For the New Year, 2017: Essential Prague in Four Days
To see all the beautiful, historical and exciting tourist sites in Prague in less than a month would be quite a challenge, but, because we’ve lived and worked in Prague for decades, we can outline a program that shows you the essential Prague in just four days: the castles, cathedrals, gardens, museums, opera houses, monasteries, bridges, public squares, libraries, and universities that bring life to this vibrant 1000-year-old city.
• Hradcany: Prague’s 1000-year-old castle complex: St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane where alchemists tried to make gold.
|St Vitus Cathedral|
|Overlooking Mala Strana from Hradcany|
• Gardens of Prague Castle: The Royal Garden, the Letohrady, and other intimate gardens are woven into the castle complex.
|Gates of Royal Gardens|
|Jarda in the Letohradek Gardens--Hradcany towers|
• Petrin: A small version of Paris's Eiffel Tower, built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition. A funicular takes people up Petrin hill; there’s an observatory and a hall of mirrors to explore. The 12th-century Strahov monastery in on the top of the adjacent hill.
|CB and Jarda at Strahov|
• Mala Strana: the “little town” under Hradcany, with St. Nicholas Church, Nerudova street, charming cafes, and small, winding streets.
|St Nicholas, Mala Strana|
|at Kampa Island|
• Charles Bridge: Where Charles Bridge stands today once stood a wooden bridge, destroyed by floods in the 11th century. The construction of the current bridge dates from the reign of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor; the bridge was finished in 1402.
|Typical day on the bridge|
|View of Hradcany from Charles Bridge|
• Old Town Square: The Astronomical clock (Orloj), Tyn Cathedral with Tycho Brahe’s grave, statue of Jan Hus, several museums, and Kafka’s birthplace are in this large, always-busy square.
|At the Old City Hall: Jarda and Vera|
|The Astornomical Clock on a sunny day|
• Josefov: the Jewish quarter, dating back to the 13th century, is the living testimony of the history of Prague Jews. Six synagogues remain (including the Old-New Synagogue), along with the Jewish Town Hall, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and the Jewish Museum.
|Art Nouveau doorway in Josefov|
• Vysehrad: The “Castle on the heights” sites include “K Rotunde” and the Church of St. Peter and St Paul. Entry by Tabor Gate passes the ruins of a former fortification of the place built by Charles IV in the 14th century.
|Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul|
|Vyšehradský hřbitov (cemetery)|
• Vinohrady: "Vineyards," dating from the 14th century. Havlíčkovy Sady, Prague's second-largest park, is located here; there’s a productive vineyard in operation in adjacent Gröbovka Park. The Rieger Gardens (Riegrovy sady) are designed as an English park, with open green fields and wooded areas providing views on Prague.
|burčák festival at Grébovka - Havlíčkovy sady|
|Spring in Grébovka - Havlíčkovy sady|
• Zizkov: This working-class neighborhood gives a glimpse of life as Prague-dwellers live. Full of pubs, cafes, theaters, and hotels, Zizkov is close to the city centre and makes a good base for a visit to Prague.
|Famous Zizkov truckers|
|Sara at Paradise Gardens in Riegrovy sady|
• Vrtba Garden (Vrtbovská zahrada): This UNESCO-listed garden from the 18th century, is one of the most beautiful and significant Baroque gardens in central Europe, with elegant staircases, decorated banisters, terraces, statues, flower beds, and hedges.
|Elizabeth at Vrtba Gardens|
|Bird's-eye view of the plantings|
• Steamboat cruise on Vltava: cruise the river and enjoy the sights as they pass by!
|Looking at Charles Bridge and the Old Town|
In general, hotels will be most expensive in the Old Town and Mala Strana. Prague has a cheap and efficient Metro/bus/tram system, so staying in an outlying district is quite convenient and much less expensive.
Restaurants, pubs, and cafes abound; you are never far from a reasonably-priced place to get a cup of coffee or tea, a draft beer and a meal, or a full-scale dinner.
The weather is similar to Central New York, with hot, humid summers and cold winters with rain or snow. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit, with crisp air, mild temperatures, and beautiful trees and gardens to explore.