Hello and welcome to another mini-documentary.
Today I’m going to be talking about one of Europe’s most beautiful capital cities,
Prague. Have you ever wondered what you can see in
Prague in just a few days? It’s not just about the beer – although
that is very good! Well, we spent a few days there and it was
brilliant. In this video I’ll show you what we saw.
So, let’s take a tour around this amazing capital city. You feel the atmosphere of Prague as soon
as you enter the Old Town Square – it’s an historic area bustling with activity and
it’s a really beautiful urban space. Countless multicoloured houses in many styles
lend this place a unique atmosphere. Music drew us into the square. In Prague,
it seems, music is everywhere. Prague is known for Jazz and if that doesn’t
float your boat – well, there’s plenty else to experience here in this great capital city.
Goods have been traded in this area since the 12th century – including spices, vegetables,
jewellery, silk, timber and cattle. Today it’s a magnet for tourists. There are plenty of cafés around the Old
Town Square where you can sit down and soak up the atmosphere.
Food and drink in the square can be relatively expensive but it’s worth stopping at a café
for half an hour just to admire the place and to enjoy a very good beer.
If you fancy something less pricy and don’t mind standing, the street food here is popular
and freshly cooked – there’s Prague ham, pancakes and more to tempt travellers’ tastebuds.
You can also pick up a horse-drawn tour if you fancy a break from walking the cobbled
streets. But it’s not cheap and would be more affordable with the cost split between
a party of four. Before you leave the square, take a look at
the Astronomical Clock on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall. It’s over 600 years
old! As you leave the Old Town Square, you’ll
continue to see many different architectural styles in the surrounding streets, including
Romanesque, Gothic and baroque. This is the Estates Theatre, built during
the late 18th century in a little less than two years. Scenes of Mozart in Prague were
shot here for the Oscar-winning film Amadeus. The area around the square also contains a
busy maze of winding lanes and we spent time here exploring, taking in the atmosphere and
shops. There’s also an opportunity to experience
more music here, this time in the comfort of one of the city’s jazz clubs. Nearby Celetná Street connects the Old Town
Square and the Powder Gate, one of the original 13 city gates which was once used to store
gunpowder. Celetná Street is a busy thoroughfare which
was a trade route and it also used to be part of the royal coronation parade route. Today, it’s full of shops selling souvenirs
including a wide selection of toys and Bohemian glassware. We added to our snow globe collection
while shopping here. There’s a Manufaktura Home Spa shop and
a large chocolate store here too. But this shop’s not just about chocolate.
Inside the shop, you can watch as rock candy is prepared. Watching molten sugar syrup transform
into pretty little sweets in the expert hands of a confectioner is entertaining but you
might need a trip to the dentist if you over-indulge in his handiwork.
For a different kind of sweet treat, you could try trdelník, a cake made from rolled dough
wrapped around a stick, grilled, and topped with sugar and walnut mix. If you prefer big shopping malls, try the
Palladium on Republic Square. It used to be the army’s Josef Barracks
building and is now one of the biggest shopping centres in the Czech Republic.
It has around 180 shops and 25 restaurants. So if you haven’t had enough of shopping
yet, its 39,000 square meters of retail space should sort you out nicely. If you’ve had enough of shopping, try a
stroll along the banks of the River Vltava, which flows though the centre
of Prague. We enjoyed a peaceful walk here and at noon
we reached the Rudolfinum, which is the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the
Galerie Rudolfinum. And then we heard this … [AIR RAID SIREN STARTS] It’s an air raid siren test. Life goes on as normal during the test, which
is about two minutes long on the first Wednesday of each month. [AIR RAID SIREN ENDS] The Vltava is the waterway around which the city has developed over the past 1000 years.
And there are plenty of river cruises available if you want to see the city on a boat trip.
But you’ll probably see just a short section of the river as there a lot of weirs.
This one’s next to the Novetny Walkway which is a good spot from which to admire
the Charles Bridge and, on the hill behind the bridge, Prague Castle. We returned along the walkway and went through
a kind of souvenir retail tunnel to reach the gothic bridge tower which guards the entrance
to the Charles Bridge. Panoramic views over the river and of the
castle make this famous footbridge a focal point for visitors.
The bridge is always buzzing with activity including musicians and people selling souvenirs
and artwork. Construction of the bridge started in 1357.
The bridge is 621 metres long and was the only Vltava river crossing in Prague until
1841. The statues on either side of the bridge are
replicas of the originals and are mostly baroque. Leaving the bridge, we left the Old Town behind
and headed through the picturesque Lesser Town which is clustered around Prague Castle.
It’s quite a climb heading up Nerudova Street on foot, especially if it’s hot, and there
are plenty of cafés you can stop at for refreshment. However, we pressed on and were rewarded with
lovely views over the city when we finally reached the top.
From here you can see most of the city, with its population of 1.4 million.
This was the historical capital of Bohemia and
since 1992, the historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World
Heritage Sites. Be aware that you have to go through security
checks to enter the castle grounds and there can be a queue at busy times. Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle
in the world and dates from the 9th century. The castle buildings represent virtually every
architectural style of the last millennium and the last major rebuilding was carried out in the second half of the 18th century.
There are over 1.8 million visitors annually and it is now the official residence of the
President of the Czech Republic. Presidential Guards guard the three main entrances
to Prague Castle and are part of a special army division.
The guards are changed hourly. If you’re here at midday, you might catch
the longer ceremonial Changing of the Guard, with a parade accompanied by music. You can walk around some parts of the castle
complex for free but we bought a ticket allowing us access to historic
buildings within the Prague Castle complex. The ticket included access to Golden Lane,
which takes its name from the goldsmiths who lived there in the 17th century.
The lane comprises 11 historic houses, inside which period scenes have been created to show
the life of the artisans who once worked, ate, drank and slept in them.
In its early years the lane consisted of even smaller dwellings but, as they fell into disrepair,
they were replaced by the houses we see today. If you venture upstairs, you’ll see an extensive
collection of medieval armoury and weapons displayed in the long corridor which runs
along the back of the houses. We also visited the Old Royal Palace. Vladislav
Hall was used for coronations, banquets and jousting from the 16th century
and there various other adjoining chambers within the palace.
For example, The Bohemian Chancellery which was the office of the Royal Governors of Bohemia.
There’s a great view of the outside of the castle from here.
At the other end of the hall is the Old Diet. This was used for sessions of the Supreme
Provincial Court. A nearby spiral staircase leads up to the New
Land Rolls Room, the old repository for land titles, where the walls are covered with the
clerks’ coats of arms. Close to the Old Palace is the early baroque
façade of St George’s Basilica, which originated as the second church at Prague Castle.
Inside, the church is mostly Romanesque. The original early 10th century church was
wooden, but that’s long gone. The present Romanesque appearance of the church,
with main apse and two steeples, dates back to a reconstruction carried out after a devastating
fire which occurred in 1142. In complete contrast to the rest of the interior,
as you leave the church you pass through an early 18th century baroque chapel. Not far away, and dominating the centre of
the castle complex, is Saint Vitus Cathedral. The first church on this site was founded
in 930 and the present-day Gothic Cathedral is actually
the third religious building on this site. Construction of this church began on the 21st
of November 1344 and was finally completed nearly 600 years
later. The entire building process came to a halt
with the beginning of the Hussite War in the first half of the 15th century and a great
fire in 1541 heavily damaged the cathedral. Through most of the following centuries, the
cathedral stood only half-finished. Work picked up again in the 19th and 20th
centuries and was finally finished in 1929. In fact the entire western half of the cathedral
is a neo-Gothic addition and the earlier eastern half only reached as far as the transept and
Great South Tower. You will see some Renaissance and baroque
additions to this cathedral but it’s mainly Gothic.
In fact, the Cathedral of Saint Vitus had a tremendous influence on the development
of the Late Gothic style in Central Europe including the Stephansdom cathedral in Vienna and
Strasbourg Cathedral. After leaving the Prague Castle complex, we
headed up Úvoz Street to the Strahov Monastery. By the way, if you’ve had enough of hills,
there’s a tram route nearby! The monastery was founded in the 12th century.
and our aim was to buy tickets and see the famous Strahov Library there.
The library houses thousands of old prints and books, including one from the 9th century
and many more from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are two splendidly decorated halls in
the library. The baroque 17th century Theological Hall
contains about 18,000 theological books. The room has an ornate stucco ceiling and the
frescoes date back to the 18th century. The 18th century Philosophical Hall was constructed
with walnut and contains medical, mathematical geographical and other books. The Journey of mankind to wisdom was painted on the ceiling in 1794. In the corridor between the two halls there are rare books or facsimiles on display. There are also science collections, for example the specimens in this display cabinet. It’s worth noting that some historic sites in Prague, including the cathedral and this
library, charge a fee for taking photos. For a completely different take on life in
Prague and the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic, a visit to the Museum of Communism is well
worth a look. The museum shows life in the communist era,
from the aftermath of the Second World War to the end of the 1980s.
The museum has a wealth of material at its disposal. As well their own comprehensive
archive, they’ve obtained exhibits from other major collections.
There’s an extensive collection of communist era artwork, including propaganda posters,
and there are also recreated spaces including a reconstructed school room – the language
lesson on the blackboard is Russian. There’s even a sparsely stocked communist-era shop.
The story ends with Václav Havel and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Now all that sightseeing is great, but how
do you get around? And where do you stay, what do you eat, what
do you drink? No doubt you’ll do things your own way – and
that’s great, because modern Prague is full of choices!
But I’m going to show you the places that we found on our trip. Trams are a great way to get around Prague.
The network is extensive and inexpensive and tickets can be bought easily at stations and
also at Tabak shops scattered around the city. The tickets we bought were valid for 30 minutes
each which is plenty of time to transfer between lines to reach your destination. Just remember
to validate your ticket once only using the yellow box at the beginning of your journey.
The ticket allows travel in the 3 zones covering the central tourist areas and is also valid
for bus travel and on the underground Metro. You’ll see a variety of trams on the streets
including some older vehicles and the occasional maintenance car.
A ride on the tram is also an inexpensive way to view Prague’s fabulous cityscape,
especially if you’re heading uphill to the castle. Taxis are easy to find but make sure you get
a properly licensed one to avoid overcharging. Look out for the official maximum rates displayed
at the “Fair Place” taxi stands which are dotted around the city. If you’re on foot, I’d advise wearing
flat shoes because there are cobbled roads everywhere! We noticed quite a few cobblestone
holes too but we also saw extensive repairs underway.
Even intact paving can be quite uneven and slippy when it rains, so do take care when
exploring Prague as a pedestrian. Václav Havel airport is the easiest way to
travel between Prague and the UK or more distant countries.
The airport wasn’t crowded when we arrived for our flight to London Stansted and that
made for a stress-free experience. Direct flights take under 2 hours between
Prague and London and we flew back to Stansted with Ryanair. However, we arrived in Prague by train. It’s
a great way to see the countryside and we enjoyed the relaxing 4-hour journey from Linz
in neighbouring Austria. We stayed on Soukenická Street in the New
Town at Hotel Unic, a 4-star hotel which opened in 2013.
It’s right in the heart of the historic central area with good restaurants and bars
and the Old Town just a few minutes away on foot.
The hotel has attractive modern decor and the staff are friendly and helpful.
Our room was clean and well maintained and contained a large, comfortable bed.
Breakfasts were included in our booking and were very good, with a great choice of different
foods available. There were also plenty of mini-market stores
nearby, so a snack or an inexpensive bottle of great Czech beer was just a few minutes
away on foot. This Kozel dark beer was a favourite of mine! There were plenty of good restaurants just
a short walk away too. La Bottega Bistroteka is an up-market Italian
on Dlouhá Street and was so good we went there twice for dinner.
All the food we had here was very good and the waiter was friendly and knowledgeable.
La Bottega is relatively expensive for Prague but we thought it was worth it, and that included
the excellent desserts! At K – The Two Brothers, an Indian restaurant
on Petrská Street, we had a very rich meal. We enjoyed some good food without spending
a fortune but I should probably have eaten less because I was way too full by the time
we left. Now, a visit to Prague would be incomplete
without trying the local cuisine. At Next Door by Imperial, on Zlatnická Street, the surroundings were so plush that we expected a huge bill. What we got was excellent
food and drink at a reasonable price. This is their goulash, served with the traditional
bread dumplings. But if you want a really lively atmosphere
on a tight budget, a trip to the Lokál Dlouhááá pub on Dlouhá Street is a must.
They have – of course – excellent beer and an inexpensive menu.
This is their goulash with bread dumplings. It’s hearty, filling food though you may
struggle to find vegetables! This was the place we chose for our first
and last nights in Prague – a really good choice. Now, I should add that all these restaurants
were busy – even in October – and booking ahead is advisable, even early in the week.
Anyway, that’s it. We didn’t have time to see everything, but
that just gives us a really good reason to go back again.
I really love Prague and I can’t wait for our next visit.
So – I hope you enjoyed this video. Maybe you’ve already been to Prague.
I’d love to hear about what you saw that we missed.
Maybe you could recommend some places to see in the comments section below.
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Thanks for watching!