I don’t think it’s possible to dislike Prague. Whether you are a fan of sightseeing, art, music, or simply want an affordable weekend break drinking with friends somewhere out of the norm, Prague has it all.
Steeped in history, legend and vibrant bohemian vitality, Prague will make a memorable trip no matter how long or short your stay. And the best thing is that no matter what your budget, there are so many things to see and do, you can easily tailor your holiday to suit your own interests and wallet.
Known as ‘the city with a thousand spires’, Prague’s architectural diversity is amazing, beautiful and enchanting. The city is a magical fusion of the old and the new, of beautifully preserved ancient architecture from the Gothic, the Neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque combined with Modernist, and Art-Nouveau, complete with Post Communist architectural facelifts and Post-Revolutionary spirit. The whole city is unique in it’s vibrancy and acceptance of ideas. The home of the Bohemian revolution, the end of communism lends a kind of newly found embrace of liberal thinking which mean the city buzzes with energy.
Bohemia takes up the western two-thirds of the Czech Republic – the term now applies to anyone living an unconventional lifestyle after being adopted in Paris following Puccini’s opera La Boheme about a group of poverty stricken Parisian artists. Lack of convention and a love of art and music is a huge part of Prague’s appeal. Whether you are an art enthusiast and are interested in visiting one of the cities eclectic galleries (many of which are Free Entry) or you are a classical music fan and wish to visit the Mozart museum (Prague was one of the Viennese composers favourite cities, and he performed there many times, as well as completing Don Giovanni in the city) or attend one of Prague’s many classical symphony performances, the city is an amazing playground for anyone with a romantic or artistic soul. And if you aren’t a huge fan of the traditional cultural pursuits, the city is packed full of amazing basement bars and coffee houses with very reasonably priced and lovely Czech beers where you can while away the hours and immerse yourself in the whole bohemian vibe.
Simply walking around the city is amazing – cobbled streets, numerous cafes, bars and restaurants – however there are some things you simply have to see. There are so many beautiful cathedrals and castles in the city, but two things really took my breath away. The first being the St. Vitus Catherdral, a massive ornate gothic structure which looms over the pastel buildings in the cities central square like an ominous Burtonesque apparition. The building is even more beautiful inside than it is out, covered in sparkling jasper and amethyst and decorated with 14th to 16th century frescos depicting scenes from the passion of the Christ. It is also the place where Wenceslas (Václav in Czech) duke of Bohemia – the good King Wenceslas of the popular carol – is buried.
Thanks to a good industrial standing and a thriving tourist industry, Prague is better off than the rest of the Czech Republic, and has undergone a lot of modern architectural improvement since the overthrow of the Communist regime in 1989. Since the Iron curtain fell, the city is clearly hugely happy that it is able to show its many crowning jewels to the rest of the world. However, this means that Prague is not as cheap as it used to be. As with all cities that rely on tourism as a large part of their bread and butter, if you visit predominately the tourist areas, things can be overpriced. Avoid the areas aimed solely at tourists, and not only will you find a wealth of amazing and much more interesting pursuits, but you can spread your own wealth a whole lot further. Outside the tourist zones, the basics like food and drink are still remarkably cheap, and the great thing about the city is that you don’t need to stray far, also it’s a very safe place to have a roam. Simply navigate away from the central areas down one of the many winding cobbled streets and you can bag yourself a cheap meal and a lovely view, as well as very friendly service. The other great thing if you are a fan of the Bohemian spirit (not Absinthe you understand, I mean it abstractly) is that unlike the UK, there is no horrendous pub kicking out time. Bars serve well into the wee small hours, and you can happily find yourself some interesting locals who, as with all of Europe, can happily converse with you in English and drink beer or coffee with you all night – and the city at night is really magical. That brings me to the other not-to-be-missed part of Prague.
In Orloj, one of the cities oldest areas, you can visit the famous astronomical clock which dates back to 1410 and was made by clockmaker Mikulas of Kadan and Jan Sindel, a professor of mathematics and astronomy. The clock is ornate, beautiful and fascinating, and the location magically lit at night. There really is something enchanting and mystical about the city – but a word of warning. If you are scrimping on the pennies (and who isn’t at the moment?) avoid visiting during Christmas, Easter and New Year. Although if you do have a bit of cash, the city hosts some spectacular markets where you can but traditional Czech food, drinks and craft items, hotel prices tend to rise by around 20% during these times and the city is packed full of travellers from all around Europe, so it is very busy. Obviously, this too is a wonderful experience, but there is so much beauty, life and personality to the city the whole year round that for much less money, you will have a fantastic experience off peak too.
For more information you can visit www.czechtourism.com and search Prague.