Known as the Golden City or the City of a thousand spires, Prague is probably the most beautiful city in Central Europe. It has castles, bridges, cobbled stone streets and the river Vltava that flows through the centre of the city giving Prague a unique romantic charm.
There is no “season” to visiting Prague. It maintains its magic all year round and the tourists find it memorable for its architecture, beer or museums, or, in our case, for its Christmas Market.
Here is what we visited during a weekend in Prague, in December 2013.
We started our visit with the Christmas market in the Old Town Square. You should know from the start that the festive atmosphere in Prague throughout December is simply wonderful.
There were jolly decorated wood cabins in the market, selling traditional produce and handmade items like toys, jewellery, tree ornaments, wool gloves or glassware. We knew right away that we will return here, when we saw the large hams roasting on spits, and the cakes and the pastries and of course the famous Czech beers, promising a most unhealthy but terribly delicious lunch. And of course, above all the huts, and the people and the square itself, there was a towering Christmas tree draped in a blaze of lights, a truly spectacular sight against Prague’s skyline.
Right next to the Square there is one of Prague’s most famous attractions, the Astronomical clock. It is over 600 years old and in the Middle Ages was considered one of the wonders of the world. At each exact hour, an intricate mechanism is set in motion presenting a show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures striking the time. Crowds often gather beneath the Old Town Hall Tower to watch the clock in action.
We continued our visit with the Church of Our Lady Before Týn which rises above the buildings in the square like a tall, grey, Gothic figure, with two impressive spires that soar for the Heavens.
From here it is just a short walk towards the Klementinum, the largest complex of buildings in the Old Town. We stopped to visit the impressive Baroque library and St. Clement’s Cathedral before returning to the square to enjoy our lunch.
In the afternoon, we stumbled upon the Sex Machine Museum which is close by, on Melantrichova street. If you want to feed your wild side, this museum is well worth a visit.
Next we decided to visit the Mucha museum that hosts the paintings of the world-acclaimed Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha. We got a break from the freezing cold weather and ended up having a really great time.
The last stop of the day was in Wenceslas Square, where we discovered another (smaller but just as charming) Christmas market and, of course, the mounted statue of Wenceslas, the Saint patron of Bohemia (a country region in the Czech Republic).
There are eighteen bridges built across Vltava in Prague, but the most famous of them is the Charles Bridge (Karluv Most). The bridge is decorated by thirty statues and is guarded by three towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. Standing on the Karluv Most, we could see the Hrad (the Prague castle) high on the hill to our right and our destination for the day. A great spot for taking pictures is at the foot of the bridge in the Old town side, HERE.
Crossing the bridge towards the Lesser Town, we first went to visit St. Nicholas Church. There is a lot of light inside this church and the sculptures, the dome and the candelabras are really beautiful. It is of no surprise that St. Nicholas Church is often described as “the most impressive example of Prague Baroque”.
We followed the Nerudova Street (Royal Way or Kings Road) uphill towards the Hrad, but as usual stopped to take many photos along the way, admiring the quaint houses, restaurants and shops.
Once we reached the Castle we went straight towards St. Vitus Cathedral. This is the largest and most important church in the country and dominates Prague’s skyline wherever you are in city. The present-day Gothic Cathedral was founded in the 14th century and took almost six centuries to complete. It has overseen the coronation of the Czech kings and queens. The Great South Tower holds the biggest bell in the Czech Republic, called Žikmund, which dates from the 16th century. Visitors can climb the 287 steps to enjoy the view from the top.
Other museums that can be visited inside Prague’s Castle are the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica, the Powder tower, or the Picture Gallery. We went for a stroll on the famous Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) and spent quite some time in the shops there. We ended up buying some traditional ceramic decorations for our Christmas tree.
It was a very cold day so we could not spend as much time outdoors as we would have wanted. Luckily for us, Prague has many pubs and cafes worth exploring, so we went pub-hopping until ending up again at the Christmas market in the Old Town Square. It was getting dark out and the lights adorning the market made it all magical.