Thirdeyemom

The Magic of Prague

“With almost a thousand years of architecture virtually untouched by natural disaster or war, few cities anywhere in Europe truly compare to Prague” – Marc Di Duca, Rough Guides (2011)

I fell in love with Paris the first time I stepped foot in the French capital over thirty years ago. I thought I’d never find a city more romantic and beautiful than Paris until I met Prague. In my opinion, few cities in the world compare to the magical architecture of these two cities, both equally loved in my eyes. I first saw Prague while I was living and studying abroad in Paris back in 1993, just four years after the Velvet Revolution. With over 40 years of communism, much of Prague’s beauty had been shroud in mystery and wasn’t unveiled for the world to see until 1989 with the fall of communism.

Prague’s history is long and deep which makes this charming city even more fascinating. Founded around the end of the 9th century at the crossroads of Europe, Prague became the seat of the Kings of Bohemia with a thriving marketplace alongside the River Vltava. Feuding kings, bloody wars, and the building of the Old Town Square surrounding the immense Prague Castle defined this prospering city that reached its glory in the 14th century during the reign of Charles IV. Charles IV commissioned the building of New Town, the spectacular Charles Bridge, the Gothic masterpiece Saint Vitus Cathedral and the Charles University, the oldest in Central Europe. Thanks to Charles IV, the “golden age” inspired much of the beauty you see in Prague today.

Charles Bridge, Prague

Prague at sunset on the Charles Bridge.

Prague is made up of five independent municipalities: Hradčany (Prague Castle), Lesser Town (Malá Strana), Old Town (Staré Město) and New Town (Nové Město) were unified in 1784 and Josefov (the Jewish district) was added in 1850. Although Prague was one of the few European cities untouched by WWII, the Nazi occupation lead to the demise of the Jewish population who either fled or were killed in the Holocaust. The Germans who had formed the largest ethnic group in the city were expelled after the war. Then came 40 years of communism followed by freedom and an opening to the world.

Enter the magic of Prague

Enter the magic of Prague

Today, Prague relishes as one of the top major tourist destinations in all of Europe where people from all over the world come to take a step back in time and marvel at this masterpiece of architectural delight. Prague’s multi-layered history of architecture takes us back to her founding 1,100 years ago in the Romanesque era to her flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, all within 3.34 square miles.

With only 1.3 million inhabitants, Prague sometimes can feel overrun with tourists blocking its tiny, winding cobblestone streets and filling up its squares. But despite the hordes of tourists, the magic of this city is spellbinding and is bound to take your breath away.

Charles Bridge Prague

For one of the most magnificent views of Prague, take a walk across the Charles Bridge commissioned in 1357 by Charles IV. Stop to admire the views and all the amazing statues along the bridge.

Prague

Head over to Lesser Town to visit the astounding Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Hradčany (Prague Castle)

Climb the stairs up to Hradčany (Prague Castle) and watch the changing of the guards.

St. Vitus Cathedral Prague

Be prepared to be blown away by the magnificence inside and out of the St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

After touring the inside of the cathedral and being amazed by the gorgeous stained glass windows, take a seat outside and watch the changing light on the cathedral.

Prague

Make sure to stop and take a look at the splendid view from the castle looking down on Prague.

Lesser Town, Prague

Head back down to Lesser Town to explore its tiny narrow streets en route to Old Town.

Lesser Town, Prague

Don’t forget to stop and take photos of the amazing buildings

Charles Bridge, Prague

Spend lots of time on Charles Bridge or better yet, take a river cruise.

Old Town Square, Prague

Enter the Old Town Square, the historic heart of the city, which is one of the most magnificent squares in Europe.

Old Town Square

Old Town Square before the crowds arrive

Stop at the astronomical clock, built in 1490 on the side of Old Town Hall. If you are there with everyone else at noon, you can see a surprise come out of the clock.

Old Town Square, Prague

Climb the bell tower to get the best views of the Old Town Square.

Finally along the way be sure to take lots and lots of pictures looking up at all the colorful, spectacular buildings. I have to admit that I have over 1,000 photos taken in my four short days in Prague.

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P1100556-1If you go:

The historical center and sites that every tourist must see in Prague is rather compact and is best suited for walking. But be forewarned, there are many cobblestone streets that are uneven and difficult on the bottoms of your feet so wear very sturdy and solid walking shoes. Your feet will hurt by the end of the day but thankfully there is an endless supply of outdoors cafes, restaurants and bars to rest your feet and watch the world go by.

To see all five neighborhoods of Prague, it will take at least three full days, and I highly recommend beginning right after breakfast before it gets too crowded. We began our walk in Old Town around nine o’clock and had the place relatively to ourselves until 11:30 when the tours began and the buses arrived. From noon on, expect massive crowds throughout the city until very late in the evening when the last of the partygoers crawls into bed.

Prague is busy year-round yet particularly busy in the summer months which can be very hot. We went in May which was still busy, a bit rainy but overall very pleasant. Fall is also a recommended time to visit.

There are many options for accommodations but I recommend staying in a central location as you will be doing a ton of walking. We stayed at the Hotel Salvator which is excellent, affordable, nice and only a ten minute walk to Old Town Square. I highly recommend this hotel.

This is the first of a series of posts on Prague where I will explore each distinct neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

42 comments

  1. Wow, Nicole, what a gorgeous place. And your photos are absolutely superb! You really carpeted the light, and the beauty of the city. Prague has been on our list for a while. Now even more so.
    Alison

  2. I can’t wait for the neighbourhood posts – we’re going to Prague next year because I just feel like it’s a city I’d like (I really don’t know all that much about it, I just get a feeling that I’m meant to go!), and those photos are pretty encouraging! Also great to know how much you can see in only a few days!

    • Oh you will love love love Prague! It is like one big fairytale. It is so spectacular and I just loved being there. My hotel was fabulous and I would highly recommend it. More soon as there is so much to share!

    • Thanks Janet! I was truly mesmerized by the history of the place. I am still reading all about it in the travel guides after the fact. It is such an amazing city and you feel like you are truly stepping back in time!

  3. Yet again, you are sweetheart!!! Nicole, just love you for posting this wonderful pictures. Prague is something I dream when I think of travel. Now that you posted picture, I have many more things to imagine. Fantastic array of neatly standing building, speaking of the claibure and skill of those who built it. Keep them on…..

  4. Nicole, your photo tour of Prague is excellent. The shot from the bell tower and the bridge is really nice – not a perspective that I see often. We have a story/travel lesson about Prague. One year in January, we found a dirt-cheap airfare to Prague and we grabbed it. We knew it would be cold, but we said: “Hey, it’s Prague. How bad could it be?” Well buddy, it can be bad. Unfortunately, they were having record cold, and for the week we were there, the highest temp we saw was -3° F. Lesson learned for sure. It’s nice to see the people in your photos in sunny weather and short sleeves. ~James

    • Wow that would be miserable James! I knew it got cold there but that is like Minnesota temperatures and would not be much fun. I bet there weren’t many tourists either! Thanks for the comment. I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to write my first post on Prague as it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, I didn’t know where to start. 😊

  5. Nicole your photos all look as though they are postcards. I have heard so many great things about this city and I shall add your wonderful review to the list of reasons to visit in the future.

  6. This is one of those popular destinations I’ve never made it to yet! I am always pushing it aside for something a little weirder, but I know I must get there. Maybe I can make it weirder by going off-season – haha! Looks great – I can see why you took so many photos.

    • It is very touristy Lexi and like you I’m always wanting something more off the beaten path. Prague is insanely touristy yet it was worth seeing all the amazing architecture. It truly is like a fairy tale city. Loved it there. Maybe you could do Prague and then go off the charts east?

      • Exactly! I need to see it but would work it into a broader itinerary if I could! Or maybe go in the winter … I did that in Russia and some Nordic countries and it was charming and uncrowded.

      • True but then you would miss the amazing fun people watching and eating outdoors. The squares are filled with loads of outdoor restaurants all with umbrellas and even blankets on the seats for cooler weather! It truly is amazing! I would love to see Bulgaria someday. SO much to explore! Where are you off to next Lexi? Any summer plans?

      • I know – really nothing like European cafe culture in the spring and summer! But this year I am off to Mongolia in late July!

  7. I love your photos of the city – Prague was one of the cities I never made it to when I lived in London, and near the top of my list where I want to visit next. Thanks for the lovely piece!

    • Thanks! I was first there in 1993 when it just opened up and no one had really discovered it. It is extremely touristy now but for me the beauty helped me ignore the masses.

  8. I spent 2 weeks this summer in Prague, and have been having some withdrawals. I gravitated towards your blog, and can say it’s a great summation of the city. You forgot to mention how great the gastronomy is throughout the city!

  9. I also recently went to Prague and I have to agree with the romance that the city holds. You didn’t mention this but I found it fascinating and equally disturbing how the jewish district is untouched as a result of Hitler’s desire to make it into a ‘museum to a destroyed race’ (that’s a paraphrase.) Charles IV bridge is spectacular! I visited it first at around 4 30 in the morning when it was completely empty. I would definitely recommend seeing the cathedral but also walking away from the city centre. All pubs serve draft beers at a cheaper price than they charge for water (no exaggeration) but be careful as the locals are not a big fan of tourism and often send you in the wrong direction. My tour guide advised to always ask 3 different people.

    • Thanks for the comment! I did not get a chance to spend much time in the Jewish district as the lines to do the tour were huge! Awful indeed about Hitler. I read a bit of the history of what happened during WWII and it was very disturbing. I also read that after the war the German population who had been very large was forced to leave the city. As for the tourists, that is the one thing that is very hard to deal with in Prague and I can imagine the locals get weary. There are hordes and hordes of them !

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