Prague is a city of vast beauty. Its architecture is enchanting. Of course, this means that many of the most desirable sights are free. These are some of the intriguing buildings, structures, and public spaces you won’t want to miss during a visit to Prague:
In the Old Town Square, spend some time studying the Horloge. The Horloge is no ordinary clock. In addition to displaying the time of day, it also depicts the path of the sun and moon and contains a calendarium charting months and days of each year. And after centuries of use, its calculations remain precise.
House at the Minute
Also on the Old Town Square, the House at the Minute, No. 2/3, is an artistic wonder. The façade is covered in figural graffito of Biblical scenes. Franz Kafka once lived here. This house is considered part of the Old Town Hall, at No. 3/1 Staromìstká radnice, a pink stucco building, decorated with an ornate Renaissance window and a variety of colorful shields.
Old Town Square
The Old Town Square has been party to some of the saddest, ugliest and proudest moments in Prague’s political history. Twenty-seven members of the anti-Hapsburg uprising were executed here in 1621; the Nazis burned the east wing of Town Hall in retribution for the Prague Uprising in 1945; and in 1990, after the fall of the communism, demonstrations in support of Vaclav Havel, who became the Czech Republic’s President took place here.
Wenceslas Square is another locale associated with political protest; there a young philosophy student set himself on fire in protest of the Warsaw Pact countries’ invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia to forestall developing political reforms during the Prague Spring in 1968; again in 1989-90 demonstrations in support of democratic reforms occurred there amid impromptu memorials honoring those who lost their lives challenging the communist regime.
There are many houses in Prague named for the identifying plaques above their doors: the House at the Golden Cup, the House at the Stone Ram, the House at the Two Suns, the House at the Golden Ring, the House at the Green Frog, the House at the Three Golden Lions, the House at the Cat, the House at the White Shoe, the House at the Blue Fox… and many, many more. These prettily painted inset plaques make interesting photo subjects. The Olympia Guide to Prague describes the locations of these adorned houses, which are in neighborhoods throughout Prague, and when significant, the houses’ histories.
Hradcany CastleExterior and Golden Lane
The gates to Hradcany Castle are intriguing but not inviting. Set atop the entryway in metalwork are protectors of the castle bludgeoning unwanted visitors with heavy clubs and knives. Not your typical “Welcome” mat.
Also outside Hradcany Castle, a line of colorful, wee houses on Golden Lane attests to the growth of human beings since Medieval times. These houses, whose doors would not admit an average adult standing, were home to the tradesmen who supported the castle- mainly marksmen and gold beaters- in the late 1500s. Either they were Lilliputians or we’re Giants. By the 18th century, the houses became home to folks of limited means. However, their uniqueness intrigued people and inspired artistic works. Franz Kafka lived in House 22 in 1917; Nobel Lauriat Jaroslav Seifert wrote some of his famous poetry while living adjacent to Golden Lane. In recent times, the little houses have been converted to gift shops.
Jewish Town Hall
In the Josefov neighborhood, the Jewish Town Hall, No. 18/250 Maislova Street, is a popular tourist attraction, again because of a clock. The hands on this clock with Hebrew numerals move counterclockwise, or the same right-to-left direction in which Hebrew is read.
Franz Kafka Statue
The statue erected to honor novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka, in front of the Spanish synagogue, seems to have been inspired by his writings.
Karlùv Most(Charles Bridge)
No visitor to Prague passes through without crossing over Karlùv Most, or Charles Bridge. This bridge connects the Old Town to the Lesser Town. On the Old Town side, check out the side streets for store windows displaying lovely plaster marionettes dressed in velvets and silks. On Charles Bridge itself, there are 30 statues of saints to peruse, including of course, Prague’s favorite St. Wenceslas and the patron saint of the bridge, St. Vitus.
With its colorful architecture and other free sights, Prague is an inspired choice for the budget conscious traveler.