Prague - The Romantic City Of 100 Spires

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On the streets of Prague, small snowflakes fall on the cobblestone streets with the light from the street lamps casting an eerie glow over the square. It’s almost midnight in the Czech capital, and gargoyles watch from the tops of the towers over the remaining people still out enjoying the outdoor cafes and bars, despite the sudden drop in temperature. This night isn’t over yet by a long shot and is a typical snapshot of life in today’s Prague - it’s now as much defined by its buzzing nightlife and restaurant scene as it is by its superbly preserved architecture which spans almost 700 years.

A Brief History Of Prague

Very few cities in the world can match the sheer architectural charm of Prague, but there’s more to this ancient city than perfectly preserved medieval and historical buildings. At every turn on the city streets there’s a monument to the past, and usually a reminder of where this vibrant city is headed in the form of a cultural revolution. From the end of the Second World War, Prague spent more than four decades under Communist control - until the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 that ended Moscow’s influence in the region. The Prague that’s emerged since then has allowed a new sense of expression for its people - there’s a thriving arts community with playwrights, poets and classical musicians enjoying new found freedoms. Wandering the city streets, a common scene is  impromptu performances on a cobbled corner or in a warm cafe, and readings on a medieval bridge. Alternately, rock, jazz and dance clubs also now proliferate as young Czechs embrace aspects of western culture - but always with their own unique skew. “There are so many cultural events going on at the same time that even if you live in Prague you have no chance to track them all,” says a local, who’s handing out leaflets for his comedy troupe which will perform in a basement bar. “It’s free to come along. We don’t do this to make money - we just want people to watch and enjoy,” he adds.

Cultural Prague 

Prague’s emergence as a lively cultural destination is set against a mesmerising backdrop of golden church spires which gleam in the sun, and some of the most awe-inspiring architecture in the world. It still gets likened to Paris a lot, but the cold hard truth is that for all the grandeur of the French capital, it lacks the welcoming charm and sheer beauty of the Czech capital. There’s a strong Renaissance and gothic influence and it often begs the question: is Prague a  “Fairyland” or “Scary Movie”? The answer is a bit of both. Wandering through the Staré Mêsto (the gothic “Old Town”) or the back streets of the Malá Strana (the 13th century “Little Quarter”) has a hypnotic effect and it’s hard to imagine all this is actually real. As a friend once said: “I feel as though life-sized marionettes are going pop out of nowhere.” Centuries-old churches adorn many corners with even older back streets, baroque bridges and cobbled streets - it seems like a conspiracy to convince visitors they’re in an epic movie set - yet this is a real working city. 

Getting Around Prague 

The Vltava River cuts through the heart of Prague and the main part of the city itself is divided into five sections - Staré Mêsto on the east bank of the river, Hradcany or the castle district on a hill to the west,  the Malá Strana which sits between the castle and the river, Nové Mêsto or New Town to the south-east and Josefov which is the ancient Jewish ghetto. The public transport system with its trams and underground trains is relatively simple to negotiate, and locals are usually happy to help out, but walking Prague is really the only way to fully appreciate the sheer grandeur of its architecture - and the easy-going nature of its people. As a visitor to Prague on many occasions, I’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of seeing all that the city has to offer - it’s an impossible task and locals who’ve lived here all their lives say they still discover little “gems” on a daily basis.

What To See And Do

Whether it’s summer, autumn, winter, spring - in baking heat on a boat on the Vltava, or in heavy snow at Prague Castle overlooking the River and the city - each time of year offers a different perspective of an enchanting city. There are a couple of “must-do” tourist attractions, however. Prague Castle is the undisputed centrepiece of the city with its magnificent clifftop outlook over the city; it began as a fortified compound in the 9th Century and is now the biggest ancient castle in the world, occupying more than 7 hectares. Karluv Most, or Charles Bridge, spans the Vltava River and connects Staré Mêsto with Malá Strana and has carried traffic for more than 600 years - and legend says eggs were mixed with mortar to ensure its structural integrity. The Charles Bridge is lined with monuments and statues of historical importance dating from 1657 to 1858 and this is the most photographed aspect of Prague, with its panoramic views of the Castle and the Vltava. Staré Mêsto’s magnificent Old Town Square is the entertainment hub of the old city and its working heart for more than 1000 years. Its 1.7 hectare area features cafes, bars and restaurants which spill onto the square and though it’s heavily touristed, it is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. Vaclavske Namesti, or Wenceslas Square, is to the east of Staré Mêsto and this was the site of many of the non-violent protests in 1989 that led to the so-called Velvet Revolution. In between all of these standout attractions is the temptation of cafes with live classical music, lively bars with the best beers in the world (and it’s not just the locals who say that) and restaurants that offer traditional Czech staples and international variations. And the best part is when you get lost, literally, and absorb the street life of a truly unique city. 

Prague Hints & Tips

Invest a couple of dollars on a detailed map when you arrive - don’t rely on the tourist bureau handout maps.

Accommodation agencies offer a good alternative to hotels which can be expensive during summer and Christmas. Make sure you’re in a central location though.

Tram number 22 is a great way to take an orientation tour of the city. It passes most of its scenic routes including the National Theatre, to Starometská and Malá Strana and up to Prague Castle with some awesome views.

If you’re looking for traditional gifts, Czech crystal and hand-crafted marionettes are the best options.

Should you need a taxi, try to phone for one rather than hailing one on the street - this will ensure you won’t get overcharged.

Watch for pickpockets on the Charles Bridge. When it gets crowded, organised gangs have been known to target tourists.



Ben Hall


  • 5
    Such A Romantic City

    Posted by Terri Traveller on 29th Jan 2019

    We've been here romantic and much friendlier than Paris. I would add one more recommendation if you are travelling in summer (their summer).....there is a gorgeous bar called Lavka in Prague which has a riverside terrace at the rear, and is right next to Charles Bridge. There is a second smaller terrace at the front open all year round. This is a great place for a cooling beer, sunset and to people watch!

  • 5
    You Got It

    Posted by Adriana K on 29th Jan 2019

    I'm originally Czech via my mother and so I have been back to my homeland including Prague many times in the past 20 years. It has changed a lot but you captured the best of the city in a short article which is great. Well done!