As we left the apparent home comforts of Germany behind and headed towards the unknown land of the Czech Republic, we were both a little anxious and excited to see what Prague had in store for us. 24 hours in Prague was all we had to explore the Czech capital and in hindsight this is nowhere near enough time, but we were able to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking history and beauty that runs throughout this city. Hopefully this short guide will inspire you to head beyond some of Europe’s main cities and discover the beautiful city of Prague.
When I referenced home comforts in Germany, I am referring to at least a basic knowledge and understanding of the German language (thanks to my high-school German classes!) along with already spending 24 hours in Berlin and Dresden. However, heading to Prague was a completely different prospect. Neither of us have any knowledge of the Czech language and I will admit that visiting here for the first time, I had no idea about the Czech Koruna (currency).
Pulling into Prague’s Hlavni Nadrazi Central Station, our inherent fears were soon eased as we noticed a number of recognizable brands. From the stereotypical Burger King that is in every European city’s main train station to one of the world’s leading cosmetic brands, Sephora, there were plenty of clues to suggest that Prague was nothing to worry about.
We quickly changed £30, giving us a little over 810 Czech Koruna. Did this amount to enough for 24 hours in Prague? Of course we had no idea, but we soon found out that life in the heart of Prague is not as expensive as many of the other European counterparts. The exchange rate from British Sterling, Euros and even US Dollars is pretty favorable in return for the Koruna, and you will quickly find that your money goes a lot further than other parts of the world.
A Walking City
After checking in to the Jury’s Inn Prague, located about a 15-minute walk from the main train station, we headed out armed with our city map in search of the underlying truth why Prague is such a reputed city for tourists. It didn’t take long for us to discover why Prague’s reputation is so high because the quirkiness, history and unique culture was thrown right in front of us as we walked along the side streets.
From the local street performers playing a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’, to the thriving Christmas markets serving a plethora of festive favorites such as mulled wine and local Czech delicacies (more on that later), Prague immediately captured our hearts and we wanted to explore more!
We love exploring cities on foot and Prague is certainly up there with one of the best we have experienced. Is there any better way to explore a city than by allowing yourselves to get lost amidst the cobbled streets and quirky layout typical of an historic European capital?
But of course Prague is littered with a number of iconic attractions that are a must-see and honestly after visiting them for the first time, I think these are landmarks that you would want to experience time and time again.
Let’s start with probably the most famous landmark in Prague. The historic Charles Bridge crosses the Vitava river and dates back to 1357 when the initial construction began under the watchful eye of King Charles IV. Completed in the early parts of the 15th century, “The Stone Bridge” (or The Prague Bridge) as it was initially called, only became known as the present day name in 1870.
Why is the Charles Bridge so famous? Well, apart from the historical background and the fact that it is over 600 years old, the bridge is iconically lined with 30 Baroque inspired statues representing religious figures, making this an extremely popular attraction for a variety of backgrounds.
Although these statues are replicas of the original 17th century versions, they certainly add an extra dimesion to this architectural masterpiece.
At both ends of the bridge are towers providing entry to the New and Old towns of Prague. The Old Town Bridge Tower is adorned with statues of Charles IV, while there are two smaller bridges on the opposite end. Street artists and vendors fight for space on the bridge as this is a perfect spot to capture the attention of passing tourists.
The bridge is a beautiful spectacle at any time of the day, though an early morning stroll to capture the Golden Hour sunrise, or a romantic evening stroll with the lamps glistening over the river make this a perfect spot to relax while exploring Prague.
We enjoyed taking a stroll across the bridge just before darkness but of course the difficulty here is mingling with the large crowds and tourists that are trying to catch a glimpse of the bridge.
So I’m told that Prague is known as the ‘city of hundred spires’ and understandably we were eager to find out why. The towering sight of Prague’s most iconic structure, Prague Castle, overlooks the rest of the city and though our time here didn’t allow a trip to the summit of the castle, a quick glance from many stops along our journey meant this structure was never far from our view.
The best views of Prague Castle are from the Charles Bridge and when you have two historic attractions like this, every avid traveler will be salivating at the thought of exploring such historic beauty.
Old Town Square
A short walk from the Charles Bridge will lead you through quaint cobbled streets before you embark on another of Prague’s iconic attractions – Old Town Square. This historic square is home to a number of additional landmarks including the Prague Orloj, a medieval astronomical clock and the infamous Sleeping Beauty inspired castle known locally as the Tyn Church.
Visiting this part of Prague shortly after Christmas was an amazing experience. Not only did we visit at night and were able to experience the stunning sight of the Christmas tree in the heart of the square, but we also noticed that this was a prime location for many of Prague’s finest Christmas markets.
I mentioned the medieval clock that we passed just before reaching the Old Town Square and this is actually the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operation. The experience of watching the Prague Orloj in action was entertaining, especially when you think just how old this piece of history is and yet it is still in full working condition!
The awe-inspiring sight of Tyn Church clearly gave Walt Disney inspiration for the castles in Sleeping Beauty and perhaps even Cinderella. Whether this is true or not, the towering presence overlooking the Old Town Square makes this a real sight to behold and definitely creates a perfect photo opportunity especially with the Christmas festivities taking place directly in front.
But before you think the Old Town Square is all about these two iconic landmarks…think again! Every piece of architecture surrounding this square has something unique and beautiful about it. Dating back to the 12th century, this is undoubtedly one of the true medieval squares not only in the Czech Republic but also throughout Europe.
Another of Prague’s must-see squares is that devoted to Wenceslas. The present day Wenceslas Square is home to many of Prague’s leading department stores, many of which you would find in most other European and global cities.
However, the impressive sight of the National Museum Building along with the statue of Wenceslas stand proudly overlooking what looks similar to a French style boulevard.
This vibrant stretch of seemingly new town architecture actually dates back to Charles’ regime in the 14th century. Though nowadays with the inclusion of so many global brands, it’s unsurprising to know that this is a popular spot for many tourists to experience a little retail therapy, sample some fine Czech cuisine and of course relax in one of the many hotels in this part of Prague.
Only a short walk from the aforementioned Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, we explored this part of Prague before heading into the real historical part of the city. We found this to be the perfect spot to begin the rest of our tour of Prague.
If you need more convincing that Wenceslas Square is a place worth exploring, be sure to check out this awesome ‘Affordable Travel Guide to Prague‘ by Just a Pack. The first two pictures in this section are credited to Michael who has been living in the Czech capital over the last few months and will certainly prove to be an excellent resource for anyone planning to spend considerable time in this beautiful city.
Sampling new cuisine in a different country can be challenging and exciting at the same time. However, when you see some of the delicacies that Prague has to offer…I think it’s pretty obvious that there was nothing difficult at all about enjoying the appetizing foods on offer.
Even the local grocery stores have a myriad of delicious looking foods and this is definitely a great way to save some money rather than eating out all the time, especially if you are traveling on a tight budget.
Our time in Prague was limited so we were not able to fully experience the dining scene throughout this city. However, we would like to introduce you to Trdelník, which is a traditional Slovak cake but incredibly popular in Prague.
Slovakia may now be an independent country, but clearly their delicious pastries remained in the Czech capital.
Whether you like sweet or savory, there is a pastry waiting to be devoured! We opted for the sweet strawberry and cream and it was heaven.
Taking a stroll around Prague is pretty much the best advice we can give you if you are limited with time in this part of the Czech Republic. Given that we were taking an epic train journey throughout Europe and we only spent one night in the Czech capital, we are pretty happy with what we experienced in Prague.
One thing is for sure…we can’t wait to go back! Prague was one of those cities that immediately grabbed your attention and certainly is one of our favorite cities throughout Europe…even with only a short time spent there. With so much to see and of course so much amazing cuisine to try, it’s inevitable that a return trip to Prague will be on the cards for us hopefully sooner rather than later!
What are your experiences in Prague? What do you recommend as the ‘top’ attractions and things to do here?