Prague was virtually undamaged during World War 2. During 1987, the city was involved in a massive restoration program. Virtually every major attraction was partially covered with scaffolding. The program was scheduled to be completed in 1992. From the appearance of sections that have been completed, it is clear that Prague will be the most beautiful city in Europe.
TRANSPORTATION: Buses, trams, and a new subway. Tickets at tobacco shops and newsstands. Validate your ticket on the bus or tram, or in the turn-style, as you enter the subway.
OLD TOWN (STARE MESTO): One of the most interesting parts of Prague … with a great many medieval exteriors.
POWDER TOWER (PRASNA BRANA)- This is the gate to Old Town … once used to store gunpowder. Built in 1475, the Czech kings departed from here on their coronation route. Climb the 185 steps for a great view.
OLD TOWN SQUARE (STAROMESTSKE NAMESTI): This is the delightful center of Old Town. The statue in the center is the national hero John Huss. The landmark ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK, built in 1490, is on the OLD TOWN HALL. Every hour on the hour, see the solemn March of Christ, his 12 apostles and other allegorical figures as Death strikes the bell. On the east side of this square is the TYN CHURCH, from 1365…with twin Gothic spires and an extravaganza of Baroque decoration.
OLD JEWISH QUARTER: The ancient buildings here comprise the STATE JEWISH MUSEUM. This ghetto is one of the oldest in Europe, dating from the 10th century. The major buildings are OLD-NEW SYNAGOGUE (1270), the OLD JEWISH TOWN HALL, the MAISEL SYNAGOGUE, with excellent examples of artifact used in worship, and the most interesting part … the OLD JEWISH CEMETERY, where graves are superimposed on top of each other. The oldest tombstone reads 1439. One need not be Jewish to appreciate this section.
NEW TOWN (NOVE MESTO): dating from 1348 … established by King Charles IV. In this area will be:
VACLAVSKE NAMESTI (WENCESLAS SQUARE): This is the central thoroughfare of the city, and a large portion of the boulevard is a pedestrian mall … with the imposing NATIONAL MUSEUM at one end, with the statue of King Wenceslas on horse-back guarding the square at the front of the Museum.
NATIONAL MUSEUM: An imposing neo-Renaissance facade … paintings by Czech artists.
FLEK-S INN (U FLEKU): The city’s most famous pub … in existence from before 1499.
DVORAK MUSEUM: Kekarlovu Street) … mementos of the composer. Sculpture garden in back. The building is not well maintained, but the artifacts are interesting.
CHARLES SQUARE (KARLOVO NAMESTI): This quiet park is surrounded by old buildings, and is the center around which Prague was planned in 1348. See the NEW TOWN HALL … FAUST’S HOUSE, named because the occult sciences were practiced.
CHARLES BRIDGE: This grand bridge is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Europe, dating from 1357. Open to foot traffic only, it is lined on both sides with statues, and you’ll have great views of the castle area, the Vltava River, and the island of Kampa. Many souvenir stands on the bridge. Cross the bridge to LESSER TOWN.
LESSER TOWN (MALA STRANA): This is Prague’s Baroque soul, and the city’s most picturesque quarter … full of old palaces, and a maze of crooked, cobble-stoned lanes, old churches, museums, etc. Wander around on foot. There are hills, but the stroll is worth it.
LESSER TOWN SQUARE (MALOSTRANSKE NAMESTI): Surrounded by 16th century houses … and dominated by the 13th century Baroque church of ST. NlCHOLAS, which has a noteworthy dome, nave, and frescoed ceiling.
NERUDA STREET (NERUDOVA ULICE): One of the most beautiful streets in Lesser Town. The MORZINE PALACE is at #5 … the THUN-HOHENSTEIN is at #20. There are also foreign embassies on this street.
MALTESE SQUARE (MALTEZSKE NAMESTI): A maze of small streets with 17th century buildings. The main reason one goes here is to visit the church of OUR LADY OF VICTORIES, dating from 1611. Its major religious relic is a small doll of the Christ child, which is dressed in elaborate costumes … and is said to have miraculous powers.
WALLENSTEIN PALACE (VALDSTERJNSKY PALACE): North of St. Nicholas’s church, this magnificent Baroque palace dates from 1623. There are really several buildings, five courtyards, two gardens, and a lake.
PRAGUE CASTLE (HRADCANY): Today, this is the seat of the government, but was once the residence of the kings of Bohemia. There are really three walled courtyards. ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL with its towering spires is the mausoleum of the Czech kings, and the vault for the crown jewels. A CHANGING OF THE GUARD takes place outside the cathedral. Another building is the STERNBERG PALACE, which is the national Art Gallery, with works by Goya, Ribera, El Greco, Breughel, Rubens, and Durer. It’s a small collection, and few tourists seem to go there. To the side of the cathedral is VLADISLAU PALACE with a hall so large that knights on horseback once jousted in it.
GOLDEN LANE (ZLATA ULICKA): South of the Castle…a charming short street with very small houses and shops from 1541…Interesting gift items on sale. One hardly has room to move.
GARDENS OF THE RAMPARTS: Continue walking downhill from the Golden Lane, and you arrive at the Ramparts … SPECTACULAR VIEWS OVER THE RIVER AND PRAGUE. Continue walking down the long flight of steps, and you’ll end at a square near the river, where you can take public transportation to another area. (Don’t miss the Ramparts).
STRAHOV MONASTERY (STRAHOVSKY KLASTER): West of the castle… high above Petrin Hill. This is a gigantic monastery whose gardens provide a lovely view of Prague. The collection of old manuscripts is excellent.
CZECH CASTLES and CHATEAUS: This is a CEDOK tour, which travels 18 miles to the Gothic KARLSTEIN CASTLE, which was founded by Charles IV as a stronghold for the Coronation jewels. The setting, high in the hills, is spectacular. The tour continues around the SLAPY DAM LAKE to KONOPISTE CHATEAU, which is a rather modern chateau built in the “old style”. There is a rich collection of weapons and hunting trophies here. The walk from the parking area to the chateau is a killer… almost straight up hill.
PEARLS OF CZECH GOTHIC ART: This is a CEDOK tour, which travels 43 miles to KURTNA HORA, which is a splendid example of Gothic Art. The tour continues to VLASSKY DVUR, and its’ collection of paintings, and then to CESKY STERNBERK CASTLE.
CHARM OF CENTRAL BOHEMIA: This is a CEDOK tour, which visits ORLIK CASTLE, which contains a collection of weapons, trophies, and woodcarvings. This is followed by a boat ride on the ORLIK DAM LAKE, and the tour continuing to ZVIKOV CASTLE.