Prague is a walk-through fairy-tale and the first city in Europe I ever visited. It is a medieval city filled with architectural treasures and, at Christmas time, a series of fantastic Christmas markets. I had two full days in Prague and in that time covered a lot of what this medieval city has to offer.
Our apartment in Prague was right across the road from the ‘Dancing House’, a curious architectural design that is meant to look like two people dancing. This area of Prague offers great views, as well as different cafes and grocery stores for a more budget traveller.
One of the first things we did was take a river walk up to the Charles Bridge. Walking along the rivers edge offers the chance to take in a better view of the famed Charles Bridge in full. It is also a good idea if you are new to the city and still need to get your bearings a bit.
We went on a four hour walking tour of Prague to get better acquainted with the city. Most walking tours begin in the Old Town Square just near the Basilica of St James. They are pretty easy to spot as each tour guide is always holding their tour company umbrella up high. Our tour guide Ross was greatly knowledgeable about the area and gave insight into the history of the city. He also knew where the free toilets were which, in Europe where you always have to pay, was gold-star knowledge!
The Basilica of St James is a beautiful place to visit and was a highlight of the tour. The interior detailing is extraordinary as is the chandelier hanging from the roof. As we were in Prague during December multiple advent concerts were being held, so beyond the exquisite beauty of the city, around each corner there was always a nativity scene or someone carolling!
Our next stop took us further into the main area of Old Town Prague, just beyond the Old Town Square. It was by this time we were given stories of old Bohemia, specifically how many famous musicians have visited and performed in the medieval city.
There are a series of old fairy-tale style caricatures around the city, in and amongst the astounding amount of mini stores selling Trdelnik, a mouth watering sugared pastry. The entrance to the Marionette (puppet) theatre is perhaps one of the best examples of the different characters we spotted.
Our next stop was the Charles Bridge, a Prague staple that is over 650 years old. It is one of the best view points for the Mala Strana, offering a clear view of St Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle complex atop the Mala Strana. It is also one of the most popular spots for souvenir pop-up stores selling drawings and photo works of Prague. I was surprised to find that, if you study carefully, not everyone is selling their items at overpriced rates and you can often find some good deals here.
After crossing the bridge to the Mala Strana (lesser quarter) we began a zig-zag wander of this side of the river up to the Prague Castle. A special reward for hiking up to the castle complex is the view of Prague as you look back. The endless view of red brick rooftops is exquisite and something special to see when in Prague.
We made it to the castle complex in perfect time for the changing of the guard. Thankfully the changing of the guard in Prague is much shorter than others I have been to (London) and within a few minutes we were free to wander again.
After 3pm in Prague the temperature starts to drop, so while on the one hand the crowds of the castle were much less, I could have done with an extra layer of clothes. That being said, the castle complex is a well-maintained open space so it is easy to self-navigate.
The Astronomical Clock Tower plays on the hour and the crowds begin to form about 20 minutes before it begins, wedging together for a chance to view the striking of the clock. It is a very short show, about 45 seconds but still, it is a tourist requirement when visiting Prague and I will say, this is the best clock tower I saw across Europe.
The Square near the Tyn Church is one of the most popular spots for tourists to cluster. It was a common stopping point for us across the two days due to its central location. In December, the square is transformed into one giant Christmas market with the big Christmas Tree in the centre to finish it off. There are many American style stores in this area such as Starbucks and the Hard Rock Cafe if that is what you are after, but if you want something a little more local and a lot cheaper, walk a couple streets out of the square to find the better restaurants.
Prague is a modern city situated in a medieval setting. There are a wide variety of things to do and the crowds are far less than what you will find in Paris or London. The people were friendly, the food was fantastic, and I couldn’t recommend it more…Try the beer!