Laid out on a bend of the Vltava River, Prague has always been a gathering place on the fringe of great powers, but just remote enough to allow it a bit of rugged independence (and so much of its unique, fringe character). Even in one day, it's clear that the city personifies the bohemian ideal of living for art, for life, and for love. Improbably gorgeous architecture houses venues for fine arts and culture, and there's no shortage of seriously romantic spots. Five days is barely time to scratch this beautful city's surface.
Prague in 1 Day
Start with a classic coffee in a stunning setting, the art nouveau–style Municipal House kavarna. Walk down Celetna street past the cubist House of the Black Madonna to Old Town Square, where the Atronomical Clock chimes in each hour with a mechanical morality play opposite the haunting Tyn Church. Head down Parizska to the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest surviving medieval sacred structure in the city's former Jewish ghetto district, Josefov. This ¾-mile walk will take about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace with stops to take in interiors and tower views.
Now gear up for an afternoon across the river, strolling the postcard-perfect Charles Bridge to Malostranske namesti, once the heart of Prague's coffeehouse culture. Hop Tram No. 22 for a breathtaking view on your ride to the Prague Castle grounds in Hradcany, where you'll tour St. Vitus' Cathedral, the ancient St. George's Basilica and relax in the Royal Gardens. Wrap up the journey with a traditional Czech dinner at U Modre Kachnicky or dine riverside at Kampa Park on first-class gourmet cuisine.
Prague in 4 Days
Day 1: Arrival, Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle)
Even jet lag can't dampen the allure of Pražský Hrad, so it is a perfect place to hit on your first day in the city. The castle’s ancient 17-acre property contains a slew of individual attractions conveniently linked by internal courtyards. The showstopper is St. Vitus Cathedral (wherein lie the remains of fabled Czechs like Charles IV and St. Wenceslas). But don’t forget to hit the Royal Palace and Lobkowicz Palace, too. Also worth a gander is Golden Lane: a row of crooked cottages, one of which was once occupied by Kafka. Diminutive to begin with, they look like dollhouses when compared with the supersize surrounding structures. Before calling it a day and descending from the castle, remember to take in the city view: aside from offering a photo op, it will also help you get your bearings!
Day 2: Josefov and Staré Město (Old Town)
Begin your day early in the Jewish Quarter. (Because it is best approached with a certain solemnity, arriving ahead of the tour groups is a definite advantage.) Here you will find Europe's oldest active synagogue—the Staronová, erected in 1270—as well as the Jewish Museum. Once you’ve seen the latter’s evocative exhibits and paid your respects at the topsy-turvy Old Jewish Cemetery, saunter over to Staré Město to explore its centuries-old—and certifiably touristy—tangle of streets. Prepare to linger around Old Town Square, ideally timing your arrival to coincide with the striking of the Astronomical Clock. Later you can retrace the "Royal Way" (so named for the kings who trod it) that links the square with the Powder Tower. The Municipal House, an eye-popping 20th-century addition to Staré Město’s medieval streetscape, is right beside it.
Day 3: Malá Strana
You shouldn't be surprised if the neighborhood you visit today looks vaguely familiar: after all, it has been featured in a glut of period movies, ranging from Amadeus to Van Helsing. Filmmakers come because its cobbled streets, beautifully preserved baroque buildings, and gorgeous formal gardens conjure up a long-ago time. Since the area seems to have a surprise at every turn, aimless wandering is Malá Strana's main pleasure; however, there is one site that deserves thorough investigation: St. Nicholas Church—an 18th-century beauty dedicated to Ol’ Saint Nick. If you choose to climb the 215 steep steps of the church bell tower, you can reward your aching feet afterward by resting in Vrtba Garden or taking an extended break in leafy Kampa Island Park before returning to Staré Město via the Charles Bridge.
Day 4: Day Trip Outside Prague to Kutná Hora
If you are ready for a break from the city. Kutná Hora—44 miles east of Prague—is a memorable destination for day-trippers. Rich deposits of silver put this town on the map in the 12th century, and the premiere local attractions are still tied to them. Chances are you will start your visit at St. Barbara's Cathedral, a divine Gothic sanctuary that was built with miners' donations. Afterward you can get the lowdown on mineralogy at the Czech Museum of Silver, then tour portions of an original silver mine and restored mint. (For a real heavy-metal experience, try coming in late June, when the town relives its glory days during the annual Royal Silvering Festival.) When in the area, it is also worth making a detour to suburban Sedlec to see the somewhat spooky Kostnice Ossuary, a bizarre church decorated with human bones.
Depending on what time you get back to Prague, you might explore a new neighborhood or just rest up for a big night on the town. One tempting alternative is to indulge in some last-minute shopping, whether opting for upscale items on Pařížská Street or folksy mementos in Havelske Trziste. (Admit it. You’re dying to have one of those omnipresent Mozart marionettes!) Before bedding down, revisit the Charles Bridge for a final floodlighted look at Golden Prague. Although you'll be hard pressed to take your eyes off the illuminated castle in the background, do take a moment to search among the many statues that decorate the span for the one depicting St. John Nepomuk. It's the eighth on the right, and—according to legend—travelers who rub it are bound to return.
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