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Must Visit Attractions in Prague

Every city on this planet has something that exists only in that city. It could be a building, a statue, a bridge, a historical event that happened exactly on that spot. Because it exists in that city alone it is awarded the honoured title of an Attraction.

Inherent in the word attraction is the sense that a person, visiting the city, should somehow be attracted towards these sites. Not only interested but eager to spend their hard earned leisure time standing in front of an old building and listening to a detailed account of how it was built, the eccentric life of the king who commissioned it, and why the gargoyles extrude out 4 feet instead of the usual 3 feet.  Normally these people would not concern themselves with such details. But in visiting a city there exists the obligation of visiting attractions, studying their history, and obviously taking pictures. This obligation is what creates attractions.

‘Must visit attractions’ are really just monuments in the city that exist nowhere else in the world. If you take the trouble of coming all the way to Prague you must see the Charles Bridge because it exists only in Prague.  Must see does not say anything about how fantastic the attraction is. After all the Charles Bridge is just a stone bridge with statues made a long time ago. World wide there are thousands of stone bridges, tens of thousands of statues, and bridges that are a lot older. What is so great about the Charles Bridge? It is the combination that matters – no where else in the world do these stones have these statues that where commissioned by this king over 500 years ago. People travel abroad to see things they cannot see at home.

Regardless of your interest in buildings and bridges and when they were built or religious zealots and when they where murdered - you will need to visit the sites. Not because they are particularly interesting to you or mind blowing but because you came all this way and your friends will ask: how was it to walk along the Charles Bridge? To avoid the embarrassment of admitting you did not see it you must visit these attractions.

As this is a website about traveling Prague I am duty bound to list out the must visit attractions so that you can see them. Below is a list of the absolute must, the sites you must visit even if you have no interest in such things. At minimum, go there have quick look, read a plaque and take a picture to prove you where there.  If you miss any one of these attractions you run the risk of someone saying, ‘you haven’t really been to Prague if you haven’t seen the…'

Charles Bridge

Visiting Prague is probably the only time in your life in which you will be eager to walk on a bridge. You are not alone in this urge. Almost 6 million people visit Prague every year and every single one of them walk the Charles Bridge. Normally a bridge is a mundane functionary structure with the sole purpose of preventing wet feet between point A on one side of the river and point B on the other side. Charles Bridges has managed to value add to this function with an odd combination not normally applicable to humans of being old and beautiful.

It all started at 5:31am on July 9 1357. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV pick up a brick, raised it above his head, took in the applause, and placed in the ground. And so the first brick was laid. Of course, as for brick laying he was done but there was one more contribution he needed to make. As a child he loved his grandmother’s pastries, specifically her strudl. Her’s was the only strudl that kept together when you bit into into it - it stretched but did not break. On her bed as she lay with hours left he sat along her bedside and solemnly asked her, what is the secret? ‘It’s all about eggs’ were her dying words. Charles did not let her grandmother’s life wisdom go to waste. He ordered that the mortar holding the stones together be mixed with plenty of eggs. In 2008 scientists searching for egg proteins proved this story to be true.

The romance of an ancient bridge with statues of saints long dead cannot be ignored. Go there and soak it all in. But if it is truly romance that you seek then you will have to wake with the crow of the cock and be at the bridge at sunrise because any time after that and you will be competing with 6 millions others seeking the same romance.

For more information see the dedicated Charles Bridge page.

Old Town Square

Unlike the name suggests it is not a square but a rectangle. One hundred meters by seventy meters. A tiny plot of land but one that you must stand on. There is no way you can say that you have been to Prague if you have not stood at its center.

The hub of the rectangle is the statue of Jana Huss. He stands arrogantly with a defiant gaze at the large church in front of him. He has every right to be bitter even to this day. For his diligent attempts to reform the church of its moral decay he was burned at the stake. It was not until Martin Luther took over the baton a hundred years later in the early 1500’s that Huss’s work was finally done.

Although his gaze is directed at the church he could be feeling equally upset at the hoards of people constantly milling about and taking pictures. Or at the street performers blowing bubbles, at the stoneman mimes, at the guy riding around offering Segway tours, at the overpriced food and beer.

It goes without saying that if you sit at one of the patios on the square the meal will be over priced and the food of the assembly line kind, but this is one of the few cases in which the view makes it worth it. This one time, feel free to overpay and enjoy a beer and small bite to eat as you look around. It is a tourist hot spot but one definitely worth experiencing. Even someone crippled with a dull imagination can easily be taken back a couple hundred years and live a few minutes in the medieval age.

Probably the most famous structure on the square is the Astronomical Clock. Based on the number of times it is mentioned in brochures and postcards you would think it is a marvel beyond comprehension, that must be witnessed to be believed. So as mechanically and punctually as the 500 year old clock, people crowd around and wait to watch as the clock strikes the hour. In 1410 there Las Vegas did not exist so people’s expectations of a show were a lot lower than they are now. And watching the clock strike will make clear exactly how low those expectations were. After the clock strikes and finishes its mechanical display of statues jerking through their routine look around at the the people and witness their faces as they perform their own little show of the expression, ‘that’s it?’

For more information see the dedicated Old Town Sqaure page.

Wenceslas Square

Along with the endless supply of very good beer Czech citizens have the comfort of knowing that when it is time to start a revolution they have a dedicated place to gather. In 1918 the Czech proclamation of independence from Austro-Hungry empire was read on Wenceslas Square to the cheers of the people. Twenty years later on the same square the Nazi declared their occupation to the silent and spiteful submission of the people. Twenty years after that in 1968 the people gathered to protest the Russian occupation (Prague Spring) and finally, twenty years after that in 1989, they met again on the square to protest for the removal of the communist government (Velvet Revolution). In 1968 they failed to accomplish much besides purple bruises from Russian batons but in 1989 they kept shouting for change even after the smoke grenades and baton blows. The communists were kicked out and the benevolent arms of democracy and capitalist wrapped the land.

Standing on Wesclaves square you will see capitalism all around you. What use to be a horse market many hundreds of years ago and then a food market and a hundred years ago has been turned into a capitalist market. Whatever you need can be bought there - brand name stores sell their wares in large air condition multi floor store by day and by night a different kind of wares are sold by drug dealers and pimps. What use to be a pleasant place has turned into a tourist trap free for all lined with hotels, fast food and currency exchange booths. Locals consider the place a disgrace and ceaseless effort is being made to bring the square back to it former glory.

Even with its shady night life and materialistic day time existence the square is still a must visit. The southeast end of the square is framed by the majestic neoclassic Czech National Museum. And perched in front of the dominating museum is the horse mounted patron Saint Wenceslas. Saint Wenceslas is remembered for his bravery and credited with staking out the Czech lands. Even with his glorious past and countless accomplishments he still not permitted to rest as he is charged with two holy ordained tasks: the first is inscribed on the base of the statue, ’duke of Czech land, prince of ours, do not let perish us nor our descendants’, and the second more practical task of providing a place for friends to find each other ‘meet me at the horses tail’ locals say.

For more information see the dedicated Wenceslas Square page.

Prague Castle St. Vitus' Cathedral

It would be impossible to not have the Prague Castle on a must see list because regardless of where you are in Prague you must see the castle. It sits high on a hill above the city casting its shadow of power over the people. Its walls listened in as sceptre holding rulers all the way back from the Holy Roman Emperor to the present Czech President plotted and schemed. Locals have always answered the question asked by newly arrived foreigners, ‘where is the leader of this here parts?’ with an arm pointing upwards.

Not only does the castle have a have a omnipresent view of its subjects, it also holds the title of the largest ancient castle complex in the world. The rulers in their infinite wisdom and piety built a king-size royal garden and cathedral within it walls. There are also palaces and churches and towers and halls and market streets. If you want to see it all you will need to devote a whole day for it.

In 2014 the Prague castle was awarded the prize as the most visited attraction in the Czech Republic. Thanks to its total area of 70,000 m2 its does not get as crowded as the Charles Bridge, but don’t expect to be wonder off alone and unexpectedly bump into the President. Regardless, the castle complex is definitely worth a walk around especially an up close and inside look at the St. Vitus Cathedral which is probably the most gothic building you will see in Prague.

Walking around the complex is nice but my preferred method of viewing the castles is from same perspective as the citizens of Prague have been viewing it for hundreds of years - from below and afar. Wait till evening, buy a bottle of wine, go to the river and rent a paddle boat. Push offshore, lean back, sip your wine, look up, and return the castle’s gaze.

To see where these places are have a look at the Prague map.

Am I Being Helpful?

I hope you find this website helpful. I created the website because I love Prague, I enjoy writing about it, and I get a weird kick out of helping you make your trip to Prague more enjoyable.

I wrote a book about local travel in Prague. The book is my pride, my joy, my unbiological offspring. It was written with a passionate heart. If you find this website helpful consider reading my book. You will receive an entertaining book full of useful tips that will instil in you the confidence to wander the local streets of Prague. The book is also included in the popular Prague Local Explore Kit Bag.

Thank you,
Roman : Prague 2017

Prague Local Travel Book