Attractions in Prague
There are lots of attractions and sights in Prague. Whatever your interest, you’ll find it in Prague. You can experience culture from the stage or literally walk in Kafka’s footsteps. And the city has many museums. But not least, Prague is the place for those who want to experience architecture and history.
The castle began in the 8th century and is today Prague’s foremost tourist attraction, as well as being the presidential residence. The castle grounds include St. Vitus Cathedral, Presidential Palace, Old Royal Palace, several courtyards, National Gallery, Military History Museum and St. George’s Monastery. Also, don’t miss the so-called Golden Gate (Zlata ulicka), a picturesque little street stump with cobblestones and small colorful houses from the 16th century, where the city’s goldsmiths used to be.
You can effortlessly spend all day in the castle area, but most people manage with a few hours to get a good impression. The area is open to the public from 2 p.m. 0600 to midnight. The entrance is basically free, but if you are going to the sights, it costs from NOK 12 to 90, depending on how many attractions you want to visit.
St Vitus Cathedral in Prague
This black Gothic cathedral, begun in 1344, is one of Prague’s most distinctive buildings [see picture first in article]. It is Prague’s largest and most important church and part of Prague Castle. Here the Czech crown jewels are kept, and in the mausoleum several of the Czech kings are buried. For approx. 20 kroner also gives you access to the tower, but before you can admire the amazing view from the top, 286 steps in a narrow spiral staircase must be climbed. Opening hours at 0900-1700 (until 1600 in the winter months).
The entrance fee costs around 60/30 NOK for adults / children, including entrance to the Old Royal Palace and the Dalibor Tower.
This over 600-year-old bridge is today one of Prague’s most famous landmarks, and during the high season about 20,000 people pass through the Vlatava River on this bridge daily. There are also many street musicians, sellers, beggars, artists and painters and not to forget the 30 saint statues that give the bridge its distinctive character.
On the old town is a tower from the 1300s. In the summer season you have access to a small museum and glorious city views for a tier. For 400 years, the Charles Bridge was the only connection between Old Town and Lillebyen, and most tourists walk here a couple of times daily, although there are other bridges nearby.
The Jewish Quarter of Prague
The Jewish quarter north of the Old Town was spared from total annihilation by the Nazis during World War II. The buildings are some of the best preserved Jewish monuments in Europe, and many of them go under the Jewish Museum, including four of the synagogues, the Town Hall and the famous 14th-century cemetery.
The area became a ghetto for the city’s Jews in the 13th century, when all the Jews were required to move from their homes and settle in this area instead. During World War II, 80% of the Jews were deported and executed, and today there are only a few thousand left. The Jewish Museum is open daily during the summer season from 2 p.m. 9 am to 2 pm 1800, during the winter season until 7 p.m. 1630. The entrance fee costs NOK 80 for adults and 50 for children.
Old Town Square in Prague
For over a thousand years, the Old Town Square has been called the Heart of the City, and was also the city’s most important marketplace until the last century. Here lies the Gothic Tyn Church with its dramatic appearance and City Hall with the famous astronomical clock.
The square is huge, around 1.8 hectares and is dominated in the summer by outdoor restaurants, photographing tourists, sellers and street musicians. Don’t miss the glorious views from the top of the 60-meter tall Town Hall tower. It is open daily from 7 am 9 am to 2 pm 1800. The entrance fee costs approx. 10 kroner.
National Museum of Prague
This nearly 200-year-old museum is housed in an impressive Renaissance-style building at the southern end of the nearly equally impressive main street Vaclavska Namesti. It was originally a natural history museum, but today also has its own departments for archeology, anthropology, zoology, history and mineralogy.
The National Museum is decorated with sculptures and paintings by several of the Czech Republic’s most famous artists. The museum is open at 1000–1800 in the summer, and at. 0900–1700 in winter. The entrance fee costs approx. 30 kroner.
Tourist in Prague
If you are reasonably healthy and good at foot, most of Prague’s attractions are not a big problem on foot, as the downtown areas are relatively compact. If you prefer a guided tour of the bus, there are plenty of companies that can help you with this, such as the Prague Top Tour, or the veterans Prague Experience.
Day 1 in Prague
Prague city center is, as I said, quite small and compact, so Prague invites to city walking. Get up early, have a hearty breakfast and start from Vaclavska Namesti, the parade street in Nybyen. At the south end you have the National Museum, and at the north end it divides into the major shopping streets Nadodni in the west and Na Prikope in the east. Vaclavska Namesti is a wide and modern boulevard that has been the site of many of the most important historical events in Prague’s history.
Here, the town’s people celebrated the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, and here President Havel proclaimed the end of both communism and Czechoslovakia.
Right in front of the eye-catching equestrian statue of Prague’s saint, Vaclav, you will find a plaque of the young student Jan Palach, who in 1969 set fire to himself here in protest of the Soviet Union invasion.
If you stroll down Vaclavska and turn right into Na Prikope, you will find many department stores and chain stores that have the vast majority of brands. Imported articles are not much cheaper than in Norway, but if you are lucky, you can still make a bargain. Na Prikope, which means “on the moat,” was originally the city boundary of the Old Town. Here you will also find one of the city’s two wax museums, but if you are not particularly interested in Czech history, you will not recognize many of the wax figures.
At the end of Na Prikope lies the Republic Square (Namesti Republiky). Note the location if you intend to take a bus to the airport when you return home. The square is dominated by two buildings: the grand Art Nouveau (Obecni Dum) concert hall from 1908 and the Black Powder Tower (also known as Powder Tower or Prasna Brana) from 1475. Here lay one of the thirteen guarded gates of the city wall. The tower got its name in the 18th century when it was used for storing gunpowder. From the top of the 65-meter-high tower you get a glorious view in exchange for a reasonable entrance fee.
Behind the Powder Tower begins what is often called Kongeveien, part of the route the kings took when they were to be crowned. The road continues through the Old Town, over the Charles Bridge and up to the Castle. Most of these today are pedestrian streets, and quite beautiful streets to stroll around in. Remember to raise the eyes of all bookstores, crystal stalls and souvenir shops and bring home the facades; most of these two-storey houses are in Baroque or Gothic style.
Eventually you will end up at the huge Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti), the natural meeting point of the Old Town and one of the most beautiful squares in Europe despite hordes of tourists, guides and souvenir sellers. If the clock approaches a full hour, you will notice the crowd that has gathered on the south side of the old Town Hall to look at the astronomical clock.
It dates from 1410 and shows not only the time, but also the positions of the moon and sun. At the battle full hour, a figure depicting death strikes a bell and turns an hourglass, and out comes all twelve apostles who pass a window in front of a rooster crowing, and the bells ring. According to legend, the watchmaker got his eyes stuck out after the clock was finished, so he wouldn’t be able to create something as beautiful elsewhere.
The town hall itself may not be as interesting even though it is from approx. 1340. But by all means take the walk up into the 60 meter high tower where you have a fantastic view over the Old Town Square. The 27 white crosses you see right below you on the east side represent each of the Protestants who were beheaded at this exact spot in 1621.
From the tower you have a view of the Gothic Tyn church of the 13th century with its two towers. After dark, when illuminated from the ground, it looks even more dramatic, partially hidden behind a four-story school building.
If you are now getting ready for lunch, you are not exactly in the most affordable area of the city, but the view is definitely good! Staromestska Restaurace is so central it is possible to get to the southeast side of the square. Here it is always full, but the food is considered very good with main courses that do not cost the whole world, the location taken into account. You may also find the road to Staromacek Restaurant on Dlouha 610/4, the street that runs northeast from the north end of the square.
After lunch you can continue up Parizska, the street that goes northwest from the Jan Hus statue on Old Town Square. Parizska is an imitation of an avenue in Paris with its trees and four-story Art Nouveau buildings.
You will now enter the district of Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. Most of the interesting attractions here are part of the Jewish Museum and can only be visited for a fee. If you were still straight across the bridge, you would come to the Letensky Sady park, where a statue of Stalin of fourteen thousand tons once gazed miserably down the river. This was removed after the fall of communism, and is now a favorite area for the city’s young skaters.
First stop in Parizska is Europe’s oldest active synagogue. It is on the left. It has the contradictory name ‘The Old New Synagogue’ and dates from the late 13th century. At the entrance, the head must be covered by a hat or similar. If you turn left from here and go to Parizska’s parallel street Maiselova, you will find the Jewish Town Hall on the east side. This is closed to the public, but notice the Rococo facade and the clock of the tower, with the hands going backwards.
View of the town hall is The Old Jewish Cemetery, which was in use from approx. 1400 to 1787. The entrance is from the south side, in Siroka. Here are over 12,000 old tombstones, and the atmosphere is even more bleak than in other cemeteries, probably because of the suffering and persecution of the Jews in the streets around you for the last thousand years.
You come out of the cemetery at the Klaus Synagogue of 1694, which also has an exhibition of Jewish artifacts, photographs and more. Walk through the side streets and visit the small shops. Here you will pass black-clad rabbits with beard and hat. At the end of Maiselova lies the birthplace of one of Prague’s great sons, the author Franz Kafka (1883-1924).
You are now back at Gamlebytorget and are probably ready to go back to the hotel to put away your shopping bags, take a shower and relax a bit before it’s time to think about dinner. In Prague, most people can afford to have a restaurant experience out of the ordinary, so why not take a taxi to restaurant Kornirna (formerly U Vladare), in the street Maltezke Namesti 292/10 in Mala Strana. This restaurant is among the better in town. U Vladare was known to prominent guests such as Vaclav Havel, Gregory Peck, Gerard Depardieu, Ivan Lendl, Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield.
Day 2 in Prague
Today’s round is based on the Old Town Square. From here you follow Kongeveien through the square’s southwestern edge, also called Lilletorget with its Renaissance fountains and beautiful buildings with baroque facades. You will now enter Karlova. The Czechs have a long tradition of puppet theater, and here you will find the Muzeum Loutkarskych Culture, a museum filled with hundreds of puppets and puppets from several centuries back.
You will also pass the Ceske Muzeum Vytvarnich Umeni, a museum of modern art. The north side of Karlova is dominated by the large Klementinum complex, originally a Jesuit school built in the 17th century and Prague’s largest building after the Castle. Today it is part of the Czech National Library. Along the Karlova are no less than three churches. At the end of Karlova you must cross the busy Krizovnicka, before you have the Charles Bridge right in front of you.
The Charles Bridge is over 600 years old and was long the only bridge across the Vlatava River. Today there are several other bridges nearby, but it is here, on the Charles Bridge, most pedestrians pass, since car traffic is not allowed. At the Charles Bridge you will find artists, beggars, street artists and musicians. The bridge is decorated with 30 statues of saints, the most popular and oldest statue is St. John, made by Nepomuk, who in 1393 was thrown from the bridge at this place and drowned. It should bring happiness to this one, which is why St. John’s shelf is shiny after thousands of hands touches daily.
For a reasonable sum of money you can also go up into the defense tower on the old town side. Here you will find exhibitions of old armor and weapons. Don’t forget to take in the glorious view of the Castle on the other side of the river.
Then take a trip to Mala Strana, or the small town. This is a Baroque district that most tourists only pass through on their way up to the Castle. But it’s really worth looking a little closer into the side streets and the square here. Malostranian Namesti or Lilleby Square has been the center of the district since the 9th century, but now the district is dominated by City Hall, tourist restaurants and the beautiful 18th century St. Nicholas Church.
Continue up the steep hill, Nerudoca Ulice, named after the Czech poet Jan Neruda, who lived here for most of his life in the 19th century. The low houses in this historic street have mainly Renaissance or Baroque facades. At the top of the hill you reach Hradkanske Namesti, the large square in front of the Schwarzenberg Palace, which houses a military museum, and the Sternberk Palace, which houses the National Gallery.
Before you head for the castle grounds, maybe you are ready for lunch? In the square at the start of Loretanska is the restaurant Brasileiro U Radnice (Old Town Hall), which serves reasonably priced food in medieval surroundings for top reviews. Alternatively, you can visit the inexpensive coffee shop U Zaveseneho Kafè, which is just off the street Loretánská 13. It also serves light meals.
Prague Castle, among Czechs just called Hrad, is the city’s main attraction. It has a fascinating history dating back to the year 870. Here all the Czech kings have had their seats, here are kept the crown jewels, and in recent times the presidents have had their offices here.
Prague Castle is, according to Guinnes Record Book, the world’s largest, old castle, with an area of approx. 570 x 130 meters, and which houses several palaces, cathedrals, museums, galleries, courtyards, towers and parks. You can walk freely in the castle area, but if you go to all the attractions, a ticket will cost you approx. 100 kroner. In here you will spend the rest of the afternoon.
In the first courtyard, a traditional change of guard takes place daily at. 1200 with fanfare and ceremonial flags. In the other courtyard are several galleries and exhibitions, as well as a chapel where you will find ticket office and information about the rest of the area. In the third courtyard, go straight to one of Prague’s most impressive buildings, the Black Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral. The history of the cathedral started in the year 925. If the weather is good and you have the condition, you should definitely go up the 287 steps up to the Great Tower, where you have a fantastic view over the whole of Prague.
Other attractions to see here are the Old Royal Palace, the idyllic Gold Medal Zlata Ulicka, the Daliborka Tower with its legends, the Lobkovic Palace with its historic museum and its Black Tower, the Toy Museum and the St. George Abbey from 975. We can recommend having a guided tour, as many of the buildings have fascinating stories behind them, which make the benefit of the visit so much greater. The hotels can often help with this, or you can book it yourself on the internet.
When you finally get out of the castle area on the east side, you can stroll down the old castle stairs with its myriad crystal stalls, caricatures and souvenir shops. You will then reach the district of Klarov, where you will find both taxi rank and metro which can bring you back to the hotel. Alternatively, you can stroll over the Manesuv Bridge while viewing the Charles Bridge from a different angle. On the other side of the river you will reach Namesti Jana Palacha, in memory of the aforementioned student Jan Palach.
After refreshing yourself in the hotel room, it’s time for dinner. At Vaclavska Namesti 837/11 lies El Gaucho Steak House, an Argentinian restaurant serving the city’s best steak for Argentine music and highly acceptable prices. Or maybe you prefer 7 Angels Restaurant in Jilská 451/20 in the Old Town, where you also get fish, bird or goulash in addition to both vegetarian and meat dishes? The restaurant is located in a simple hotel. The place has live gypsy music.