Prague is one of those European cities that is almost too good to be true – beautiful, fairy-tale architecture, vibrant culture and nightlife, and warm and friendly locals.
There is obviously a lot more to this city than what you see on the postcards, but it is the old town of Prague that everyone comes to see – narrow, cobbled streets, and a real sense of medieval history and intrigue.
This is a city where walking is the best way to really immerse yourself into the history that surrounds you, so from an accommodation perspective you want to stay as central to the old town as possible.
Where to Start
The entire world seems to meet beneath the huge astronomical clock that is a major feature of the town hall that dominates the main square around which the old town of Prague revolves. The clock is not only a stand-out landmark, but on the hour there is a fabulous display of the 12 apostles. If you’re feeling like some exercise then you can climb the town hall’s tower for stunning views out across the city.
Avoid the Crowds
One of the down-sides of Prague is that is generally awash with tour groups all dutifully following along behind an upheld umbrella or flag. This abundance of tour groups does give the old town a slightly unreal feeling, almost like you are visiting some kind medieval theme park. This is a city that has been beautifully preserved from a by-gone period, so its popularity isn’t surprising. Try and tackle the most popular sights and attractions early in the day before the tour groups are in full swing, but also try not to be in too much of a rush – the only way to walk down crowded narrow streets is to take it slowly.
Appreciate the History
One of the most fascinating aspects of Prague’s history is the story of Jewish culture within the city. You will get more out of your visit if you do some reading before you arrive, but the Jewish cemetery gives you a glimpse into the way that the Jewish culture and community shaped the city within which they lived. Prague’s Jewish cemetery opened in 1439 and closed in 1787. 200,000 people are buried there – it is such a small space that it has to be seen to be believed. During World War II Prague was occupied by the Nazi forces – the cemetery was spared from destruction because Hitler apparently wanted it to form part of some sort of Jewish museum. Definitely somewhere that forces you to pause and reflect on the madness of our history.
When the weather is good there is nowhere better than sitting beside the Vltava River, relaxing with a beer as you enjoy the sun and watch the water rushing by. Prague is a beautiful, fascinating, and welcoming city. The ideal destination for a quick city-break.