Sometimes a place records itself in your heart in a series of images, and words feel like absurd understatements. Strolling the streets of Prague, I found myself wishing I could freeze each moment like a series of Viewfinder frames.
So here is a walking tour of Prague, with stops at some of the city’s most colorful photo ops, as noted below.
- Old Town Square
- Astronomical Clock
- Charles Bridge
- St. Vitus Cathedral
- Prague Castle
- St. Nicholas Church and Tower
- The Old Jewish Quarter
- Jerusalem Synagogue
- National Theater
- Wenceslas Square
Believe it or not, it is possible to see almost all of the above (including vivid Jerusalem synagogue, which many tourists mistakenly skip) in one day of athletic walking.
The exception is Prague Castle, which – no matter what the guidebooks tell you – demands at least half a day to fully experience. Covering more than 17 acres, Europe’s largest castle is a walled compound enclosing a cathedral and two other churches, three palaces, several towers, multiple museums, and terraced formal gardens. And don’t miss Golden Lane, where Medieval workshops, storerooms, and homes are perfectly preserved within the ancient castle walls. The President of the Czech Republic still resides in the castle, parts of which date back to the 9th century, making the castle the longest continually occupied royal residence as well as the largest.
Other walking tour tips:
Time your amble through Old Town Square to coincide with the top of the hour, when the 400-year-old astronomical clock – the third oldest in the world – becomes animated as it strikes. Though they’re unquestionably cool, don’t be too distracted by the 12 apostles who cycle through the upper windows. What you really want to watch for are the four statues, two on each side, which suddenly come to life in eerie and symbolic ways.
The skeleton ringing the bell? Death, of course. The woman raising her mirror? Vanity. The miser squeezing his bag of gold? Greed. And the mysterious Turk shaking his head suggests violence or anger. Lastly, round the corner to your right facing the clock, and note the irregular wall, shattered by Nazi artillery in WWII.
As you cross the Charles Bridge, take the requisite selfie if you must, but leave plenty of time to count the Baroque statues spaced along the rails (you should spot 30) and read the plaques; several tell important stories of the city’s history.
And don’t miss the chance to make a wish on the statue of St. John of Nepomuk. According to Czech legend, rubbing the image of the saint tumbling into the Vitava river is guaranteed to bring your wish to life. But only if you also touch the small gold cross a few yards down the way that marks the spot where he was actually tossed off the bridge. Luckily, there’s a dramatic black iron marker studded with gold roses to help you find it, so rub that polished marker and wait for your dreams to come true.