Going to Prague, Czech Republic was not on my 2022 Bingo Card. Nonetheless, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to join my brother at the end of his European work trip, as Prague has been a pillar in medieval European history since the 14th century, particularly in Central Europe. Known for its dramatic, gothic architecture, centuries old buildings and neighborhoods, and ancient (and sometimes extremely unkind) history, Prague is a must-see for anyone visiting Europe.
Founded in the 5th century, Prague really began to flourish in the mid-1300’s under the reign of King Charles IV. Prague Castle has existed in some form since the year 800, with subsequent upgrades, improvements, and buildings added over the centuries. St. Vitus Cathedral, which calls Prague Castle home and is another top contender on any “must-see Prague list”, was added in 1344. Prague has witnessed numerous battles and wars throughout history, including the Bohemian Wars, Thirty Year’s War, Battle of Prague, WWI, and WWII. Prague became the capital of the newly created Czechoslovakia at the end of WWI.
Unfortunately, the end of WWII saw Prague and all of Czechoslovakia thrust into the Cold War era, Soviet Eastern European communism. The Russians controlled Czechoslovakia for 41 years, beginning in 1948 and losing power during the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Three years later, the country peacefully split into two independent countries – Czech Republic and Slovakia.
We visited Prague at the very end of October, during the 2 days before Halloween – and it was PACKED. Not only was it Halloween weekend, but Czech Republic Independence Day also happens to fall during that same weekend (October 28th). Unfortunately, we found ourselves inundated with thousands of fellow tourists, from all over the Czech Republic, other parts of Europe, and other continents. While it could be somewhat of a challenge to find an available restaurant option, other than that, it wasn’t too unbearable. I spoke to several others who have visited Prague during different times of the year, and they all said it was NOT like this. So, plan accordingly! 😅🤪
We visited countless places during our stay in Prague, hitting all the major hotspots and then some. We stayed at the Hotel Paris Praha (highly recommended), located in the heart of Praha 1 or the downtown area. It was within 60 seconds walking distance to the The Powder Tower of Prague., which is one of 13 original, 13th-century Gothic-style gates that surround Old Town and separate it from New Town. There’s also the Franz Kafka Rotating Head, located in a shopping center at Charvátova, 110 00 Nové Město. It was built by Czech artist David Cerney in 2014 and rotates every every 15 minutes, stopping for 15-minute increments in the perfect spot.
There’s The Prague Astronomical Clock., which was built in 1410, making it the oldest working clock still in operation anywhere in the world. Important note – the clock is a favorite location for the infamous Prague pickpockets, who love to strike (pun intended) when everyone is crowded together and distracted by the clock. Next there’s Speculum Alchemiae: Museum of Alchemy 🔮 (Prague)., which was one of my favorite spots. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it’s believed to be the 2nd oldest building in all of Prague and is the site of the underground alchemy labs of the 16th-century ruler Emperor Rudolf II.
There’s also the Famous Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic., an icon of Prague, and one of the most photographed and visited locations in the city. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, it’s known for its 30 large, Gothic-style statues that line it from north to south, along with street musicians, performers, and artists. It’s another well-known hunting ground for pick pockets, so remain vigilant. I suggest taking a couple of hours to visit the Museum of Communism, open daily from 9am to 8pm, and dedicated to the horrors of Soviet-era communism that had its stronghold on Prague and Czechoslovakia for 4 decades.
As mentioned, there’s also Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral (individual blog coming up!). The castle was built during the 7th century and has been the seat of power for not only the Kings of Bohemia, but also Holy Roman Emperors and Presidents of Czech Republic. This is where the Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept and hidden. St. Vitus Cathedral is a Roman Catholic, 12th-century church located within the Prague Castle complex and is the current seat of the Archbishop of Prague.
I highly recommend spending an afternoon in the Old Jewish Quarter, a place of significant historical significance not only for Jews, but Prague as well. We took a night-time historical walking tour that incorporated both Prague history and the paranormal and learned about the infamous Golem legend of Prague. Birthed in the Jewish Quarter, the Golem was a mythical, large, Bigfoot/Yeti looking, animated creature made from clay or mud, allegedly created by Judah Loew ben Bezalel (a.k.a Rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Becalel-Maharal). It was used in 16th-century Prague to help defend the Jewish Ghetto from antisemitic attacks, especially at night. You can find references to the Golem all over the Jewish Quarter, in the form of souvenirs, trinkets, mosaics on the sidewalk, restaurant names, and more.
Make sure to visit The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic., in existence since the 13th-century, and located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Since Jews in Prague were historically persecuted and forcibly sequestered into a small space, the layers of dead are at least 12 deep, as Orthodox Judaism does not allow cremation or to abolish old graves (i.e. move them).
Lastly, don’t forget to try some genuine absinthe that’ll certainly knock your socks off!
Overall, if you ever get the chance to see the fascinating, colorful, vibrant, and historical Prague, Czech Republic, don’t pass it up!! I was presented with a golden opportunity to visit this wonderful city and I left feeling blessed that I was able to go. The people were friendly, the sites incredible, beautiful, and significant, and the food was amazing! Give the historical capital of Bohemia a visit!