By Chris Meechan Ring
Prague has been on my bucket list for quite some years so I was excited to finally arrive and see what it had to offer and I was definitely not disappointed!
A first-stop for anyone visiting this city is usually the Old Town. This is very much a walking city so once you get to the old town you can put your map away and just explore. This allows you to really soak up the local atmosphere. It’s easy to find you way around once you get a feel for it.
The Old Town has a large central square, flanked by beautiful heritage buildings and a massive cathedral. The square is filled night and day with buskers, tour guides, food stalls and tourists and it has a fantastic atmosphere. After you have had a walk around, sit down, grab a coffee and just soak up the vibe. It will cost you more to sit outside in the cafes than it does to order inside but it’s worth it for the experience.
On the edge of the square is the famous ‘Astronomical Clock’, where death chimes in the hour, every hour. I have heard this described as a highlight and as the most over-rated attraction in Prague – I can tell you it’s both! No trip here would be complete without joining the throngs of tourists that arrive every hour to watch it chime but my hot tip is not to go at 1pm, as the bell only rings once and it is a short show!
Heading west from the Old Town you cross the Charles Bridge, by far the most famous of the bridges that cross the river and another must-do. As you walk along the bridge there are buskers performing and more stalls selling art and craft., but be sure to stop and enjoy the detail of the ornate statues that line the bridge. For a different view of the bridge, get out on the water in one of the small boats that take groups under the bridge and along the canals.
Once on the other side of the river there is only one direction to head in and that is up to the Castle. The complex dates back to as early as 870AD and has many different buildings that have been erected in the centuries since. Located atop a hill, it’s worth the walk for the view alone but the architecture and history make it even more worthwhile. If you can time your arrival for before midday you can see the fanfare of the changing of the guard. The restaurants on this side of the river are quieter and, like everywhere in Prague, they all welcome tourists with open arms. We stopped in a quaint little place serving Czech food that was built in 1375.
On the other side of the town is Wenceslas Square, named after the same figure that the Christmas carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is written about, who incidentally wasn’t a king! It’s great to have a stroll through the square and there are many tourist-friendly restaurants along here to stop and have a meal in. One of my personal favourite dishes here is the goulash for which the region is famous.
By far the biggest highlight for me in Prague was the music scene. If you find yourself with a spare night, stop by the State Theatre and just ask “what’s on?”. I was fortunate enough to arrive the night of a Gala, honouring the composer Verdi, which was on at the Opera House. This was a truly wonderful experience – both being in such a grand old theatre, and the actual performance itself. Almost any night of the week something will be on so try your luck. On another night in Prague, I visited the Reduta Jazz Club, which is where Bill Clinton played the Saxophone during his visit. Again, there is almost always something on and the atmosphere of the venue, along with the quality of the music, made it a great night out.