The fact that Prague was ranked sixth in the TripAdvisor world list of the best destinations in 2016 and the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Rome and Istanbul in 2017, made my writing of its itinerary quite challenging. One can always discover so many new great things to see and do there. However, for those ones who haven’t visited Prague yet, I managed to compose this list of its main attractions and sights that can be seen just in one day. After all, the main concept of my posts is visiting cities and seeing as much as possible of their attractions, if you have only a few hours at your disposal.
Prague (Praha) is the capital and the largest city in the Czech Republic and its political, cultural and economic center, with millions of tourists who visit it every year. It is situated on the Vltava river and has about 1.3 million inhabitants.
Its history is incredibly rich and it is home to a number of well-known cultural attractions, to more than ten major museums, numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas and to many public and private schools, including Charles University in Prague, the oldest university in Central Europe.
- The Rudolfinum
- The Museum of Decorative Arts
- The Jewish Quarter: The Old Jewish Cemetery, Maisel Synagogue, The Jewish Town Hall, The Spanish Synagogue
- The Basilica of St. James
- Republic Square: The Municipal House, The Powder Tower, The Czech National Bank, The Palladium shopping mall
- The Jerusalem Synagogue
- The Musee Grévin
- Old Town Square: The Church of Mother of God before Týn, The Church of Saint Nicholas, The Old Town Hall with The Astronomical Clock, The Kinský Palace, The Gothic House at the Stone, the Prague meridian
- The House at The Minute
- The Clementinum
- The Cathedral of St. Clement
- The Church of St. Salvator
- The Church of St. Francis of Assisi
- The Old Town Bridge Tower
- The Lesser Town Bridge Tower
- Charles Bridge
- The Church of Saint Nicholas
- The Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain
- Hradčany Square: The Schwarzenberg Palace, The Archbishop’s Palace, The Tuscany Palace, The SalmPalace
- Hradčany – Prague Castle: The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, St George’s Basilica
- Legion Bridge
- Kranner’s Fountain
- The National Theatre
- The Dancing House
Our tour will start from the Rudolfinum, a beautiful concert hall. The Rudolfinum is a building designed in the neo-renaissance style on the bank of the river Vltava in 1885. It is named in honor of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, who presided over the opening. Apart from the period between 1919 and 1939 when it was used as the seat of the Czechoslovak Parliament, it has always been associated with music and art. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Gallery Rudolfinum are based in it. Its largest music auditorium, Dvořák Hall, is one of the oldest concert halls in Europe. Antonín Dvořák himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic in this hall in its first concert ever, on 4 January 1896.
Just across 17th November street, right opposite the Rudolfinum, there is another amazing building, the Museum of Decorative Arts, a real jewel among Prague’s lesser known museums, with an impressive collection of Czech and Central European clocks, furniture, women’s clothes, porcelain, Bohemian glass and jewelry from the 17th to the 19th century, as well as Czech calligraphic books and maps. The ground floor usually hosts some temporary exhibitions of famous Czech photographers or artists.
Široká Street, right next to this building will take us to the Jewish Quarter with the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova synagoga), the second oldest surviving synagogue in Prague.
The graveyard is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It has about 12,000 visible tombstones positioned over almost 20 layers of graves beneath!
Maisel Synagogue (Maiselova synagoga) on the right, was built from 1590 to 1592 by the mayor of the Jewish Town, Mordechai Maisel, during the golden age of the ghetto. The original Renaissance building was seriously damaged by fire in 1689, and its appearance has changed several times since then. Its actual style is neo-gothic and is administered by the Jewish Museum in Prague.
High Synagogue (Vysoká Synagoga) on the left, was built in 1568, as a Renaissance themed building, funded by the mayor of the Jewish Town together with the Jewish Town Hall.
The Jewish Town Hall (Židovská radnice) was later remodeled into Baroque (Rococo) style. The Rococo facade includes an unusual clock tower with remarkable Hebrew figures as well as an additional clock with Roman symbols.
What makes the clock with Hebrew figures so remarkable is that its hands move counter-clockwise, probably because Hebrew is read from right to left instead of left to right.
Široká Street will take us to The Holy Ghost Church, Kafka Monument and to the beautiful Spanish Synagogue. In order to cover the furthest points immediately, we will take V Kolkovně Street, opposite Kafka’s Monument, and then Masná St and Malá Štupartská St, to get to the Basilica of St. James, another beautiful church in the city full of beautiful churches. It’s not impressive from the outside, but the inside is gorgeous, with a magnificent high ceiling covered in spectacular artwork. It was built in the 13th century for the Franciscans in the Gothic style, and destroyed in the fire in 1689. It was rebuilt in the Baroque style.
Jakubská, then Rybná and Králodvorská St, will take us to Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky), lying at the boundary of the Old Town and New Town. The square is a very popular spot for locals and tourists, and is very close to several significant buildings: Kotva Department Store, Municipal House, Powder Tower, Czech National Bank and Palladium shopping mall.
The Municipal House (Obecní dům) is an Art Nouveau building, built from 1905 to 1911. It used to be The Royal Court palace and the King of Bohemia used to live there from 1383 until 1485.
Today it is used as a concert hall and a ballroom, with cafes and restaurants, but many of the rooms are closed to the public and open only for guided tours.
The Powder Tower (Prašná brána) is a Gothic tower built in 1475, and one of the 13 original city gates in the Old Town.
Intended to be an attractive entrance into the city, it was mainly used as a gunpowder storage instead. Afterwards, it was used as the starting point for the Coronation ceremonies.
Taking Senovážná Street, opposite the Municipal House and then Senovážné nám and Jeruzalémská St. you will get to the Jerusalem Synagogue, another beautiful synagogue, built in 1906, definitely worth seeing, although a bit distant.
Celetná St will take us back from the Municipal House to the Musee Grévin, Prague Wax Museum of Legends, and one of the largest in Europe, opened in 2014 in one of the city’s main shopping streets.
Soon after it, we will come to Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) the most significant square of historical Prague, founded in the 12th century. One of its dominant features is The Church of Mother of God before Týn (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem), or simply Týn Church. It is one of the most impressive Gothic sacral buildings in Prague, built from the 14th to the 16th century. Its towers are 80 m high with four small spires on the top, and its organ from 1673 is the oldest in Prague.
The square is dominated by the Church of Saint Nicholas (Kostel svatého Mikuláše), a Baroque church built between 1704-1755 on the site of a Gothic church from the 13th century, also dedicated to Saint Nicholas which astonishes visitors with its size and monumental interior.
In addition, we will find here the Old Town Hall, the Rococo Kinský Palace, the Gothic House at the Stone Bell and the monument to Jan Hus. In the pavement of the square are memorial stones marking the execution of 27 Czech lords in 1621, and the Prague meridian.
The Old Town Hall with The Astronomical Clock (Staroměstská radnice s orlojem) is one of the most visited monuments of Prague. It is a complex of several ancient houses, established in 1338 as the seat of the Old Town administration.
It consists of a beautiful Gothic tower, almost 70 m high, offering amazing views of the city, and a unique astronomical clock, known as the Prague Orloj (Pražský orloj), where, every hour between 9 am and 11 pm, the twelve apostles appear.
It was installed on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in 1410, and it is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still operating. According to a local legend, the city would suffer if the clock were neglected.
The Kinský Palace (Palác Kinských) is the seat of the National Gallery in Prague. It is a Rococo building with wonderful stucco and sculptural decoration. The Gothic House at the Stone Bell, is a remarkable Early Gothic house from the 13th century, named after the stone bell embedded in the outside corner.
We will leave this marvelous square walking towards The House at The Minute (Dům U Minuty). The house is a part of the Old Town Hall complex, and a typical example of Czech Burgher Renaissance architecture. It has an impressive facade, covered with sgraffito decorations representing scenes from Greek mythology and biblical and Renaissance legends. Franz Kafka lived here with his parents from 1889 to 1896.
On our way to Charles Bridge, we will also find the Clementinum, a stunning old baroque Library, founded in 1781, that contains some of the oldest and the rarest books in world. Its tower provides an exquisite panoramic view of Prague.
Three beautiful churches are placed here, one next to each other: The Cathedral of St. Clement, The Church of St. Salvator and The Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Baroque Cathedral of St Clement is a part of the Clementinum. It was built between 1711 and 1715. Its exterior is simple, but it is amazing inside.
The Church St. Salvator is also a part of the former Jesuit College of St. Clement. It is a Baroque building founded in the 16th, and completed in the 17th century. The tradition of organ concerts in this church is very long, thanks to its beautiful and recently restored, organ from the 18th century.
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi was built in Baroque style between 1679 and 1685. It replaced the original church of St. Francis of Assisi of 1270. It has magnificent interior decoration, a monumental, nearly 41m high dome, and the second oldest organ in Prague dating from 1702.
The Old Town Bridge Tower (Staroměstská mostecká věž) is one of the most beautiful Gothic gateways in the world, designed by the Schwabian architect Peter Parler, who also designed the famous Charles Bridge and the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral. The tower and the bridge were built by Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century. The construction began in 1357 and it was completed in 1380. The gate was imagined as a symbolic triumphal arch, through which Czech kings would pass on their coronation processions. It offers you an unforgettable view of the city, if you climb its 138 steps to the viewing gallery.
On the opposite side of Charles Bridge, guarding the entrance to the Lesser Town, there is The Lesser Town Bridge Tower (Malostranské mostecké věže).
The taller (43.5m) Late Gothic tower was built in 1464, to replace an earlier Romanesque tower upon the model of Parler’s Old Town Bridge Tower. Its gallery, will offer you another stunning view of the Vltava River and the historical city center.
The smaller Judith’s Tower is connected to it by a gate, and represents the only remaining part of the original Judith’s Bridge, destroyed by floods in 1342. Originally built as a Romanesque tower in the 12th century, it got its current Renaissance appearance in1591. Inside the Lesser Town Bridge Tower, there is an exhibition dedicated to the history of Charles Bridge.
Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is one of the most famous and the most beautiful bridges in the world. Its construction across the Vltava river started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV. It replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. It is 516 meters long, 9.5 meters wide, and is decorated by a continuous alley of 30, mostly Baroque statues, erected around 1700. Now they are all replaced by replicas.
One of the most interesting among these magnificent statues is the Statue of St. John of Nepomuk, one of the most significant Czech saints, and many people believe that it brings luck if you touch it.
The Statue of Saints Vincent Ferrer and Procopius is one of the most artistically important ones. There is a column with a sculpture of a famous mythical Bohemian knight Bruncvik behind this statue, then the sculpture group of St. Lutgarde, the Sculpture of St. Judas Thaddeus and many others.
Following Mostecká St, we will soon get to The Church of Saint Nicholas (Kostel svatého Mikuláše), and the beautiful Holy Trinity Column in front of it. The Church of Saint Nicholas is a Late-Gothic and Baroque church built between 1732 and 1737 on the site of a Gothic church from the 13th century.
Its dome has an impressive diameter of 20m, and its interior height is over 49m, which is the highest interior in Prague. Concerts are held here all over the year on the historic organ from the 18th century.
We will leave Mostecká St for a minute, and turn left to Karmelitská St, just to see The Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain (Kostel Panny Marie pod řetězem), the oldest in the Little Quarter, which was founded in the 1100s. Its name refers to the chain used in the Middle Ages to close the monastery gatehouse.
A Gothic presbytery and two square towers were added in the 13th century, and he Baroque renovation of the church was carried out in 1640.
Our next target is Hradčany Square, a charming square full of astonishing Baroque and Renaissance palaces and houses. It is one of the best-preserved districts of Prague and one of the access points to Prague Castle.
The square is dominated by a plague column of Virgin Mary and surrounded by some spectacular buildings, such as The Schwarzenberg Palace, The Archbishop’s Palace, The Tuscany Palace, The Salm Palace and others.
The National Gallery of Prague – The Schwarzenberg Palace (Národní galerie Praha – Schwarzenberský palác) is an amazing Early Renaissance building with rich black-and-white sgraffito decorations on the walls, situated on the area of three buildings that were destroyed by great fire in 1541.
The Archbishop’s Palace (Arcibiskupský palác) has been the seat of Prague archbishops and bishops since the 1660s. The palace was built on the site of eight town houses in the Renaissance style in 1562, rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 17th century, and got its current appearance in 1760´s when Its facade was decorated in Rococo style.
Hradčany was an independent district until 1784, when, with others that had constituted Prague: Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter), Staré Město (Old Town) and Nové Město (New Town), was proclaimed a single city.
The castle Hradčany is one of the biggest in the world (about 570m long, and 130m wide). It was built in the 9th century and was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. It attracts over 1.8 million visitors a year
Its first building, the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built in 870. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded in the 10th century, the first convent in Bohemia was founded there, next to the church of St. George, and a Romanesque palace was erected here during the 12th century. The castle houses several museums, the National Gallery collection of Bohemian baroque and mannerism art, exhibition dedicated to Czech history, Toy Museum and the picture gallery of Prague Castle.
Its buildings represent a mixture of almost all the architectural styles of the last millennium.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert (Metropolitní katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha), one of the most famous landmarks in Prague, is a Roman Catholic metropolitan cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. It is the largest church in Prague and in the whole Czech Republic.
Until 1997, it was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and thus still commonly named St. Vitus Cathedral.
It is located within Prague Castle and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.
It was founded in 1344 on the site of the original Romanesque rotunda. The construction took nearly 600 years and was finally completed in 1929.
The main tower (Hlavní věž), above the south door is Gothic, the lighter colored parapet Renaissance, and the cupola is Baroque. The South Door, known as the Zlatá brána, underneath the tower is from 14th century and it is featuring a mosaic of The Last Judgement. Beside the South Door, there is one of the most important parts of the cathedral, the Chapel of St Wenceslas, the country’s patron saint, who was killed by his pagan brother Boleslav the Cruel in 929.
St George’s Basilica (Bazilika sv. Jiří) is one of Prague’s most significant Romanesque monuments, and the city’s second oldest church, founded around 920.
It has two white stone steeples, reaching a height of 41m. The wider, southern tower is called Adam, and the narrower, northern tower is called Eve. Its interior is Romanesque, and its Baroque façade dates from the late 17th century.
The building now houses the 19th century Bohemian Art Collection of National Gallery in Prague and serves as a concert hall, as well.
If you still have strength to move your feet, I suggest going down to the river again. This time you can choose either Charles Bridge or beautiful Legion Bridge to cross the Vltava.
Legion Bridge connects the National boulevard with the Lesser Town going over Střelecký Island, a frequent place for many cultural events.
It was built in a combination of neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau styles, between 1999 – 1901 to replace Chain Bridge of Emperor Francis I. It is 343m long and 16m wide and it has two towers on both sides.
100m to the left you will find beautiful Kranner’s Fountain. It is a Neo-Gothic monument by the river designed by the architect Josef Kranner in 1850.
It was completely reconstructed in 2003 and now is fully functional. The whole park around it is a great place to relax and enjoy the view of the city.
We will go to the right instead, pass the beautiful historical building of the National Theatre, constructed in 1883, and visit our last point, the Dancing House.
The Dancing House (Tančící dům), or Fred and Ginger, was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a riverfront plot in 1992 and completed in 1996.
They were inspired by the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the stone tower symbolizes Fred Astaire and the glass tower, his partner Ginger Rogers.
If you ever returned from a trip and realized through chats with others that you hadn’t seen some of the beautiful places which were just around the corner, you will understand why I write these itineraries.
Every inch of Prague has a landmark worth seeing.
This route of mine, although it will cost you a few calluses, will likely allow you to regret missing none of its most beautiful attractions.