Prague is a city filled with truly magical sights. Start your sightseeing adventures at the 700-year-old Lobkowicz Palace, which houses countless pieces of priceless art, or if you’re an avid music lover, head over to the iconic John Lennon Wall. Alternatively, wander over Charles Bridge and look upon the towering St. Vitus Cathedral, or the quaint St. Wenceslas Chapel, before seeing the colourful houses of Golden Lane.
Prague Castle may be famed as being one of the most visited places in Prague, but in the Castle District (Hradcany), surrounding the castle you are still able to find little, hidden pockets of peace and quiet. Walk through the luscious local parks, take a break and have a meal at one of the cafes serving local specialities, such as utopenec (pickled sausage), and the Czech national dish svickova (sirloin steak with cream sauce). Or, sip on an ice-cold, locally brewed beer at one of the bars nearby.
The castle is the former seat of the Czech rulers and current seat of the President of the Czech Republic, making this sight definitely worth a visit, alongside the Schwarzenberg and Sternberg palaces, the Strahov Monastery and its historical libraries, and Loreta Square, all within the Castle District.
This atmospheric district, with its galleries, museums, architecture and monuments is peaceful compared to Old Town and Mala Strana and is reminiscent of a bygone era.
Charles Bridge (Karluv most) is a stone-built, historic bridge which crosses the idyllic Vltava river in Prague. Its construction started in 1357, commissioned by King Charles IV, and finished in 1402; being built in replacement of the Judith Bridge, which collapsed during a flood in 1342.
Made up of 16 narrow arches, this fascinating bridge almost seems to be resting upon the river, rather than rising over it. Charles Bridge is now a pedestrian zone and is a very popular tourist attraction. It is also iconic amongst Czech artists, musicians and souvenir vendors – whose stands line both sides of the bridge all year round. A great time to visit the bridge is at sunset, where travellers can enjoy an awe-inspiring view of the fully lit Prague Castle against the evening sky. Absolutely breathtaking.
Today, about 30 replicas of 17th-century Baroque statues line each side of the bridge, including St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint (who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV). Touching the statue is actually rumoured to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague.
Golden Lane is a unique sight in Prague, located in the grounds of Prague Castle, and was originally built in the 16th century to house Rudolf II’s castle guards and servants. Surprisingly, these tiny houses were actually occupied until the second world war.
The existing appearance of the Golden Lane dates to 1955, and after a recent extensive renovation, nine of the 16 houses now contain exhibitions depicting life in the lane over the past 500 years. House number 22 was actually the home of writer Franz Kafka – from 1916 to 1917, and Jaroslav Seifert (who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984), also lived there in 1929. Plus, Matylda Průšová, a famous clairvoyant and fortune-teller also once lived in Golden Lane. In some of the other houses, there are small souvenir shops selling handmade toys, puppets, jewellery, ceramics and books.
The White Tower (Bílá věž), situated at one end of Golden Lane was used as a prison from 1586 where offenders, especially from the aristocracy, were imprisoned. Today a display of a typical alchemist’s laboratory is housed there, and every property in this unique street has a tale to tell.
Prague’s Lennon Wall was once a normal wall in a secluded square, opposite the French embassy, sitting near to Charles Bridge. Then, after the former Beatle star – John Lennon was killed on 8th December 1980, this wall has become a visual tribute to this eligibly famous peace campaigner.
Almost as soon as his death, fans used this wall as a way to express their grief; painting pictures of Lennon, slogans and even adding graffiti lyrics of The Beatles’ songs to it. As the country was still under communist rule at that time, police kept whitewashing the wall to obliterate the messages, but more kept re-appearing and the memorial wall became a political focus; a symbol of hope and peace for the young people of Prague.
Over time, the weather wiped out most of the political messages and drawings and all that remained of the picture of Lennon was his eyes. Despite this, locals and visitors alike again began to add contributions to the wall and eventually no further efforts to clean it have been made. Filled with history, this monumental wall is certainly worth visiting, especially since today, it is the only place in Prague where graffiti is actually legal.
Housed within Prague Castle, Lobkowicz Palace was the official Prague residence of the Lobkowicz Princes in the 16th century but was confiscated by the Nazis in World War Two, and again by the communists in 1948, before eventually being returned in 2002 to William Lobkowicz.
Today, the palace houses a private museum known as the Princely Collections, which features world-famous paintings by Brueghel, Canaletto, Velázquez and more, ceramics spanning five centuries and an amazing collection of rifles from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Hand-annotated manuscripts by famous composers of the 17th – 19th centuries, including Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart also feature within the grand palace. There are daily concerts performed in the beautifully decorated Baroque concert hall, too; a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a selection of wonderful classical music.
Enjoy a bite at the cafe here, offering delicious homemade Czech and international dishes, all served within a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere – with a spectacular panoramic view of Prague from its outdoor terrace is absolutely stunning.
The Municipal House (Obecní dům), was built in 1912 on the site of the former Royal Court Palace, on Republic Square. This monumental sight stands next to the Powder Tower, with the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square being just a few minutes walk away.
The exterior of this beautiful building has elaborate stonework, gold trimmings, frescos and stained-glass windows. Plus, inside there is a truly impressive marble staircase, leading to the huge Smetana Concert Hall. The staircase is comprised of magnificent, carved white stone and gold design, illuminated by hundreds of lights and Frescos by Karel Spillar adorning the walls.
As well as the grandest concert hall in Prague, home to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Municipal House accommodates an elegant French restaurant, a Czech beer hall style restaurant, a traditional café, the first American bar in the Czech Republic, and various salons and exhibition rooms. Fascinating guided and informative tours are available and tickets to one of the many great classical concerts can be booked in advance, too.
The Old Town Bridge Tower is said to be one of the most magnificent Gothic gateways in the world. It was commissioned by Emperor Charles IV, and designed by Petr Parléř in the mid-14th century.
Work on the tower’s construction began shortly after the foundation stone for Charles Bridge was laid in 1357, and was completed in 1380. In 1648, the tower was damaged during the Swedish siege on Prague. A full reconstruction took place between 1854 and 1878 and it was then that the tower got its present-day roof with its four corner spires. Further repairs took place in the years 1952 – 1955 and again in 1978.
Originally, the Old Town Bridge Tower was built as a ceremonial arch through, which the Kings of Bohemia would pass during their coronation procession from the Old Town up to Prague Castle. It also formed part of the defence system of Prague, built to protect the Old Town against invaders.
Today, visitors can climb the 138 steps inside the tower to reach the gallery, where they can enjoy the views over Charles Bridge, the Vltava River, the Old Town, the Lesser Town and Prague Castle.
Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad), is the largest functioning castle in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a sizeable composition of palaces and religious buildings of various architectural styles, from the remains of Romanesque-style structures to the 10th century through to Gothic modifications of the 14th century.
The famous Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik was responsible for innovative and extensive renovations, orchestrated from 1918-1938. Since the Velvet Revolution, Prague Castle has undergone significant and ongoing renovations and repairs to upkeep its monumental and ornate appearance.
The famous, and certainly the most dominant structure within the castle complex is the St. Vitus Cathedral, where the coronation of kings and queens took place. Not forgetting the Old Royal Summer Palace, the St. George’s Basilica, the Wenceslas and St Adalbert Exhibition halls, too.
The magnificent castle gardens located here are wonderful to stroll around and provide a beautiful view of the whole city. Visitors can then enter the Prague Castle complex and wander around the courtyards for free. However, to fully understand the true history of the castle and to visit the accompanying buildings on site, it’s best to opt for an exciting guided tour.
St Vitus Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Prague, where monarchs, nobility, patron saints and archbishops are buried. Construction first began in 1344, when the chancel was built – along with St. Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Gate and the lower part of the Great South Tower.
The South Tower was not actually completed until the 16th century, and any other construction work was put on hold for centuries. It was not until the latter half of the 19th century that repairs to the original building (and the completion of the cathedral) were completed. This monumental church was solemnly consecrated in 1929, with the interior continuing to undergo various adaptations.
Today, visitors enter the Cathedral through the portal in the western facade, opposite the passageway between the second and third courtyard of Prague Castle. The beautifully-decorated bronze door is ornamented with scenes from the history of the Cathedral and from the legends about St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert.
Situated in the chancel of the Cathedral, in front of the high altar is the Royal Mausoleum below, featuring a royal crypt; making this ornate Cathedral definitely worth a visit during your trip.
St. Wenceslas Chapel, part of St. Vitus Cathedral, is an amazing example of Gothic architecture and was built on the same spot as the original Romanesque rotunda, where Wenceslas (a Bohemian prince who was killed by his own brother) was buried. Unfortunately, the whole of St. Wenceslas Chapel is not open to the public, but visitors can see it through the entrance to the chapel and it is definitely worth visiting.
Inside this mesmerising chapel, find the lower parts of the walls decorated with more than 1300 Bohemian gems, while the joints between them are covered with gold. The ornate Gothic frescoes on the wall, covering an area of more than 230 square metres depict St. Wenceslas’s life and various biblical scenes.
In the middle of the chapel lies the intricately decorated tomb of St. Wenceslas, where the holy relics of the saint can be found in a case on the tombstone. A door in the south-western corner of the chapel also leads to the Crown Chamber, where the Bohemian Coronation Jewels are kept.