As a Czech-born Canadian, I’m happy to represent two countries known for their hockey and beer-drinking. The capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague or Praha should be at the top of your European cities list, for these and many other reasons. In fact, Prague ranked fifth in the Tripadvisor world list of best destinations in 2014.
Whatever it is, there’s no denying that tourists love the Bohemian capital city for it’s preserved architecture that withstood the destruction of 20th century warfare and occupation, as well as a relatively cheap food and the world’s best beer (pivo).
Here’s my list of top ten places to see or visit while in Prague (in no particular order).
1. Prague Castle
The largest medieval castle in Europe, now the home of the President of Czech Republic and once the seat of the Kings of Bohemia, this castle covers over 7 hectares (18 acres) of land.
The courtyard is dominated by St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest and most important church in Prague, as this is the place of coronation and the crypt of Czech kings and queens.
You can wander through the courtyards for free, but will need to pay to go inside any buildings. Well worth it. Also, don’t miss the lovely Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička), 11 colourful historical homes of artisans, like blacksmiths.
2. Wenceslas Square
One of the two main squares in the city, Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí), is really a long thriving boulevard of restaurants, shops, hotels and clubs. You’ll see the statue of good King Wenceslas on his horse at the top of the boulevard. This area was site to many historical and political events, including the Prague Uprising in 1945, Nazi demonstrations and the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
3. Beer Halls
The Czechs have earned their reputation for brewing high quality beer, including the original Budweiser (Budvar) and for inventing the pilsner (Pilzen). In fact it’s well-known that Czechs consume the most beers per capita in the world – 156.9 litres per person. Ask for a “pivo” (beer) and cheers (“na zdravi”)!
You’ll notice that the alcohol content is measured by the number of degrees that represents the amount of malt extract used in the brewing process. The higher the number means a fuller flavour and stronger brew.
U Fleku is the largest beer hall in the whole country serving about 2000 glasses of beer daily and a pilgrimage site for beer lovers. The brewery celebrates its 515th anniversary in 2014. A must see for first-time visitors!
While you’re there, make sure you pair your “liquid bread” with some real Czech dishes like beef goulash (hovězí guláš s knedlíkem), roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut (vepřo-knedlo-zelo), pork schnitzel (vepřový řízek) and fried cheese (smažený sýr).
There are so many choices, but try to find the places that locals gather for an authentic experience. Here’s a comprehensive list of bars and pubs.
4. Charles Bridge
A well-known landmark that connects Old Town to Malá Strana over the Vltava River, this bridge has served as a backdrop for many Hollywood movies, including Casino Royale and Misson Impossible. Full of life, street performers, music, artists and lovers old and young, this bridge is arguably one of the most romantic bridges in Europe.
5. National Theatre
Set in the Old Town bank of the Vltava River, this stunning neo-Renaissance building is the home of the national ballet and opera and is a symbol of national pride for Czechs.
Book tickets for a show here http://www.narodni-divadlo.cz/en/programme
6. Old Town Square
Sit down with a coffee and take in the Baroque and Gothic architecture that dates back 600 or 700 years in the past. This is a busy square, full of camera-happy tourists, so undoubtedly the surrounding restaurants will be some of the most expensive in the city.
7. Astronomical Clock
Join the crowd that will start forming around the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock on the hour, every hour to watch the Twelve Apostles make their appearance. Look for the 12 medallions representing the zodiac signs.
8. Petrin Hill
Prague’s version of a mini Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Observation Tower sits on Petrin Hill at 1043 feet high. If you’re looking for the bet views of the city, climb the 299 steps and you won’t be disappointed. Get there from Malá Strana.
9. Jewish Quarter
Also known as the Jewish Ghetto, this area was inhabited by jews when they were banned from living anywhere else in Prague in the 13th century. Many of the historical buildings have survived the times, even during Nazi occupation. Visit the Jewish Museum and the Old Jewish Cemetery with over 12,000 tombstones.
10. Malá Strana
A lovely area of cobbled streets on the other side of the Charles Bridge from Old Town, this area is where you’ll find the Prague Castle and St. Nicholas Church – Lesser Side. But if you’re down sight-seeing, you’ll find a number of charming pubs and shops here to keep you occupied.