Prague, Czech Republic

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyKoruna
Local languageCzech
Country Czech Republic

Introduction

Known as the city of one hundred spires, Prague is a truly fascinating city. Having escaped any serious wartime damage, the Czech Republic’s capital boasts an incredibly rich architectural heritage. Situated on the banks of the Vltava (Moldau) river in central Europe, the city is dominated by the beautiful fairytale castle sitting atop a low ridge and graced by a series of enchanting bridges. It is no exaggeration to say that (especially when lit-up at night-time) Prague is magical.

The seat of the Holy Roman Empire during the fourteenth century, Prague still exhibits this medieval inheritance and a reputation for cultural excellence. What awaits you is a unique combination of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau treasures. The best times to visit are in early Spring and late Autumn and if the cold doesn’t worry you, winter time makes for a particularly romantic atmosphere when the many church spires are dusted with snow.

In the past this city inspired such greats as Mozart and Beethoven and continues to do so with thousands of others today. Furthermore, there are many museums scattered throughout the city. However it is worth noting that there is also another side to Prague, with its famous beer halls and cafes the selection of entertainment is wide. In general Prague is incredibly tourist-friendly and costs of living (although rising) are still very low. The largely pedestranized areas are easily covered by foot with new treasures to be discovered at every corner.

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Things to do

For orientation purposes Wenceslas Square, the Old Town Square and Charles Bridge are good points of referral. Bridges link the Lesser Town and the Castle above with the Old and New Towns. Charles Bridge (Karluv most) was started back in the fourteenth century and is Prague’s most photographed location. Completely car-free and lined by artists, craftsmen and buskers the tourists flock here.

Prague Castle (Prazski Hrad) is visible from all over Prague and dominates the skyline. The complex is very large and includes what could be described as a small town of its own. One of the main attractions is St Vitus Cathedral (Katedral sv. Vita), the Czech Republic’s largest church and an architectural gem. In the castle gardens is the Belvedere, a fine Renaissance building dating to the fifteen thirties.

The twelfth century Old Town Square (Staromestke namesti) can only be described as magnificent! Once the main marketplace, today it is lined with numerous stunning buildings. The memorial to Jan Hus is at its heart. Also on the square is the Old Town Hall (Staromestska radnice) with the Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn (Kostel Pann Marie pred Tynem). During winter this square hosts a large Christmas Market and in the summer many restaurants place tables outside.

The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) constituting the Jewish Ghetto until the end of the nineteenth century is the site of the Jewish Museum, Old Jewish Cemetery and Old-New Synagogue. Meanwhile the Municipal House (Obecni dum) an Art Nouveau gem has as its center piece the Smetana Hall home to Prague’s Symphony Orchestra. Take the metro to Namesti republicky.

Lastly Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske namesti) is in fact not a square but a long boulevard, heavily commercialized and very Western looking there are many shops here. At the top of square stands the National Museum.

Local transport

Public transport in Prague is very cheap, consisting of the metro, trams, buses and the funicular on Petrin Hill. The whole network runs smoothly, particularly the metro, and is very convenient and easy to use. Tickets and passes are valid on all forms of transport and are valid for a certain length of time. They are sold at metro stops and newsstands; make sure you validate your ticket. The three-day Tourist Pass allows unlimited travel as well as admission to many attractions.

Day trips

Although Prague is enchanting in itself a visit outside of the Czech Republic’s capital is very worthwhile. Beautiful rolling countryside and medieval towns as yet untouched by development and renovation are to be discovered.

Karlovy Vary or Karlsbad one hundred and thirty kilometers (eighty miles) west of Prague is the Czech Republic’s largest spa town with therapeutic waters and boasting twelve hot springs. Stroll along traffic-free streets by the riverside promenade and simply relax! Karlsbad may be reached by bus from Florenc station or by train from the main station (though note that the train takes longer than the bus!).

Kutna Hora, a world heritage site sixty-five kilometers (forty miles) east of Prague, was the second most important town in Bohemia during medieval times. The main attraction is the extraordinary Gothic Cathedral of St Barbara.

Recommended places and events to visit in Prague

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