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Prague's Old Town square is the pulsating heart of this magnificant city and home to some its most outstanding buildings

From our hotel in the Lesser Town it was a short walk across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town Square (“Staroměstské náměstí” or familiarly “Staromák” in Czech), the oldest and historically most significant square in Prague, is according to many people one of the most beautiful European squares. Not only was it the venue of numerous dramatic historical events, but it is incredibly beautiful and charming. The Old Town Square is nowadays still Prague’s beating heart.

Nowadays, The Old Town Square is, among other things, the historical centre of the Old Town of Prague and one of the most visited places in the Czech Republic. Also, the Square is a venue for numerous occasional and regular events, such as Christmas fairs (when there is always an enormous Christmas tree installed) or exceptional public broadcasts of significant sports matches.

The Old Town Square of Prague

Attractions & sightseeing at the Old Town Square

1. ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK

Prague’s Old Town Astronomical Clock is one of the city’s most popular landmarks. It is well over 600 years old and is one of the oldest functional astronomical clocks in the world. It is also a magnificent blend of mechanical engineering and art.

Like other astronomical clocks, the famous Prague example is effectively a specially designed mechanism to display astronomical information. Many, like the Orloj, tend to show the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, Zodiac constellations and, sometimes, other planets. The astronomical clock in Prague, otherwise known as The Orloj, does all this, and much more. It tells the time, provides the date, shows astronomical and zodiacal information, and, best of all, provides some theatre for its viewers on the hour, every hour.

2. OLD TOWN HALL

The Old Town Hall (“Staroměstská radnice” in Czech) belongs among the most noteworthy monuments of Prague, not least because of its above mentioned Astronomical Clock. The hall was founded as the first of its kind in the country in 1338, based on a privilege vested by John the Blind, the Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia (known as “Jan Lucemburský” in Czech), to the townsmen.

Old Town Hall in Prague

3. CHURCHES

The Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (“Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem” or “Týnský chrám” in Czech) is one of Prague’s dominant viewpoints. It took almost two hundred years (from the 14th to the 16th century) to be built. The Church amazes with its beautiful, 80-metre high towers and a rich baroque interior. Nowadays, the cathedral serves as a gallery.

The Baroque St. Nicholas Church (“Kostel svatého Mikuláše”) was built between 1732 and 1737, in place of a Gothic church that burnt down. The remains of the former church can be found in the basement. The St. Nicholas Church attracts with its main marble altar, the beautiful sculptural decoration of the access front, and the stucco decor created by Bernardo Spinetti.

St. Nicholas Church

4. HISTORICAL BUILDINGS

Kinský Palace (“Palác Kinských” or “Palác Golz-Kinských” in Czech) is a significant historical Rococo building on the eastern side of the Old Town Square. Today, The National Gallery places some of its valuable collections inside the Kinský Palace. During our time in Prague, there was a collection of impressionist paintings that were on temporary loan to the National Gallery.

Kinsky Palace

In the centre of the Old Town Square, the Jan Hus Memorial dominates, reminding all Prague residents and visitors of one of the most significant and world-renowned Czech historical figures. The memorial represents Jan Hus, a religious reformer, who was burned for his unshakable beliefs at the stake in Constance in 1415.

Other things to do close by

1. SEX MACHINE MUSEUM

I am always on the lookout for unusual places to visit and in my research, before visiting Prague, the Sex Machines Museum jumped out at me. It was not something I expected to find in Prague, especially with its location in the heart of the Old Town of Prague, close to the main square.

Set in a historic 17th Century building this museum contains more than 300 exhibits across three floors. The collection comes from all around the world and looks at the history of sex machines through the ages. The amount of effort and creativity that had gone into some of these contraptions is mind-boggling.

2. PRAGUE’S JEWISH QUARTER

The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River.
The torrid history of the former Jewish Ghetto began in the 13th century when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in this one area.

To add to this, inhabitants of the ghetto were forced to endure structural changes at the whim of the emperor or whichever ruler exercised control over them. The latest occurred in 1893-1913 when a number of buildings were flattened, and the layout of many streets remodelled.

Fortunately, most significant historical buildings were saved from destruction, and today they remain a testimony to the history of the Jews in Prague. They form the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe.

3. ALPHONSE MUCHA MUSEUM

Mucha’s artwork can be found in many places in Prague including the Municipal House, the National art gallery, and even his design of a stained-glass window in the St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague. But there is no better place to go to see Mucha’s famous art than the Mucha museum in the centre of Prague.

The Mucha Museum is the only museum that is fully dedicated to Mucha’s work, it was created in 1998 by the Mucha Foundation and has a large selection of original Mucha lithographs, posters, canvases and paintings along with the history and timeline behind them.

Planning your visit to Prague 

Prague is an interesting city to explore and it is safe to explore – of course, usual precautions apply about being wary of what areas of town you are in and not flashing your wealth overtly (i.e. expensive jewellery and watches), especially late at night.

Getting There:

Most people will likely arrive by plane at Václav Havel Airport, which is about 17km (10 1/2 miles) west of the city centre. This is the main international gateway to the Czech Republic and the hub for the national carrier Czech Airlines, which operates direct flights to Prague from many European cities. There are also direct flights from North America (from April to October) as well as to select cities in the Middle East and Asia.

The airport has two terminals: Terminal 1 for flights to/from non–Schengen Zone countries (including the UK, Ireland and countries outside Europe); Terminal 2 for flights to/from Schengen Zone countries (most EU nations plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway).

Transport Options:

Exchange rate: $1USD = 22.53 Czech Kr.

The cheapest (and often quickest) way to get into Prague from the airport is by public transport. Bus 119 stops outside both arrivals terminals every 10 minutes from 4 am to midnight, taking passengers to metro stop Nádraží Veleslavín (metro line A), from where you can catch the metro into the centre. The entire journey (bus plus metro) requires one full-price public-transport ticket (32Kč) plus a half-fare (16Kč) ticket for every suitcase larger than 25cm x 45cm x 70cm. Buy tickets from Prague Public Transport Authority desks (located in each arrivals hall). If you’re heading to the southwestern part of the city, take bus 100, which goes to the Zličín metro station (line B).

For connecting directly to Praha hlavní nádraží (the city’s main train station), the Airport Express bus stops outside both arrivals terminals and runs every half-hour. The trip takes 35 minutes. Buy tickets from the driver.

Official airport taxis line up outside the arrivals area of both terminals and can take you into the centre for 500Kč to 700Kč, depending on the destination. Drivers usually speak English and accept credit cards. The drive takes about 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

Getting Around:

Our preferred method of getting around a city is to walk wherever possible. Prague is fairly compact and most of the main tourist sites are within the city walls so walking is easy – there are a few hills but nothing too drastic. During the summer Prague can be very hot and humid, so make sure you carry plenty of water.

Prague has an integrated metro, tram and bus network – tickets are valid on all types of transport and for transfers between them.

A valid ticket or day pass is required for travel on all metros, trams and buses. Tickets and passes are sold from machines at metro stations and some tram stops (coins only), as well as at newspaper kiosks and information offices at the train & tram stations. You must validate (punch) your ticket before descending on the metro escalators or on entering a tram or bus (day passes must be stamped the first time you use them). For the metro, you’ll see stamping machines at the top of the escalators. In trams and buses, there will be a stamping machine in the vehicle by the door

Prague is an interesting city to explore and it is safe to explore – of course, usual precautions apply about being wary of what areas of town you are in and not flashing your wealth overtly (i.e. expensive jewellery and watches), especially late at night.

Getting There:

Most people will likely arrive by plane at Václav Havel Airport, which is about 17km (10 1/2 miles) west of the city centre. This is the main international gateway to the Czech Republic and the hub for the national carrier Czech Airlines, which operates direct flights to Prague from many European cities. There are also direct flights from North America (from April to October) as well as to select cities in the Middle East and Asia.

The airport has two terminals: Terminal 1 for flights to/from non–Schengen Zone countries (including the UK, Ireland and countries outside Europe); Terminal 2 for flights to/from Schengen Zone countries (most EU nations plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway).

Transport Options:

Exchange rate: $1USD = 22.53 Czech Kr.

The cheapest (and often quickest) way to get into Prague from the airport is by public transport. Bus 119 stops outside both arrivals terminals every 10 minutes from 4 am to midnight, taking passengers to metro stop Nádraží Veleslavín (metro line A), from where you can catch the metro into the centre. The entire journey (bus plus metro) requires one full-price public-transport ticket (32Kč) plus a half-fare (16Kč) ticket for every suitcase larger than 25cm x 45cm x 70cm. Buy tickets from Prague Public Transport Authority desks (located in each arrivals hall). If you’re heading to the southwestern part of the city, take bus 100, which goes to the Zličín metro station (line B).

For connecting directly to Praha hlavní nádraží (the city’s main train station), the Airport Express bus stops outside both arrivals terminals and runs every half-hour. The trip takes 35 minutes. Buy tickets from the driver.

Official airport taxis line up outside the arrivals area of both terminals and can take you into the centre for 500Kč to 700Kč, depending on the destination. Drivers usually speak English and accept credit cards. The drive takes about 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

Getting Around:

Our preferred method of getting around a city is to walk wherever possible. Prague is fairly compact and most of the main tourist sites are within the city walls so walking is easy – there are a few hills but nothing too drastic. During the summer Prague can be very hot and humid, so make sure you carry plenty of water.

Prague has an integrated metro, tram and bus network – tickets are valid on all types of transport and for transfers between them.

A valid ticket or day pass is required for travel on all metros, trams and buses. Tickets and passes are sold from machines at metro stations and some tram stops (coins only), as well as at newspaper kiosks and information offices at the train & tram stations. You must validate (punch) your ticket before descending on the metro escalators or on entering a tram or bus (day passes must be stamped the first time you use them). For the metro, you’ll see stamping machines at the top of the escalators. In trams and buses, there will be a stamping machine in the vehicle by the door.

Best time to visit the Czech Republic

Peak tourist season in the Czech Republic coincides with the summer months when temperatures are pleasantly warm and humid with occasional thunderstorms. Between May and September the Czech Republic is at its busiest with major festivals held at this time to benefit from the good weather.

The early spring months of March and April can be unpredictable when it comes to the weather. The winter snows are beginning to melt and temperatures begin to rise above freezing but it can still be quite chilly with strong winds. The autumn months of October and November can be equally as unpredictable with temperatures starting to drop although the countryside comes alive with colour.

Winters in the Czech Republic are cold, cloudy, icy and wet with freezing temperatures. It’s still possible to visit most of the country’s monuments though opening hours are reduced.

Vegan dining ideas

There are plenty of places to eat, as you might expect, many offering traditional Italian food. As we try to follow a vegan diet (sometimes on holiday we expand our range to be more vegetarian) there were not a great many options. You can always try the Happy Cow website or app to find a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. We tried and enjoyed Vegans in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana) close to Prague Castle and Forkys a vegan buffet located just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square.

1. VEGAN’S PRAGUE

Vegan’s Prague is found in a 16th-century building near Prague Castle on Nerudova street. It is a narrow building with the restaurant located on the first and second floors (second and third floors for my American friends), which are accessed with a steep and winding staircase. There is no elevator so disabled access is almost impossible.

Our favourite areas in the restaurant were the top floor, with its sloping roof, and from there the terrace which has a spectacular view across to Prague Castle.

The top floor room has exposed beams with simple furnishings and gets ample light from the numerous skylights that have been put into the roof.

The outdoor terrace is simply the best place to be. It is small and intimate, with only about four tables, so you will have to be lucky to get a table there.

2. FORKY’S

Located close to the historic Old Town Square in Prague, Forkys is a vegan bistro with international recipes, serving breakfast until 11 am, then burgers, kebab, hot dogs, bowls, and a daily menu. This is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat, with great energy to boot. I loved the wall at the entrance that lists all the famous people who have been vegan, dating from ancient Rome to the present day.

3. LIFEHOUSE

Small takeaway health food bistro in the city centre since 2017. The menu is based raw vegan and cooked vegan cuisine. Serves lemonade, smoothies, milkshakes, raw spreads on sourdough, veggie wraps, summer rolls, salads, and raw desserts.

If you are looking to try traditional Czech food, such as goulash (guláš), dumplings or trdelnik ( a rolled pastry – a bit like a doughnut – that can be plain or filled with ice cream and fruit). Vegans beware the Czechs like most Central Europeans are highly carnivorous and like their cheeses!

Trdelniks being made
Traditional goulash

Coffee and soft drinks can be fairly expensive, especially in tourist areas. But if you like beer then you are in for a treat as it is cheap and plentiful … and most importantly tasty.

Where to stay

1. U PÁVA

For our stay in Prague, we wanted to stay close to the city centre as we planned to walk everywhere. After looking around on hotel booking websites I decided to book a room at U Páva – which means ‘At the Peacock’ in Czech. The hotel is ideally placed to explore the surrounding markets, museums and historic buildings of Mala Strana, but it’s also just a 15-minute stroll across the bridge to the Old Town. It is only a 10-minute walk to Prague Castle.

U Páva is an intimate four-star hotel, located right next to Charles bridge, offering 26 romantically inclined rooms in a historical building, parts of which date back to the late 15th century.

2. BOAT HOTEL MATYLDA

For something more unusual you should consider Boat Hotel Matylda.

Lying at anchor on the Vltava river in the centre of Prague, 0.6 miles from the Charles Bridge and a 10-minute stroll from the Charles Square

Standard double rooms are situated on the original Matylda boat. This boat also has a bar and the well-known restaurant with a summer terrace serving Italian cuisine. The other rooms are to be found on the newer Klotylda boat.

Each of the cabins on the two boats features an elegant interior design with hardwood floors. Some have their own private balcony and dark leather armchairs.

The Boat Hotel is situated in the vicinity of the famous Dancing House, right next to the tram stop Jiraskovo namesti and 1,000 feet away from Karlovo namesti metro station.

3. CHARLES BRIDGE HOSTEL & APARTMENTS

For the more budget-conscious the Charles Bridge Hostel and Apartments is a good option

Charles Bridge Economic Hostel is a small boutique guesthouse located in the very heart of the historic centre of Prague, right at the Charles Bridge. All important sights are within walking distance of the property. The building comes from the 14th century and belongs to protected cultural heritage.

Rooms and dorms are fully furnished and have been recently remodelled. A kitchen is located on all floors and inside all private rooms. Bedsheets, linen, towels and toiletries are provided free of charge.

Charles Bridge Economic Hostel provides free tours daily at 6 pm, as well as a free Ghost Tour. Luggage storage is available for free. The laundry facility and dryer is available for an extra fee.

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