Close-up of the astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall in Prague. Would you believe it, it's been there for 600 years! And it still keeps on chiming on the hour!
Prague is only one hour and twenty minutes from Paris and is one of East Europe's most-visited tourist destinations as well as one of the world's top romantic cities. Its architecture plus that undescribable atmosphere (the medieval past in the present?) is enough to take anyone's breath away.
Birthplace of Franz Kafka, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, its principal attractions which no visitor to Prague on a short visit should miss are: the animated Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) and neighbouring Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) as well as Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad) and Petrin Hill (Petrinske Sady), both of which are on the same side of the Vltava river.
Architecture enthusiasts will certainly want to visit the futuristic TV Tower (Televizni Vez) to have a 360° panoramic view of the city or look for examples of gothic or cubist architecture. But even for no reason at all, Prague is a great city simply to wander around.
Nothing less than a whole afternoon though should be set aside for a visit to the Prague Castle and its annexes which constitute a little town by themselves. But apart from its monuments, the charm of Prague is to be found in its meandering alleys and cobbled lanes (ladies, think of leaving your high-heels behind at the hotel!) that run from all parts of the Old Town Square where the ever-present horse-drawn carriages make you feel that you are living in another epoch (the pavements even smell of their droppings)! But though its numerous alleys are sure to make you lose your way every now and then, yet getting lost here can be considered more of a luxury, as thanks to serendipity, you will end up discovering things that are not mentioned in your guide book. At the end of the day you will thank yourself for not having followed your initial programme to a T.
But if it is modernity that you are after, then head for Narodni street or Na Prikope street or Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti), all of which are in the same neighbourhood, and you will not be disappointed.
Touching a plaque at St John Nepomucene statue to make a wish.
The St. John Nepomucene statue near one end of Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) constitutes one of its major attractions. There is often a queue in front of it as touching one of the two plaques below the statue is supposed to bring good luck and make your wishes come true. A ritual that tourists willingly join in. The two shiny patches at the bottom of the statue (photo on right, click to enlarge) are caused by the thousands of tourists whose hands rubbed against them over the years.
The statue is in fact one of 30 statues lining both sides of the strictly pedestrian bridge. Don't leave Prague without visiting this bridge!
The same statue early morning before the tourists start coming in.
Prague Castle as seen from the outside.
The best way to go to the Prague Castle is to get off at the Malostranska metro station and then take Tram 22, alighting at the 2nd stop. Once you enter the Castle courtyard (after passing by the guards at the entrance), turn right to get the entrance tickets (they sell two types of tickets - for a full visit or a short visit). Some of the places to visit there are the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica of St. George, the Golden Lane, the Powder Tower, St. Vitus's Cathedral and the Rosenberg Palace (the short visit ticket entitles you to visit only the first four places).
What it's like from the inside.
Click on photo for a larger version.
Prague's unique Dancing House (Tancici dum) along the embankment near the Karlovo Namesti metro station. Originally named Ginger & Fred after the renowned dancers because of the building's "dancing" theme, the structure was built by two architects, Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry in 1992 and took four years to complete.
Street art in the form of a maze along the busy Na Prikope street. The warning of danger ("Entry at your own risk") that you can see in the picture (if you click on it) is not so much a warning that you might lose your way as to warn you against shaving the ungummed brick wall and making it fall down like a pack of cards! But the wall will not fall easily as each of the bricks piling up in the picture weighs 1-2 kg.
Five eye-catching but weird-looking creatures stand guard outside Vaclav Havel Airport , new name (since 05 Oct. 2012) of Prague's international airport.
Prague's Old Town Square at 18h30 in the evening with the two spires of Tyn Church (or to give its full name, the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn) dominating the square.Go to Part 2