City of Spires
This article was written by Victoria Hittner and was featured in our May issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Located in the heart of Europe, Prague thrums with energy both old and new. Dubbed the “City of a Hundred Spires” for its many church towers, Prague is a living exhibit of the region’s rich heritage.
Founded more than 1,000 years ago, the city is a fascinating blend of Baroque and Gothic architecture, medieval history, modern art, and vibrant nightlife. From the romantic Charles Bridge across the Vltava River to the world’s largest castle complex, the city is ideal for romantic sojourners and active adventurers alike.
Navigating the City.
Prague is extremely walkable, but its meandering streets and district numbering system can confuse first-time visitors. The central-most district, Prague 1, encompasses the city’s best-known sights. From it, the remaining districts spread out in a spiral-like pattern. Just make sure to pay attention: the numbers don’t always align how you’d expect!
Three of the city’s most popular neighborhoods—Malá Strana (“little quarter”), Old Town (Staré Město), and New Town (Nové Město)—can be found in Prague 1. The misnomer of New Town—it was founded in the fourteenth century—serves as an apt reminder of the city’s longevity.
A trip to Prague would be incomplete without taking a stroll through Malá Strana. Take Nerudova Street from St. Nicholas Church up to Prague Castle to catch some of the best views in the city. The large castle complex stretches across 110 acres and served as a residence for some of the most powerful leaders in European history, from the Prague bishops to the Holy Roman Emperors and Habsburgs. Walk along the castle’s Golden Lane for a colorful peek into replicas of old shops and tiny housing for castle staff and artists—purportedly including Franz Kafka.
Cross into Old Town using the Charles Bridge for an unparalleled sensory experience. Dozens of Baroque statues line the bridge, which was originally built in 1357. Vendors and musicians line its edges, while pedestrians stretch to touch some of the statues and plaques for good luck. Look for the plaque of Saint John of Nepomuk—the dog at his feet remains golden from so many “pets” from modern hands!
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, head toward Old Town Square for a step back in time. Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock may be some of the most photographed spots in the city, but for good reason. The medieval clock tower tells time in four different ways and is the oldest of its kind still in operation. Skip the crowds waiting for the hourly show and head inside the tower for a tour of its interior or views of the city.
Head southeast into New Town to visit Wenceslas Square. On your way, make sure to stop by Havel’s Market, a street market dating back to the thirteenth century.
For some of the best ways to experience the city and get local stories and recommendations, book a walking or biking tour.
Nibbles and Nosh.
After a long day of walking, Prague offers refreshments for every palate. Enjoy the city’s most famous beverage, Pilsner Urquell, in any pub or restaurant in the city. To drink as the locals do, try popular pub Lokál.
If you’re in the mood for regional fare, comfort food like goulash or grilované klobásy (grilled sausage) can be found on almost any corner. Venture outside popular squares for lower prices and more authentic flavors. Struggling to find somewhere to eat for dietary restrictions? Try hidden gem Alriso, with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options.
The city is full of international cuisine and flair, too. With so many generations of inhabitants, it’s a veritable stew of cultures, people, and stories. Every street reveals surprises, and each visit is sure to be different than the last.
|When to Go:|
Summer brings warmth, but it’s accompanied by more rain showers and packed streets. Opt for spring or early fall to enjoy mild temperatures, cheaper fares, and fewer tourists.
How to Get There and Get Around:
Prague’s main international airport, Václav Havel, is a quick Uber, taxi, or bus ride to the city center. If you’re traveling by train, the city is home to two international train stations: Praha Hlavní Nádraží (near Wenceslas Square) and Nádraží Praha-Hološovice (just north of the city center). Public transport is cheap and accessible throughout the city. If you need to travel by car, try Uber or a reputable taxi company like Taxi Praha or FIX TAXI.
Where to Stay:
For proximity to must-see sights, stay in Prague 1 or 2. These districts include popular neighborhoods like Old Town, New Town, and Malá Strana (not recommended if you have mobility concerns). Nearby neighborhoods like Vinohrady and Žižkov are trendy, cheaper alternatives.