It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies – Laini Taylor.
An entire two months have gone by since I was drinking hot chocolates of a morning, sipping wine of an evening and wandering the cobbles of a truly wonderful city. It honestly feels like an eternity since I was in awe of Prague, one of my favourite cities to date, and one that I cannot wait to visit again. Although the food and drink are firmly high on the list of reasons to return, the history of the city alone clearly tops the list. It is a city which remembers the story of where it originated from, all its ancestors and beliefs as well as the strengths it took to rebuild.
If you are someone who is interested in the culture of a city, the history that seeps behind its walls and appreciates a variety of art, old and new, Prague has to be on your hot list of places to visit. Even if you are not a huge fan of history, there will be something in this beautiful city that captures your eye, making you want to know more of what it would have been like to have been one of its residents now and in the past.
LIVING THE OLD TOWN WAY
The touristic centre of Prague is the Old Town Square, boasting of a grand cobbled square surrounded by beautiful buildings, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. The most popular building is, of course, the Old Town Hall with its magnificent clock face. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the astronomical clock as the building was being reworked. Up until late last year, that clock had never stopped since it was built 600 years ago. However, we were invited by Prague City Tourism to tour the town hall and its infamous tower. The history and architecture of the building – inside and out – are spectacular. Grand rooms and historic attributes to Roman gods and goddesses adorn this building; the views are out of this world once you climb to the top of the spiralling tower – or, catch the glass encased lift!
STUNNING PLACES OF RELIGION
Churches are scattered across the city of Prague. There are a few with the same name – don’t let that confuse you when you are plotting your day’s adventure on the city map – specifically St. Nicholas. Gorgeous teal green colours point out Prague’s largest cathedral, just as black spindles haunt the town square. Each building has its own history, all of which will have you in awe of Prague’s past. Not only is the architecture a breath of beauty, the inside of each building is mesmerising, including all the colourful glass and – if you’re interested in those who lived before us – preserved tombs.
One place of note is St. Agnes Convent. Just a short walk from Old Town Square, lies a unique piece of history which dates back to the twelfth century. Inside, there is currently an art exhibition of renaissance full of religious pieces which date centuries. Even if you are not a religious person, you will be entranced by the familiar faces in a new light. Beneath the artwork lies the convent which is a remarkable place of history. You can sit where the nuns sat, walk where they walked and it is an incredible feeling to imagine these people centuries before that, breathing the same air as you. An element of mystery lies in the convent: the body of the founding nun and princess, St. Agnes, has been missing for centuries.
THE CASTLE ON TOP OF THE HILL
How the ancient royals lived in any part of the world is something that will always interest me, and so a trip to Prague Castle was in order. The grounds themselves are magnificent, stretching across a large area of land, which are guarded front and back. Important meetings still occur in this stunning castle, not to mention it is the official residence of the President of Czech Republic.
Various tickets at multiple prices will grant you entry to an array of buildings in the grounds including: Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, The Story of Prague Castle and much more. Now, it is possible that certain areas of Prague Castle are off-limits at different times of the year because my friend and I paid for the most expensive ticket (400 CK which gets you access over two days), but we didn’t get to see the entire compound. The historical buildings we did see were, of course, beautiful in every way – with history shining its light on what came before us, with art exhibitions reflecting the various eras of life, and with places of worship showcasing an extremely religious path set for those who sought it.
My favourite parts of Prague Castle (that I got to see) were Golden Lane and The Story of Prague Castle. Starting with the former: this little lane is made up of gorgeous little houses and a cobbled street that scream fairy tale. Inside each door is a story attached about who lived there, during which period. There was the baker, the family and the spiritualist who was stoned to death, to name a few. Here, the interiors are made to reflect the olden days, with original furniture and clothes to show how lives were lived many centuries before. Above the houses is a large quantity of encased knights’ armoury, including a lot of knives, axes, swords and any other weapon you can think of. There is also a torture chamber. Whether or not the blood is real, I have no idea.
As stories often call to me, I wandered around the depths of the castle which holds The Story of Prague Castle, taking in almost all of the information I could. Too much writing in one paragraph can sometimes put me off reading every single piece written. The underground levels of the castle alone cause the mind to wander, especially as you can clearly see the original stone that was built as long ago as the ninth century. If you are as slightly (borderline weirdly) obsessed with death as I am, you will adore this part of the tour. Not only are there robes in which people were dressed in for their coffins, there are actual bones and skeletons in the grounds, one of which is from a woman who lived between 27,000 BC and 29,000 BC. That is remarkable, and something I will always remember. To think that that bone could be the oldest in Europe is fascinating. Another skeleton reflects a man who is thought to be a knight of the fifteenth century. In his tomb are objects he would have used during his life: a sword, knife and shield. You can see old photographs of the castle ruins and drainage pipes built of wood, dating back centuries – all illustrating how European people once lived.
A WALL CLOSE TO HOME
Specifically close to my home. The John Lennon Wall is a must-see for people old and young across the globe, but seeing as we come from the North West, it was definitely on our list of to-dos whilst in Prague. It started out as a plain old wall, until the 1980s. At a time of communism and John Lennon’s death, youths began to paint his face, song lyrics and poems across this wall as an act of freedom, something that Lennon himself lived for. The graffiti was illegal, but they couldn’t be stopped; and it is just as well, because now that wall is a colourful masterpiece that represents something everyone wants (in their own way) – a right to freedom, love and peace.
THE CONNECTING BRIDGE
Charles Bridge is a lot like other bridges – it gets you across the river, from A to B. However, it is a glorious bridge: strong, full of statues of saints, a homage to the Gothic era. It was named after Charles IV, a statue of himself is at the beginning just outside of a church. It is also a huge place for tourism and vendors who sell their souvenirs among the seventeenth century statues of saints who watch over the city. It is the perfect place for sunset and, although it is busy, there is a sense of calm – even on cold blistery winter days.
Despite having only just visited Prague once, it felt a little like home. The people, the tourists, the places and the food and drink all played a huge part in making this city like no other. Its history is incredible and the churches will make the most atheist of us in awe of them. I would return for another weekend in a second, and I’d visit the exact same places whilst making time to wander into new parts of the city too.
Have you visited Prague? Which was your favourite part of this beautiful place?
Love, Faye xo
Prague City Tourism kindly gifted me two tickets to tour the Old Town Hall and its Tower, however all opinions are – as always – my own.