My Favorite Prague Attractions

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I recently made my second foray to Prague and fell in love all over again. It’s hard to believe a city so beautiful actually exists in real life. Throughout its 1,100-year history, Prague has been influenced by major European powers, including the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburg monarchy, which each left its unique cultural stamp on the city while maintaining the original urban layout. Fortunately, despite being bombed during World World II, most of Prague’s historical architecture survived unscathed. In fact, Prague has so many medieval buildings that it’s impossible to admire them all in one short trip. Some, however, are not to be missed. Here are a few of my favorites, along with some tips I gleaned along the way:

Charles Bridge

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When you hear the word “Prague,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s the Charles Bridge. Yes, it’s crowded with tourists and vendors, musicians and beggars, but none of that detracts from the bridge’s ethereal beauty or marvelous views. Some might even say that it adds to the bridge’s charm, giving it a “lived-in” feel. The effect is magnified by the rows of saints peering down from their pedestals. Commissioned in the 14th century by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, the cobblestone bridge was once the only link between the two halves of the city.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

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Prepare to be gobsmacked when you enter this towering Gothic palace of worship. I found myself gasping at every turn! Construction on St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest in the Czech Republic, began in 1344 when Charles IV laid the foundation stone. The exterior is a riot of flying buttresses while the interior ornaments positively gleam thanks to a profusion of stained glass windows. The cathedral contains many tombs, with pride of place going to Ferdinand I. Though it’s the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk that truly impresses – it was made with two tons of silver!

Tip: The perfect time to visit St. Vitus Cathedral is at noon, when many other tourists will be watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the castle’s front gate. Otherwise, prepare to wait in line.

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St. Wenceslas Chapel, where the Czech crown jewels are kept under lock and key.

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Tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, patron saint of the Czech Republic.

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The white marble Royal Mausoleum of Ferdinand I and his family is in the center.

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Lobkowicz Palace

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Touring this impressive chateau just might be my favorite thing we did during our time in Prague. We purchased package tickets which gave us admission to the palace museum and the 1pm classical music concert, as well as a 10% discount coupon for the excellent cafe. Although located within the extensive grounds of Prague Castle, Lobkowicz Palace isn’t included on any of the castle combination tickets. That’s because the palace and all its treasures are owned privately by the Lobkowicz family. They were able to reclaim much of their confiscated property and furnishings – at considerable personal expense – thanks to the restitution laws enacted by the Czech government. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here. The audio guide for the museum exhibits (included with admission) is narrated by Prince William Lobkowicz, along with his wife and mother, and it’s this personal connection which makes the visit so special.

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Stairwell leading to the Lobkowicz Palace Museum; photos were forbidden inside.

Prague Castle

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Prague Castle is said to be the largest medieval castle in the world, although it doesn’t look like a castle in the traditional sense of the word. But what it lacks in medieval fortifications, it makes up for with palatial sprawl. The “castle” is actually a collection of palaces and churches surrounding wide courtyards and flanked by lush gardens. The center piece is St. Vitus Cathedral, which towers above all the other buildings, but there is plenty more to explore. We purchased a combination ticket (CZK 250) that gave us entry to the cathedral, as well as the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica and Golden Lane. We began our explorations inside St. Vitus at noon and managed to stay one step ahead of the hordes at each subsequent stop.

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Prague Castle’s imposing main gate.

The Old Royal Palace, which dates to the 12th century.

The Old Royal Palace, which dates to the 12th century.

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The stunning Vladislav Hall, where royal banquets and coronations took place.

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Copies of the Czech crown jewels are on display inside the throne room.

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The Basilica of St. George

The Basilica of St. George.

St. George's Basilica is notable for its 10th century royal crypt and 12th century frescoes.

St. George’s Basilica is notable for its 10th century royal crypt and 12th century frescoes.

These brightly painted cottages make up Golden Lane, where the royal goldsmiths once lived.

These brightly painted cottages make up Golden Lane, where the royal goldsmiths once lived.

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There are wonderful gardens below Prague Castle, but I’ll save that for another post.

The Old Castle Steps, quintessential Prague.

The Old Castle Steps, quintessential Prague.

The Dancing House

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This whimsical structure was built in the mid-1990s on a riverfront plot that had been left vacant since the WWII bombings. The gracefully curved building is said to resemble a pair of dancers – specifically Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire – and stands in stark contrast to the heavy Baroque and Art Nouveau styles next door. Though the Dancing House was originally controversial with the locals, it’s now hard to imagine Prague without it!

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If you walk along the river to the Dancing House, you will be rewarded with views like this.

The Astronomical Clock

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This stunning piece of art adorns the Gothic tower of Prague’s Old Town Hall and dates to the 15th century. The colorful dials chart the progress of the moon and sun as well as which zodiac signs they are in. At the top of every hour, the two windows open and the 12 apostles parade past. They don’t extend out at all which makes them very difficult to see unless you’re standing directly in front of the clock. Just know that you will have lots of company.

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Old Town Square

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Sure, it feels a bit like Disneyland, but no trip to Prague would be complete without a stop by Old Town Square. The fantastical architecture is a mix of extravagantly painted Baroque and spiky-topped Gothic spires, with some Rococo and Art Nouveau thrown in for good measure. Jazz bands and costumed buskers compete for the crowd’s attention, while horse-drawn carriages add an air of romance. For a birds-eye view of the action, you can pay five dollars to climb to the town of the Town Hall tower; for one dollar less you can enjoy a refreshing mug of Czech beer on the rooftop terrace of the U Prince Hotel. Which do you think we did?

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View of Old Town Square from the U Prince Hotel terrace.

View of Old Town Square from the U Prince Hotel terrace.

There are still plenty of worthwhile places that we didn’t get to explore during this visit. We really wanted to see the Old Jewish Cemetery, but the line for tickets was long and unmoving and we decided we didn’t have enough time to wait. I also want to stop by Stahov Library and the Clementinum the next time I’m in town. Because there most definitely WILL be a next time!

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Have you been to Prague? What do you think are the can’t-miss spots?

 

Heather Hall

Heather Hall

Passionate about travel, food, history and animals, Heather brings a curiosity and fun-loving attitude to most any experience that comes along. The Virginia native has lived abroad since 2011, and has visited more than 40 countries. Follow along as she explores the cultures and cuisines of the world on her blog, Ferreting Out the Fun!

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29 thoughts on “My Favorite Prague Attractions

  1. I went to Prague about 14 years ago and I was on a school trip so you can imagine how much I actually haven’t seen and how limited I was. I clearly need to go back at some point and take Dale that has never been, it looks like a very interesting city to explore 🙂
    Franca recently posted…Second Chances And The Street Art Of MontpellierMy Profile

    • I know what you mean, Franca. Most of my travels in Europe took place when I was a teenager on a group bus tour so I definitely need to revisit everywhere I’ve been. We’re talking about Paris and Rome for our next trips 🙂

      This was the hubby’s first trip to Prague and he loved it! The mix of architecture styles is a feast for the eyes, though we liked exploring the gardens best. They were so quiet and peaceful compared to the rest of the city. I hope you guys get to go soon!

  2. Beautiful! I’ve yet been to Prague, but this definitely makes me want to visit ASAP. By the way, I hope you find the time to visit some warmer destinations in Europe, too!
    Daina recently posted…Outer Banks SunriseMy Profile

    • You really must go! It’s insanely crowded, but even that doesn’t detract from the visual splendor. We’re already talking about when we can go back. Don’t worry, we’re also discussing some warm-weather destinations for this winter 🙂 Malta and Crete are on the short list. Have any other suggestions?

  3. I spent about a four days in Prague a few autumns ago and just loved it. The city was really beautiful, including the building facades. Did a walking tour (free!) and just looked at everyone because Czechs on the whole are quite good looking. Yes, I just said that.
    James recently posted…Nothing Hidden, Everything SacredMy Profile

    • LOL! I didn’t notice the Czechs specifically, probably because most everyone seemed to be German and Japanese tourists, but I have been impressed with the attractiveness of the people here in Riga! Lots of tall blonds, probably thanks to the medieval Swedish invasion. I fit right in hahaha 😉

  4. What a great post! I loved Prague. We walked across the Charles Bridge a few times. I’m going to have to get my pictures out. We went to the Jewish Cemetery. I remember all the tombstones piled against each other. Loved the clock, the Town Square, the church. In fact loved it all. Would go back in a minute!

  5. Your photos are spectacular! What a beautiful city. It looks like you had nice weather for your visit ~ that’s always a plus!

    • We did have nice weather, but Prague is one of those cities that you’ll enjoy no matter what. It was cold and raining when Mom and I were there before and we still loved every second of it 🙂

    • Happy to help! I’m also planning to write about Prague’s gardens as well as all the food we ate, so be sure and check back! 🙂

    • On my earlier trip to Prague with my Mom, we watched the 12pm changing of the guards and then tried to get into St. Vitus afterwards – the line was wrapped all the way around the cathedral! It is a fun ceremony to watch, with its brass band and pomp and circumstance, but skipping it certainly made our day more relaxing. The more I travel, the more I realize it’s okay to give myself permission to skip some stuff.

  6. I can’t believe I missed the Dancing House when I visited Prague 10 years ago! It’s such an interesting looking building, and so different from the rest of the city.

    I can’t really add to your list of favorite attractions because you clearly know Prague far better than I do. It really is a wonderful place, however, and one I’d really like to revisit. It feels like the setting for a romantic fairytale!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…A Skeptic’s Guide to Paris Art MuseumsMy Profile

    • On my first visit to Prague in 2010, I dragged my mom to see the Dancing House in the pouring rain. It was also bitterly cold out. Needless to say, she was none too happy with me and all I got was one blurry photo to show for it. I was praying there wouldn’t be a repeat of that experience this time and the travel gods listened – the weather was perfect and my husband was content to watch the boats on the river as I waited for a break in traffic to capture a shot.

    • I did enjoy the Lennon Wall on an earlier visit, but for some reason forgot to seek it out this time. Probably because we spent so much time exploring the various gardens in the mala strana!

    • The architecture is definitely a highlight of Prague, with the mix of styles and the different periods of history they represent. I hope you make it there soon!

  7. I lived/worked in Prague four years. My heart is still there. I once heard it described as a symphony turned to stone. There’s no other way to describe it!!

    • “A symphony turned to stone.” That is such a beautiful thought! Thanks for sharing that, Barbara. I’ll think of it every time I see a photo of the city!

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