We just spent five glorious days in Prague earlier this month, blessed with sunny autumn weather all week. Here’s the lowdown on our wonderful trip.
Most of the important sites are in the historic Old Town, settled in medieval times. The centerpiece of Old Town is the magnificent Charles Bridge, named after King Charles IV and originally built during his reign in the mid 14th century. Crossing the Vitava River to connect Old Town and the Prague Castle, the current bridge was constructed in 1870 after the original bridge was damaged in a flood. Decorated with 30 magnificent Baroque style statues, the Charles Bridge is the gateway to Prague, a perfect introduction to the city.
Another day we took a fascinating tour of the old Jewish Quarter, provided by Wittman Tours. The three-hour in depth experience traces the history of the city's Jewish population back almost 1,000 years. We visited the Spanish, Maisel, Pinkas and Klausen synagogues, which now also serve as exhibition spaces for the Jewish Museum with historical artworks, artifacts and documents. The high point of the tour was the visit to the Jewish cemetery, viewing the ancient, decayed tombstones in a peaceful garden.
Alfonse Mucha is the most celebrated Czech, artist and his art works are considered national treasures. Born in 1860, Mucha rose to fame when he moved to Paris and designed theater posters for the actress Sarah Bernhardt. His decorative Art Nouveau style depicting beautiful female goddesses became world famous and graced paintings, murals, posters, advertisements and book illustrations, as well as jewelry, carpets and wallpaper. Mucha moved to Prague to pursue more serious art, where he created his most accomplished work: the Slav Epic, a series of 20 gigantic paintings measuring approximately 20 X 26 ft. illustrating the history of the Slavic and Czech people. The best examples of Mucha’s works are at the Mucha Museum and The Municipal House, and the Slav Epic can be seen from now until the end of 2016 at the Great Hall at the Trade Fair Palace (Veletržní Palace).
Prague is also an important European center for classical music and opera, with dozens of venues selling affordably priced tickets. We lucked out and scored two tickets to Don Giovanni and felt even luckier when we were told the opera house was the same one Mozart premiered it in, back in 1787.
Other must see attractions are Prague Castle, Strohov Monastery Library and the Old Town Hall.
Instead of staying in the commercial, chain hotels in Old Town, we opted to stay in New Town, away from the crowds. Located in a quiet neighborhood ten minutes away by tram to Old Town, Hotel U Svatého Jana is a neo-Baroque style hotel and the former priests' quarters of the St. John of Nepomuk church next door. Even though it’s a three-star hotel, our accommodations were very comfortable, with spacious rooms, excellent front desk service and a hearty buffet breakfast.
One of the things we appreciated most was how inexpensive food, transportation, accommodations and attractions were in Prague. Our hotel cost under 100€ a night and we never spent more than 25€ per person for a meal.