Prague on foot

AS FATE would have it, the first image I saw in Prague would be the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Square, probably the image synonymous to the capital city of the Czech Republic. I pictured myself in the same spot and voila! The image turned into reality.

The most photographed in Prague, the Astronomical Clock with the St. Nicholas Church at the Old Town Square

The old town of Prague can be explored on foot. All you need is a good pair of shoes, a map and an open mind.

I say an open mind because there are times that the map can be of no use once you find yourself in the maze-like, narrow cobblestone streets, less beaten paths that are sometimes deserted. Consider these times exciting, times when something fascinating pops up, like a small museum or a quaint local shop that showcases and sells artisanal must-haves created by local artists. These are what I chanced upon on my “lost” time.

Explore the maze of the old town where narrow cobblestone alleys can lead to something exciting.

Like this sign that leads to a museum.

And this Pinoy store. Of course there has to be one in this city.

Surprise! A modern installation called UnUtero. Feel free to climb inside this sculpture & reconnect with the womb.

Look up! An installation by controversial artist David Cerny in an alley in the Old Town.

As for the Prague’s places of interest, that won’t be hard to find. Either it’s humongous, like a towering directional sign in the sky, or tourists, in hordes, are flocking the area (the waving pennant is a giveaway).

I know I was in the Jewish Quarters & could have missed the Old New Synagogue, Europe’s oldest active synagogue, if it were;t for this tourists flocking in front of it.

But first, a little info about Prague (name is derived from praga, an old Slavic root, meaning “ford”, referring to the city’s origin at a crossing point of the Vltava river): it’s the capital city of the Czech Republic, the historical capital of Bohemia, and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire (it became the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors) is known as Praha to the locals; it was founded during the Romanesque era and flourished during the Gothic and Renaissance eras; it has been called the “Mother of Cities” and “City of a Hundred Spires”; it played major roles during two World Wars and post-war Communist era— the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War; its historic architecture stayed true to its original form, surviving violence and destruction of 20th century Europe. This eventually became the major crowd drawer that put the city as the 5th in the list of most visited European cities after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Prague has been called “The City of a Hundred Spires”

Spires rise from every corner of the city….

…even from hidden squares very few tourists know of.

Panoramic view of the Lesser & Old Towns from the Prague Castle.
Sculptural artworks framing doorways is a common sight.

In 1992, Prague’s historic center has been listed in the Unesco list of World Heritage Sites. It showcases one of the world’s best preserved and varied array of architecture— Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Neo-Classical, and beyond the old town, the ultra-modern.

Mixed architectural style. (Left) the National Theatre (Národní Divadlo)
The Municipal House, the civi building that houses Smetana Hall, a concert venue.

Now let’s get walking. The historic center of Prague is composed of the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) beneath the castle, and the Old Town (Staré Mesto) and New Town (NovéMesto) on the opposite side of the river, which can be explored on foot.

The Lesser Town bridge tower opens up to this cobblestone street.
Modern transportation in the old city.

Within these areas are the city’s main attractions— the Prague Castle and the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral; the Petrin Hill; the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious where the Infant Jesus of Prague is.

Entrance to the Prague Castle, the biggest ancient castle in the world

The Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral where the Czech Crown jewels are stored.

The museum-like Charles Bridge that crosses over the famed river of Vltava and connects the towns.

Charles Bridge- a most scenic pass between historic towns.
The old town gate tower of the historic Charles Bridge built in the 14th century.
Statues adorn the bridge’s balustrade.
The gates to the Mala Strana.

The Old Town Square where the Astronomical clock and the Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn are; the former Jewish ghetto known now as the Jewish Quarter; and the 80s grievance wall, Lennon Wall, filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and snippets of Beatles songs lyrics; the 11th century Gothic Powder Tower, one of the original 13 city gates; and the New town that where the Wenceslas Square where the non-violent Velvet Revolution occurred, and the very intriguing Ghery-Mulinic creation, and the Dancing House, inspired by Astaire and Rogers, are.

Wenceslas Square, where the non-violent Velvet Revolution transpired.
A cemetery in the Jewish Quarters

The controversial Ghery-Mulinic Deconstructivist aka New Baroque style creation inspired by Astaire and Rogers- the Dancing House 
The 11th century Gothic Powder Tower, one of the original 13 city gates

There are more exciting areas in the historic center that may not have landed on the popular list. These you have to discover for yourself while on your foot exploration sun up to sun down. If the daytime can unveil the intricate details of the towns’ landscape, the nighttime vista is surreal.

Fountain of  Emperor František I

Detail of the elaborate neo-gothic Fountain of  Emperor Francis I (František I)
Prague is magical at night.

Take more than a couple of days to truly enjoy this capital city, it will be worth your every minute (and peso). Don’t rush, find joy in every step and immerse yourself in the moment. For sure, it is in one of these moments that you will be saying, “I must come back,” and it may just be your first day in Prague, long before you have come to the end of your journey. I did and I know I will because there is so much more to see and experience.

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