Like all great cities, Prague too has many stories to tell. Once the cultural heart of Central Europe, boasting impressive architecture and Bohemian artistry, then a Communist city under Soviet regime ended by the Velvet Revolution, now a sparkling metropolis refreshed by modern culture. Whichever side you choose to explore, your daily journey will always end in front of a reviving pint of premium quality Czech beer.
The Royal Way
Back in the glorious Bohemian days, the coronation processions would cross the entire Old Town, or Stare Mesto, arriving at the Prague Castle on the other side of the Vltava River. That same Royal Way will lead you to the magnificent Old Town Square. Stand in its middle and fill your eyes with the pastel colours of the elegant Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque buildings paying special attention to the majestic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and the unique Astronomical clock. While you are in the area, explore the narrow streets of Jozefov, the Jewish quarter, visit the Jewish Museum and the splendid Moorish domes of the Spanish Synagogue.
Cross the Vltava River in style over the elegant Charles Bridge with its 30 statues and defensive towers. Chaotic during the day and romantically tranquil at night, the Gothic masterpiece will give you a breathtaking view of the city. On its other side, you’ll find one of the most impressive castles in Europe.
The Prague Castle, or Prazki Hrad, will amaze you with its fortified walls and towers, Gothic and Romanesque palaces and churches, immense gardens and courtyards. Enter the St Vitus Cathedral, admire its awe-striking domes and end your Royal trip by paying homage to the tombs of the Bohemian kings.
Blast from the (Communist) Past
Fifty years are difficult to forget and the Soviet monuments are still there to remind us of Prague’s red past. Have a quick history recap at the Museum of Communism before starting your Soviet relic hunt around the city. First stop – the Zizkov TV Tower, probably the Praguers’ most hated building meant, they say, to block Western radio signals. Another Soviet architectural gem is the Monument of National Liberation, where totalitarian pilgrims would gather in front of the ashes of Communist apparatchiks. Still there is the Andel metro station, once called Moskevska, built to symbolise the Prague-Moscow friendship and, like most other Soviet sights, renamed after the Velvet Revolution.
Prague’s royal palaces and Soviet monuments rise next to magnificent Art Nouveau and Cubist buildings. Become an Art Nouveau expert by exploring Prague as a large-scale Alphons Mucha museum with his works scattered around the city. See the bizarre Cubist House of the Black Virgin after a visit to the National Gallery for some Czech Modernism and great European masters like Picasso and Klimt.
Imagine the life of the quiet Jewish clerk now known as a great modernist writer, Franz Kafka, and follow his footsteps to the green Petrin Hill, which inspired one of his most famous works.
Descend from the hill on the Petrin Funicular which will drop you at Mala Strana, or the Lesser Town for an aromatic coffee at a fin de siècle kavarna (a café) or a tasty kolahe – a pastry with fruit, cheese or poppy seed filling with a fruit infusion at a cozy tea house.
Have a quick glance at the contemporary art sprinkled around town like the peculiar Dancing House, the Lennon Wall covered by Beatles-inspired graffiti, or the Freud statue hanging from a building before embarking on a romantic sunset cruise down the Vltava River.
Start your evening in a quiet restaurant in front of a generous vepřo-knedlo-zelodish (roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut) then continue in an elegant jazz club or a friendly pub. In the end, give in, responsibly, to the seducing head of the Prague beer, which will make the images of the Gothic cathedrals, Soviet statues and Art Nouveau cafes mingle in your head blending all three sides of the story into a single, true Prague.