Visiting Prague-the Medieval City

Updated on June 12, 2014
Old Town Square
Old Town Square

Prague is the best preserved Medieval city in Europe, with an entire city center listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. From the moment you arrive in the city center, you are instantly struck by the overwhelming Medieval Gothic architecture that seemingly has no end. Every street and tiny alleyway you traverse seems to lead to more incredible architectural marvels. I was completely blown away by Prague's incredible cityscape. But, what's great about Prague is you get this beautiful Medieval ambiance mixed in with a completely modern city, as well as one of the craziest night life scenes you'll ever encounter. Prague is definitely one of the craziest, weirdest, most interesting cities I've ever been to. The types of things you run into in Prague range from beautiful Medieval cathedrals, to world renown sex museums, to underground ice bars with soviet rockets hanging from the ceiling. Truly a cultural city.

A Little History

Prague has an extremely vibrant and varying history from its 1,200 year existence. The city has experienced periods of great prosperity, as well as extreme poverty and deprivation. Being a celtic settlement since the B.C's, Prague didn't see any permanent buildings until the creation of Prague castle in the 800's A.D. Beginning in the 14th century Prague became the cultural and political center of Bohemia. Prague began to see great prosperity throughout the Hapsburg era in the 16th century, which elevated the city to the capital of European culture at this time. Yet, as with any great city, her fortunes saw dark days and for the next couple hundred years Prague saw a devastating mixture or war, plague, political dissent, revolution, and fire (the most devastating of which happened in 1689 which was on par with the great London fire of 1666). But the city found its feet again and began to proper in the 18th century. By the late 19th century the city had transformed from a predominantly German speaking populace into a Czech one, with the influx of Bohemian migrants and cultural assimilation.

WWI, which ended the Austro-Hungarian Empire, saw the creation of Czechoslovakia with Prague as its new capital. During WWII the city was occupied by Hitler and declared a protectorate, however the people were defiant (which is typical of the Czech resolve) and fought back, which saw the assassination of one of Nazi Germany's most powerful men- Reinhard Heydrich. Remarkably the city saw little overall damage compared to other European cities as a result of the war. After WWII most of the German population fled and the city came under the control of the Soviet Union. At the outset the Russians were greeted with praise, but it was not to last. True to their character, the Czech's were defiant and resisted Soviet control over their freedoms and fought underground campaigns against the regime (including the famous Lenon Wall which I will discuss later on). In 1993 Czechoslovakia split and two states were formed; the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague became the capitol of the newly formed Czech Republic and remains the cultural and political hub of the country.

That was just a very brief overview of the city's history, in reality the city's history is much more complicated with a complex web of cultural, political, and social entanglements which make any true coherent account impossible.

Must See's


1) Prague Castle- An absolute must see. Dating back to the 9th century, Prague castle is officially the largest castle in the world. Although you can't actually tour most of it (as it is still in use by government officials) you can awe at the castle's magnificent size, parooze the castle gardens, or scope out the ancient cathedral (St. Vitus) on the castle mount.

Prague Castle
Prague Castle

2) Charles Bridge- Once the only crossing over the Vltava river connecting Prague castle to the Old Town, Charles Bridge serves as one of the only surviving gated bridges in Europe. At night the bridge is a quiet place, but during the day it changes into a bustling venue with painters, owners of kiosks, and vendors alongside numerous tourists crossing the bridge. The bridge is lined with dozens of old Christian statues and imagery, offering a great view of the castle and surrounding cityscape.

3) Old Town Square-Prague's old district is the hub of the city center, and the place where the city sees its most visitors. Definitely a tourist trap, the Old Town Square is encased by some of Prague's neatest monuments. Once you've taken enough pictures to satisfy your facebook album I would recommend moving on as there is nothing overly exciting about this part of town other than its Gothic architecture.

4) Astronomical Clock-One thing the Old Town Square does have, besides its Gothic architecture, is Prague's Astronomical Clock. As the world's first astronomical clock, it has become the most visited attraction in Prague. A famous feature of the clock that draws millions of tourists every year is the hourly song and dance the four statues on the clock do every hour. It's nothing more than a few head nods and body turns, but in the Medieval period that was quite a show! It's actually quite funny to see the great disappointment by the huge crowds that mass around the clock waiting for it to strike the hour and unleash the world famous show. In fact this became such a problem for the city's tourist board that they added a few trumpet players at the top of the tower to spice things up.

World's first astronomical clock
World's first astronomical clock

5) Lennon Wall- A section of wall in the Lesser Town (near the foot of Prague castle) with imagery of John Lennon and lyrics from the Beatles. The wall started as a silent protest to the Communist regime and began to irritate the authorities after the wall was continually re-painted when taken down. It's a neat sight and a humbling reminder of the tyranny of oppression.

A markerLenon wall prague -
John Lennon Wall Velkopřevorské náměstí, 118 00 Praha, Czech Republic
get directions

6) Wenceslas Square- A popular shopping boulevard of Prague lined with restaurants, cafes, bars. This square was the site of many of Prague's historical events over the last 100, including The Velvet Revolution, which led to the collapse of Communism in the country in 1989. The street also has some fine examples of Art Nouveau.

7) Jewish Quarter- A district of Prague near the Old Town which used to serve as the Jewish ghetto's during WWII. Actually, Hitler gave orders for this quarter to remain intact after the war because when the Jews were exterminated he wanted a 'living museum' of an extinct race. Terrible I know. But, history always serves to teach us these important lessons. The district houses the 13th century 'New Old Synagogue', which is the oldest surviving Gothic hall type of its kind.

'New Old' Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
'New Old' Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter

8) The Dancing House- A unique modern design constructed in 1992, it was originally named Fred and Ginger because of its resemblance to two dancers. Its unusual shape was controversial at the time, but apparently locals have grown to like it. It's interesting at least, like many other sites in Prague.

9) Strahov Monastery- Founded in 1140, the monastery is famous not only for its beautiful architecture and tranquil setting, but also for its magnificent library which contains books which are more than 1000 years old

10) Petrin Hill- The hill is nearly completely covered in parks, has great views of the city, and houses some interesting as well. One of those sights is the Observation Tower, which is actually a mini Eiffel Tower, which was created in the competition with Paris for cultural dominance.

Observation Tower on Petrin Hill that was made to resemble Paris' Eiffel Tower
Observation Tower on Petrin Hill that was made to resemble Paris' Eiffel Tower

11) Urination Fountain- Not really sure the history behind this lovely fountain, but it was a hilarious thing to stumble on to. Apparently you can text a number that will spell your name in the water. Located just around the corner from the John Lennon wall.

Must Do's

Besides the must see sights listed above, there are a few things which I feel are a must do whilst in Prague.

Pub Crawl-Absolutely the best city to bar crawl with thousands bars throughout the city. Prague's nightlife boasts some of the neatest locale's and setups you'll see anywhere in Europe. The best bar crawls to join are the ones given by hostels, so if you're staying in a hostel just hop on one of those (also a great way to meet people you're staying with).

One of many underground bars in Prague
One of many underground bars in Prague

City Tour-whether it's a walking tour through your hostel, segway tour or any other tour you've managed to find (there are plenty to choose from) you will learn a lot about the city and find out about places you wouldn't have otherwise. Prague has a lot of small winding streets which get overlooked by the average tourist (this is where a lot of the city's real cultural places can be found).

Walk/drink along the river- Definitely have at least one night down on the river. There are countless great restaurants along the river of if you're just looking for a spot to sit and hang out at night, walk a long the river near the Charles Bridge and you'll find loads of spots with great views of the lit up city.

Boat Tour- Only if you have more than a few days as there is already so much to do/see in Prague, but if you do have the time it's well worth the cheap price offering unparalleled views of Prague castle and cityscape.

Check out some of the lesser Museums- Prague is home to a plethra of museums covering all forms of art and artwork. This one I found cruising around near the old town is the young museum of art. Pretty interesting place.

Artbanka Museum of young art
Artbanka Museum of young art

Accommodation

In my opinion there is only one place you should be staying in Prague. The Mosaic House. I have absolutely nothing to gain from its promotion but trust me, it is the best place to stay in Prague. Much more than just your typical hostel, it's more like an upscale hotel/restaurant/bar with ultra modern rooms and infrastructure. Centrally located and an absolute blast, with a fun crowd and nightly pub crawls.

Tips

Czech Republic is on the Koruna, or Crown, symbol (Kč). The exchange rate is about $1 USD to 20 Kč.

Depending on which country you're coming from, your money should take you a long way in Prague. Unless you're in tourist areas, food is cheap, beer is cheap (around a $1.50 a beer), and most attractions are as well.

Public transit closes around midnight, so if you're out and relying on the underground or tram then plan on a cab or walk home if you're out late.

Cab drivers will try to screw you. Always pre-negotiate a fare before taking off because cabbies will often jack up the prices on tourists. Don't let them jerk you around!

Be weary of pickpockets. Charles Bridge and other very tourist places in Prague are known for heavy pickpocketing so when in crowded areas just hold on to your stuff. Other than this petty theft I felt Prague was a very safe place.

Funny Facts

Prague is historically renown for a practice called Defenestration- or the act of throwing someone from a window- as punishment for crimes and other offenses.

Per person the people of Prague consume more alcohol than any other European city.

The city has a large number of cathedrals converted into bars and clubs.

They let me hold an eagle in the castle gardens
They let me hold an eagle in the castle gardens

Questions & Answers

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      • Jason Matthews profile image

        Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

        I love this. I spent a summer living in Prague and I had an amazing time. There are so many amazing and beautiful sights! Their public transportation was great and I was able to get around with no problem. I am glad you mentioned pick-pockets, because that is a real problem in many European cities. I did not get picked myself, but I did notice a couple of pick-pockets on a metro one time (an older man and young child--one on either side of the metro doors). I kept my eye on them until they got off a few stations later. Better safe than sorry!

        Thanks for sharing this. Great hub. Voted up!

      • ZAS profile image

        ZAS 5 years ago

        Now on my list of amazing architecture cities I must see.

      • Puspanjalee profile image

        Puspanjalee Das Dutta 5 years ago from India

        Very interesting and informative hub. It made me wish to visit Prague. Specially the Dancing House and Urination Fountain have attracted me a lot.

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

        Very informative hub. I really enjoy reading about Prague. I hope I can visit this city one day. Thank you very much. Voted up and take care!

        Prasetio

      • freecampingaussie profile image

        freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

        Thanks for sharing those beautiful photos & information ! We are going to Europe soon so this will be3 on our list of must see places for sure ! Voting you up.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Great article filled with good information and photos of Prague. It would be lovely to see it in person someday. Congratulations on getting a HOTD award. Well deserved! Up, useful, beautiful and interesting votes and will also share.

      • profile image

        Justsilvie 5 years ago

        Interesting and well done. Voted up and shared!

      • europewalker profile image

        europewalker 5 years ago

        Congrats on your Hub of the day. Very nice tour. I haven't made it to Prague yet but I would like to visit it someday. Well done.

      • Boisegal profile image

        Holly 5 years ago from Boise, ID

        Beautiful pics! What an amazing experience you had!

      • laurathegentleman profile image

        laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

        This is WONDERFUL. I have always wanted to visit Prague, and this Hub makes me even more excited to see it. Congrats on Hub of the day - it's a well-deserved honor.

      • Elias Zanetti profile image

        Elias Zanetti 5 years ago from Athens, Greece

        Great presentation of an 'eternal' European city. You did really good job TravelinJack. Voted up and shared.

      • Claudia Tello profile image

        Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

        Good point TravelinJack, I visited Prague in 1997 and it was VERY cheap, but once the euro gets in... oh my, will it become an expensive trip. I also loved the city, what a pity that I wasn't hubbing at the time and all my non-digital photos are very touristy (you know, me and/or my boyfriend are in ALL of them). Congratulations on your award.

      • TravelinJack profile image
        Author

        Jack Baumann 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

        I would try and get there before the Czech Republic gets on the Euro, if the single currency lasts it wont be too much longer before they do.

      • Monica Kay 215 profile image

        Monica Kay 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

        I want to go to Prague.

      • TravelinJack profile image
        Author

        Jack Baumann 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

        Thank you everyone for the overwhelming support! I'm glad you all enjoyed this hub and found it useful. It looks like it is serving its intended purpose, to convince you to get over to the spectacular city of Prague!

      • Monis Mas profile image

        Aga 5 years ago

        Dear TravelinJack, congratulation on the Hub of the Day! This hub soooo deserves it!

      • Jacante profile image

        Jacante 5 years ago

        Really enjoyed this Hub. Great info, great photos!

        We're planning on a trip to Prague to visit my husband's extended family, I will put some of these attractions on my must-see list. Thanks!

      • Rachel Horon profile image

        Rachel Horon 5 years ago from Indiana

        I was in Prague for a few days many years ago, but you highlighted my favorite sites as well as motivated me to return soon.

      • kcreery profile image

        Kevin 5 years ago from Whistler Canada

        Great hub. I have been to Prague many times and you covered all the sites. Great depth and variety in your hub.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

        Congrats on the hub of the day. Well deserved award. Prague is not so far from Germany. I ´ll put it in my "to visit" list. Thanks for sharing.

      • greatstuff profile image

        Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

        Congrats on HOD. A friend goes there every year. He has been raving about Prague and now I know why.

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I would love to go and see the old medieval buildings in Europe. This is the next best thing. Great photos, thanks for sharing.

      • sonnyhodgin profile image

        Sonny Hodgin 5 years ago from Indiana

        Prague is such a great city. I love it! Thanks for sharing. Congrats on hub of the day!

        Best,

        Sonny

      • profile image

        sonny.hodgin@gmail.com 5 years ago

        Prague is such a great city. I love it! Thanks for sharing. Congrats on hub of the day!

        Best,

        Sonny

      • Just Ask Susan profile image

        Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        After reading your hub I will have to put Prague on my "Wish List" of places to visit.

        Congrats on a well deserved Hub Of The Day!

        Voting up and Pinning.

      • Boulism profile image

        Boulism 5 years ago from Short Beach, CT

        I was in Prague in 1996 when beer was .50c and a hotdog was a nickel. I have such fond memories, thanks for bringing me back!

      • Paul Maplesden profile image

        Paul Maplesden 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

        I love prague, it's one of my favourite cities and your hub really did it justice. Superb work!

      • Frangipanni profile image

        Frangipanni 5 years ago

        Great article, it makes me want to pack up and go there.

      • TravelinJack profile image
        Author

        Jack Baumann 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

        Thank you for the kind compliments, but Prague does most of the work-what a spectacular city!

      • Twilight Lawns profile image

        Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

        I love this hub. Thanks for finding me because know I've found you. When I get down to my pc I'll write more

        coherently. Take care my friend me in london

      • iguidenetwork profile image

        iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

        You're like taking me a tour (as well as taking me back in time) with all those great and vivid photos and interesting information about Prague. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and beautiful, interesting.

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