Linking the Lesser Quarter and Old Town, Prague’s oldest surviving bridge is the Charles Bridge – perhaps the most famous monument in the Czech capital – lined beautifully with Baroque statues. The bridge was built during the era of Emperor Charles IV, and legend has it that eggs were used during the construction for extra strength. In the early-20th century, it was open to traffic, including trams, but today, it’s filled with local artists offering their creations to visitors.
The riverbank of the Vltava River, flowing into Prague from southern Bohemia, offers some of the best views of the historic centre of Prague. Take a stroll along its embankments lined with trendy bars, cafés and markets, or explore several of the islands located in the middle of the river. A river cruise will show you some of the city’s best-known landmarks, or you can rent a rowboat or a motorboat to explore the river on your own.
Situated on a ridge near the Prague Castle complex, this Premonstratensian abbey was founded in the 12th century as one of the earliest such institutions in the country. Its library, with its magnificent Theological and Philosophical Halls, is a splendid example of Baroque interior decoration. The monastery also features a popular restaurant with a brewery.
A prime example of Prague’s Baroque architecture, the Church of St Nicolas is located in the heart of the Lesser Quarter beneath the Prague Castle complex. The church often hosts concerts of classical music, and the adjacent tower, which once served as a dwelling for fire watchers, now houses a little museum dedicated to the tower’s use as an observation post for the communist-era secret police.
Located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town, this square has been an important backdrop to some of the most dramatic moments in the country’s history, such as the 17th-century execution of Protestant lords, and the communist coup of 1948. The Old Town Hall features one of Prague’s most famous monuments, the Medieval Astronomical Clock. At each full hour, the procession of apostles at the top of the clock draws hundreds of onlookers.
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle complex in the world and towers over the Vltava River, overlooking the heart of the city. Once the seat of the kings of Bohemia, it now serves as the office of the Czech president. It has witnessed some of the most momentous events in Czech history, such as the defenestration that triggered the devastating Thirty Years’ War, the triumph of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler over the country on the eve of World War II and the 1989 inauguration of Václav Havel as Czech president.
Sitting at the top of Wenceslas Square, the National Museum offers a unique insight into the country’s history. The institution, founded in the late-19th century, currently occupies two buildings in the square – a majestic historic building as well as a nearby modern structure, which was once the seat of Czechoslovakia’s parliament and, between 1995 and 2009, the home of the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe.
Located within the Prague Castle complex, the St Vitus Cathedral is the country’s most important religious shrine. While its construction began in the Gothic period, it was only finalised in the 20th century. This cathedral is also where the kings of Bohemia were coronated, with several of them buried in tombs under the building’s floor. The view from the cathedral’s main tower offers sweeping vistas of the city.
On the border between the Žižkov and Vinohrady residential neighbourhoods, just outside the historic centre, stands one of Prague’s modern landmarks, the Žižkov Television Tower. Completed in the early 1990s, its observation deck offers breathtaking views of the city and also features a restaurant and an exclusive hotel room. Ten fibreglass sculptures by Czech artist David Černý called Miminka (Babies) adorn the tower. On the ground, you can visit the Jewish cemetery – part of it was demolished to make way for the tower.
Lying north of Prague’s Castle Hill, Stromovka Park was established as a royal hunting reserve. Today, it’s a great place to enjoy a walk among the lakes and woods, stopping for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a snack in one of several cafés. The park also features the Prague Planetarium, the Výstavistě exhibition ground and a funfair.
Located in an 18th-century Neoclassical building, the Estates Theatre (part of the National Theatre family) famously hosted the world premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni opera in 1787. It has since staged many important pieces of Czech opera and drama, including the first modern Czech opera, The Tinker – which premiered in 1826. In 1834, the song ‘Where is My Home’, which later became the Czech national anthem, was first performed here.
Just a short walk from Prague’s Old Town Square, the House of the Black Madonna is one of the finest examples of Czech Cubism. Designed by Josef Gočár in the early-20th century, the building houses the small Czech Museum of Cubism as well as the Grand Café Orient, which features all kinds of Cubist artefacts, from chandeliers to coffee cups and spoons. Embark on a walking tour of Prague’s most interesting architecture, where you’ll visit some of the best Cubist buildings in the city.
For centuries, the Jewish community has been an important part of Prague’s life. Explore the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe (the Old-New Synagogue), the attic of which allegedly hid the legendary Golem. Afterwards, walk around the Old Jewish Cemetery and visit the grave of one of Prague’s most famous writers, Franz Kafka. Take a tour and follow your knowledgeable, local guide, who will teach you all about the long-standing history of Jews in Prague.
The largest square in the city bears the name of St Wenceslas, the Czech patron saint whose statue dominates the upper section of the square. Formerly known as the Horse Market, the square was the scene of many public gatherings and protests at some of the most important moments in Czech history, from the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 to the fall of communism some 80 years later.
Built in 1981 for the General Land Centennial Exhibition as a mini version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Petrín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna) is named after the hill on which it stands. Standing at 63.5m (208ft) tall, the tower is accessible via the Petřín funicular, while the tower itself has 299 stairs to climb – though there is a lift for anyone with limited mobility.
The Dancing House (Tančící dům), officially the Nationale-Nederlanden building, was built between 1992 and 1996 as a collaboration between Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The building gets its name from its hallmark curves, which create the semblance of two dancing figures – hence the nickname ‘Fred and Ginger’ after Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers. If you don’t want to stay in the hotel that covers several floors of the building, visit the top-floor restaurant for dining with stellar views over the Vltava River.
The Clementinum (Klementinum), one of the most extensive collections of historic buildings in Europe, originally formed part of a Jesuit college. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits, the buildings and book collection housed here became the property of the state and was named the National Library in 1781. Frequently dubbed the most beautiful library in the world, the Clementinum is an exceptional example of Baroque architecture. Pay a visit to the library hall, Mirror Chapel and Astronomical Tower, where you will be greeted with views over Prague. Guided tours are available in English.
Home to one of Prague’s largest and most notable concert venues, Smetana Hall, the Municipal House (Obecní dům) is regarded as one of the best examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the Czech capital. Built from 1905 to 1911 and opened in 1912, the Municipal House is home to a café, restaurants and luxury boutiques, while guided tours allow access to areas otherwise inaccessible to visitors.
Prague’s Lennon Wall came to be following John Lennon’s murder on 8 December 1980, when young Czechs painted an image of Lennon on a wall opposite the French embassy, along with song lyrics and political graffiti. Although the wall has been whitewashed several times, it’s never long before it gets “decorated” again, with messages today taking aim at more contemporary politicians. Many visitors to Prague also choose to make their own contribution to the wall.
During World War II, the Orthodox church of Saints Cyril and Methodius served as the last hiding place for the Czech and Slovak soldiers who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, a top-ranking Nazi in charge of the occupied Czech lands, in one of the most daring resistance operations of the war. The crypt now houses a memorial to the soldiers who were killed in combat or committed suicide after Nazi troops besieged the church. You can also visit the site of the assassination, which is now a modern road.