts, life-like displays, and written excepts that tell the story of how the average person experience life during this hardship. Some of the displays include a section of the fallen Berlin Wall and even a statue of Josef Stalin. The "Propaganda Restaurant and Pub" in Prague is closely related to the museum, so if you happen to visit one, you will surely hear about the other! Anyway, this was a far more interesting experience than I thought it would have been....even if you have no relation or knowledge of it beforehand.
Where to find the Museum of Communism
The Jewish Cemetary
In the Jewish Quarter of Prague is the Old Jewish Cemetery, another iconic spot of the city. The jagged and un-uniformed placement of the tombstones have made it a popular place to visit and photograph for decades. The oldest tombstone inside is from 1439, and was in it's prime use during the 15th century, but has graves as "new" as the 1700s. What's interesting is that no one knows exactly how many people are buried in the cemetery, due to bodies being placed on several layers (as many as 12 layers of people per grave). Although, it is speculated to have at least 12,000 people laid to rest there....which is extraordinary when you see how small the area is! While this may seem like a semi-dismal place to visit, it still holds a lot of historical value and the tours given tell you a lot about the Jewish culture in the Czech Republic.
The Old Jewish Cemetery on the Map!
Biking From Prague to Karlstejn!
One of the most exciting experiences I had during my last visit to Prague was a day-long bicycle ride. I had been well aware of the how popular bike riding is in Europe, and as a fan of biking myself, I decided to look into it. I did my research online to find a few places that offered bike rental services, and the one I found even came with a guide and the option of doing a group ride. Being as I had never done one before, I chose to do the group ride. If you choose to ride alone, they even offer maps and a GPS system to help you stay on track! Although, I was in Prague during September and apparently I happened to be the only biker that day, which worked out fine. The service sent a taxi (paid for by them) and brought me to their office where they set me up with a bicycle and a guide. We rode down the banks of the river, through the forest, and through small villages where we found interesting places to stop for snacks and photo opportunities, etc. I was extremely impressed on how the bike paths were set up, with almost zero interaction with car traffic. The ride started in Prague as I said, and ended at Karlstejn Castle which was a few hours away. As part of the package, they bought me lunch and a train ticket back to Prague since it would be too dark by the time we rode back. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who has the urge to do outdoors things on vacations...it was a great experience to see the land and other areas not in the metropolitan city.