Prague has plenty of great qualities. It’s easily accessible from Toronto and Montreal during the summer and part of the fall. The Czech capital can be combined with many fantastic cities, like Vienna and Budapest. And it promises a fabulous stroll through time. Still not convinced? Here are our top 10 reasons to visit Prague and make it your next holiday destination!
1- The history
There’s something magical in walking over the magnificent stone Charles Bridge and thinking how people used to stroll here seven centuries ago. Even though Prague was bombed during the Second World War, it features many structures built during different eras. In the Old Town, the Church of Our Lady Before Týn, whose construction began in the 14th century, dominates the historic Staré Město. For amazing views, climb to the top of the Old Town Hall tower, built in 1410. Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, whose history dates back to the Middle Ages, is also worth a visit.
2- The Astronomical Clock
If you spot a crowd gathered in the Old Town at the top of the hour, you’re probably approaching the Astronomical Clock. Why does it draw so many? Every hour, on the hour, this clock built 600 years ago becomes the centre of attraction. A procession of apostles appears under the awnings of two small windows. Statuettes come to life. A skeleton, a Turk, a miser, a vain man… The spectacle ends when the golden rooster lets out a “cocorico“ and the bell
tolls. The meaning behind all this? According to the Czech Republic tourism office, legend has it that, at dawn, when the rooster crows for the first time, the ghosts and demons flee the city.
3- Prague Castle
Prague Castle is, without a doubt, a must-see. Imagine, it has been playing an important role in political and religious realms since the 9th century! You’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of this castle and its St. Vitus Cathedral, and certain features will leave an indelible mark. Be sure to check out the hall where knights used to do battle. A visit to the dungeon is sure to be bone-chilling, and you’ll be amazed at the (reconstituted) world of an alchemist, on the Golden Lane, lined with 15th-century colourful houses. It’s worth noting that the Avant-Garde company offers French tours of the castle.
4- The architecture
For many (including the author of this text), the magnificent architecture forms the backdrop of any visit to Prague. You’ll find fabulous Gothic, art nouveau, art deco and even cubist structures. A good guide could help you discover a Roman cellar where you least expected it. Restaurant, café, bar and concert venue all in one, the Municipal House cries out to be explored (it offers guided tours). Also not to be missed (in a much more contemporary style): Tančící dům, or the Dancing House of Frank Ghery and Vlado Milunic, also known as ‟Ginger and Fred” after Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. So unique!
5- The street art
While you’re wandering about, you might happen upon a sculpture hanging above a street or the colossal head of writer Franz Kafka composed of rotating ‟mirrors.” These are the works of controversial artist David Černý, and you’ll find yourself actively hunting for his masterpieces in the city after stumbling upon one or two of them. He’s certainly not the only one disseminating his art around the city, but he definitely is the best known and most provocative.
6- Cafés, terraces and bars
The Municipal House, the Grand Orient Café — Prague’s only cubist café — Café Louvre, an art nouveau haven that has kept its charm despite the hordes of tourists, are all worth a visit. If you’re looking for a place to eat but don’t have a specific idea in mind, then let the terraces at the Wenceslas Square inspire you. For a drink in the summer, the floating bars along the Vltava River sure are tempting.
7- The museums
While the National Museum exhibits rich collections of natural science and history, the Museum of Decorative Arts (closed for renovations until July 2017) features historical costumes, Bohemian glass, photography and much more. Museum Kampa and the Veletržní Palace both house collections of modern and contemporary art. For medieval art, head to the Convent of St Agnes. For baroque collections, visit the Schwarzenberg Palace, and for European art, Šternberk Castle is the place to go. A fan of art deco? Then don’t miss the Mucha Museum, dedicated to acclaimed artist Alphonse Mucha, widely known for his work with actress Sarah Bernhardt. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ll undoubtedly recognize some of his works of art, which marked the belle époque.
8- Classical music, dance and the opera
Are you into ballet, the opera or classical music? One thing’s for sure, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Prague! Many churches feature classical concerts. Among the most famous cultural venues is Rudolfinum. However, temper your expectations: plusieurs prestations s’apparentent à des compilations de grands succès destinés à plaire aux touristes.
9- The cost of living
Prague remains affordable, even with the weak Canadian dollar. In terms of accommodations, you’ll find everything. One fab find: Mosaic House, halfway between a hotel and a hostel. It offers comfortable private rooms and even suites, as well as beds in clean dormitories, which feature some of the elements of the private rooms. The ambiance in the common room that serves as restaurant, bar and theatre is very friendly. A good place for the self-employed on the go who need to crack open a computer between visits.
10- The parks
Letná Parks undoubtedly offers one of the most interesting views of the city. It also boasts a giant metronome. In the summer, youngsters stroll in groups, while skateboarders whoop it up on the ramps. A vibrant atmosphere! Of course, the castle gardens are a must-see!
Fly with Air Transat and land at the Prague airport to discover everything the Czech capital has to offer.