We finally landed in Czech Republic after a 12 hour flight from Bangkok. We picked Prague because of the rich history, delicious food and the numerous nearby day-trip attractions . But mostly, we picked Prague to further explore Devin’s heritage. Whatever the reasons are, it was a fantastic choice full of plenty to see and do!
But before diving into the depth of recommendations and city descriptions, we have some good news and bad news.
The city is very walkable! A lot of the main attractions are in a pedestrian-friendly radius. Wide cobblestone sidewalks, various signs and friendly people to make touring this beautiful city, very easy! If your feet are getting tired, the public transit is also very accessible. Trams, buses, and the metro system (subway) is extensive across the city and suburbs. A little confusing at first, but there are people available to help you if needed.
Because of the hype and amount of visitors, it doesn’t attract just the innocent. Prague has been featured on National Geographic for being a top city of scams. Beware! Our tour guide had shown us various “fake” currencies handed out to tourists. We also heard stories of ridiculous taxi cab prices. Just know what you’re dealing with before you take any money from anyone, or spend any for that matter. Also, the very first night we were in Prague, we were riding the Metro back to our Airbnb, when someone had stopped the train and started yelling. Because we heard the voice in English, it caught our attention. A man was loudly asking people on the train “Who took my wallet? Excuse me, who took my wallet?” Despite the situation, he remained calm and polite. A person had answered him, “That guy stole your wallet. He went that way,” pointing out of the train. We think maybe they just wanted him to get off the train so we could leave. We realize we are not detectives, but we did see a suspicious-looking man pace from foot to foot, touch his head and look around. All signs point to GUILTY. Although we wanted to help, we did not make a citizen’s arrest that day. Moral of the story, watch for pickpocketing.
Now that we’ve given our tips and advice, it’s time for some descriptions of the attractions in Prague!
Sandemann’s Free Tour
First up: The Free Tour. Of course this particular company has tours in many other major European cities, but it’s for a good reason. They are very informative, helpful and duhhh, free! We recommend doing the tour first before seeing anything else. We had partaken in the tour on our 2nd day and had repeated a few of the sights on the tour. But, more importantly, our tour guide, Colin from Scotland, was happy to recommend places to see, restaurants to dine at and other side-trips to visit during our time in CR. Colin was entertaining and told us a lot of fun and historical facts about Prague that we didn’t know. The only negative to the tour is that it is very long. But, of course, you may leave at any time. Four hours had gone by (including a 30 minute lunch) and we felt like we didn’t really see that much, mainly a lot of talking. Helpful, but we started feeling antsy and wanted to explore more. All in all, we still recommend the tour for the information and tips.
Like most European cities, Prague also has its own famous bridge. Ten meters wide, half a kilometer long- it’s more than just a river crossing. In order to get from the castle to the city center, it’s necessary to cross one of the bridges, so why not pick the most famous, photographed and historical (and quite possibly haunted) bridge in the city?
Vendors selling puppets, jewelry and souvenirs line the walls. Make sure you barter! Or, take a ten minute break and get a personalized caricature drawn of you! Many different artists set up to paint landscapes or quickly sketch tourists. If you’re looking for more of a cheap form of entertainment, we heard all different kinds of music performing: Opera, violins and accordions. We’re sure it changes from day to day, but the point is, there’s something for everyone on the bridge.
For a great view of Charles Bridge and the Castle, climb Charles Bridge Tower (the tall tower at the end of the bridge, city side).
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Prague Castle, is the largest in the world! Atop a hill, it towers over the city with a watchful eye. We say watchful eye, because the President resides there. The castle is expansive, intricate and still functioning. Although political figures may have been busy at work inside, we bypassed many protestors holding megaphones and signs.
The company that offers free tours of the city, Sandemann, also gives tours of the castle. We opted just to look around, but would’ve gotten more out of it had we joined a tour. As they say, ignorance is bliss, and we happily strolled the perimeter instead. What we found most intriguing was the view outside of the castle. We took in the beautiful view walking down towards Charles Bridge. If we had more time, we would’ve loved to sit and sip an espresso, wander the alleyways and compare the goulash of the restaurants. However, we did stop and watch a few street performances, such as this man creating bubbles for children to play with.
Prague has many “must see” destinations, with one being this clock situated right in Old Town Square. Not to sell it short, it is quite impressive that it was built in 1838 and has remained in tack despite all the history that the city has endured. The clock strikes between the hours of 9 am-9 pm every day. Unfortunately, we didn’t time it accordingly to witness the “performance” that the clock presents. But before you pass judgment on our sightseeing ability, our tour guide of the city had assured us we didn’t miss anything. The guide suggested that instead of watching the clock, watch the tourists’ facial expressions of disappointment. The clock was voted 3rd most overrated things to see in Europe. Maybe the copy in Seoul, South Korea is a little more exciting?
For the ultimate instagram-worthy view of the city, make your way towards Letna Park. We went a little before sunset and it proved to be more than worthwhile. As we climbed the steps, we witnessed a few graffiti markings that were a little unpleasant and possibly offensive to some, but we felt it added to the edginess that is Prague. As we reached the top, we saw a large gathering of people near a large red pendulum structure. Some used the skate park, some danced to swing music, and others sipped on Pilsners. It is a very pretty viewpoint of the city, but in our humble opinion, not the best. We continued downhill, towards a building that looked like an observatory or planetarium, but what ended up being a restaurant. There, we witnessed the view of Prague. This is the view that is featured on postcards, paintings and whatever other souvenir relic you’d find. It automatically became our favorite place in Prague, not only because of the view, but because no one else was around! It felt like a best-kept secret that we stumbled upon.
Since we were planning on visiting the Terezin Concentration Camp, we felt it was necessary to also visit the Jewish Quarter. It was hard to believe looking at the beautiful architecture and charming cobblestone streets, that so much history had taken place in the area. The oldest Synagogue in Europe tells a notorious legend of a famed character of Prague. The legend goes that a rabbi had created the Gollum to protect the people in the city, but it became too powerful and dangerous, so he locked him in the attic. Sadly, Gollum was only a legend and couldn’t protect the city from the tragic occurrences of World War II. In regards to that time period, there are many places to visit and pay respects. One such place is the cemetery containing an unbelievable amount- an estimated 4,000 bodies were buried there. The city gave the Jewish people only a certain amount of land for a cemetery, and because of this, were forced to add soil and continue burying atop the others. Today, the cemetery is quite high, visible from the side-street that is lined with vendors selling yamacas and Gollum figurines. Another place of interest in the area is the Pinkas Synagogue. A Jewish prisoner, former art teacher, had taught art to the children in the ghetto. The teacher had tried her best to teach the students to promote hope and also to “get lost” in their artwork, as a means of escaping the horrors around them. Incredibly, the teacher had somehow managed to preserve and smuggle a lot of the artwork out of the ghetto which are now found on display in the Jewish Ghetto Museum in Terezin and also in this synagogue.
Wherever you decide to visit in Prague, it’s hard not to be enchanted with the history, architecture, food, people and modern buzz.