This City of a Hundred Spires is Czech Republic’s capital city with about 2.6 million people. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia in medieval times, Prague is now the largest city in the country. Known for its deep cultural history and inherent musicality, Prague was mercifully spared from the worst damage brought about by World War II. Thus, it is home to well-preserved, wide-ranging architecture styles — Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Noveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical and Ultra-Modern. Prague is a scenic city that many find romantic and alluring, mysterious, and soaked in antiquity yet welcoming of unprecedented modernity. With its almost unassuming character, you’d think that Prague has been left behind by modern times. But no, for a quick glance of its cityscape will show how it cherishes its colorful history through the historic structures and how forward-looking and visionary it is with its unconventional, radical contemporary edifices such as the iconic, ultra-modern Dancing House built in 1996.
1.Architectural Wonders Old & NewPrague’s classic and modern architectural design is so diverse that everywhere you look, you’d see a variety of design influences. One minute you’re appreciating the gracefully round arches and sturdy walls of a Romanesque church, when you turn around and be in awe of the slim, graceful silhouette of a Gothic cathedral. Another moment you are awe-struck by the richness and grandeur of a Baroque palace, and a couple of oohs and ahhs later, your jaw will drop at the sight of asymmetrical and flexible curves of an Art Noveau building. From the traditional antiquity of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn to the whimsical, trippy feel of Frank Gehry’s Dancing House, Prague is, indeed, a city of architectural marvels.
2. Bucolic River ScenesThe 434-kilometer Vitava River, the longest river in the Czech Republic, played a major part in Prague’s history. Not only was it the source of drinking water and irrigation, the river was also used by early settlers for trade and as powermills. The river flows between Prague’s Old Town and New Town, and the Lesser Town and the famous landmark, Prague Castle. Charles Bridge, a pedestrian bridge built in 1402, offers a stunning view of the river and the beautiful buildings along the riverbank. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll, a river cruise, or dining in its riverside restaurants, visitors will find the activity a balm to the spirit as they take in the blissful sight of river life.
3. A City’s Passion for MusicClassical music enthusiasts will have their fill when visiting Prague, home to the Rudolfinum, the city’s most prestigious concert hall and home to the Czech Philharmonic. The hall was built between 1876 and 1884 and once housed a gallery and a host of art collections. The city has two international classical music festivals with the Prague Spring and the Dvorak Festival. Modern music fans needs not fret as Prague is strong in jazz music too, as well as rock and pop, and a host of other genres including techno. The four-storey, multi-genre Karlovy Lazne club is a popular tourist spot, along with Club Roxy and Cross Club, which offers local and non-mainstream music, respectively.
Prague Tourist Spots
1. Prague Castle: Czech Republic’s PrideThe Guinness Book of World Records hailed Prague Castle as ‘the largest coherent castle complex in the world’. This 70,000-square meter World Heritage Site dates back to more than 1,000 years ago and boasts a number of sprawling palaces and churches ranging from Romanesque to Gothic styles. At one point, during the reign of Charles IV, it was declared the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, and was complemented by the construction of another famous landmark, St. Vitus Cathedral. Among the attractions of Prague Castle are the Ballgame Hall, Royal Garden, Imperial Stables, and a collection of precious art pieces and the priceless Czech Crown Jewels.
2. Old Town Square: The Heart and Soul of PragueOften referred to as ‘the heart of its historic core’, the Old Town Square is undeniably every Instagram fan’s delight. The complex of interconnected buildings dating back to medieval times is dominated by the Old Town Hall with its striking tower completed in 1364. Visitors can climb up its observation deck to get that postcard-perfect shot of the whole square. Its most photographed feature is the Prague Astronomical Clock, fondly called the Orloj, installed in 1410 and still functions till today. The Clock, every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., announces the time with a moving display of the 12 apostle statues on windows above the clock, to the delight of curious crowds.
3. Dancing House: A Head Turner of a HotelThis ultra-modern architecture, which is also the site of a popular hotel, draws a lot of attention for its unusual, unconventional building design showing a glass tower with curved pillars that appears to be leaning to a stone tower. Next to the two towers is a building showing a billowing façade making its windows look unaligned. It gained popularity when people started calling it Fred and Ginger because the towers looked like dancing figures. The Dancing House is located along the Vitava River and is a fully functioning luxury hotel with a restaurant and bar. Known as a deconstructivist, or New Baroque, architectural style, the Dancing House stands out in the area, which is filled with Baroque and Art Noveau type of architectures, which created some controversy when it first opened in 1996.