This carefully selected walk covers all the most important sights of Prague, and seeing it with a great guide is like having the past suddenly rise to the surface. We stroll around the famous historical Prague quarters – Old Town, Jewish Quarter, Lesser Town and Prague Castle.
Browsing: Walking Tours
Because of its relatively small scale, many of Prague’s most important historical sites can be explored within a single walking tour. That’s exactly what this sets out to do. Depending on how much time you have, you can enjoy a 2-3 hour whistle-stop tour, or, if you have the whole day to spare, explore some sites in more detail. Remember, every step you take on this tour will be following in those of the Czech Kings, who processed from the Powder Tower to Prague Castle on coronation day over a span of four centuries.
For all the UNESCO World Heritage sites peppering Prague, the city’s one defining image is the Castle. Sitting on its lofty perch high above Malá Strana, the Castle was founded in 880 by Prince Bořivoj, and is – according to the Guinness Book of World Records – the biggest in the world.
Tour starts at the Rudolfinum and ends at the Old Town square. From as early as the 10th century, Jews began to settle in Prague and by 1254, following a series of devastating pogroms, the minority group found themselves rounded up and confined to the small ghetto of Josefov. They were not allowed out until 1848. Through the ages, Josefov continued to be a stage for brutal anti-Semitic uprisings, not least, the 1389 Easter Sunday massacre in which 1,500 Jews were murdered.
It may be translated as the ‘Lesser Town’ in English, but don’t be fooled – Malá Strana is one Prague’s foremost attractions. Formally established as a town in 1257, it grew rapidly during the reign of Charles IV, who enlarged it and built state-of-the-art fortifications. In the 16th century, the area rose from the ashes of two great fires to become one of Europe’s great cultural centres, with a plethora of noble residents moving in and a wealth of magnificent Baroque churches being built in the neighbourhood – the highlight of which is the spectacular St. Nicholas Church, built by three generations of the Dientzenhofer family.
Whereas the modern heart of Prague beats in Wenceslas Square, the city’s past is kept very much alive in the Old Town Square. Although it has inevitable become in some ways a tourist trap – what with its top dollar ice cream stalls, never-ending parties of guided tours, and invading Segways (look out for these contraptions) – one cannot help but marvel at the immense amount of preserved history to be found huddled in this one small space.
Where many European cities were damaged, sometimes razed to the ground through disaster and conflict – not least by World War Two – Prague has been more fortunate. On glancing across the Vltava from its East Bank towards the Castle, it has been said by many that they feel they are in the pages of a fairytale book.
As a vantage point looking out over Prague, Petřín is hard to beat, especially if you climb to the top of its 60 metre-high Lookout Tower. But there’s also no dearth of things to do in Petřín itself, filled as it is with picturesque gardens, quaint attractions, and plenty of winding paths to explore.
Standing tall and daunting on a steep rock overhanging Prague’s right bank, Vyšehrad’s Basilica of St Peter and St Paul is an imposing sight; one to rival that of Prague Castle on the other side of the Vltava. It’s no coincidence that Vyšehrad translates into ‘Castle on the heights’. It is thought that the site of Vyšehrad may have been that of the first ever settlement of what came to be known as Prague. Boasting its Basilica, a small amphitheatre and vineyards, perhaps Vyšehrad’s most stunning feature is its cemetery; the final resting place of many great Czechs, including Karel Čapek, Emmy Destinn, Alphonse Mucha and Antonín Dvořák.
This walk begins outside the beautiful National Theatre, which was christened in 1881 to honour the visiting Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. Not long after this, the Theatre was ravished by fire and had had to undergo extensive renovation before it could reopen its doors. Today it’s a fantastically decedent venue to go and enjoy cheap, surtitled opera.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, Czech monarchs on their way to coronation would process along what is known at the Royal Route. Over the years this trail – which leads from the Royal Court up to the heights of Prague Castle – was processed by sundry Leopolds, Ferdinands, Charleses, Josephs, and Albert II of Habsburg, who was the first, back in 1438. Although the Royal Route itself is ancient, its moniker may have been acquired as late as 1955, following the reconstruction of many of the buildings that line it.
Again we can claim a world record – the greatest number of ghosts per square kilometre. Every respectable palace or medieval castle in Europe has at least one ghost wandering around the corridors, but Prague has dozens of such houses and locations. You can stumble across some sort of ghost or apparition almost every step of the way in the Old Town; all you have to do is look, and know where to look …