The Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic cities. The Gothic skyline – Prague is often known as the city of 100 spires – and the history of this city play a large part in attracting just over four million visitors each year.
At just under 500km² Prague may not be as large as London or New York but the immense popularity of Prague city stands as a testament to the Czech city’s seductive power. This is a city that has seen its fair share of dark times and it’s also a place from which some of the world’s greatest writers have taken inspiration.
Historic moments such as the Prague Spring in 1968 when Czechoslovakia briefly gained liberation from Soviet rule inspired writers such as Vaclav Havel and Milan Kundera to produce world famous works such as The Power of the Powerless and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is a city where the legends, history and gothic atmosphere are irresistible to anyone with a romantic spirit.
Let’s take a look at exactly what makes Prague so inspiring, to so many…
Prague’s Old and New Town
Prague’s Old Town contains many of the city’s most famous sightseeing attractions including the Old Town Square and within five minute’s walking distance, Wenceslas Square in the New Town. Although it’s named the New Town, this area was actually founded in 1348 by King Charles IV. Wenceslas Square is indeed a beautiful boulevard leading up to the National Museum, which is worth seeing for the magnificent interior alone. It’s here you will also find the Prague State Opera and statues such as the Wenceslas Monument.
Wenceslas Square is the sight of historic events such as mass demonstrations by the Nazis as well as the huge demonstrations in 1989 by protestors during the Velvet Revolution. Now this boulevard is a main shopping and restaurant area and used by tourists as a base for finding their way around the city.
Comparatively, Prague’s Old Town dates back to at least the 12th century and contains attractions such as the Old Town Hall Tower, the famous astronomical clock and the St. Nicholas Church. The Old Town is the place to sit and have a coffee, while taking in the magnificent baroque and gothic architecture.
One of the world’s most famous bridges
Nothing symbolizes Prague more than the Charles Bridge, which dates back to 1357 and spans the Vltava River. Crossing this bridge will provide you with panoramic views of Prague Castle, the Lesser Town and the bridge towers at either end. The bridge is a definite tourist magnet and you will find plenty of musicians and artists vying for attention along with the 75 statues that line the stone bridge walls. Make sure to cross during the evening when the bridge is illuminated for the definitive, ‘step back in time’ experience.
Best views of the city
Taking in Prague’s beautiful buildings up close can sometimes be a sensory overload and it’s a good idea to stand back and take in the whole picture from a distance. For the best city views, climb the 299 steps to the top of the Petrin Hill Observation Tower, which stands 60m tall. Petrin Hill is one of the iconic settings from The Unbearable Lightness of Being and rises 318m above the ground; on a clear day you can see 150km to Snezka Mountain, which sits on the border between the Czech Republic and Poland. If you don’t fancy walking to the summit you can take the funicular railway from the Lesser Town.
Prague is an extremely compact city that can easily be explored on foot and yet due to the maze of winding streets it’s also very easy to lose your way. You can of course take a map but when you’re surrounded by this much beauty and history you may wish to let Prague’s hidden treasures reveal themselves at their own pace.
Panorama of Old Town – Wikipedia Creative Commons
Prague Old Town Square – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Prague Castle and Charles Bridge at night – Wikimedia Public Domain
Monument to the victims of communism, sculptures by Olbram Zoubek – Wikipedia Creative Commons
Thumbnail – Charles Bridge Morning – Wikimedia Public Domain
Guest Author Bio
Lisa Gulligan has made various countries in Europe her home over the past few years, including Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic. She has recently returned to London and is now working out her next trip.