Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, boasts some of the most picturesque landmarks in Europe. Set on the banks of the Vltava River with a history that goes back more than one thousand years it draws tourists from far and wide to marvel at its beauty. There is so much to see that you could easily stay for a week and not see everything. I have put together a list of the top 10 places you must see in Prague to make planning your stay easier.
Prague is also called the City of a Hundred Spires which was based on a count that was done in the early 19th century. Its other names are The Golden City and The Mother of Cities.
All over Prague, you will find beautiful examples of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau styles of architecture all guarded by the castle perched on the hill. The labyrinth of cobbled lanes, gorgeous squares and of course the cold beers lure people from far and wide to experience its attractions.
The Top 10 Places You Must See In Prague
This hilltop fortress has played a significant part in the history of the city. It used to be the seat of the Austrian Empire and is now home to the Czech Republic’s president.
It was built around 970 AD but has changed significantly over the years. Both a fire and the various inhabitants all put their own mark on this magnificent building. The castle is the largest ancient castle in the world according to The Guinness Book of Records and has a total an area of almost 70 000 square metres. UNESCO has also listed it as a World Heritage site.
St Vitus Cathedral
The Roman Catholic Cathedral is the largest and most important church in the Czech Republic and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. There are also a number of saints relics and 3 kings tombs.
Building began in 1344 and was finally completed 525 years later. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you should visit if you are at the castle just to see the stunning craftsmanship on display.
I was in awe of the magnificent stain glass windows. They are the finest I have ever seen and I have probably seen hundreds of windows over the years. It’s pure magic inside the cathedral watching the light play across the coloured glass. It’s an experience that I will recall for many years to come.
You are also able to climb the main tower, which is 97 m tall, for a great view over the city.
The old town square
The Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí ) is the heart of the city and is always a hive of activity. It has been around since the 10th century. It is famous for its Christmas market, but when it was built the was a more traditional market where exotic goods from faraway lands were traded. Originally called the Big Square it then became known as the Old Market in the 13th century. It has had numerous other names as well, but the current name is from the end of the 19th century.
With its lively street performers, musicians and restaurants, it is an excellent place to begin your exploration of the city and of course see the Astronomical Clock.
This gorgeous clock was installed in a tower of the Town Hall in 1410. It is made up of a calendar and a mechanism that allows the 12 apostles to appear in a parade across the clock face. There are figures on the exterior that come to life as well.
When the clock strikes the hour, from 9.00 am to 1100.pm you can see the procession. While you can see it from the square if you want a better view you can buy a ticket to the Old Town Hall and watch them from the tower’s chapel.
Not only is this one of the iconic places you must see in Prague but it is also quite spectacular. It links the old and new towns on each side of the Vltava River. It has seen so much history I am sure there would be some interesting tales to tell.
Construction began in 1357 and there are many superstitions that surround it. One of the stories told is the first stone for the bridge was laid on the 9th July at 5.31 am exactly. It was believed that the numbers 135797531 gave extra strength to the bridge. The builders weren’t taking any chances so as an additional precaution the bridge is in perfect alignment with the tomb of St. Vitus and the setting sun when it is an equinox. Doesn’t this sound like a story that would work well in a Dan Brown novel?
I find this quite an incredible feat when you consider the lack of equipment and technology at the time. Even if you discount the significance of the numbers the alignment of the bridge is still inarguable.
The Old Jewish Quarter
The original Jewish Quarter was in the Castle District but by 1200 it had moved across the river to an area that became known as Josefov. Over the centuries the area became more densely populated with Jews that were expelled from other countries in Europe. At one stage this area represented 25 % of the population of Prague.
In the 1800’s large sections were flattened to make way for new buildings, but many of the important buildings were saved and even survived the Nazi occupation. There are 6 synagogues and a cemetery that is 350 years old in the area. The oldest grave belongs to the Rabbi Avigdor Karo and is dated 1439.
It is estimated that there are around 12 000 tombstones all crammed into a very small space that has resulted in a tangled jungle of stones.
This Gothic church was built in 1365 and with its 80m high steeples, it dominates the skyline. The main entrance is through a narrow lane which means that the façade of the church is obscured. The church has also changed its allegiance over the years and its interior was changed numerous times. There is a beautiful entrance portal, some tombs, a Baroque altarpiece, a huge Rococo altar and a pipe organ from the 17th century to see.
The name is a bit deceptive because this is, in fact, a wide road and there is no square. It was built in the 14th century as a horse market and named after the patron saint of Bohemia. Wenceslas monument is at the top of the street. It is one of Prague’s most popular shopping streets. There is a nice modern shopping centre and all the big brand names that you can think of line the road. If you need to shop, then this is the perfect place for it.
Petrin Hill and lookout tower
For fantastic views of Prague either walk up the hill or take a funicular. Best of all you can soak up the stunning panorama for free. There are numerous footpaths through a forested area if you feel like a walk and there is also an old Ukrainian church tucked away.
On top of the hill is a mini replica of the Eiffel tower. It was built from used railway tracks for an exhibition in 1891 and was later moved to its present position. It is about a fifth of the size of the Parisian version.
If you have the energy you can climb the stairs or take a lift to the restaurant deck for even better views of the city.
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The Clementinum Library
The Clementinum (Kelmentinum in Czech) is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is a complex made up of a number of buildings that covers an area of 2 hectares. This ornate Baroque library is not only famous for the books it houses but also for the stunning frescoes and antique astronomical clocks.
You can do a tour which takes 50 minutes and begins daily at 10 am then starts every 30 minutes thereafter.
Want to see a different side of Prague? Read the 7 best kept secrets in Prague
This represents a cross-section of places that you must see in Prague. If you are able to see all of these on your visit it will give you a good idea of what the city has to offer. If you have additional time available you can explore the non-mainstream ideas in my post on the secrets of Prague for some wackier ideas.
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