Steeped in history and utterly charming, the ‘City of 100 Spires’ is a wondrous place with some surprising hidden gems
The Czech Republic has emerged as one of Europe’s top city break destinations. At its heart is the capital Prague – known as the City of 100 Spires – which has successfully combined a rich heritage with economic growth, exciting developments and a flourishing tourist sector. You only have to look at the city’s architecture which serves as a visual timeline of Prague’s past with examples reflecting its historical influences – some squares boast Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Cubist and Functionalist buildings standing proudly alongside one another. To get a real flavour of Prague, pack a trusty pair of shoes and walk the city. You’ll find little cobbled streets undiscovered by many, and you are likely to stumble upon the secret courtyards and squares off the beaten track. Take your time, stopping off in little cafes along the way and exploring the many art galleries dotted around the city. Don’t forget Prague’s historic gardens too, some dating as far back as the Middle Ages and typically offering outstanding views over the city.
While it has divorced itself from the destination of choice for hens and stags, the Czechs really know how to craft an incredible tasting beer. We’d even go as far as saying that the beer in Prague is the best in Europe. Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first golden pilsner, was originally crafted in 1842 in Pilsen using traditional methods. The Czechs have since continued brewing outstanding beers with well-known brands including Staropramen and Budvar served in pubs and bars across the city. Prague is now said to have more than 300 craft breweries – plenty to keep you busy sampling a different beer each day (or hour!) if you’d like. The pièce de résistance of Prague has to be the stunningly picturesque Vlatava River. It is the heart and soul of the city, peppered with more than 30 bridges, the most famous being the Charles Bridge leading up to Prague Castle. This hilltop panorama is the scene of many blockbuster films including Mission: Impossible, A Knight’s Tale, The Illusionist and Les Miserables. The bridge connects the Old Town with the Lesser Town and is constructed out of 14th century Gothic stone. It is a popular spot for musicians and artists to stand and amuse the crowds, but for the best fairy-tale views visit early morning or late evening for an atmospheric stroll.
Top 5 spots for the best views over Prague
- The tower of Old Town Hall
- Hotel U Prince Rooftop Bar on Old Town Square
- Letna Park
- Vitkov Hill
- Eighth floor viewing platform at Žižkov Tower
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Head for the hills: Set high up above the city, the Strahov Monastery rewards visitors with a sense of calm. If you’ve got an interest in literary, visit the monastery’s library which comprises one of the oldest monastic book collections in the country.
Go underground: Not all of Prague’s well-preserved architecture is visible above ground. The underground tour of the medieval city lets you explore the catacombs and former streets hidden from everyday view.
Visit the KGB museum: Although it’s small, this museum houses a fascinating collection of memorabilia from the Czech Republic’s Soviet history, with an especially knowledgeable guide to take you through it. Not for the faint-hearted, you can see spy cameras, torture equipment, and even Lenin’s death mask.
Take a trip slightly further afield: Karlovy Vary, the most visited spa town in the Czech Republic, has been popular for more than 100 years. This history means that there is a diverse collection of architecture ranging from 19th Century colonnades to socialist-era thermal baths.