Destination the Czech Republic: Why Not Choose… Prague?
Prague, "Golden City", "Mother of Cities", "City of a Hundred Spires", or even "the Magical Capital of Europe": the city has so many names! Featuring on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Prague is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. If you've never been there, you must. And if you have been, go back! An enchanting city with a history going back a thousand years and an astonishing cultural heritage, Prague promises a holiday full of discovery and thrills.
Infinite Treasures on Both Sides of the Vltava
Narrow and winding alleys, picturesque squares, fortifications and spires: welcome to a city which ticks all the boxes for romance! Start by visiting Staré Město, the Old Town. Located on the right bank of the Vltava, the historical centre is peppered with remarkable monuments. You can admire the magnificent Municipal House, a major Art Nouveau monument in honour of the city, or the Powder Tower, one of the last remaining parts of the Old Town's ramparts. But the high point of Staré Město is Old Town Square with its famous astronomical clock . Stop for a moment to marvel at this technical and historical feat, which is the pride and joy of the city.
Just a short walk away, the old Jewish quarter with its historical synagogues, its cemetery and the Jewish Museum is fascinating to explore. You will discover the eventful history of Jews in Prague, as well as their traditions and customs.
After a little snack in one of Prague's many cafés, cross the Charles Bridge, a splendid Gothic construction which offers magnificent views of the city on both sides of the Vltava. Then head to Malá Strana! Less touristy than the old town, this district offers romantic alleys and parks for a stroll. Don't forget to stop at the Church of Saint Nicolas, one of the most beautiful baroque churches ever built.
Then move on to another of Prague's truly unmissable sites: the castle. It is undoubtedly the Czech Republic's most important historical monument. Headquarters of the political and religious authorities since the 9th century, it is made up of a vast complex of palaces, churches, courtyards and gardens overlooking Prague. Admire the Saint Vitus Cathedral, and walk down the famous Golden Lane, lined with colourful little houses. Although Prague offers impressive cultural and historical treasures, it also leaves room for the simple pleasures in life: classical music, jazz concerts and of course cafés: a truly key institution in Prague city life.
Top 10 Must-Sees
Staré Město (the Old Town): the history of Bohemia is carved into the stones of this area, where a variety of architectural styles create surprising harmony. In the curve of the Vltava, you can walk through almost a thousand years of history.
The Astronomical Clock: for 600 years, this has been one of the city's most precious treasures. Every hour, hundreds of tourists gather before the south face of the Old Town's former city hall to witness this fascinating mechanical spectacle!
Malá Strana: also overflowing with history, this is the most charming of Prague's districts. Long occupied by the aristocracy, it still has magnificent palaces surrounded by gardens, in a relaxing setting between the river, Petřín Park and Castle Hill.
Prague Castle: an emblem of the Czech state, the castle is the place to see one of the most beautiful panoramas of the city. Founded in the 9th century, it was the headquarters of the kings of Bohemia, then later of the presidents of the Republic. Stroll around its gardens, and don't miss the splendid Saint Vitus Cathedral, decorated with Mucha's stained-glass windows.
Golden Lane: this picturesque little street within the Prague Castle complex, just behind Saint Vitus Cathedral, owes its name to the alchemists who lived there in the time of King Rudolf II (in the 16th century). They were looking for the secret of the philosopher's stone, which they believed could transform lead into gold.
The Jewish Quarter: visit this historical area of narrow streets and closely packed houses, and walk around the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
The Charles Bridge: indissociable from the image of Prague, the Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, is a symbol of the city. Built in the Gothic period, it later gained a unique sculpture gallery, a true triumphal guard of honour symbolically connecting the two banks of the city.
The Mucha Museum: the world's first museum on the life and art of Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), the globally recognised representative of Art Nouveau.
The Prague National Gallery: discover national art collections, from Antiquity to the 21st century .
The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art: a contemporary art centre which opened in 2008, aiming to boost international recognition of Czech contemporary art, and to develop exchanges between the different arts including painting, photography, sculpture and the new media.
Part of the country's intangible heritage, Czech cuisine should be integral to your experience!
Traditional food in the country is copious and diverse. German and Austrian influences give pride of place to meat, whilst spiced flavours from Central Europe offer your taste buds an adventure. Of course, the goulash is unmissable, but you might also be tempted by Svíčková na smetaně (roast beef with cream and cranberries) and Španělské ptáčky (beef rolls stuffed with bacon, eggs, onions and gherkins), to be enjoyed with potato pancakes (bramboráky) or knedlíky (boiled dumplings made using flour, eggs, yeast and stale bread).
February: Bohemian Carnevale : This 700-year-old tradition combines culture, gastronomy, festivities and respect for symbolic rituals. Huge parades of people wearing costumes and masks, as well as allegorical floats, fill the streets of Prague.
May-June: Prague Spring : This international classical music festival is the high point of Prague's musical season. On the agenda: operas, major orchestras and chamber music. Prague Spring features soloists, symphony orchestras and chamber musicians from all over the world.
July-August: Ameropa : This chamber music festival offers concerts and master-classes devoted to Slavic music, with a repertoire including multiple currents, from baroque to contemporary.
October: Designblok & Fashionweek : Fashion and design festival. Numerous shops and galleries in Prague take part in this major exhibition. Architecturally remarkable buildings are chosen to house the Designblok Superstudios, exhibiting installations by Czech and foreign designers.
December: Christmas Markets : Beautiful markets are held on Old Town Square (Staré Město náměstí) and Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí). The nativity scenes on Loreta Square and the gingerbread nativity at St Matthew's Church are also worth a detour.
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