Visiting Prague: What You Need To See
Prague has become one of the most popular destinations on the continent, drawing around 4 million visitors each year. What was once a mystery to travelers in Europe has now become one of the most unique and interesting places to see. Prague’s compact city center offers diverse architecture and a fascinating history. If Prague is on your list for future travel destinations, here are the places you need to see.
The 600-year-old beige connects Old Town and Lesser Town over the River Vitava. Charles Bridge is Prague’s most iconic landmark. The bridge was commissioned by King Charles IV back in 1357, replaced the Judith Bridge which was destroyed by a flood in 1342. Along the bridge you will find thirty Baroque statues as well as a myriad vendor stalls, musicians, performance artists and beggars. The history and activity on the bridge make this a very busy location, but a trip at dawn or in the evening will certainly offer smaller crowds. Prague Castle provides a dramatic backdrop to the views from the bridge at night.
Located on one side of Charles Bridge, you will find Old Town Square, which is almost always bustling with locals and tourists. Czech’s long history is exemplified in the wide variety of architectural styles: Romanesque, Baroque, Rococo, Gothic, and Renaissance. There is no better place to take in this diverse history than Old Town Square; all of these styles are represented in the buildings that surround the square. You will not want to miss Prague’s astronomical clock; it is a complicated, ancient “orloj” that reveals Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time and sidereal time, as well as sunrise and sunset, phases of the moon and the sun’s position in the zodiac.
The Prague Castle, rich in beauty and history, towers above the city. The castle building span centuries and is much more than just a single defensive building. The castle, which began as a wooden fortress in the 9th century grew into a massive complex that now consists of a royal palace, a cathedral, three churches, a basilica, a monastery, defensive towers, and royal stables. The cathedral in the castle is a jewel in Prague’s crown, a true example of Gothic architecture. It is also the location of where the kings and emperors are buried.
Located on the other end of Charles Bridge from Old Town Square, you will find the Malá Strana or Lesser Town district. Although its history dates back to 1257 when it was founded as a royal town, Baroque architecture dominates in Malá Strana. This area of Prague hosts palaces, churches, squares, parks, gardens, and many other attractions. Throughout Lesser Town Square, you will find a number of pubs, shops, restaurants and international embassies.
The Church of Our Lady before Tyn soars over 260 feet into the sky over the Old Town Square. It is among the most well-known attractions in Prague and is visible from all parts of the city. The original building was an 11th-century Romanesque church built for foreign merchants who came to Tyn Courtyard for trade. The current church was constructed in the 14th century, although the roof, towers, and gables came years later. Within the church, you will find works of art in Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles.
Located in Prague’s former Jewish Quarter, Josefov, you will find the oldest active synagogue in Europe. Legend has it that the stones from the Second Temple in Jerusalem were brought to Prague by angels to build the walls of this synagogue. Old-New Synagogue is actually Prague’s first gothic building; it was completed in 1270 and quickly became the heart of the Jewish Quarter. The synagogue has held divine services ever its opening, except for the Nazi occupation of 1942–45.
Prague is well known for its diverse architectural styles. The end of the 20th century was exemplified by the deconstructionist building Dancing House, created by Czech architect Valdo Milunic and Canadian Frank Gehry. Located on the bank of the Vltava River and Resslova Street, Dancing House is a private office building. However, there is a restaurant on the 7th floor, the Celeste, which is open to the public. The building itself stands in strict contrast to the classic architecture that surrounds it. For this reason, there was a great deal of public outcries and controversy during its construction. But years later, Dancing House is now a proud staple of the architectural diversity in Prague.