Just hours away from Berlin and Vienna, Prague has become a hot travel destination in Central Europe. Ask most travelers that haven’t been to Prague already and they will say that it is on their bucket list. This beautiful city is filled with Baroque architecture, soaring church spires, cobblestone streets, interesting neighborhoods filled with art galleries and museums, and has delicious food and great beer and wine, what more could a traveler ask for.
A stroll across the famous Charles Bridge is one of the first things that every visitor who goes to Prague wants to do but that is just the beginning of what this fascinating city has to offer. I would say, put Prague on your bucket list of places to visit and let me show you why.
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Charles Bridge is perhaps the most photographed sight in the city. The famous stone bridge, with Gothic towers at both ends and lined with 30 statues of saints, spans the Vltava river which divides the town into two parts. Old Town is on one side of the river and Lesser Town, with its castle high on the hill, lies on the river’s other bank. The views from the pedestrian only bridge are wonderful but be warned, it is swarming with tourists unless you visit at dawn’s first light.
Old Town Square with the Jan Hus Memorial at its center is home to many of the major sites. The two Gothic towers of Tyn Church can be seen as you enter the square from almost any of the narrow cobblestone streets that radiate off the square. Just before the hour, large crowds gather at the Astronomical Clock which is part of old town hall, to watch it come to action for 45 seconds. (The clock tower is under restoration until the summer of 2018 but the clock is still visible.)
Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex in the world with its many courtyards, palaces, gardens and sweeping views of the town, has been used by kings and emperors and is the official home of the President of the Czech Republic.
The most dominant feature of Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is the final resting place for not only Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors but important saints as well. Perhaps the most well known tomb being that of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic and who so many of us associate with the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.
Another feature at the castle is a tiny lane next to the ramparts called the Golden Lane. The lane has very small, almost fairytale size houses where servants, guards and goldsmiths among others once lived. Later they were homes to writers such as Franz Kafka who once lived at number twenty-two.
If the weather is nice, be sure to visit the castle’s many beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, the day of our visit, it was rainy and cold.
John Lennon Wall, a graffiti filled landmark is one of the many unusual public art displays in the city. On your walks throughout the city go in search of some of the works of Czech artist David Cerny, Czech sculptor Jaroslav Rona, and others.
There is a debate on where you should stay in Prague. During this visit, we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is in Lesser Town where the castle is located. Proponents call this the quiet side and I would have to agree. While the hotel was very nice, my husband and I would probably stay in Old Town next time as it is very convenient to most attractions whereas we had to take a taxi to many of the places we wanted to visit.
When it comes to restaurants that we thought were very good and would return to, I can recommend three.
U Modré Kachničky (“The Little Blue Duck” in Czech), serves traditional everyday Czech food that has been recreated into sophisticated Bohemian cuisine. It has two locations, one in Old Town and the original one right next to our hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, in Lesser Town. It’s a cozy little restaurant that specializes in duck and wild game. We had a delicious meal there on our first night in Prague.
Divinis, owned by Czech celebrity chef Zdeněk Pohlreich prepares refined Italian cuisine with the finest of Italian products. The restaurant has an excellent all Italian wine list. From beginning to end, the food we had was outstanding.
Aromi, considered one of the top restaurants in Prague. It’s a very nice, modern Italian restaurant where the emphasis is on incredibly fresh fish and seafood simply prepared so the fresh ingredients really shine. Our waiter brought out a huge tray of fresh fish and described each one and how the chef suggested they should each be served. We decided on a whole halibut cooked with a light lemon sauce that was absolutely delicious.
Whether you want to sit and have a drink at a sidewalk café on the square after exploring Old Town, spend a day visiting Prague castle and its gardens, take a stroll over Charles Bridge to have dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants or go in search of Bohemian crystal to take home as a souvenir, Prague is bound to charm even the most jaded of travelers.
Yes, after my visit to this interesting city, I can see why Prague is a hot destination in Central Europe and I would definitely recommend that you put it on your travel bucket list.