City Of A Hundred Spires
It seems like most Central European cities’ attractions lie squarely with their Old Town, but in this, as in many things, Prague is an exception to the rule. Though the Old Town does hold a historic square and several interesting museums and cathedrals, as well as its ancient Jewish Quarter, a proper visit to Prague requires some wandering outside of its cobblestoned old centre and into its many central neighborhoods. With its own Castle district, a New Town brimming with excitement, and the unfortunately named Lesser Town - where lesser is greater – Prague’s sights and sounds will occupy the weekenders as well as the permanent ex-pat.
Since 1992, the entire Old Town has found itself in an exclusive club – the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites – the anthropological equivalent of being on the guest list of Studio 54. Prague therefore is quite proud of their centre, and most houses have been renovated and the streets swept clean of their communist past. The best place to start to explore the Old Town is the main square, which holds the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Hall Tower, as well as many historic churches and old houses. Just north of the Old Town is Jozefov, the historic Jewish quarter of Prague, where several surviving synagogues still stand and hold services.
From Jozefov, one can take the Manesuv Bridge over the Vltava River and enter the Castle District, or Hradcany. At this point all you need to do is look – and go – up! While the climb up the castle’s steps might be strenuous – and a bit dangerous in the winter thanks to the thick layer of ice and snow covering them – the view from the top is well worth the struggle, and it’ll help you burn off those extra pilsner pounds. Exploring the Prague Castle itself could be an all-day event, so we recommend getting there early, as in the summer the tourists begin lining up even before opening time.
Once you’ve given the Prague Castle a proper storming, head downhill (ahh, relief!) and south to the Lesser Town. Though not as historically mature as the Old Town, the Lesser Town features several interesting sights and museums, as well as a multitude of churches and concert halls that fill the atmosphere with classical music every summer. The Lesser Town also hosts some of the cutest and coziest cafes and restaurants, which are usually not as crowded with tourists as in the Old Town. Once you’ve done a fair share of exploring the Lesser Town, be sure to cross the famous Charles Bridge back to the Old Town, and head south down the Vaclavske Avenue, past Wenceslas on his horse and the National Museum, to the New Town, where you’ll find parks galore (and the Prague Botanical Gardens). We recommend the park behind the Prague Central Station, where you can sit on a hill, watch people playing with their dogs, and take a breather above Prague…
Want to explore further? The Prague Life team has written more detailed guides to each district of Prague (Old Town, Jewish Quarter, New Town, Hradcany, Lesser Town), as well as plenty of information about sights in our culture directory, so get out there and explore!