Few places in the world are so rich in history and beautiful historical buildings. Known as the city of a hundred spires thanks to the countless churches that fill the city, Prague was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1992. Picture beautiful palaces, numerous castles, towers, churches, riverbanks, bridges and houses all coming together in one heady mix, and top the whole thing off with some really good beer.
If you’re visiting Prague for a weekend, this accessible city can be easily explored in a couple days. Here are some ideas to get your day #1 started:
Old Town Square | Staroměstské náměstí
This has to be your first stop in Prague. The Old Town Square is one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe and where you can find the impressive medieval Astronomical Clock of Prague – the oldest astronomical clock in the world still operating since the 15th century.
The clock is on the wall of the Old Town Hall and is composed of two main spheres: an astronomical dial representing the position of the Sun and the Moon, and a calendar dial with medallions that represent the months of the year.
Every hour on the dot, dozens tourist gather under the clock to enjoy the “Walk of the Apostles”, a show of figurines of the apostles and other moving sculptures, including the Death, a rooster, or a Turk.
The impressive 69.5 meters high Clock Tower has been standing since the 14th century, and you can go to the top to enjoy one of the best views of the city.
The top of the tower is the perfect place to admire the Church of Our Lady before Týn, a gothic church that dominates the Old Town Square with its twin pointy spires. If you look closely enough, you might notice that both towers aren’t identical, with one of them slightly larger than the other. They represent the feminine and masculine sides of the world, one of the main characteristics of the Gothic style.
The Powder Gate | Prašná brána
Leaving the Church of Our Lady before Týn to the left and continuing straight through Celetná street, one of the oldest streets in Prague, I reached the Powder Gate.
The Powder Tower is one of the historically most important town gates standing near the castle moat. With a height of 65 meters, the king’s coronation ride began right there.
The gate with the tower was built at the Royal Residence by architect Matěj Rejsek after 1475. It got its name because it once served as a gunpowder store.
Prague Castle | Pražský hrad
Prague Castle is the most important cultural and historical monument in Prague. It is a stunning complex of buildings which has served as part of a royal residence since the 10th century. The Czech Republic has been ruled from here for over one thousand years and up until today, as the Castle is home to the Czech president.
The dominant feature of the castle is undoubtedly the St. Vitus Cathedral, originating as a Gothic building in the 14th century. Countless valuable works of art are hidden inside. Among the most significant is the Chapel of St. Wenceslas or the Crown Jewels. The cathedral is also the final resting place of many sovereigns and patron saints.
Another very important building in the complex is St. George’s Basilica, the oldest church inside Prague Castle, founded in the 10th century.
One of my favourite parts of the castle complex is the Golden Lane. The street created at the end of the 15th century, when the emperor of the time gave some space to the castle marksmen who guarded the new fortification on the northern side of the palace. Due to the lack of space, the marksmen had to build very small houses. These houses have been occupied during the centuries by all kinds of people, including artists, clerks and rich men. One of the most famous inhabitants of the Golden Lane was the Czech writer Franz Kafka, who used to live in the house number 22.
The Lesser Town | Malá Strana
Walking down the hill from the castle, you’ll reach The Lesser Town, one of the districts of Prague located on the left bank of the Vltava river. The Lesser Town originated when European and Czech nobles moved there after a merchant settlement burnt down in the 16th century.
The heart of this quarter is Malostranské Náměstí, or Lesser Town Square, where the Church of St. Nicholas is located. Prague actually has three different St. Nicholas churches. The one in The Lesser Town dates from the 18th century and is the largest church in Prague founded by the Jesuits. The quarter definitely deserves a visit, as it has a more unique feel than the overcrowded Old Town.
The Lesser Town is filled with beautiful cobbled streets and endless shops, churches and gardens to explore, as well as a great variety of pubs and restaurants. If you are a design lover, you’ll definitely want to spend the night at Design Hotel Neruda which is located just few steps from Prague Castle. Its modern interior with classicist elements was designed by famous architect Borek Sipek. There’s no better place to finish your first day in Prague before continuing exploring this beautiful city during your second day.