I have visited many places in Europe, but Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is and will remain one of my favorites. In September, we spent two days in this “City of a Hundred Spires” and I enjoyed each hour of my stay, in spite of the fact that the historic centre was overcrowded with tourists from all parts of the world. No wonder, due to its numerous tourist attractions and special atmosphere, this UNESCO World Heritage site has become one of the most popular destinations for city trips in Europe, with around seven million visitors to be expected for 2016.
Of course, two days is not enough to see the unique beauty of Prague, but I would like to recommend you 5 things you should not miss.
1. Jewish Quarter Josefov
The historic Jewish Quarter Josefov is a place you should certainly visit. Hitler saved the Jewish Ghetto from Nazi destruction, as he wanted to transform it into a “Museum of an Extinct Race”, after killing all the Jews in Europe. There are six synagogues: one of them, the Old New Synagogue, is the oldest one in Europe and was built in 1260. The newest one is the Spanish Synagogue; its interior with colorful stained glass and golden decoration will astound you.
I was particularly impressed by the Old Jewish Cemetery with more than 12,000 mysterious gravestones. Due to the Jewish custom that makes it impossible to disturb old graves, the deceased had to be buried on top of other graves. Can you imagine that there are spots in the cemetery with up to twenty layers of graves? It was a strange feeling to know that more than 100,000 people are buried here…
2. Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock
The real heart of Prague beats on the Old Town Square! The Old Town Hall, the impressive monument of Jan Hus (a famous Czech reformer), the monumental Church of St. Nicholas, the proud silhouette of the Tyn Cathedral and countless multicolored houses in many different architectural styles give this square a unique charm We took a seat on one of the terraces that surround the square and watched the crowds, as this area is always filled with tourists from all over the world. Hundreds of them gather here every hour in front of the Old Town Hall to watch the Astronomical Clock.
It is no wonder that this Astronomical Clock, constructed in 1410, is the most famous tourist attraction in Prague. For 600 years, it has been one of the greatest treasures of the city. And nowadays, it still amazes people with its procession of the moving statues of 12 Apostles and its amazing calendar that can be seen under the clock.
3. Charles Bridge
The Charles Bridge has always been the symbol of Prague. With its monumental Gothic towers at both ends, a gallery of 30 Baroque statues and the powerful silhouette of Prague Castle in the background, it will never stop fascinating me as one of the most beautiful medieval bridges I have even seen. We passed the bridge early in the morning, when most tourists were still asleep, but the first artists and souvenir sellers had already taken their position. A group of jazz musicians contributed to the true atmosphere of this Gothic jewel that has connected the two banks of the Vltava river for more than 650 years.
4. Prague Castle
Did you know that Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world? Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for a complete visit, but we could not leave the city without visiting St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, the Golden Lane and the Powder Tower.
Although I enjoyed the beauty of the Cathedral and the mystical Basilica, I must say that the famous Golden Lane was a disappointment: this narrow street was so overcrowded with tourists that we could not even approach the little fairytale houses (Tip: visit the Golden Lane early in the morning!).
But it was quiet in the Gardens, where we enjoyed the Renaissance style staircases, balustrades, statues and scenic terraces with splendid views.
5. Round trip by old timer, carriage or boat
The historic centre was “built” for pedestrians and we think that walking would be the ideal option for sightseeing. But Prague offers many other possibilities, e.g. a round trip through the historic center by old timer, a tour by horse carriage or a boat excursion on the Vltava.
It goes without saying that there are dozens of other interesting places to see or things to do, but when you visit Prague, you should not be in a hurry. Take a walk through the narrow streets that lead to Charles Bridge and buy a piece of Bohemian crystal. Or attend a concert of chamber music in one of the old churches with their great acoustics (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is gorgeous!).