The capital of the Czech Republic and one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Prague offers a wealth of architectural and historic attractions and is one of the most rewarding cities in Europe to experience. Throughout its long history, it’s been the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, part of the Habsburg Empire and has had a prominent role in several major conflicts. In contrast, the altogether more peaceful Velvet Revolution in 1989 marked the dawn of a non-Communist future and an influx of tourist visitors. Though it lies far from either, Prague is included on a number of river cruise itineraries which explore the Main and the Danube rivers, with an overnight stay usually included. You’ll no doubt be glad of this, as the city’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich in cultural attractions.
Prague’s Old Town is the place to go if you want to experience the city’s 13th-century charm. The expansive square is always alive with numerous market stalls, craft displays and cafes vying for your attention. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir and soak up the atmosphere and also where you’ll find such architectural treasures as the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. The former is an incredible piece of Gothic architecture which dominates the square, while the latter is always popular with visitors, as the clock’s animated mechanical figures emerge from the clock on the hour to the delight of the assembled crowds below. The Church of the Virgin Mary Before Tyn is another key Old Town landmark and you won’t fail to miss its distinctive black spires as soon as you enter the square.
Leave the Old Town across the Vltava River, which joins the Elbe further south, and visit the home of one of Europe’s finest faith buildings in the form of the soaring St Vitus Cathedral, which is part of the Prague Castle complex and visible from anywhere in the city. Though the square it sits on is pretty large, you’ll struggle to fit its façade in the frame if you’re taking a photo, which should give you an impression of how big it is. The view from the south tower is certainly worth the 297-step climb but there are plenty of wonders to behold inside too, including some hugely detailed stained glass windows and an incredible mosaic of the Last Judgement.
If St Vitus Cathedral was where Czech kings-past were both crowned and laid to rest, Prague Castle itself was where they ruled from, throughout hundreds of years of the city’s history. Though it’s now home to the presidential offices, other attractions in the castle complex include some beautiful terraced gardens and courtyards to explore.
Your cruise excursion leader will no doubt be wise to this but be sure to get there early to see the Astronomical Clock in action if you’re exploring the Old Town on your own. Beer is a big deal in Prague and if you want to try a local brew, Staropramen is a popular choice.