Prague

Trip Start May 05, 2007
1
8
24
Trip End Aug 02, 2007


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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Prague...one of my favorite cities in the world.  I got to know this city inside and out by living here for two months while taking summer study abroad courses.  I fell in love with Prague and its combination of Medieval charm, communist traces, and a spirit of modernity that is completely irresistible.

From Prague to nearby cities such as Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, etc. it is easiest to take buses.  Eurolines buses are very comfortable, hassle free, and inexpensive.  If you go to the bus station at the Florenc Metro Station, they'll help you with ticketing.

Our apartment was in Praha 7, Holesovice (by the northern train station and the metro station Vltavska).  It was above the bend in the river north of the old Jewish Quarter.  We were at the Strossmayero Namesti tram line intersection, which had about 8 lines running through it, which was great for us and made it easy to get just about everywhere in the city with a direct tram.  It was a great location, only about a 15 minute tram ride to Wenceslas Square (Vaclasvke Namesti), the modern and shopping center of the city.  Our neighborhood was all Czech people; being truly immersed in true Czech life was great.   Plus, the food up there was incredibly inexpensive (no problem living off of our $10 a day food stipend), especially compared with the outrageous prices as the trendy tourist spots.
 
We had class in the afternoons M-T and also on M and W mornings.  Other than that, we were free to do as we please.  It was great to have the time to explore Prague.  We were able to take lots of weekend and day trips.  I feel like I saw almost all of the main tourist sights in the city, from museums to churches.  Many mornings I would head out early and visit sights further away, like Strahov Monastery, Vsyehrad, or Troja Chateau.

The nightlife in Prague is great too.  With so many backpackers coming through, there was always someone to meet.  By staying in the touristy areas, I wasn't worried about going anywhere alone either, because there were so many people around.  Prague is also a very popular place for stag parties from the UK, adding another interesting dimension.  I've heard friends call Prague "sketchy", but if you stay away from strip clubs, whorehouses, and that kind of stuff, the nightlife is actually pretty tame but a good time.

My Top 25 Things to Do/See in Prague:
1.  Drink Pilsner - one of the most popular European beers which is brewed right here in the Czech Republic.  It is a must!
2.  Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) - One of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe!  It features a beautiful clock tower with a clock that plays every hour and two churches - Tyn's with two towers and the Baroque style St. Nicholas.  I could have spent hours each day sitting in this square and people watching.  It is the center of Old Town Prague and thus the tourist district.  The streets around the area feature hundreds of tiny tourist shops.
3.  Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti) - This square - more like a street with a large median - is the center of modern life in Prague, featuring many posh shops and office buildings.  At the squares head is the National Museum.  Built in the late 1800s, its outside architecture is more notable than its interior collections.  This square is a must-see in the city, the site of previous protests and uprisings, such as of the Prague Spring of 1968.
4.  Prague Castle - The castle complex is built in the Hapsburg style with multiple churches (many turned into museums), residences, and buildings.  You can stroll through any time free of charge, but to enter any building accept St. Vitus Cathedral you must buy a ticket.  St. Vitus Cathedral is very impressive and just the experience of the grounds and cathedral if you do not want to buy a ticket.  If you do tough, be sure to check out Golden Lane, a street of old shops and houses.  Also, the view of the rest of the city from castle hill is amazing and a must see that gives the area a magical feel.
5.  Spend a night dancing and drinking at Chateau, a popular club/bar behind Tyn's Church tower at Old Town Square.
6.  Charles Bridge - Romantic bridge connecting Old Town and the Castle District - lined with statues.  From Charles Bridge you get to see both sides of the River.  An alternative that I prefer is to walk on either of the bridges north or south of Charles bridge so you include the old stone bridge in your panorama.
7.  Jewish Quarter (Josefov) - Quarter where the Jews lived until the nineteenth century.  Filled with old buildings and well-preserved synagogues turned into museums.  If you're interested in the subject, a guided tour of the area would be a good idea so you can learn the interesting history of the area.  The Jewish Museum consists of the beautiful Spanish Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, and the Klaus Synagogue from which you gain entry to the famous and impressive Jewish Cemetery in which many famous Jewish theologians and philosophers are buried.  Be sure to check out the Old-New Synagogue built in the thirteenth century, which is separate from the Jewish Museum.
8.  If you visit in the summer, rent a paddleboat and play in the Vltava River on a sunny afternoon.  You get a unique view of the riverbank sites and Charles Bridge!
9.  Dancing House - Unique modernist building along the River.
10.  Check out the nightlife of the Jewish Quarter, whose streets are lined with little bars, pubs, and clubs that fade into the nearby shops during the day but stand out vibrantly at night.
11.  Visit the Loreta, a beautiful church north of the River that contains historical artifacts, frescoes, and treasures.
12.  Lesser Town Square (Malostrankse Namesti) - Square on the north side of the river at the base of the hill that leads up to Prague Castle - contains (another) St. Nicholas Church at its center, surrounded by shops and restaurants.
13.  Petrin - This hill on the outskirts of town is worth a trip.  It is nice to get away from the city crowds and if you ride the tram up the hill to the miniature Eiffel-Tower observation tower, you get an unparalleled view of the city.  One of my absolute favorite things to do - best view of the city!
14.  Republic Square (Namesti Republiky) - this square is vibrant.  In/nearby are the Power Tower, a sign of old Prague, as well as Obecni Dum (Municipal House), an art nouveau building with a coffee house inside.
15.  Visit the beer garden in Letna at Sromovka gardens, an open park high above the river.  At night, the view across to Old Town is beautiful.  This is also a relatively tourist-free spot, so you get a taste of Czech life.
16.  Strahov Monastery - Monastery on Petrin Hill that is open to the public.  The library has an amazing Baroque interior with thousands of books.
17.  National Theater (Narodni Divadlo) - This is a stunning building along the banks of the river.
18.  Vysehrad Castle - ruins of this castle are perched high on a hill in the south of the city along the Vltava - walking in this area was interesting as was the cathedral, cemetery, and grounds.
19.  A little ways outside the center city and tourist areas, Troja Chateau is a beautiful summer palace north of the river's two bends.  Outside are gardens and inside it houses an art collection.
20.  Do some serious shopping along Vaclavske Namesti and Na Prikope (the street to the right at the bottom of the square).
21. Veletrzni Palace - The modern and contemporary art section of the National Gallery is in a Soviet-style building in Holesovice.  It has paintings, sculptures, and abstract modern art pieces.  It is well worth a visit if you are interested in art.
22.  The Convent of St. Agnes now houses an impressive collection of Medieval art, another section of the National Gallery.
23.  Nerudova Street was one of my favorite places to stroll along in Prague. It leads from Lesser Town Square to Castle Square and is lined with embassies and colorful shops.  A very steep walk, so beware, but it is quaint and has great views when strolling down!
24.  Visit the Beer Factory, a unique bar off of Wenceslas Square that features tables with built-in beer taps that automatically serve beer.  Afterwards, the table pays by the liter.
25.  Simply wander aimlessly through old town's cobblestoned streets.  Getting lost among the back shops and buildings outside of the tourist throngs make the city truly come to life.
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