Prague – Czech Republic. Bohemian, architecture, endless summer nights and dramatic skies.
Two years ago, I decided that I was going to take extend leave as part of my long service trip. I knew New York City and Cyprus were MUST visits on this trip and where I would spend a majority of my time. I also wanted to visit a new destination as well. Part of the trip included a stopover in Dubai (see my tips on Dubai here). The other destination was one that I’ve always wanted to visit.
I’ve traveled Europe before as part of my Contiki trip back when I was a wee little young one, but I wanted something different. Something that was not overly touristy, but a place that I dreamed of visiting because of the amazing images I kept seeing. I wanted to stroll along the Charles Bridge, see grand Gothic architecture and watch the sky change into amazing dramatic colours.
So Prague it was…
We had 3 nights in Prague. We stayed at the Hotel Ambassador Zluta House (they consider themselves a 5 star hotel, but it’s a different 5 star compared to the Australia/Asia markets). However the hotel did not disappoint (just a side-word of travelling advice, sometimes I don’t fuss too much about the luxuries of hotel stays because all I do is just sleep there, majority of my time in countries I’ve never visited, are usually for a short period of time and more than likely I’m out all day and night exploring the city, so I don’t fuss too much about the glamour side of the hotel). The hotel offered amazing breakfast every morning, the rooms were quiet big in size and its location is definitely one of the best I’ve seen; in the middle of Prague’s famous Wencenlas Square!
We were so lucky the dates we were there, because they had a fair on, with all these really cute stalls set up and down the Square, selling local foods and souvenirs! Wencenlas Square gets busy, because of its wide formation and the access into other parts of towns. From the hotel looking directly south you have the amazing view of the National Museum Building, that looks more like a parliament house. The architecture in the square is remarkable. A statue of Wencenlas (who is the Saint Patron of Bohemian and also who the square is name after) is perched up the South end of the square as well. There are many retail stores and take-away stores, the only issue I had with the square was a night, and it didn’t feel like the safest area to be around especially on your own, however all that aside, during the day the place came alive with tourist and locals.
Heading down from the hotel into the narrow streets of the old town, there are many local souvenir stores and lots and lots of ‘glass’ shops to buy the important bohemian crystal souvenir, some are absolutely amazing, others are just too heavy to carry home.
Prague Astronomical Clock and Tyn Cathedral – Old Town Square
Two of the three iconic sights of Prague. The square that the Cathedral and Clock are featured in is always busy! Not just with tourist but with the talented buskers who are always showcasing their works of art.
The Astronomical Clock, which is a part of the Town Hall is an enchanting piece of architecture. The iconic medieval clock has many features and ways to read time, some the hands and rings on the clock include: Old Bohemian Hand, Babylonian Time (aka Arabian, measuring Sunrise to Sunset only), The Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, The Zodiacal Ring (depicts the path of the sun and moon through the sky), Old German Time, The Zodiacal The Astrolabe (measuring the positions of the Sun, Moon and Stars), The Sun ring, The Moon pointer, The Star and The Golden Hand. What makes it more amazing is that when the clock strikes on the hour the Twelve Apostles go into rotation appearing in the windows of the tower. Other notable figures on the clock include, The Rooster, The Stone Angel, The Vain Man, The Miser, The Skeleton, The Turk, The Stone Angel, Philosopher, Archangel Michael, Astronomer and Chronicler. For more information about this fascinating clock please click here. If you get the opportunity to climb the stairs inside the tower do it, the views from the top give you impressive views of the Old Town Square.
Tyn Church aka Our Lady before Tyn an alluring Gothic church that has been standing since the middle 13th Century, with beautiful spires that demand attention in the Old Town. You can visit the church at non-worship times of the day. Please follow the guide lines when entering the space as it is a place of worship and respect the property. For further details about opening times and if you require to book a private guide please click here
We had lunch in the square numerous times, dining on traditional Czech cuisines at the local pubs in the square. Of course these places will be a slightly more costly as they are positioned in the touristy areas, but venturing out and around the Old Town and Jewish centre you’ll find many well priced meals and these meals are amazing and delicious! But sometime you have to do the touristy thing and dine in the town square across from the clock tower just to see the Apostles pop out and say hello!
We frequented the Old Town often, just to be around people and the energizing atmosphere that kept the square alive at all hours of the day and night. Watching the sky however was one of our favourite sights. The sky is lit up most of the evening, as the sun doesn’t set till late in the evening, and the skies colour is remarkable, changing from sunset hues to electric blues before darkness has come and only the lights of Church Spires and square light up the town.
As we were first time visitors to the city, we took an organised city tour that took us through Prague and introduced us to the history and architecture of the city. Part of the visit we went to the Prague Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and St Vitus Cathedral which are both grandeur and extraordinary. Our lovely tour guide (who reminded us of the teacher from the French cartoon “Madeline”) guided us through the grounds of the castle and the cathedral, explaining history and importance of Prague in Central Europe. We were then taken on a boat cruise alone the Vltava River, and under numerous bridges and the most important one the third iconic sight of Prague; Charles Bridge.
Which brings me to my favourite part of the trip. Charles Bridge! Breathtaking and captivating don’t even begin to express how beautiful this bridge is! I was so mesmerized by the bridge that I visited many times and at many different times of the day; just to watch the way the sunset around the beautiful Baroque statues that are lined up along the bridge. Some of them include the St Christopher, St Francis Borgia, St Francis of Assisi, St Wenceslas, The Crucifix and Calvary plus many many more!
The bridge connects the Old Town to the Lesser Town over the Vltava River, each end of the Bridge have these spectacular towers welcoming you into each side of the towns. The bridge is buzzing with tourist but also musicians, artists and vendors. It was nearly impossible to get the perfect picture that I had seen in so many tourist magazines and brochures because of the amount of people who cross the bridge daily! However it was worth every moment, every attempt to take the photo, and every path I took to get to Charles Bridge. Once we pulled ourselves away from the bridge and the hundreds of photos we took, we headed into Lesser Town located at the bottom of the Prague Castle. Its narrow cobbled streets, lined with lanterns and towering architecture are stunning. A lot quieter than the Old Town, but just as remarkable in architecture and history. Walking around the town, you would happily get lost in its streets, finding hidden bookstores, small cafes and pubs.
Prague really took my breath away, the expectations I had were met and exceeded! It lived up to the romantic Baroque Gothic ideas in my head and unlike its other European neighbours it didn’t succumb to the demand of modern tourist expectations.
One Day I’d like to go back to Prague and spend more time exploring the architecture and historical sites of this town, and even broaden out and visit some of the other parts of this beautiful country.
©All images are copyright of Kellie Koutoullas