Prague | Czech Republic
To be honest, I knew nothing about Prague other then the mysterious Bone Church. I had heard from others that they refer to Prague as "The Gem of Central Europe," so I had to see for myself. They are not wrong! Prague is beautiful and seems like it trapped in time. Everywhere you look there is something old and gorgeous just chilling.
This is possible due to the fact that Prague was spared from most aerial bombs during the World War, which kept all the architecture intact. You can walk down almost any street in the town center and see something from the 12th century. Everything is in remarkable condition and appears to be regularly maintained giving this city a clean appearance.
WHERE TO STAY: We arrived in Prague around 3:00pm via bus from Budapest. We stayed at the NH Prague Hotel, which was lovely, but a bit out of the way. It's about a 10 minute walk to the nearest metro to get into the heart of Prague's historical sights. Not bad, but it would be much more fun to spend a bit more money and stay in Old Town and be able to see more sights and have a preferred atmosphere.
Prague is a pretty pricey destination, so save money by enjoying a hotel outside of the main city. However, if you want the full emersion into the heart of Prague it would definitely be worth the extra cost to say in the thick of it. Imagine sitting by your open hotel window in early spring in the heart of Old Town, listening to music and laughter drifting up on the breeze. Pure magic I would presume.
Now that you have a general idea where you want to stay, let's get into the attractions. Here are a few things to do when visiting Prague.
Located just south of the Jewish Quarters the Old Town Center is wonderful. It's a large square surrounded by beautiful old buildings and is home to the Astronomical Clock. The legend behind the Astronomical Clock goes as such: It was believed Clockmaster Hanus built the clock in the 15th century and it was admired by all. When the leaders of Prague found out he was planning to build another clock of the same design, they blinded him so he could not do so. This however is legend, if you want to know more about the clock, you can find more information here.
Granted, walking through Old Town Square isn't going to occupy much of your time. However, it's a great place to visit when you first arrive as it's open to the public at all times. We happened to run into Old Town while wandering around seeing a few sights with our limited time the first day. There is plenty of shopping, places to eat and people watching to be had.
There are multiple things to visit on your tour of Prague Castle, however you could spend an entire day just exploring everything on the grounds as it's the largest castle in Central Europe. Based off of a recommendation we purchased a pass to get into 4 attractions (St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, the Castle and Golden Lane) which are all housed within the castle walls. Our first attraction was St. Vitus Cathedral and my favorite of 4 sights.
This cathedral rivals those of Italy with it's elaborate decorations and sheer size. The stain glass alone is worth the entry ticket. Don't forget to bring a jacket as it's much cooler inside then it is outside. Fun fact: those metal bars you see stretching across the ceiling or actually holding the church together. Architects and engineers don't know how to solve the issue of roof collapse, so they drill these bar into the ceiling to pull the structure into place until they can find a way to renovate without damaging the cathedral or causing the roof to disintegrate.
As for the other attractions, they were fun, but not my favorite. It was interesting to see the interior of Prague Castle and St. George's Basilica, however they are very old and nowhere near as over the top as St. Vitus. I would recommend Golden Lane as it has an interesting history and cute little shops to browse through. To learn more about Golden Lane and how it got it's name visit here.
Yes, another church. As we were exiting Golden Lane and Prague Castle we glimpsed this copper roof not to far from us, so we adventured down to see what it was. It is St. Nicholas Church and if you thought St. Vitus was elaborate, this church blows it out of the water. The interior is built out of pink marble and it's paired with a soft green to make this spectacular place of worship. Again bring a jacket if traveling in cooler months.
This church packs a punch and gives you a ton to look at. From statues, to frescos, to everything dipped in gold, this church delivers on all. Not only can you view the interior from the ground floor, but you can climb the stairs to the second level to get a completely different view, plus it's the cost of your admissions, so no extra charge! Yay!
While Prague has many exciting sights, if you have the time I would suggest a day trip out to Kutna Hora. It's an old silver mining town about a hour and half outside of Prague and it's home to The Cathedral of Saint Barbara and the Bone Church (Sedlec). Ask your hotel about scheduling a tour to Kutna Hora, or mention the Bone Church and they will get everything set up for you. Kutna Hora is a picturesque town and the second most visited city in the Czech Republic. We went off season and had most sights to ourselves, but be warned as you approach peak travel season this town will become a bustling tourist destination.
This may seem obvious, but check out the Bone Church. It's not big or grand like the other churches in Prague, it's actually very small. The church was built in the 14th century and the graveyard was developed in the 13th century. Many of the grave were dug up to build the church and a half-blind monk pilled the bones into large pyramids inside until the Schwarzenberg family purchased the church and decided to decorate the interior with about 40,000 bones. They created a monstrous chandelier that contains every bone from the human body, and a large Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms that are a must see.
You may thing this is disturbing, but this church has this really eerie elegance to it. You'll never see anything quite like it, and you can get up and close to many of these lost souls. Many which were plague victims from what our tour director said. Many skulls have been polished from tourist touching them. I couldn't bring myself to touch them since it seems disrespectful, I mean, they are already made into people garland. Give them a break.
After your visit to the Bone Church, you'll most likely head to The Cathedral of Saint Barbara. This church has wonderful stain glass and was built over numerous century which you can see throughout the cathedral (particularly in the ceiling). The cathedral was built and dedicated to the patron saint of miners. It was started in 1388, but encountered many interruptions and was not completely finishing until 1905.
Much of the cathedral is design in the Baroque fashion, however it has a great deal of Gothic style too. Make sure to take a walk around the grounds to see the the buttresses and gargoyles on the exterior.