The ‘must visit’ attractions of Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is also the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union.
Prague is a vibrant city, with a lively nightlife that attracts lots of young tourists. Although cafes, busy streets and good beer draw plenty of visitors, among the most beautiful and appealing attractions in this trendy capital are its historic and cultural sites, in the Old Town, in churches and castles dating back centuries. And many of them can be enjoyed for free.
The area around the Prague Castle — the current presidency seat — is open almost in its entirety for free. Ceremonial changing of the guard is daily at noon in the first courtyard and on the hour into the evening by the castle gates. There’s a fee for exhibition halls and historical monuments, but the gardens around the castle are free to visit. The grounds stay open until midnight every day through Oct. 31, so you can enjoy a nice night walk in a beautiful and safe place with hardly anyone there — as opposed to the crowds you’ll encounter during the day. The castle also provides a vantage point for breathtaking views of the city.
Walking across the Charles Bridge is one of the most popular tourist activities in Prague. The bridge’s construction began in 1357 under Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor known as the father of the Czech nation. Over the centuries, 30 mostly Baroque statues of saints were erected on the bridge’s Gothic balustrade. The statue of the legendary Czech knight Bruncvik, standing alone on one of the bridge’s pillars, is among the notable sculptures. Legend has it that his magical sword was buried in the bridge and would be swung at times of great national tribulation by St. Wenceslas, Bohemia’s patron saint.
Old Town Square & Astronomical Clock
Dating to the Middle Ages, the Old Town Square is in the heart of Prague. Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings — including a tower and churches — date to the 12th century. Notable sites include the Orloj, or Astronomical Clock, dating to 1410, which includes solar and lunar positions, a monthly calendar and a tableau of figures that move on the hour, as well as a statue of church reformer Jan Hus, erected in 1915, 500 years after his death. Tour guides offer their services in the square for free — though they hope for a tip at the end. The Old Town Square also houses the St Nicholas Church, Tyn Cathedral and the Old Town Hall. The views from the Old Town Hall are spectacular and present Prague, in all its glory.
The Petrin Tower draws inspiration from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower is set atop the Petrin Hill. The tower was built in 1891 for the Jubilee exhibition. You can reach the Petrin Tower by a funicular railway, passing through beautiful views. There is an observatory at the tower from where you can view the world down below with lush landscaped gardens. The hall of mirrors is also popular among tourists.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and Holy Infant of Prague
The wax statue of the Holy infant Jesus of Prague, housed in the Church of Our Lady Victorious, is definitely worth a visit. It is a holy pilgrimage site where thousands of visitors come every year to pay homage to the statue of Infant Jesus. This church is worth a visit, regardless of your faith. There are many legends associated with this statue. It is said to have saved Prague from the ravages of war. The altar where Infant Jesus rests is also adorned with other figures made from gold and silver.
Prague’s other medieval churches are also popular with visitors, and many can be seen free of charge. Among them is the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, where famed Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is buried. The church’s distinctive twin spires, 20 stories high, can be seen from a long distance away. You also can visit a small part of the monumental structure near the entrance to St. Vitus Cathedral for free, though a fee is charged for full access to the country’s biggest and most famous church. The church was the site of the funeral of President Vaclav Havel.
Josefov or the Jewish quarter is what is left of the Jewish ghetto from the 13th century. Most of the ghetto was destroyed in the 19th century. At the Jewish quarter you can visit the Spanish synagogue, Klaus synagogue, Maisel synagogue, Pinkas synagogue, Old New synagogue and the Jewish Town Hall. Perhaps the most significant and moving sight in Josefov is the Jewish cemetery. As the space for burying the dead began to be scarce, they were burials on top of the existing bodies.
The Dancing House stands apart from the baroque, art noveau and renaissance buildings in Prague. The structure itself resembles a pair of dancers and is located on the riverfront of the Vlatava River. It is also known as Fred & Ginger house after the famous dancers or as the Drunk House. A French restaurant at the top of the building offers beautiful views of Prague.
The Wenceslas Square is a huge famous boulevard and is named after the patron saint of Prague, ‘St Wenceslas’. It is lined with cafes, restaurants, shops and hotels. The Wenceslas Square is actually more of a lengthy boulevard than an actual square. It also forms the nucleus for the happening nightlife of Prague. Wenceslas Square conflates with the old and new. It has also been a witness to the many historic events of Prague.
The Vysehrad Castle is perched on a hill above the Vlatava River. This castle is known as the birthplace of Prague. It was here that Princess Libuse foresaw the vision of Prague. Here, you can visit the original statues from Charles Bridge that is housed here. The St Martin’s Rotunda, though not open to public, is well worth a glance. The National cemetery at the castle is home to many famous personalities of Prague, such as Alfons Mucha, Jan Neruda and Bedrich Smetana.
Loreta forms one of the many pilgrimage sights in Prague. The Loreta was built with the intention of replicating the original home of the Virgin Mary, ‘Santa Casa’. It was founded in the year 1626, by Katerina Lobkowicz. The star attraction of the building is obviously the Santa Casa. It is nestled at the centre of the building. A beautiful red altar, adorned with intricate silver workings and relief panels on the walls, make a splendid greeting sight. The Bell Tower, Church of the Nativity of our Lord, Arcade and the Treasury are well worth visiting.
Urban parks throughout Prague offer people-watching, playgrounds, green space, paths for biking and skating, and postcard-perfect views of the city’s intricate skyline, a panorama of centuries-old spires, towers and decorative rooftops. Favorite parks include Petrin Hill and Stromovka Park. During Summer Letna park and other offer good evening views of Prague that can be enjoyed from parks’ restaurants.
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