Things to see and do - Prague
Prague, a bridge between East and West :
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Prague, a bridge between East and West
Prague, a bridge between East and WestPedestrian, 15 km, 2 days
Like its legendary stone bridge built 700 years ago, Prague connects the two halves of Europe ... The fascinating charm of a human-sized city.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
This was the first stone bridge over the Vltava built under the orders of Charles VI. It joins Stare Mesto and Mala Strana and was built between 1357 and 1402. Charles Bridge is a 516-metre-long, 9.5-metre-wide Gothic structure resting on mortar joints that, legend would have it, were prepared with egg yolk and wine! It has seen all the great and evil events of this city and for 600 years has defied all of man's assaults and the river's sometimes powerful moods.
Between the bend in the Vltava and the Castle, bordered by the green Petrin hill to the south, the «little side» of Mala Strana is strewn with palaces and churches. While it is difficult to find the traces of the area's troubled history here, you can at least find the atmosphere of the 18C Baroque reconstruction which saw Mala Strana become the home for aristocrats who wished to be close to the centre of power.
The façade of the Church of St. Nicholas, giving onto Old Town Square, is a splendid Baroque construction (1732-1737), the work of Prague architect Kiliá Ignác Dientzenhofer. While the exterior is not very different from most of Prague's churches, with twin towers and a central dome, the interior is far more intricate, particularly in the stucco work by Bernard Spinetti. The frescoes on the inside of the dome illustrate the life of St. Nicholas.
Prestigious Strahov Abbey (Strahovský kláster) can be seen from afar due to its towers dominating the green hill of Petrin. Like a Bohemian Zion, it has looked over the city of Prague since 1140. Erected by Premonstratensians on a strategic defensive position, the abbey suffered at the hands of pillagers who burned and looted the place of its treasures on a regular basis; but the treasures were reinstated just as often.
Legend has it that in 1394, the Virgin Mary's birthplace was transported from Nazareth to a laurel wood on the Adriatic coast, pulled by angels' wings. Local religious fervour made the ''Santa Casa'' a place of pilgrimage which Bramante then transformed into a sanctuary that was imitated across Europe. Transposed to Prague, the Loretta led to a true religious cult of the Virgin Mary across all Bohemia.
The current square used to be almost the entire Hradschin district, which only obtained the same privileges as the other «towns» that made up Prague very late on. The poor medieval houses having been ravaged by fire in 1541, aristocrats and members of the chapter linked to government constructed great Renaissance and Baroque houses here.
The foundations (of which there remain some ruins) go back to the 10C. On top of the primitive Romanesque palace was built a Gothic construction which Ladislas II rebuilt in a Renaissance style at the end of the 15C, building the floor which now houses the wonderful room named after him. Once inside, you will see the Green Room (fresco of The Judgement of Solomon) and the coloured gothic Bedroom of Ladislas.
There are few places in the world where a city shows its soul such as here. Although Prague was recognised as a city in 1230, it wasn't until 1338 that Jean de Luxembourg allowed the city to build a City Hall. From then on, this square became the heart of political, judicial, and economic life. Executions were held here, businesses replaced the old market. It also became a way of life, as shown in the superb buildings that surround it.
This is a 750-metre avenue that ends at the imposing National Museum and the Statue of Wenceslas on Horseback. It was originally the horse market that Charles IV wanted to make the centre of his New City. Since the 19C, this has been the symbolic gathering point of Czech life. The Republic was proclaimed here in '18, the Germans paraded here in '39, Ian Palach killed himself here in '68 and in 1989, Dubcek made the speech that was interrupted by the tanks.
The Jewish quarter in Prague goes back to the city's very beginnings. From the 9C, communities were set up and in the 13C settled in a ghetto complete with its own fortifications in the heart of the Old City. Over the years and monarchies, the Jews were surpressed in the 1389 pogrom, excluded 1541-63 and in 1744, tolerated or integrated (with the Edict for Tolerance by Joseph II in 1781). The ghetto was abandoned in the late 19C and cleansed in the asanace, which left it as it is today.
For some, the Staronová Synagoga was built with stones brought from the Temple of Jerusalem. Others claim that it appeared entirely built, on a plot of land that was being levelled out. Others say that its Hebrew name, which means ''Provisional'', signifies that it will return to Jerusalem when the Messiah comes.
There are 12,000 tombs, but probably close to 80,000 people are buried in the Jewish Cemetery (Starý zidovský hrbitov). The Jewish rite forbidding disinterment means that coffins have been buried on a dozen different levels. Both humble and illustrious Jews from the city's history are buried here, including Rabbi Loew (1512-1609), creator of the Golem that inspired Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel, and Mordechai Maisel (1528-1601), hero of the novel Night Under the Stone Bridge (1953) by Leo Perutz, financier for Rodolpho II.