Prague is a fairy tale city which is bound to transport you into the bygone era with its beautiful castles, intricately carved cathedrals, old bridges, museums, quaint cobbled streets, walled courtyards, numerous gardens and lots more. It is a mix of buildings in the Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architectures as it escaped bombing during WW II and the Vlatava river passing through the city just completes the entire illusion. I have been lucky to visit this city twice and explore many parts and aspects of this charming city. On both these occasions I have loved the heady mix of the old world charm and the new world vibrancy, that is just Prague.
I have explored this city by walking aimlessly all across (without a map) and discovering its hidden alleys, sights, sounds, cafes, courtyards and art. This city has so much to offer, that it can overwhelm any traveler on their first visit. Please find below my list of Top 10 Must See Sights, through a black and white lens, for your first trip to Prague.
1. Prague Castle – This is the largest ancient castle in the world and home to Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and the offices of the Czech Presidents. This complex has more than 18 buildings – i.e. palaces, churches (with the most amazing stained glass windows), halls, towers and eight gardens.
2. Astronomical Clock – This is a special clock with unique mechanisms, its main dial still shows the local time and a wheel with zodiac signs which turns inside the display revealing the position of the stars. The outer ring of the clock, marked with Arabic numerals, calculates the time from the precise moment of sunset. If you come at the right time, you can see the twelve apostles taking turns peeking out from the two small doors above the clock. At the same time, figures symbolising death, vanity, greed, and the ottoman invader placed around the clock move along the sound of bells.
3. Charles Bridge – This is a stunning 15th century bridge, which connects the ‘Lesser Town’ and the old town. The entrance to the bridge is through an extremely old Bridge Tower and once you pass the entrance you see the beautiful old bridge with 30 statues of saints and lanterns along the sides. During the day, numerous street performers perform here and smaller shopkeepers and painters set up small shop.
4. Old Town Square - This square is a beautiful mix of historic sites, churches, cafes, restaurants, shops all around and its also the place frequented most by tourists. It has the beautiful gothic Tyn Church, the baroque St. Nicholas Church, the famous Astronomical clock and the tower of the Old Town Hall (for a view of the square). The centre of the square has the Jan Hus Memorial.
5. New Town Square – This is a beautiful civic square full of modern shops of all the top brands, restaurants, a location for all of peaceful demonstrations and violent protests. At the end of the street is the huge imposing National Museum. Do take some time and notice the intricate designs on the roofs of all buildings here.
6. John Lennon Wall – Till 1980s this was a bland but historic wall in Prague, which underwent a huge transformation and was filled with John Lennon inspired graffiti and pieces of music from Beatles lyrics, as a symbol of protest by young people against the hardline Communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia.
7. Vysehrad - Vysehrad is an old castle complex, built on a hill over the Vltava river, with huge gardens, a Basilica, and the famous the Vysehrad cemetery (contains remains of many famous people from the Czech history). It also houses many of the original saint statues from the Charles Bridge (existing statues on the Bridge are replicas of the originals). This complex also has an amazing view of the river and the city.
8. Municipal House – This beautiful civic building, built-in the Art Nouveau architecture, is used as a concert hall, ballroom, civic building, and is encircled by cafes and restaurants. Do notice the stained glass work on the exterior of the building.
9. The Dancing Building – The controversial Dancing Building or the Fred and Ginger Building was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect in cooperation with a Canadian architect and has an interesting roof top restaurant with gorgeous views of Prague.
10. Synagogues in Old Jewish Quarter - The Jewish Quarter was the ghetto where all of Jews of Prague lived from the 13th century. Though most of the quarters were demolished between 1893-1913, six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall still survive. You can read a detailed post on the same here.