Dobrý den, Prague!

This post is part of the April 2015 A to Z Challenge. Find the challengers via the Blog Sign-Up or on Twitter using #AtoZChallenge.

The  capital of the Czech Republic is a lively place. Don’t be fooled by the stag dos – Prague is a very cultured city that has a lot more to offer than cheap drinks for foreign drunks!

First of all, Prague is ridiculously easy to get around in, even if you do not speak a word of Czech. A three-day ticket for all public transport (except the airport express) costs around €10 / £ 7.50 / $10 and it gives you access to all buses, trams, metro, a funicular railway and a commuter boat across the Vltava river.

There are only three metro lines, and they don’t overlap often, so you can’t get lost underground.

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha), and the Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) are up on the hill called Hradčany. The castle is huge, and the cathedral one of several churches within castle grounds. Literature lovers will appreciate a stroll up Golden Lane, a picturesque street adjacent to the castle which was once home to Franz Kafka, who lived at No. 22. There is also a Kafka Museum in the Malá Strana (Lesser Town) district below the castle, close to the Charles Bridge.

The Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is probably one of Europe’s most famous bridges. It’s pedestrian only, and about 515m long across the Vltava, linking the Castle District and Malá Strana with Staré Město, the Old Town.

Old Town is a beautiful mix of big open squares, romanesque, gothic and renaissance buildings, bright colours and a lot of history. The Church of Our Lady before Týn  (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem) towers over Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), colourful houses with intricate façades line old, winding alleyways, and the Astronomical Clock (Orloj) on the side of the Old Town Hall continues to fascinate all who see it. It was installed in 1410, and it is the oldest astronomical clock still working today.

Just a few metres away from Old Town Square is the New Town (Nové Město), with Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) in the centre. It looks more like a wide boulevard than a town square, and the Czech National Museum towers over it at the far end. This is probably the most touristy part of town. Hotels and pubs and restaurants alongside the square are popular with party-goers.

One thing you should know about a trip to Prague is that the Czech  like their beer. When you sit down and order a beer, they will give you 500ml of the cheapest they have on tap unless you specify that you want something else. There are even bars that have a tap right on your table. You get a glass and fill it yourself. The machine will keep track of how many litres you and your friend(s) used, and you pay the total at the end (hence the popularity for stag nights).

However, the further away you get from Wenceslas and Old Town Square, the cheaper your beer will be. The formerly industrial area of Holešovice on the Castle side of the river, for example, is home to the Výstaviště exhibition grounds, which also feature the Industrial Palace, an aquarium and a funfair. A beer across the street from Výstaviště will cost about half of what you’d pay in the Old Town.

Those who like to explore on foot can do so. It’s a short walk from Výstaviště to the National Technical Museum (Národní technické muzeum) which has an impressive collection of cars, train wagons and aircraft. The museum is adjacent to the Letná Park (Letenské sady) which is the green lung of the city and offers well-kept paths for afternoon strolls, beer gardens and fantastic views over Old Town.

Making the most of your public transport ticket, head up the Petřín Hill funicular to the park and Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna), which looks like a mini Eiffel Tower. There are stairs and elevators to the observation deck on top, and the aerial view it offers of all of Prague, including the Castle Hill is breathtaking.

For many tourists, a boat trip on the Vltava river is a must when visiting Prague. Those cruises are often quite expensive and crowded. But if you just want to say “I’ve been on the Vltava river”, make use of the last method of public transport available to you: the commuter boat! While most of the cruises leave near the Dancing House (between Jiráskův most and Palackého most), the commuter boat leaves from the railway bridge in the shadow of Vyšehrad castle.

The captain of the small boat will take you across the river to a long but narrow island called Císařská louka. There is no jetty, and you have to jump off at the very tip of the island, which seems to be a popular spot for local youths. If you stay on the boat, the captain will take you the remaining few metres to the other shore of the Vltava river. The railway bridge has a footpath, so you’ll be back on the other side and near the tram station within minutes.

It might not be a popular cruise, but it’s a fun and local way to see a bit of Prague. The Golden City really has something to offer for everyone, from Kafka, to the Lennon Wall and Museum of Communism. No wonder it is one of Europe’s most popular cities!

(P.S.: dobrý den means hello/Good day)

Panorama of the Charles Bridge, Old Town shore, Vltava river. Copyright Cornelia Kaufmann
Panorama of the Charles Bridge, Old Town shore, Vltava river. Copyright Cornelia Kaufmann

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