Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Completed in 1402, pedestrian Charles Bridge is lined with statues of Catholic saints.
Walk Down Wenceslas Square
The centerpiece of the New Town, and likely your first visit after arriving at the train station, is the monument to the Czech hero Saint Wenceslas. The Good King himself looks down a grand boulevard lined with unique and colorful buildings on its way to the former city walls of the Old Town. The equestrian statue is ringed by four other Czech patron saints. This large square has long been a gathering place for protests and demonstrations, including the peaceful Velvet Revolution that gradually seized power from the Czech communist government in the late twentieth century.
Circle the Old Town Square
At the bottom of Wenceslas Square, you’ll be entering the Old Town of Prague; note the sudden change in street layout and architecture. Old Town Square in the center of the old walled city is an absolute must-see for every Prague visitor; predictably, it is often crowded. Try to visit early in the morning or, even better, late in the evening to enjoy a quiet square. At the top of every hour, tourists gather around the Astronomical Clock to watch its chime. This complex clock marks the hour of the day in a twenty-four hour cycle, phases of the sun and moon, and the passing of the seasons. The hourly chime is small and quiet – it wasn’t originally built to entertain large crowds – so don’t expect a big flashy show.
Make the Climb to Prague Castle
On the other side of the wide Vltava River, on top of a steep hill, is the large compound of Prague Castle. Not named for any one particular building, this fortified mini city has been the center of Czech power for centuries; from medieval kings to modern parliament. From the top ramparts, look out over the contrasting architecture and red roofs of the Prague skyline stretching out below. Try to find the characteristic towers and steeples of the churches and the defense towers along the old city wall. Crowds clear out at night, leaving the square around St. Vitus’ Cathedral and the normally jam-packed Golden Lane all yours for an evening exploration.