Prague Attractions Sights Charles Bridge Old Town Lesser Town Wenceslas Square

sightseeing in Prague one of the worlds most enchanting  cities

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The Leading Sights & Main Atractions In Prague

In the heart of Eastern Europe the capital city of the Czech Republic offers much of interest to any visitor from a complicated history,unique architecture, opera to Jazz, cafes to restaurant and great bars open all hours selling the many lagers the Czechs are famous for. Just walking around this city or dossing in it’ numerous cafes and bars day or night is a joy. Parts of Prague (Praha) date back to the 9th century but the leading sightseeing attractions where built for King Charles 1V in the 14th Century. It’s beauty is immense at any time of the year – whether when you visit the temperature ist -13C or 35C!.

Prague’s famous reputation for impressive buildings is not confined to the Lesser Town and The Old Town (see below). The main rail terminus Wilsonova Station with its aesthetically pleasing internal central dome should not be missed. These building are a very  a stark contrast to the remnants of the bygone communist era which is epitomised by the fly-over next to the station and the hideous Stalin inspired housing estates on the outskirts of Prague which are visible on the final approach by air to Prague.

Central Downtown Prague is divided into two areas situated on opposite banks of the River Vltava. On the west bank is the ‘ lesser town (Malá Strana)‘ which is dominated by Prague Castle (Pražský hrad). The castle’s origins date back to the 9th century AD since when it has been the home of numerous Czech rulers and the seat of government. Nowadays it is probably the most salubrious of area Prague and populated by the well off and diplomats.

On the eastern bank of the river is the ‘old town (Stare Mesto)‘ which is home to the famous astronomical clock in the old town square and in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov)‘ the oddly named Old New Synagogue (Staronová Synagogathat still serves its faithful. There are several bridges that cross the river – the most important being Charles Bridge (Karlův most ) with origins that date back to the 12th century.

The Lesser Town   – Attractions & Sights

This inappropriately named area is much smaller than The Old Town on the other side of the river. One road ‘Nerudova‘ between The Charles Bridge & The Castle bears over 1000 years of architecture in it. Even Hitler gave orders that it should not be damaged. The Charles Bridge – Karlov Most was built in stone with 16 pillars the 13th century to replace an earlier 12th century bridge that destroyed when the River Vltava flooded

The Charles Bridge Prague

The Charles Bridge,(see above) founded in 1357 by Charles 1V, is the oldest Bridge in Prague to replace the earlier Judita’s Bridge destroyed in by flood waters in 1342. It is thought to have been completed in 1402. Initially it was known as the Stone or Prague Bridge prior being renamed the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) in 1870. One of the present bridge’s twin towers (on the lesser town side) was part of the original bridge.

The bridge is 10 metres wide and 515 metres long and fortified by two towers at each end. On each side of the bridge there are fifteen sculptures formed between 1683 and 1928 depicting Holy Saints. The Bridge is pedestrians and a mecca in the summer for artists selling their wares and prints, which are expensive in relative terms, street musicians and the occasional jazz session. In the winter amidst the snow it is enchanting and romantic especially at night.

Prague Castle

Dominating the landscape above the bridge is The Prague Castle – Hradnacy Fortress. In principal it is like The Vatican in Rome – a city within a city – but it is far more intriguing. Over 50 buildings can be found in the castle, which was a former palace for Czech Kings and now the official home of the Czech President.

The origins Prague castle can be traced back to 870 AD with the building of the Church of Our Lady. This was followed in the first part of the following century with the construction of the Basilica of Saint George and then the Basilica of St Vitus. A convent was attached to he former. In the 12th century a Romanesque palace was added which was rebuilt in a Gothic design by Charles 1V in the 14th century. The reconstruction saw the Basilica of St Vitus replaced with an imposing Gothic Church that took several centuries to complete. The walls surrounding the area were fortified in castle form.

In 1485 King Jagello rebuilt the castle and added the Vladislav Hall to the Royal Palace. In 1541 a fire devastated much of the castle. Many of the buildings were later rebuilt in a renaissance style by the Habsburg rulers. In the 17th century the castle fell victim to the serious damage during the Bohemian Revolt, the Thirty Years War and other battles. Many of its treasures were taken by Swedish forces. In the second half of the 18th century Queen Theresa had the castle and its buildings refurbished. For a while in the 19th century it was the home of King Ferdinand V following his abdication.

In 1918 with the formation of the Czechoslovak Republic it was designated as the official residence of the county’s president. In the following two decades the Royal Palace was renovated. In WW2 it was used primarily by Reinhard Heydrich of the the Third Reich as the his headquarters to govern the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Heydrich’s rule was short-lived as was he was assassinated within a year of moving in. For many, this confirmed a local legend associated with castle that any pretender who puts he crown on his head would be destined to die within a year. During the post WW2 communist era Prague Castle was the seat of Communist power in Czechoslovakia.

In 1989 when communism fell during the Velvet Revolution – the castle became a spontaneous symbol of the new Czech democracy. As thousands of liberated Czech celebrated in Wenceslas Square the former leader of the short lived 1968 ‘Prague Spring’ Alexander Dubcek appeared on a balcony above the square. On seeing the man that Kremlin deposed the crown shouted ” Dubček to the castle!” Communism occupation was over. Following the division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovakia republics the castle was designated as the official seat of the Czech Republic’s Head of State. The country first president Vaclav Havel then commissioned the architect Borek Sipek to renovate many of the Castles features to their original glory. He undoubted succeeded. see  Vaclav Havel  and also Official Prague Castle Website

Franz Kafka’s House

In the shadows of Prague Castle is Frank Kafka’s house. The son of a wealthy German speaking businessman the author Franz Kafka was born and educated in Prague. He lived at several addresses including and in 1916 at 22 Golden Lane in the Lesser Town where he lived for a year. The house (in which the rooms are only 2m deep) is thought to have inspired him to write ‘The Castle’. Incidentally, the last house at the very top of the street offers visitors cross bow showing.

Golden Lane At Prague Castle

Golden Lane. One side of Golden was built in the 16th century for the families of artists, architects and musicians. The other side was built a century later for leading marksmen and soldiers serving Royalty. The lane  is  part of the Prague castle complex and the lane contains 11 historic houses. The Lane has a certain charm about it and its picturesque appearance causes any visitor to have fond memories of their time there. Visitors have the opportunity to shoot a crossbow on the upper floor of one of the buildings there. It was formerly known as Goldsmith’s Lane as it was frequented by many a Goldsmith in its early days. You can purchase a wide range of souvenirs here and if you are looking for refreshment they sell drinks and snacks. Take the Metro Line A for The Golden Lane. Between April and October the opening hours are 9 am to 6 pm daily and between November and March it’s 9 am to 4 pm.

 

Sightseeing  Attractions In Central Downtown Prague

Wenceslas Square Prague

Wenceslas Square is in the centre of Prague and one of the city’s leading attractions. It’s history dates back to the 13th century and is undoubtedly part of the ‘Soul of Prague’ and it is twice as wide as La Ramblas in Barcelona though not as long. For the Czechs it existence has been a symbol of their various fights for their identity and freedom from tyranny. It has been a symbol of Czech nationalism and the scene of many demonstrations and protests. In front of the Statue of Wenceslas there is a small marble memorial at ground level inscribed with words Memorial To The Victims Of Communism. This very dignified headstone rests on the spot where 20 year old Jan Palach poured petrol over himself and burnt himself to death, in January 1969, as a protest against The Soviet led invasion of The Czech Republic five months earlier in August 1968. Over three quarter of a million people went to his funeral.

The dimensions of Wenceslas Square are around 60m X 760m (it is more than twice the width of La Ramblas in Barcelona) give this former horse market a sweeping presence, which is clearly definable at the incline top end which is dominated by the slightly Regal looking and very imposing National Museum. In front of the museum is The Statue of Vaclev Myslbek on horseback. Below this on lower ground is a very large The Statue of St Wencelas ( Duke of Bohemia ) who was assassinated in the 10th century.

Throughout the year there places for some of the best cappuccino’s in Prague In December including the two stationary and rather ‘twee’ trams half way down on central island. The far end of the square is home to Christmas Markets. see below There are decent several bars in the alleys on the right side. This end is served by metro services at ‘The Museum Station’. It is also the site of a memorial to ‘the victims of communism’

Though Wenceslas Square dates back to the 13th century it is very westernised, with many shops, cafes and clubs. If you with your back to the Museum towards the lower end the first road on the left is a central spot for trams routes from all over Prague which stop outside a large Tescos (closes at 8pm). At the foot of the square , turn left for The Cafe Lourve in Narodini (100 metres along on the left) – (see also our Prague Restaurant Guide) or turn right for The Main Prague Tourist Office which is 110 metres along on the right. They love to help!

The Old Town Prague  – Attractions & Sights

The Old Town Prague (Stare Mesto) has been the central part of Prague since the ninth century AD. It was once fortified with about a dozen gates. Many of the buildings in the area date back several hundred years. Some of the streets are very narrow linked by a maze of alleys. The cobbled Old Town Square has been home to markets for over 700 years. It is s ringed by cafes and restaurants.

The Astronomical Clock – Old Town Square

The Prague Astronomical clock is a Medieval clock that was built in 1410. It is the oldest Astronomical clock to still be working which is miraculous considering it’s 700 years old. The clock is located on the Southern wall of the Old Town Square of the Czech capital. The clock was made by Mikulas of Kadan and Jan Sindel who both were imperial clock makers.

The Jewish Quarter Prague

The Jewish Quarter in Prague is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. The Quarter dates all the way back to the 13th century. It is all referred to as the ”Jewish Ghetto” and Jews were crowded in to the area as they were forbidden to live anywhere else in the city.

During its long history the Quarter has undergone many structural changes particularly between 1893 and 1913 when most of the old quarter was demolished in an attempt to remodel Prague to look like Paris.  The Nazi’s decided not to completely destroy the Jewish Quarter during the second World War as they wanted to preserve the area and use it as a museum for what they intended to be an extinct race. The Nazi’s actually obtained several noteworthy Jewish artifacts  from Central Europe and displayed them in Josefov.  The postal district is Cervena, Josefov.

The Jewish Museum in Prague contains 100,000 books and an astonishing 4,000 exhibits. It has arguably the biggest collections of Jewish culture and is a favourite amongst those fascinated with their Judaic heritage. website 

The Old New Synagogue

The Old New Synagogue is Europe’s oldest surviving  Synagogue as it was built in 1270. It is situated in the Jewish quarter of the city and  it was designed in a Gothic style. It was originally called the Great or New synagogue but when newer Synagogues were constructed in the 16th century it changed it’s name to the Bizarre Old-New Synagogue. The address is  Cervena 205012, Joesfov 110 00, Prague tel no: 420 2248 00 812.

Czech Museum Of Music

The Museum of Music is situated in the Lesser Town area and was constructed in the 17th century. The building was originally designed with Baroque architecture as the main influence. Renovations in later  years caused the building to look like a cross between early baroque and modern architecture. The Museum has a staggering 700,000 documents which relate to music of all sorts as well as a recordings library and iconography. Classical concerts and opera performances take place here and the particularly high ceilings deliver superb acoustics for those listening. For those fascinated with the world of music I would recommend stopping here on your travels. Tram Stop, Hellichova Trams [12, 20, 22]. Opening times are Monday 1-6 pm, Wednesday 10 am – 8 pm, Thursday 10 am – 6 pm, Friday 9 am- 6 pm and Sat/Sun  10 am – 6 pm.

 Estates Theatre

The Theatre looks stunning inside and the beautiful blue colour used for its design is very easy on the eye. It was built during the late 18th century and The Estates is arguably one of the most unique theatres in the whole of Europe. It is home to talented individuals from all sections of the arts, whether it be a playwright, artists, Musician or even poet. The Theatre is synonymous with the incomparable composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who fell in love with the Czech capital the first time he visited it. Mozart played his first concert here in 1786. Most of the concerts that take place here are Mozart operas but there are also ballets and classical concerts held at the Estates. Get Metro to Mustek, Lines A and B and the theatre is situated between the Old Town and Wenceslas Square.

Jindrisska Tower

The Jindrisska Tower was built in the Jindrisska area of Prague in the late Gothic era between the years of 1472 and 1476. Unfortunately the Tower has struck by a fire in 1745 and was rebuilt in a Baroque style in the 1870′s. In 2002, Jindrisska became multi level with a total of ten floors. There are lifts available for those who do not fancy or cannot manage walking up the stairs. At the top of the Tower there is a scenic view of Prague city centre and in particular Wenceslas Square and the Prague Museum. For those who may get hungry from all the walking as well as others there are restaurants situated on two of the floors and Souvenirs for sale. Most who visit the Tower say they had a relaxed and peaceful experience and could enjoy the excellent views. Get Metro to Mustek, lines A and B. You can visit the Tower between 9 and 6 pm daily.

Prague Christmas Markets

Prague most prominent Christmas markets are in the Old Town Square close to the Prague astronomical clock and at the Narodini end of Wenceslas Square. Both markets have over 60 stalls though the former is probably the largest. The range of items on sale is fairly extensive including wooden toys, ceramics and an abundance of glassware. The glassware and the candles are particularly good value.

There are smaller markets nearby at the Havelske Trziste. Outside the centre but on the metro the Namesti Miru Christmas market is worth a visit. All markets sell a colourful range of gloves and scarfs. Most markets open daily from the end of November until the last week in December

See Also European Christmas Markets

 

 

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