“I love this city!” One of us has made this announcement just about every day that we’ve been in Prague. We love the green parks with their tall trees, the beautiful buildings found everywhere we go, and the low crime rate which makes it safe to go wherever we want. We love that the streets are clean so we don’t need to worry about stepping in something on the sidewalk – which is good because we spend a lot of time looking up at those beautiful buildings. This city is absolutely enchanting, whether we are walking along the Vltava river or admiring a scenic view. Okay, now I’m just getting sappy; but you see, I didn’t expect to like it this much.
Prague is a different city from when we first visited almost twenty years ago. Back then, I remember relaxing at the cafes on the Old Town Square and barely being able to spend $10 on a meal. Now, tourists have overtaken the historic area making it anything but relaxing and while Prague is still an affordable European travel destination, many locals that we spoke to are concerned about rising costs.
On the other hand, in many ways things are much better. English is widely spoken, allowing us to talk with young locals that have a positive outlook for the future. The economy is doing well. One man told us that there is no unemployment in Prague. He was close – the Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU at 2.4% in June 2018.
Trams like this are constantly humming through the streets, ready to whisk us across the city.
We’ve had the entire summer here so we’ve been exploring slowly, spending most of our time in the outskirts away from the tourist areas. We purchased a month public transit pass that includes unlimited rides on the trams, metro, buses, and water ferries. That pass has opened up the city to us. Once we got away from the Old Town, we found a vibrant, youthful city with trendy restaurants, craft beer pubs and wine bars. International street food stands are catching on and farmer’s markets are scattered around the city.
As for those crowded tourist sights? Of course we saw them. We joined up with good friends from the U.S. for a few days and their perseverance helped us muscle through many of the marvelous historical sites (Thanks M & M!) I won’t go into detail about our sightseeing, since there are plenty of travel guides to Prague, but now I’ve got all of these photos that I would love to share. For those of you not familiar with this city, these are some of the reasons that millions of people are drawn to Prague each year.
The 14th century Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem) dominates the scene in the Old Town Square. A memorial to religious reformer Jan Hus sits at the center of the square. It was erected in 1915 on the 500th anniversary of his death, when he was burned at the stake.
The Town Hall, missing its famous 15th century Astronomical Clock, which has been taken apart for reconstruction.
Old Town Square, including the Renaissance House at the Minute (on the right) whose facade is decorated with sgraffitoes depicting biblical and mythological scenes.
The 14th-century Charles Bridge is one of the most popular tourist sites in Prague. It connected the Old Town to the Prague Castle and was the only way to cross the Vltava river until 1841. Packed with people day and night, we prefer to see it from the water.
The Prague Castle
Truck spraying water at the castle entrance in Hradčany. On hot summer days, these trucks drive around the city spraying water on the streets (and people) to cool things down.
The gothic St. Vitus Cathedral is part of the Prague castle complex. Construction began in 1344 and wasn’t completed until nearly 600 years later in 1929.
St George’s Basilica in the Prague Castle complex
View over Prague from the castle
Riverfront view, including the Dancing House, officially the Nationale-Nederlanden building, which was controversial when built in 1996 because of the stark contrast of its contemporary “deconstructivist” style in the middle of the surrounding Baroque buildings.
The Náplavka Riverbank Farmers Market, every Saturday, is one of the many farmers markets around the city.
River boats cruise along the Vltava river giving sightseeing tours and dinner cruises. They also line the banks serving as restaurants, hotels, music clubs, and even a brewery.
Vyšehrad (which means upper castle in Czech) is a fortress built in the 10th century. The gardens inside the park make for a nice peaceful place to walk.
Vyšehrad offers great views of the Vltava river and north to the city.
The Powder Tower, built in the 15th century, is one of the original 13 city gates. It was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century. Next door is the Municipal House, a concert venue constructed in the early 1900’s.
The history of the Prague Jewish Quarter dates to the 12th century. The Staronová Synagogue, also called the Old-New Synagogue is the oldest in Europe. According to legend, the body of the Golem of Prague, a creature formed from clay to defend the Jews in the 16th century, is hidden in the attic.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic. Just your average government building. We pass by this beauty almost every day.
The magic of Prague at night