As promised, here's the first part of my little guide to my little city. I hope it gets your hearts racing to Prague if you've never visited and helps recall sweet memories if you have. (It's been less than two weeks, and I miss it already!)
Top Ten Favorite Local Attractions:
- Old Town Square
From wherever you're staying, take the metro to Staroměstská, which means "Old Town" in Czech. Congrats, you've reached the heart of Prague! Go ahead and explore the square. Pick up a hot dog and hot wine (in winter), and take pictures of the Astronomical Clock, Minute House (where Franz Kafka once lived), Jan Hus monument, and Tyn Church. Wander through a portal off the square and get a little lost. Visit the fruit markets and souvenir shops. All roads lead back to Old Town, so fear not, my friends! Check out this 360 degree view of Old Town and get pumped.
- Prague Castle
You can't visit Prague and not see this gorgeous landmark! In good weather, hike up the hill (and enjoy the many interesting shops along the way) or take the tram to Pražský hrad. If you visit the Castle during the day, you can enter the St. Vitus Cathedral (and for free too)! It was modeled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and is absolutely breathtaking inside. While you're up at the Castle, make sure you visit the the Wallenstein Gardens only a few steps away. This royal garden hosts live peacocks in the summer and boasts beautiful fountains, an aviary, and an impressive limestone wall. (See my photos of the Wallenstein Gardens and St. Vitus Cathedral!)
- Old Jewish Cemetery
Close to Old Town Square, you can easily walk to this massive cemetery that contains 12 levels of graves, where 100,000+ Prague Jews have rested for centuries. It's an incredible sight and piece of history, even if you're not Jewish!
- Vysehrad Castle
This one's for all the history buffs. Bohemia's earliest royals lived in Vysehrad in the 14th century, and while the Castle is not the most impressive of castles, the nearby Vysehrad cemetery (where all the most famous Czechs are laid to rest) is definitely a top 10 sight to see. (Scroll down for my pictures.)
- The Dancing Building
Take the metro to Karlovo Namesti, and you will easily find this new building, completed in 1996. The Dancing Building is so fascinating, because it is probably the most modern piece of architecture in Prague! Czech civilians actually dislike it, because it's so out of place; still, I think it's a cool thing to see, and in a beautiful part of Prague's New Town. (Check out my Dancing Building pictures.) After you've taken your fill of photos, look for the Vltava River to your right and walk over to a bridge to admire the view. If it's a nice day, make a 180 and walk away from the building, following the river on your left and taking in all the pretty buildings on your right. Keep walking along the river. You'll love it, I promise. And you'll most likely run into the...
- Charles Bridge
This bridge connects Old Town to New Town, and it is extremely busy, filled with tourists and street vendors. Right now the Karlov Must (Czech for Charles Bridge... duh!) is undergoing some (not so pretty) construction, but you can definitely still walk across. I'd recommend early in the morning or late at night, so you don't get pushed around by the crowds!
- The Lennon Wall
For Beatles fans, this is a must. Regardless, this homage to John Lennon is a sight for the eyes. Oh, and while you're there, just a few steps away is a teeny Love Lock bridge. You'll love it if you're a sentimental romantic like me. Never heard of one before? You have now.
- Zizkov TV Tower
Okay, fine, I didn't actually go up to the top. (Why does every city have one of these things anyway? Berlin, Paris, New York... it's like a global "mine's bigger than yours" mentality.) But the David Cerny "crawling baby" statues on the tower are pretty rad. Creepy, yes. But cool. I liked them.
- Wenceslas Square
The Times Square of Prague? Something like that. If you want to get your shopping on, walk down this lively boulevard from the Mustek metro station all the way to the end, where the National Museum stands. Gawk at the gorgeous buildings that are now owned by the likes of McDonald's or Zara. Then get a fried cheese sandwich at a food stand. Just tell 'em, "Smažený sýr, prosim!" ("Fried cheese, please!") And don't forget the tartar sauce. Continue walking toward the...
Okay, new Prague wanderers. Prepare yourself for the city of art and architecture. If you're already in Wenceslas Square, go ahead to the National Museum at the end of the boulevard. (Or take the metro to Muzeum if you're short on time.) Climb up the steps and take in the full, glorious view of Wenceslas Square. Do a victory dance, Rocky-style. Then... visit some more galleries! Other great museums include the Cubist museum (free on Wednesdays!), the Franz Kafka museum, and cool galleries like the Salvador Dali exhibition and the Alphonse Mucha exhibition.
- Keep a look out! More "BEST of Prague" yet to come...
Part 2: Food, Drink and Restaurant recommendations
Part 3: Day trips (for those on extended stay)!
Part 4: Night life (Bars, Clubs, you name it.)
Part 5: Czech specialties + souvenirs