Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe; most of that beauty comes from the enchanting architecture and well-preserved landmarks. Although the whole city is a landmark by itself, some of them stand out.
1. The Astronomical Clock
The creation of this clock started during the 15th century and now it is the oldest astronomical clock still operating. The clock master, Mikuláš of Kadaň, built this masterpiece with the help of Jan Sindel (professor of mathematics and astronomy at Charles University). The astronomical dial displays the time, solar position, lunar phases, zodiac sign, sunset, and sundown. The lower dial displays a calendar (created by Josef Mánes); the golden paintings represent the months and the outer ring marks the day, the week and feast days. Every hour when the clock strikes and the little figurines next to the open dial move, they represent vanity, greed, death and vice. The apostles will parade when the upper windows open. Do not miss this display!
2. St. Vitus Cathedral
Just in the 3rd courtyard of Prague Castle, stands this perfect example of majestic architecture. Due to various reasons, it took 600 years to be completed (1344-1929). The resting place of the Kings of Bohemia is in this church; one of the most important was Charles IV. The stained glass windows and rose window show the creativity and talent of Czech glass artists, among them Alphonse Mucha and Frantisek Kysela (rose window) being prominent names. You can enter the first part of the cathedral for free but if you wish to walk around the chapels you will have to purchase the museum ticket… totally worth it!
3. Prague Castle
This is the biggest medieval complex in the world with 70 000m2 area and one of the oldest buildings in Prague. It was originally constructed at the end of the 9th century but was almost completely renovated during the 18th century. You will find different exhibitions, galleries and amazing green areas with panoramic views of the city and the Lesser town. The castle also houses St. Vitus cathedral and the seat of the President of the Czech Republic.
4. Wallenstein Garden
This is a hidden jewel of Prague, is easy to pass right beside it and not notice the entrance. The palace was created by Albrecht Valdštejn, the imperial army general of Ferdinand II (1623-1630). Now the palace houses the Senate of the Czech Republic and the garden is open to the public. At the entrance of the garden, you will find a copy of a marble fountain with the statue of Hercules and Nayaden in the middle created by Adriaen de Vries (all of the statues from this sculptor are copies, the original were stolen during the 30 years war and remain in Sweden). This garden is the house of peacocks (you can find the albino variety as well), ducks, owls, and carps. At the end of the construction, you will find the grotto, a symbol of the degeneration that is irreversible, the passing of the time that leads to unavoidable death, ruin, and decadence. You can reach this garden outside the metro station Malostranská (green line) or by tram at Malonstranské Namestí tram stop (tram 12, 20, 22). NOTE: the garden is NOT open from November to March.
5. St. Nicholas Church (Lesser Town)
In the heart of the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) stands the amazing example of baroque architecture. This church was built during the 18th century by the architect Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Dientzenhofer. The church frescos are the highlight of the interior and the white marble statues sitting on the pillars.
6. John Lennon Wall
Honoring the memory of John Lennon this wall displays the allegory of freedom and creates colorful scenery in the hearth of the Lesser town (Malá Strana). During the ´70s, the former Czechoslovakia (as it was then) was the decade of repression. The Communist regime installed by the Soviets dictated everything from the hairstyle to the music you were allowed to listen to. But some people would not step down and they stood against authorities, fighting for their rights. For those people, John Lennon embodied values like freedom and peace, especially among the younger generation.
When Lennon was murdered many Czech citizens had lost one of their heroes and wanted to keep his message alive. They found a wall in a little-hidden wall in a small square and started painting pictures and lyrics of Lennon on the wall. Shortly the police painted the messages and trying to keep their freedom of speech to live, the people repainted them. This struggle continued until the Velvet revolution (17th of November 1989), communist times were over and citizens weren´t restricted to express themselves. Once again the wall was alive with the difference that no police or government will delete it, and now every day you can find something new on it!
7. Spanish Synagogue
This is one of the most beautiful religious sites in Prague. This synagogue is on the outskirts of the Jewish Quarter; built during the second half of the 19th century and the main characteristic of this place is the amazing Moorish revival style that makes it unique. It is not active anymore and is part of the Jewish museum, some days houses amazing Gershwin concerts. Do not miss the statue of Franza Kafka just beside the synagogue.
8. Jewish Cemetery
It was founded in the first half of the 15th century when the Jewish quarter was created. The earliest headstone dates back to 1439; the last burial took place on 1787. Although the cemetery was expanded several times over the centuries, it was still not big enough to meet the needs of the Jewish Town. As space was limited, bodies were buried on top of each other, with graves layered up to 10 deep. There are about 12, 000 headstones on top of about 95 000- 100 000, the number is not yet exact. Some of the headstones are decorated with animal and plant motifs.
9. Charles Bridge
The oldest bridge in the city and without doubts one of the most famous landmarks of Prague and Europe. According to the legend, Charles IV waited for this specific date to start the construction of the bridge: The 9th of July 1357 at 5:31 am (1 3 5 7 9 7 5 3 1). This was the only bridge in Prague for 400 years and only one of its arches was reconstructed after a flooding in the 19th century. Thanks to the statues (30 in total) this bridge is an open-air gallery, the first to be placed was St. John of Nepomuk (Jan Nepomuk), the guardian of the bridge and the statue that all the visitors of Prague touches to ask for wishes or to come back to Prague.
10. Vyšehrad Cemetery
This is probably one of the most beautiful places in Prague. Up at Vyšehrad (the high castle), you will find St. Peter´s and St. Paul´s basilica housing a cemetery that can be described as an art gallery. This cemetery was established in 1869 with the main idea to create a resting place for outstanding Czech personalities. You can find between the headstones politics, sculptors, painters, athletes and the great artist Alphonse Mucha. The main tomb of the cemetery is called Slavín, definitely the masterpiece of the cemetery.
Have you visited Prague? What landmarks stood out to you during your visit?
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