Historic Prague: 10 Famous Landmarks Every Visitor Should See

Though I lived relatively close to Prague the first half of my life, I never visited the neighboring countries and cities. After moving to the US, every time we flew back to Europe, we visited my old home country, the sites around my home town, and returned. My priority was always to visit family, and we never had enough time to go walkabout through Europe.

This changed a few years ago, when we had a few extra weeks and we decided to see more of Europe than Transylvania. We started the trip in Prague, then eventually visited Vienna, and finally spent time in my home country, taking the kids to close sites, like the Turda Salt Mines, among others.

Besides my old home, Prague became one of my favorite cities in Europe. We spent a few days there, exploring the city, living in an apartment within walking distance from the center. The following are ten of the sites I feel you can’t miss when visiting Prague.

1. Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge, Prague
Charles Bridge is still standing centuries after King Charles IV laid its first brick.

A pedestrian-only bridge, we walked across it daily while we spent time in Prague. I enjoyed it most during early mornings, when it was quiet, with only a few people walking across, and watching the artists and artisans, musicians, and all sorts of street vendors set up on the sides of the bridge. As the day progressed, the bridge would always get crowded, and during the busiest time it was hard to navigate through the people strolling, stopping for photos, chatting with vendors.

Still beautiful, with the patina of old age, the bridge is centuries old, and has an interesting history.

Back in the 14th century, King Charles wanted to build a bridge that would last forever. A believer in numerology, he laid down the first brick himself exactly on 1357 9th day of the 7th month at 5:31 in the morning. The numbers of this date read 135797531, a sequence of uneven numbers from 1 to 9 and back, a lucky sequence that was supposed to make it last forever. I don’t know if it will last forever, but it lasted quite a few centuries so far and it’s still standing.

2. Prague Castle

View of Prague Castle from across the river
View of Prague Castle from across the river

Sprawled on an area of 43.5 square miles, the Prague Castle made the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ancient castle in the world. It really is more of a Castle Complex, a town in itself.

Walking through its cobblestone streets, you’ll see different architectural styles showcased on its buildings, from Gothic to Romanesque. You’ll also find churches, palaces and other buildings within its walls. We walked through the castle a few times, stopping at different sites each time, and I remember getting tired just exploring the immense grounds of the castle.

3. Saint Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague
St Vitus Cathedral, front entrance

The most spectacular – and most visited – building in the Prague Castle is the Saint Vitus Cathedral. It was the most crowded spot in the Prague Castle, but as I looked at its imposing entrance, and its grand architecture, I understood why. The details of the stone artwork must have taken generations of artists to finish. And innfact, it did.

St Vitus Cathedral, the most important and largest cathedral in the Czech Republic, took 600 years to complete! They started working on it in 1344, during the reign of Charles IV, the same king who laid the first brick on Charles Bridge. He was very much into large scale architecture.

The first master builder, who designed the layout and started the work died long before work was completed. His son took over, but he was also working on Charles Bridge, so he didn’t get too far. A succession of other builders continued the work until it stopped at one point because of war. So it wasn’t until 1929 when the Cathedral got fully finished. Regardless how long it took, it is still standing in its grand and ornate glory.

4. The Old Town Square

The Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic
The Old Town Square in Prague. View from the Old Town Hall

Dominated by the Old Town Hall, the Old Town Square is the center of Prague. Surrounded old building housing museums, boutique shops, and restaurants, it is the must-see site in the city.

No matter what direction we came from, seemed like all roads led to the Square. As we got close to it, the roads turned into all pedestrian walkways, with no cars. Similar to Charles Bridge, the square made for an interesting stroll among vendors, street artists, locals and tourists speaking dozens of different languages.

5. The Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall

Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall. Prague
The Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall

As the Old Town Hall is the center of Prague, the astronomical clock is its centerpiece. People gather in front of the Old Town Hall every hour to watch the astronomical clock strike and show the passing of time. I avoided the crowd once, but after I realized what attracted it, I made it a point it be close by when the clock would strike the hour next.

So we watched the spectacle. Twelve puppets, representing the twelve apostles, walk out in a procession, and other elements of the clock move as well. As an astronomical clock, it not only shows the hour but also the day, month, and the phases of the moon and the sun.

According to legend, Master Hanus, who built the clock, was blinded after all his hard work, so he could not create another one like it. It must have been important for the clock to remain unique in the world. It is still unique for sure, but at that price, I don’t think it was worth it. Then again, maybe it’s just a legend, who would be that evil?

6. The Old Town Hall

Prague, Old Town Hall
The Old Two Hall dominates the Square

We couldn’t leave the Old Town Square without visiting the historic Old Town Hall and climbing its tower. Although a glass elevator goes up, we opted to climb instead. A circular ramp leads to the top instead of stairs, which makes it an easy walk. Lots of history inside the tower, but the real treat was the view of the city from above.

7. Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square, Prague
Wenceslas Square

A busy street in the center of Prague, the Square was witness to many historical events over the years, the latest one being the Velvet Revolution, in 1989. This is the place where all the demonstrations took place.

The National Museum stands at the end of the street, and in the middle of the street, the statue of Wenceslas on horseback dominates the place. A busy street, the square has a walkway in the center, with a park and benches, lined by cafes and shops on both sides.

8. The Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall, Prague
The Lennon Wall – Graffiti as a museum

Only in Prague will you find a wall dedicated to graffiti, kept as a museum, never painted over.

Students of the city started writing on this wall, in a quiet side street of Prague, when John Lennon died. Over time it became a museum of sorts, the place where people wrote their grievances against the communist regime. But it is one of those constantly changing museums.

The graffiti on the wall is always changing. While we’ve seen a few different versions at the different times we walked by, it is still mostly filled with outcries against unfair rules of society.

9. The Narrowest Street in Prague

Prague, Narrowest Street
The narrowest street in Prague

We walked by this street a few times but didn’t even notice it, until we made it a point to look for it. It is so narrow, only one person can fit through it, so they have a traffic light with a push button on each end. The street is short, you can see the end, so the traffic light is overkill, though a good toy for kids. It doesn’t lead anywhere other than a restaurant by the river, and since we didn’t plan on eating there, we went back up.

10. Petrin Hill

Prague, Petrin Hill
Petrin Hill

I left the best for last. As beautiful as Prague is, I feel its real gem is the green oasis in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle of the major city.

I would get overwhelmed with all the gorgeous, old, historic buildings, and the hustle-and-bustle of city life if it wasn’t for an oasis on Petrin Hill. We walked up to it a few times, when we needed quiet time and nature after the busy streets. Though in the center of the city, on the hill I felt miles away from it.

We usually walked up through a lush park, enjoying the shade of the mature trees, and the occasional view of the city below. Filled with a few different parks, some of them including playgrounds, on the weekends the hill is a favorite of locals.

The Prague Experience

A few years have passed since that trip, but I still think about Prague, its architecture, friendly atmosphere, and historic sites. I feel I could live there.

The main thing about Prague is that it preserved it sold architecture, even through the communist years. So it has an unmistakable old-world feel, while being modern, home in the 21st century.

In a way, Prague fills me with nostalgia, since it architecture reminds me so much of Cluj (Kolozsvár), the city of my childhood in Transylvania. The major difference is not so much the scale – some of the buildings in the city look and feel like they were taken from the center of the old Cluj – but the way all these buildings are still preserved. Here they, survived the communist years, intact, preserved, renovated. The same architecture in Cluj looks worn, run-down, as it was neglected, and even partially demolished.

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