Bohemian rhapsody: a trip to Prague
Date Posted: 23/10/2014
Capital of the ancient kingdom of Bohemia, Charles IV’s vision gave birth to the Prague that we know today. Retaining much of its medieval, cobblestone charm, there is still an element of magic and mystery surrounding the city.
Its skyline is dominated by Hradcany - the Prague Castle area, at the heart of which is the Gothic masterpiece, St Vitus Cathedral.
At noon each day, you’ll see the changing of the castle guards. No pomp and ceremony here - just a simple fanfare, but it’s worth a photograph alongside a stony faced guard if you happen to be in the castle precinct at midday.
Take in the views of the many garnet coloured roofs of Malá Strana, and the fruit orchards of Petrin, where a replica Eiffel Tower perches near the top of the hill.
There are two routes from Prague Castle down to Malá Strana - the Lesser Quarter: a cobbled staircase which sometimes hosts souvenir sellers or buskers - or the winding route through the quaint vineyards, where one can stop for a glass of wine - chilled in the summer, mulled in winter.
Follow the crowds across the iconic Charles Bridge which links Malá Strana to Stare Mesto - the Old Town, or peel off down a stairway onto Kampa Island where you’ll find enchanting galleries and beautiful studios selling ubiquitous but realistic marionettes.
From Kampa Island you may be offered a ride in a beautifully preserved mahogany boat across the Vltava to the Judith Bridge on the other bank - where, underneath the arches of the Charles Bridge you’ll board a charming old wooden vessel.
Live commentary from the sailor-suited skipper will give you a brief but remarkable overview of the history of Prague - and you’ll get to see the Little Venice canal and the age old water mill. Free beer and an ice-cream (zmrzlina) are included in the ticket price.
The Karluv Most - or Charles Bridge is iconic and no tourist ever comes to Prague without leaning over throngs of other tourists to touch the many saints embodied on the bridge.
Music and portrait artists vie for the tourist dollar, whilst on the water below the Jazz Boat - and several others - offer impressive views of 600 years of architecture on both sides of the river.
The Jewish Quarter
Between the Vltava and Stare Mesto (Old Town) is the Jewish Quarter - or Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto in Prague and a sad monument to the suffering of Jewish people throughout the centuries.
With six remaining synagogues intact, Josefov is the largest complex of historical Jewish monuments in all of Europe.
Stare Mesto is considered the heart of Prague. Here you’ll find the Astronomical Clock, first installed in 1410 - making it the oldest working astronomical clock in the world.
The Old Town Square is also home to the fairy-tale, multi-spired Gothic Týn church. The Týn is an impressive backdrop to the surrounding buildings - beautiful examples of Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo architecture.
The square - which features the Jan Hus monument - is always buzzing with tourists, food stalls, pivo (beer) vendors, and buskers. Try a tongue-twister ‘Trdlo’ - a hot, spicy, doughy take-away.
Capital of culture?
The city of Prague is a cultural hub: opera, ballet and classical music concerts abound.
Several performances are held every day at the Státni Opera - the National State Opera House; Národni Divadlo - the National Theatre; the magnificent Rudolfinum; the Obecni Dum - the imposing Art Nouveau Municipal House, and The Estates Theatre where Mozart conducted the world premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787.
Many more concerts are offered daily in churches in and around the Old Town, and you’ll be proffered well-priced tickets several times a day by culture-touts in town.
Museums are also plentiful: the National Museum at Vaclavske Namesti - or Wenceslas Square, which isn’t a ‘square’ at all - houses around 14 million items of cultural and historical importance.
But there’s also the Torture Museum, the Communism Museum - and the bizarre Sex Machines Museum for those brave enough to venture in; Prague’s assortment of attractions promises something for everyone.
This article was compiled with help from Bohemian Hostels. Bohemian Hostels offers accommodation suitable for groups across three properties in Prague.