Because of my Czechoslovakian heritage, I was thrilled at the opportunity to visit Prague in the late 2010’s. My family immigrated to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia and I delighted in delving into its history, culture, cuisine, and yes, it’s world-famous brews.
The capital city of the former Czechoslovakia – and now capital of the Czech Republic – Prague is a magnificent medieval city and one of the great urban centers of Europe. Its rich architecture and storied past are evident throughout its many neighborhoods and historic city center.
Often referred to as the “City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague is known for its beautiful gothic and baroque buildings, charming cobblestone streets, and picturesque bridges crossing the Vltava River.
Prague offers a myriad of things to do and places to see catering to a variety of interests from art lovers, history buffs, culture cravers, foodies, and beer connoisseurs.
Visit Prague Castle
This massive castle complex is the most iconic landmark in the city. Situated on a hill overlooking Prague, the castle grounds sprawl over 70,000-square-meters.
A mix of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles, the castle houses numerous important historical and cultural sites.
One of the most impressive buildings within the complex is St. Vitus Cathedral, a stunning gothic masterpiece that took over 600 years to complete. It’s the largest and most important church in the Czech Republic containing important works of art, including stained glass windows, frescoes, and sculptures.
The Old Royal Palace was the residence of the Bohemian kings in the 12th century and the site of many significant historical events. The Powder Tower, once used to store gunpowder, today houses an exhibition of historical firearms. The Golden Lane is a charming street of brightly painted homes that once housed castle guards and artisans, and now presents small boutique shops selling souvenirs and traditional Czech crafts.
Wander Prague’s Old Town Square
This picturesque square has been the center of public life in Prague for over 1,000 years. Today, it remains a popular gathering spot lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops.
One of the most famous attractions in Old Town Square is the medieval astronomical clock dating back to the 15th century. The clock tower features an intricate mechanical display that includes moving figures of the 12 apostles and a skeleton representing death. The clock’s chime and moving figures can be observed every hour on the hour. You can imagine what a popular spot this is.
Old Town Square is also home to the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, a stunning gothic place of worship dating back to the 14th century. The church’s twin towers are one of the most recognizable landmarks in Prague, and the interior is decorated with impressive works of art and sculptures.
Walk Across the Charles Bridge
This famous historic bridge spanning the Vltava River is another of Prague’s renowned attractions. It was commissioned by King Charles IV in the 14th century and completed in the early 15th century.
The bridge is renowned for its imposing Gothic architecture and numerous statues that line its sides. The statues added in the 17th and 18th centuries depict various saints and religious figures.
The Charles Bridge is also known for its bustling atmosphere with street performers, artists, and vendors selling souvenirs and snacks to tourists and locals alike. The bridge is a popular gathering spot for tourists to take photos and admire the views of Prague Castle and the river.
Take a River Cruise
The Vltava River runs through the heart of Prague and a river cruise offers an excellent opportunity to take in the city’s sights and architecture in a unique and relaxing way.
Many companies offer cruises on the Vltava River with various options available including daytime and evening, dinner, and even jazz or classical music cruises. These typically last for about an hour or two and provide stunning views of Prague’s enchanting skyline and historic landmarks such as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the National Theatre.
Some cruises offer audio commentary in multiple languages, providing information about the history and culture of the city. Many also offer food and drinks on board, making it a great way to enjoy a meal or a cocktail while taking in the views.
Explore the Jewish Quarter
Also known as Josefov, the Jewish Quarter is a historic neighborhood within the city’s Old Town.
One of the most significant attractions here is the Jewish Museum, which is actually a collection of several historic sites and synagogues. The museum’s exhibitions include Jewish history, culture, and religious practices, along with a collection of Jewish artifacts and art.
The Maisel Synagogue dates back to the 16th century and houses a collection of Jewish silver and textiles, as well as a display of historic Jewish books and manuscripts. The Pinkas Synagogue, also built in the 16th century, serves as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and displays the names of nearly 80,000 Czech and Moravian Jews who perished during the Nazi occupation. The Spanish Synagogue, built in the Moorish Revival style in the late 19th century, houses an assemblage of Jewish artifacts and decorative arts.
Another fascinating site here is the Old Jewish Cemetery dating back to the 15th century. It’s one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. This haunting burial grounds contains over 12,000 gravestones, but it’s estimated that as many as 100,000 people may be buried there.
Due to space constraints, graves were often stacked on top of each other, resulting in a striking landscape of uneven, crowded time-weathered tombstones.
Check out Prague National Gallery
As the largest art museum in the Czech Republic, this national gallery is home to an extensive compilation of Czech and international art. The museum is located in several buildings throughout thecity, with the largest and most significant collections housed in the Veletrzni Palace located in the Prague 7 district.
The Palace houses a wide range of artwork, including paintings, sculptures and installations from various periods of Czech art history, from the 19th century to the present day. The museum includes works by many famous Czech artists, including Alfons Mucha, František Kupka, and Josef Čapek.
One of the most notable collections in the Veletrzni Palace is the treasury of 20th-century art, which includes works by famous international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol. The repository is particularly strong in the realm of Czech Cubism, a significant movement in Czech art during the early 20th century.
Climb the Petřín Tower
A popular tourist attraction located in Prague’s Petřín Hill Park, the Petřín Tower stands 63.5-meters-tall and was built in 1891 as a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower’s observation deck offers panoramic views of the city, making it a wonderful place to take in the sights and sounds of Prague from on high.
Visitors can climb the tower’s 299 steps to reach the observation deck or take the elevator for a quicker and easier ascent. The observation deck provides a breathtaking vista of the city including Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and the Vltava River.
The Tower is also surrounded by beautiful gardens, making it a lovely spot for a picnic or a leisurely stroll. Petřín Hill Park features walking paths, a mirror maze, and other attractions, including a funicular railway, and the beloved Church of St. Michael.
Enjoy Traditional Czech Cuisine and Czech Beer
Prague has a rich culinary tradition drawing influences from various Central European cuisines. While in Prague, visitors should try some of its favorite dishes.
Goulash is a hearty meat stew made with beef, onions, and paprika, usually served with bread dumplings or potatoes.
Svíčková na smetaně (Braised sirloin) is consists of braised beef covered with a thick, creamy sauce of parsley root and carrots. It’s usually accompanied by a side of cranberry sauce and whipped cream.
Palačinky, a definite throwback from my childhood, is a thin, crepe-like pancake filled with a variety of sweet or savory fillings, such as jam, fruit, or just rolled with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
One of my favorite sweet treats is the traditional Czech Koláče, a rolled or round pastry filled with a nut mixture or other fruit flavors like apricot, prune or poppyseed.
And don’t forget to throw down a pint of two of the world-famous Czech beer as there are a myriad of local breweries and pubs where you can sample a variety of different brews.
The nearby city of Plzeň is renowned for inventing the Pilsner-style lager that is world-famous. It’s of no surprise that the Czechs consume more beer per capita than any other nation on the planet.architecturedestinationhistoricspirits