Prague

Prague - Charles Bridge

Prague is a beautiful city in the center of the Czech Republic.  It is the political and cultural capital of the country.  There is a great old town square to the city with grand streets coming off of it and some great sights further afield.

Things you MUST see/do:

Charles Bridge –Spans the Vltava River that splits Prague into the old town and the Lesser Quarter.    The towers at either end of the bridge create a picturesque entranceway on to the bridge.  Charles Bridge is a wonderful location to get views of the river and the surrounding city.  Be sure to check out the many Statues that line the bridge.  Each has its own interesting story.

Prague Castle (St. Vitus Cathedral) – Located on the top of Castle Hill, Prague Castle is a spectacular set of buildings that overlooks Prague.  It is the largest medieval castle complex in all of Europe.  There is much to see within the walls of Prague Castle, including St. Vitus Cathedral, a beautiful gothic cathedral that is the centerpiece of Prague Castle.  It is a true architectural gem and should not be missed.  It is possible to enter the cathedral, however, it usually involves waiting in line.  Across the courtyard from St. Vitus Cathedral is the current Czech Parliament Buildings and house of the President.  It is possible to take a tour inside the castle if you choose.  If you are there at the right time of day you can watch the changing of the guards.  It may not be as elaborate as the one in London, England, but it is still an interesting sight.

The Jewish Quarter (and the Synagogues) – The Jewish population in the Czech Republic has a rich history.  There are many Synagogues spread throughout the Jewish quarter, including the Old-New Synagogue.  It is worth a trip through the Jewish Quarter to see the architecture of many of these synagogues (most are still active, so not open for tours).  While you are in the Jewish Quarter make sure to see the Old Jewish Cemetary.  This is a cemetary located right in the center of town and containing the remains of many of Pragues jewish community from centuries past.

The Old Town Square – The historic Old Town Square is the center of Prague life.  It contains many historic old buildings.  First, there is two churches that frame the square.  The Church of Our Lady of Tyn is a Gothic Style Church that dominates the one end of the square.  The second Church is the Church of St. Nicholas which is a baroque style church lining another side of the square.  This church has a white facade that reflects the sun during the day.  The Monument to Jan Hus is located in the middle of the Old Town Square.  Jan Hus was a preacher that was preaching against the catholic church in the 1400’s.  As a result he was killed for his beliefs in 1415 and he is thought of as a Czech hero to this day.  The Old Town Hall is located in the center of the square opposite the Church of Our Lady of Tyn.  It is possible to go to the top of the Tower for views over the Old Town Square and out to the rest of Prague.  Contained within the Old Town Hall Tower is an Astronomical Clock that chimes and has a show every hour on the hour.  Built in the 15th century, the clock is quite the engineering feat.  The story of the clock maker is an amazing tale to be told as well.

The Dancing House – Built on the banks of the Vltava river, the Dancing House (or Fred and Ginger Building) was built in the 1990’s.  It is one of the few modern buildings located in this historic town.  It is called the Dancing House, as it was designed to resemble Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing together.  This is some fascinating architecture.  It is definitely worth seeing.

Travel4Couples highly recommended EXPERIENCES:

Take a Bike Tour of the Old Town and New Town – Although the Old Town and New Town are not spread out too much, it is quite a walk to take in all the sights.  Therefore, we recommend signing up for a biking tour of the city.  Not only will they take you to some of the major sights spread throughout the city (including the old Opera House and Old Town Square), but they take you to some terrific viewpoints of the Vltava River and the Charles Bridge.  The tour we experienced did not go up any hills and the only challenge was to ride on some cobbled streets (picturesque streets, but a bumpy ride).

Walk from Prague Castle to the Old Town Square – The walk between the Prague Castle and the Old Town Square is a nice stroll.  It is best to head up to the Prague Castle in the morning by bus or taxi, spend as much time there as you wish then travel down to the Old Town Square (in reverse your trip will be uphill).  Heading out from Prague castle down Ke Hadru and Nerudova in the direction of the Old Town Square, these are wonderful streets with many classic buildings.  Take a look above the doors of each of the houses and you will see artwork of different things (two suns, a pig, rooster, etc.).  These were how the Czech people used to identify their houses.  Instead of giving their address, they would say they lived at the two sun house.  While travelling down the street take a look up off in the distance, you will see Pragues version of the Eiffel Tower on the hill above the city.  Continue your walk by heading Down Malostranske Namesti, then Mostecka toward Charles Bridge.  As you cross Charles Bridge make sure to notice the three beautiful towers as you enter and leave the bridge.  Continue on Karlova through a quaint shopping area before reaching your destination, the Old Town Square.

Wish on the Statue of  St. Jan Nepomucky – The story in Prague is that Jan Nepomucky was a priest during the reign of King Vaclav IV.  King Vaclav IV believed his wife to be cheating on him and went to St. Jan to find out what she was telling him in confession.  The priest refused to tell King Vaclav IV, as all confessions are confidental.  The king had St. Jan arrested and he was tortured and eventually killed.  They threw his body off the Charles Bridge very close to where his statue stands today (look for the cross with the five stars, as this is said to be the spot where he was thrown from).  This is a controversial story, however, it is believed that Jan Nepomucky did lose his life unjustly because of King Vaclav IV and as a result the statue is believed to grant wishes.  You are supposed to touch the statue on the dog or the queen and make a wish for a secret never to come out and it will be granted.  If you touch the area depicting the army “throwing” Jan from the bridge, you ensure your return to Prague.

Find the statues of David Cerny – David Cerny is a well known Czech sculptor.  He has three main scultures to see in Prague (although one, the large babies, appears in more than one location).  They are all very eccentric pieces of work, but none-the-less enjoyable.  The first is a statue of Sigmund Freud hagging from a bar (this is hanging off the roof of a building, so you may need to ask around to find it).  The second is of course the facelass large babies, which are located throughout the city, including on the Zizkov TV tower and outside the Kampa Museum.  The best statue to see is the Two Guy Peeing, (called Proudy).  This statue is located outside the Kafka Museum.  This is a statue of two guys peeing into a puddle shaped like the Czech Republic and moving in shapes.  You can send a text message to a number and have the statue pee out a the message right in front of you!

Write on the Tribute to John Lennon Wall – During the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia, it was forbidden to put anything (artwork, graffiti, writing) on any exterior walls around the city.  Those caught doing this were punished severely (e.g. imprisonment) and the building surface was immediately restored to its original state. Most of the attempts to write were in reference to peace and fairness or against the current regime.  At one point, someone wrote on the exterior wall of the Maltese Embassy.  Being an embassy, it was not subject to Communist law and the Maltese decided they did not mind it and did not want to remove the art.  As a result the wall became a location for the Czech people to express themselves and many more people took to putting things on the wall.  During the 1980’s, following John Lennon’s death, the wall became a monument to his memory and his message of peace.  To this day the wall remains a location that people come to write a message for John Lennon or leave a message of peace.  So, bring a marker and leave your mark in Prague.

Travels4Couples #1 ROMANTIC thing to do in Prague:

Love Locks on the Mala Strana – Although we did not know about this experience while we were in Prague, we have since learned of this very romantic gesture and plan to participate immediately upon our return.  Located near the Lennon Wall along the canal on the Mala Strana, there is a section of railings that is covered in padlocks.  These padlocks (called “lovelocks”) were placed there by couples to symbolize their everlasting love.  Although they exist around the world in different forms, in Prague things are a little different.  It is said, the couples write their initials on the lock and lock it on the railing.  Unlike in some other cities, these locks have not been removed and, unique to Prague, to complete the gesture the couple is to throw the key into the canal to ensure everlasting love.