Prague is a strange combination of many worlds. Parts of it are Gothic and grim, others modern and vibrant while others have a classic historic charm. I had the fortune to spend a couple of days recently here, and in this travel series, I hope to show you the various facets this city has to offer. Even though we stayed in Prague for only four days, we managed to see most of it. The city is big, but the sights are close by and you can see pretty much all of them in a short amount of time. So let's get started...
This is a multi-part travel series. Other parts include:
Part One: Old Town Square
Part Two: Jewish Quarter and the river Vltava
Part Three: Prague Castle and Gardens
Part Four: Charles Bridge and Little Quarter
Part Five: A Night in Prague
click on the images for a bigger view
Our Day Begins
It was around 10 o'clock in the morning when Selma, Jasmina and I left our apartment. We booked it through Airbnb and in the images above you can see the part of town we stayed in. It was right next to the Old Town district, so it took us only a couple of tram stops to get there. As you will notice, this part of the city is colorful and bright, and features many beautiful residential buildings.
On the first day we decided not to use public transportation, but rather walk the 15 minutes into the city, so that we could really take it in. The weather on this day started out perfectly, and even though some grim clouds would greet us later, we had no rain or any more bad weather during our stay.
The Powder Tower
One of the first historic sights on our way was the Powder Tower (or Powder Gate). You can see it in the image below. It is one of the original 13 city gates, dating back to the 11th century. It separates the Old Town from the New Town. The gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the name.
The Municipal House is right next to the Powder Tower, and it only took us a few steps to reach it. It is a civic building that houses the Smetana Hall, which is a celebrated concert venue. In the 14th century this was the residence of the King of Bohemia.
Republic Square and Palladium Mall
Before we continued our walk to the historic center we stopped by the Rebublic Square (Náměstí Republiky, which is also a metro and tram station, we used many times during our stay). It's a 5 minute walk from the Republic Square to the Old Town Square. The large Palladium Mall can be found here. It opened in 2008 and is currently Prague's largest mall with a restaurant floor.
Next up is a shot of the aforementioned Palladium Mall. It looks like it's not big from the outside, but once you step inside, the place is huge. Somehow the two levels below ground extend far from the outer premises, and the two floors above also extend wider. It's a great way of having such a big building in the middle of a city.
Roaming the Streets of Prague
Getting to the Old Town Sqaure was a joy. The many streets you take to get there, are fascinating, and much time can be spent just by gazing at all the beauty. Like in the shot that follows, this little toy shop was just to cute not to window shop for a while.
The architecture is just fascinating. Of course, there are similarities with other European cities, mostly Budapest and Vienna, but there is also a strong presence of Gothic-style designs, that become more and more present as you get closer to the inner part of Prague.
Old Town Square in Prague
From its early existence, around the 9th century, the Old Town Square of Prague was laid out of settlements which appeared from the spacious marketplace on the bank of Vltava. Records dating back to 1100 AD indicate that every Saturday a market was held on the marketplace, and large military gatherings also took place there. Today, tourists (like us) roam the square, and take use of the many restaurants, cafes and other things this part of the city has to offer.
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall Tower, built in 1338, is one of the most striking buildings in Prague. Inside is a staircase and an elevator. For a fee, you can climb or ride to the top of the tower to experience views over the Old Town Square and the rest of the Old Town.
Things to do in the Old Town of Prague
The Old Town of Prague is one of 4 major districts of the city (others are the Jewish Quarter (which you will see in Part 2), Prague Castle (Part 3) and Little Quarter (Part 4). The square offers many little cafes and restaurants, but also the usual tourist traps (as overpriced food, souvenirs and such). If you happen to be here at nightfall try the Dubliner Pub (they also serve food at a reasonable price). The simplest thing to do is just to enjoy the happenings on the square. An ever-changing cast of musicians, protesters, dance troupes, punks and vendors make the square as colorful as the buildings that surround it. The Astronomical Clock can be found behind the Old Town Hall and is also a sight not to be missed. Another important sight that graces the Old Town is the Church of Mother of God before Týn (which you can see 4 images down).
As our stay in the Old Town Square came to an end, we headed north to another distict of the city: the Jewish Quarter, which seems to be the richest part of the city and it houses important historical sights as well as the most expensive shops and boutiques. But more on that in the second part.
End of Part One
To be continued...