Which are the not-to-be missed Prague attractions? A true open air museum, the Czech capital city is home to top landmarks that will certainly impress and seduce you. If you are just trying to make your list of what to see in Prague, here are our heart picks:
The largest medieval complex, not only in the Czech Republic, but also around the world, Prague Castle is located on a hilltop on the left bank of the Vltava River, which runs through the old center of Prague. The Castle is certainly the best of all Prague attractions.
A complex of royal buildings, churches and gardens erected at different stages and featuring various architectural styles, Prague Castle is small town by itself and a complete tour might take you the whole day.
Read more about Prague Castle here.
Charles Bridge is one the city’s most touristy places, but it is also a place where you can meet the locals. One of Prague attractions telling the Czech capital’s history, Charles Bridge is also one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.
The statues along it are the historical witnesses of its popularity, besides having a story of their own. One of the things to see in Prague is the sun rising over Charles Bridge. Read more about Charles Bridge here.
Prague’s Astronomical Clock
What to see in Prague? The Astronomical Clock, of course! And be there at sharp hour! Overlooking the Old Town Square, Prague’s Astronomical Clock stands on the south wall of the Old Town Hall. The story goes that after being built by Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel in 1410, the master clockmaker Hanus Rose would have overhauled it in 1490.
Every hour, until 9:00 P.M., the Twelve Apostles tell the time as well as the position of the Sun and the Moon. The other dials display the astrological signs and the saint of the day.
One of the top Prague attractions, the Astronomical Clock is a magnet for tourists.
No matter the time of the day, the square is filled with people waiting for the sharp hour to see the Apostles announcing the time. Read more about the Astronomical Clock here.
The Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall is one of the most visited Prague attractions. It consists of a square tower and a chapel dating from the 14th century. In front of the building, 27 white crosses are marked on the ground representing the 27 leaders of the revolt against the Habsburgs, who fought for the preservation of the kingdom of Bohemia, were arrested and executed in 1621.
To enter the building, you must go through the tourist office. You will enter, first of all, a hall fully decorated with mosaics, where you can admire symbolic representations, such as a representation of Libuse, founder of Prague. Above the gate, the 1620 and 1621 dates recall the defeat of the White Mountain and the execution of the 27 leaders. Under the arch, you can see a representation of Wenceslas and some emblems of the city and of the Czech Republic.
Inside, the rooms are numerous. Among them, the most interesting are those of the council. They have beautiful Renaissance ceilings, and among the exhibits, you can see coats of arms and depictions of Christ and of Virgin Mary. But the jewel of the building is the Astronomical Clock with its ingenious mechanism dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Old Town Square
The Old Town Square is not only one of the top Prague attractions, but also the heart of the city. The historical landmarks that border it radiate multiple colors. Among them, the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Tyn built in 1365 during Charles IV’s reign is easily recognizable by its two 80 meters high towers. An eclectic building in point of architecture (Gothic for the outside, Baroque for the interior), the Church of Our Lady before Tyn features a rococo altar. Inside, you can find Tycho Brahe’s tomb.
Opposite the church stands the tower of the Old Town Hall built in 1364 and owned by the private home of Volfin Kamen. It dominates the square from its 69.5 meters, housing the famous Astronomical Clock.
The Dancing Building
Also known as Fred and Ginger because it resembles a couple dancing the waltz, the Dancing House is an office building located close to Prague’s city center.
Dating from an earlier period than other Prague attractions, it was designed in 1997 by architects Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry. Its avant-gardist architectural design gave birth to a series of controversies, but the project benefited from the support of the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel.
Although it features a different architectural style, the Dancing House does not create a striking contrast with the Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings around it. Besides being home to the offices of several multinational firms, it hosts a fine dining French restaurant – Celeste, located at the top floor, from where you can get some magnificent views over the city.
Often overseen among other Prague attractions, the Strahov Monastery is one of the oldest in the Czech Republic. Vladislav II founded it in 1140, but the building was destroyed by fire in 1258 it was then rebuilt in a Gothic style and remodeled in the seventeenth century in a baroque style that gives it its present appearance.
During the communist era, the Strahov Monastery was closed and many of its monks were put in jail. The buildings now house the Museum of Czech Literature and the monastery is still home to monks who make their own beer. St. Norbert, founder of the Norbertian order (also known as the Premonstratensians), is buried in the church.
The monastery’s complex includes the Church of St. Roch, the Church of Our Lady of Ascension, where Mozart is believed to have played the organ in 1787, Strahov Picture Gallery and the over 800 years old Strahov Library, open to the public.
The Municipal House
Prague’s marvel of Art Nouveau architecture, the Municipal House was erected at the beginning of the 20th century, between 1906 and 1912. Located in the heart of the city, on the site where the former Royal Court Palace was once standing, it will certainly charm you with its gold trimmings, stained glass windows and decorative sculptures. Currently an exhibitions and concerts hall, it once served as a seminary and a military college. Its richly adorned auditorium was designed by A. Balasek.
The Municipal House was witness to many historical moments of the country. It is the place where independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28th 1918. The meetings between the Civic Forum and the communist leadership were being held in the Municipal House back in November 1989. Only if you spend only a fortnight in the city, the Municipal House should be on your list of what to see in Prague.
Prague’s Jewish Quarter
Prague’s Jewish Quarter is situated on a small area between the Old Town Square, the sumptuous Parizska Street bordered with luxury shops and Vltava River. The main Jewish Prague attractions are the Old Cemetery, the Old New Synagogue (oldest still functioning synagogue in Europe), the Klaus Synagogue (built in 1680), the Pinkas Synagogue (dating from 1475 and home to a memorial to the victims of Nazism) and the Spanish Synagogue with its Moorish decorative element.
The history of Prague’s Jewish Quarter (known as Josefov among the locals) goes back to the Middle Ages when two Jewish communities coexisted in the city: the Jews of the West, on the one hand, set around the Old New Synagogue, and the Jews of the Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, installed the location of the current Spanish synagogue. Pogroms, the increasing discrimination drove the two communities to unite. Many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity to survive. Synagogues were burned and people dispossessed. The last Jews were gradually enclosed in a ghetto whose boundaries correspond to the current Josefov neighborhood.
This period of repression ended in 1784 when Joseph II granted Jews equal social and political rights. The neighborhood is named in his memory. In 1850, Josefov is integrated with the city of Prague, and in 1895 the municipality decided to clean up the Jewish quarter and a large number of houses were destroyed with the exception of six synagogues and the old cemetery.
In the late 30s, about 56,000 Jews lived in Prague and only 10% of the Jewish population survived World War II and the Nazis. Most Jews were sent to the concentration camp of Terezin located 60 km northwest of Prague, which is now a site of remembrance.