Prague is often described as Europe’s most beautiful city. Its unique ambience is rooted in a rich historic past and a vibrant present. With a flight time of 2.5 hours direct from Dublin and competitive prices for accommodation and food, this is an ideal destination for a city break.
Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Prague has blossomed into a major tourist and business destination, with a plethora of architectural splendours. Take a bus tour of the city at the beginning of your visit to select the attractions you would like to see.
The city is divided by the River Vltava into two geographical areas. On the left-hand bank lie the castle complex and Mala Strana (the Lesser Quarter ) and on the right-hand bank are Stare Mesto (the Old Town ), Josefov, and Nove Mesto (the New Town ).
The Medieval heart of Prague
The best way to experience this area is on foot; wander through the traffic–free cobblestone streets and capture the flavour of the city centre. Sample local cuisine such as Czech sausage, crepes, and hot spiced wine from the many vendors who line the streets. The Old Town Square has been the focal point of Prague for over 1,000 years. The Old Town Hall’s most obvious feature is its astronomical clock, the largest working one in the world; it tells the time, predicts the astronomical position of the sun and the moon, and gives other information according to signs of the zodiac.
Prague Castle and Charles Bridge
Perched on a cliff towering over the city, Prague Castle is the centre of political power for 1,000 years. Learn about the great history of royal rulers, medieval warfare, and differing religions and politics. Amongst the many fascinating buildings is the Spanish Hall, with its amazing art featuring Brueghel, Da Vinci, and Titian; Golden Lane, a delightful collection of tiny craftsmen’s houses; the Romanesque St George’s Basilica, and the stupendous St Vitus’ Cathedral with its brilliant stained glass.
Don’t miss St Nicholas Church, a baroque masterpiece which lies at the foot of the castle, and Petrin Hill, the largest green space in Prague. The funicular railway is an excellent way to reach the top of Petrin. The observation tower at the summit is an exact copy of the Eiffel Tower, but at one-fifth of its scale.
Charles Bridge is the most visited attraction in Prague. For over 400 years the sandstone structure was the only bridge over the River Vitava. The Charles Bridge Towers, providing medieval gates on each side of the river, are open to the public and provide spectacular views of the city.
A Baroque townhouse close to the bridge houses the Czech Fine Arts Museum. The building dates from the 16th century and features Venetian-style gables. Much of the collection, which is complemented by the elegant Romanesque interiors, consists of Czech art from the last 100 years, with some space for temporary international exhibitions.
Josefov and Nove Mesto
Josefov was the site of the old Jewish ghetto. Many of Josefov’s last inhabitants met their deaths in concentration camps during the Second World War. The ghetto is now the State Jewish Museum. The Old Jewish Cemetery dates from its first burial in 1439 of poet and rabbi, Avigdor Karo. As Jews were forbidden to bury their dead outside the medieval ghetto walls, the graves were built on top of each other, often 12 layers deep.
St Wenceslas Square is the major attraction in the Nove Mesto neighborhood. It was here that Vaclav Havel announced the start of the new republic in 1989. Today the square is a lively business centre as well as swinging nightspot.
Shopping, dining and nightlife
Prague is famous for its crystal, porcelain, marionettes, and locally mined semi-precious stones. Amber, rubies, and Czech garnets set in jewellery are reasonably priced. Secondhand bookshops do a great trade, and most bookshops have a good selection of foreign language books and newspapers.
Czech food is a mix of German, Austrian, Polish, and Hungarian influences. The staple meat is pork in all its different forms: ham, frankfurters, saveloys, and sausages. Thes are often accompanied by dumplings and sauerkraut. For dessert, they bake tasty cakes and strudels and pancakes are also a favourite. Beer is the national drink and lagers such as Pilsner and Budvar have gained an international reputation. Restaurants in prominent tourist areas like Hradcany and Stare Mesto tend to be more expensive than their less busy counterparts in Nove Mesto and Mala Strana.
Day and night the city is full of buskers and other street performers. For classical music lovers, there are around six performances per day in venues around the capital. Large concert halls such as the Rudolfinum and the Municipal House are home to critically acclaimed orchestras such as the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Prague Symphony Orchestra. Opera, rock music, clubs, jazz, folk, and country and western music are also available. It is advisable to read the English-language Prague Post and watch out for posters and local advertising. The highlight of the musical year is the Prague Spring Festival, which runs from May 12 to June 2 every year.
If you would like to visit this fascinating city full of history, fun and culture, contact Grenham Travel on (090 ) 6492028 or visit their office at 1-3 Connaught Street, Athlone. Check out Grenham Travel on Facebook or see www.grenhamtravel.ie