Perfection In Prague

Posted on: 26 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Prague is one of the most visited cities on the continent.


Prague is the Czech Republic’s capital and biggest city. Situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, it has been the political, cultural and economic centre of the Czech state for over 1,100 years.

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Prague is one of the most visited cities on the continent.

Prague

Country: Czech Republic

Population: 1.3m

Time Zone: CET (+1)

Currency: Czech Crowns (Kč)

Languages: Czech

Average Temperature: 9c

Voltage: 230V

Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and according to the Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world.

Largely undamaged by World War II, the magical city has become one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.

Matička Praha, which translated means “little mother Prague” was kidnapped by communism for 40 years, but its compact medieval centre remains a haven of cobbled streets, gothic churches and a majestic 9th century castle.

Cross the famous, architectural highlight of Charles Bridge, over 600 years old, and visit the quaint old-town before mixing with the locals for a spot of pork, dumplings and bargain-priced beer.

As well as traditional pubs and restaurants, Prague has moved into the 21st century and now features gourmet eateries, cocktail bars and trendy cafes with plenty of hidden delights.

When to go

Prague has a mild climate with warm, wet summers and cold winters.

Average summer temperatures are 24-26c with chilly nights.

In winter, daytime temperatures hover around freezing, falling several degrees lower at night and snow is common.

Spring is generally sunny, with the wettest months being in summer - May to August.

Accommodation

Prague has a wealth of accommodation options, many of them within walking distance of the town centre.

Prague streetPeak season generally runs from April to October and a major influx of visitors can be expected during New Year as well.

Prices for accommodation can be up to twice as high in the peak season and reservations are advised.

Otherwise, the main train station, Hlavni Nadrazi has an accommodation booking service for hotels and hostels upstairs.

Tax and breakfast is normally included in the room rate.

Food & Drink

Lunch is traditionally the main meal in Prague. Czech cuisine is typically based around pork or beef with starchy side dishes such as dumplings or chips.

Fish is not so popular, though these days it is widely available.

Popular Czech desserts include fruit dumplings, crepes or ice cream.

Most restaurants become very crowded during lunch and dinner, so consider making a reservation or eating earlier than the locals.

River VlatvaIf you’re on the look out for fast food, you won’t be able to move without tripping over street vendors serving Czech style hot dogs and mulled wine in the Old Town square and Wenceslas Square in the New Town.

If you’re after Western-style fast food, the major chains also have a large presence in the city.

If you’re looking for somewhere formal, the Old Town square has several places with outside seating on the square. It’s an excellent place to people watch.

Pubs are popular and also an important part of local culture.

Most pubs serve only a small selection of beers and locals seldom pay more than 25Kc (85p) for a half litre glass, while tourist traps often charge 50Kc (£1.65) or more.

Both games Czech beer brands, Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar can be found in Prague pubs, however, if you want to drink beer made in Prague, look for Staropramen.

Prague is a favourite city for pubs, clubbing, organising stag and hen parties and has a celebrated nightlife.

Pubs and clubs in Prague offer an eclectic range of music, from classic pop to reggae and hip hop while the city also offers many excellent tearooms (Cajovna) which serve different kinds of teas from around the world.

Sights & Attractions

Prague Castle is the biggest ancient castle in the world, according to the Guinness World Records, which rises above the city offering beautiful views of the areas below.

Also on the site is the St Vitus Cathedral with its lookout tower (entry is free), the Castle Picture Gallery, several palaces and museums and the beautiful Royal Garden.

You can also watch the Presidential Guard and the changeover of the guards on duty on the hour. 

Charles BridgeCharles Bridge is one of several bridges over the River Vltava.

Its construction started in the 14th century and it is one of Prague’s most beautiful attractions. Over the day it’s a bustling place of trade and entertainment.

Old Town (Stare Mesto) is Prague’s historic centre. It includes numerous historical buildings and monuments, most notably the famed Astronomical Clock and the pure Gothic Tyn Church, the mural-covered Storch building and the Jan Hus monument.

Nearby, the Estate Theatre is a neoclassical theatre where Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was first performed.

The Old Town features many historical churches as well as the Old Town Hall.

New Town (Nove Mesto). The new town was constructed as an extension of the old town at the 14th century. Nonetheless, despite its oldness, most of it has already been modernised.

The main attraction here is the Wenceslas Square which has many stalls, shops and restaurants. At the top of the square is the National Museum which is well worth a look.

Midway down this historic Boulevard, one finds trendy discos and Art Nouveau hotels, as well as quaint parks and arcades, while just off the beaten path are some wonderful panoramic views (Henry Tower), romantic restaurants, Narodni, and the dazzling, Disney-coloured Jubilee Synagogue.

Prague SynagogueJosefov is the name given to the historical Jewish ghetto. It has well preserved historical synagogues, unique in the entire world with the Old New Synagogue known to be Europe’s oldest active synagogue.

Other attractions are the old Jewish Cemetery- the oldest in Europe and Kafka’s house.

The Lesser Town (Mala Strana) is across the Vlatva from the city centre and leading to the castle.

This quarter offers beautiful streets and churches, of which St Nicholas Church is the most renowned.

The Lennon Wall which used to be a source of irritation to the communist regime is also found here, near a Venetian-like canal with water wheel close to the Charles Bridge. 

Getting There

By plane: Ruzyne International Airport is located 20km northwest of the city centre, taking about 30 minutes to reach the city centre by taxi.

Czech Airlines is the national carrier but British Airways also fly to Prague.

There are also many cheap direct flights operated by EasyJet, Ryanair, Sky Europe and BMI baby from the UK.

Flights depart to Prague from London Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, East Midlands, Belfast, Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford.

By train: Prague has two international train stations, Hlavni Nadrazi - also known as Praha hl.n - and Praha Holesovice.

Hlavni Nadrazi is the central station but both have connections with the main metro line into central Prague.

Eurocity trains connect Prague to Berlin, Vienna and Budapest and although it’s a comfortable way to travel, the Czech railroad network is not as quick as in other countries.

Berlin is just under five hours away by train, Vienna a little over four hours and Budapest roughly six-and-a-half hours away.

Travelling to Prague on train direct from the UK can be complicated and slow because of the layout of German railroads, which lead mainly from north to south, with no direct connections from east to west.

The route with the fewest connections is Paris - Berlin - Prague but you can shave a few hours off your route if you’re willing to transfer several times, for example Paris - Stuttgart - Nurnberg - Prague, which can be done in 12 hours.

Getting Around

Public transportation is very convenient in most areas of the city but Prague is renowned as a very walkable city.

For those who enjoy seeing the old and new city by foot, one can easily walk from Wenceslas Square to the Old Town Square or from the Old Town to Charles Bridge and the Palace district.

TramThere are three main metro lines in Prague as well as numerous bus and tram lines. The schedules are posted on the stops, and the metro operates from very early in the morning until around midnight.

You can purchase a 30-minute metro (or give stops only) for 18Kc (60p), a 75-minute transfer ticket for 26Kc (85p) or 180 minutes for 40Kc (£1.30) at any dispenser using coins.

You may also purchase 24-hours, three days or five days tickets at ticket offices in some metro stations.

One valuable tourist purchase may be the Prague Card which for 790Kc (£26) gives a four-day travel card, a guidebook, free entry to more than 50 attractions and other discounts.

The card can be bought from various locations in Prague and with an extra 330Kc (£11), you can get a 72 hour transport card for underground, bus and tram.

Try to avoid getting taxis on the street as public transportation is always the cheaper and safer option. If you do choose to use the city taxis, always try to negotiate a price in advance.

Links

The Czech Republic tourist office

Prague Information Service

Prague Tourism

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