The Historic Centre of Prague played a prominent role in medieval Central Europe. It has seen continuous urban development from the Middle Ages to the present, resulting in an architectural ensemble of outstanding quality.
The WHS area consists of the following parts:
- Old Town (Stare Mesto), with the Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock and Charles Bridge
- Lesser Town (Male Strana) on the left (west) bank of the river Vltava and below the Prague Castle
- New Town (Nove Mesto), including the Wenceslas Square
Additionally to the Historic Centre there is a second location 15km away: Průhonice Park.
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Visit May 2003, July 2020
In 2003 I was in Prague for the first time. At that time, the crowds were especially noticeable: since the fall of communism in 1989, it has become a popular city for weekend trips within Europe. Cheap flights, cheap beer, basically everything is cheap here. I felt uncomfortable amid thick lines of people moving through the historic city center to the castle via the Charles Bridge.
But in the summer of 2020 I dared to visit one more time: after my visit to the WHS of Kladruby, I committed a full day to the Czech capital. Early in the morning I walked through the streets of the center, loosely connecting a number of well-known and lesser-known highlights. Prague is full of buildings from the 14th to the 20th century. Despite this long flowering period, it is a coherent whole: nothing is too tall, too different or too derelict. There is beautiful Art Nouveau, for example at the central square in the Old Town directly opposite the medieval churches and town hall.
I was there on a Saturday, so unfortunately all the sights in the former Jewish quarter were closed. What is striking is how well the synagogues, related buildings (the very beautiful ceremony hall for example) and the cemetery have been preserved here. The photo above shows the Old New Synagogue from the year 1275, making it the oldest active synagogue in Europe.
Behind an inconspicuous wall lies the Wallenstein Palace. This is now in use by the Czech Senate, but the gardens (with benches, in the shade!) are a pleasant oasis in the stone city center. The Italian-style loggia is the big eye-catcher.
The Saint Nicholas Church is located in the "New Town". This is Prague's most stunning Baroque church. You have to pay an entrance fee, I was the only visitor. There is a lot of gold and marble, and there are statues of saints that are meters high. You can climb to the balcony from where you can have a better look at the paintings on the ceiling.
There are more modern works of art & architecture as well: the Babies sculptures by Czech artist David Cerny are fun. They can be found next to the museum on Kampa Island, which lies in the Vltava River between the Old and New Town. The most modern building in the inner city is the Dancing House of the architects Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry. It is located at a busy intersection on a street with many Art Nouveau buildings. It is not very out of place here, but I found it not really my taste.
A while back Korean Air acquired a share in CSA, Czech Airlines. They have since divested, but if you assume this was solely an expansion step, you might be mistaken. Goal as I recall for Korean Air was to establish Prague as its European hub and dispatch travelers all across Europe from Prague. Prague’s location in the heart of Europe - a fact often overlooked by those of us having grown up with the Iron Curtain still in place - may have contributed to this decision. The main reason, as I understood, was a different one: Apparently, for most Koreans coming to Europe, Prague is a must visit.
First things first, there is an obvious practical reason: Prague is way more affordable than most European capitals, e.g. Vienna, Paris or London. In addition, it offers everything you would expect in a European capital: medieval gates, a great river promenade, palaces, churches, several Jewish quarters … Starting from the medieval period to WW2, every major European time period is found well preserved in Prague. My personal highlight are the Art Deco buildings scattered across town. Amazingly it all fits together creating a large European urban landscape. So, yes, I can understand why Koreans would want to come here: Prague is Europe in a nutshell and on a budget. I think the only comparable city in central Europe is Vienna, but Vienna tilts more heavily towards the 18th century and later than Prague.
By now, I have visited Prague four times. The first time was nearly 20 years ago with the usual sightseeing. Prague was already popular with tourists back then. The next two times I passed through town on my way to the airport and the railway station, coming once from Cesky Krumlov, the other time from Kutna Hora. With the little spare time I had, I took strolls around town. One of those times was in February, it was terribly cold and I was hoping to evade the tourist masses. But I was mistaken. Even in February the Karl’s Bridge was crowded.
My last time was in summer 2021, i.e. during (probably not after?) the Covid crisis. I was hoping to get as lucky as Philipp did the year before and have the city to myself. But while the hotel rates are still low (good time to visit), the tourists are coming back. I even saw plenty of Asian tourists; not sure what visa regulations are in place nowadays. The one lesson I learnt on my 4th visit, is that Prague has so much to offer that it is always worth another visit. And to me this is the sign of a truly great sight.
While You Are There
Not going to reiterate the usual highlights. There are simply too many and this isn’t a travel guide. A few things I have on my bucket list for the next visit: I want to see Strahov Monastery for the library, I want to visit the modernist Müller Villa (requires a reservation) and I want to enter Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně, built by Jože Plečnik. Matejicek pointed me to it. Personally, I would argue the church is one of Jose Plecznik's better works... Last but not least, an extension of the sight is planned and I would like to see the park that is already part of the inscription.
Suggestion Box @Prague Mayor
While some may take offense at the stag nights, the crowds on the Karl's Bridge or the tourist trap restaurants (fyi: the Kebab shop on the Karls Bridge has a 1.8 google rating), my main annoyance are cars. I hardly know a German old town that would allow so many cars into the old town and that would not enforce strict speed limits. It would be really nice, to be able to walk on the road in the old town without fear of being run over. Thanks.
I know that Prague is a victim of aggressive tourist industry, but it has affected the inscribed parts pretty unevenly, and Prague is still one of the most beautiful and valuable historical towns in Europe!
Above all, the historical core of Prague is a unique assembly of two castles (Vyšehrad and Prague Castle) and four originally independent medieval towns (Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town and Hradčany) including quite large former Jewish ghetto within the Old Town, all picturesquely sitting on the bent of Vltava river. Furthermore, this WHS has two separate components, and besides the city center, the Průhonice castle with huge park has been also included.
I live in Prague for around 20 years, and my office in the Charles University campus is located within the inscribed area, close to the outer gothic walls of New Town, not far from Vyšehrad Castle.
During the Covid-19 outbreak in March-May 2020, it happened to me that I was “confined” within this WHS and its buffer zone almost continuously for two months – my home is several hundreds meters from the borders of the WHS area. I took an opportunity to explore the entire core zones again and without annoying masses of tourists… and I realized again how beautiful Prague is.
In May, I also did an afternoon trip to Průhonice component by metro (C-line stop Opatov) and suburban bus to admire its magnificent gardens in bloom and without masses of tourists.
Only one part of Prague was almost inaccessible during the quarantine: the whole area of the Prague Castle was impenetrably closed due to the decision of our Mister President till the last week of May. Declared suspension of security anti-terrorist checkpoints of the re-opened castle was a fake-news, because everybody had to walk through the metal detectors under careful supervision of soldiers with weapons. OK, they did not check your baggage now as they usually did, but the Prague Castle is still NO-GO zone for too many Czechs, and in May, there was lower number of the castle visitors than soldiers and policemen standing at almost every corner… Well, I broke the rule and entered the castle two times by the end of May to see if the castle and cathedral are still so beautiful, but I am planning my next visit after the president elections in 2023.
Every part of the inscribed historical core is interesting and worth-visiting, and for me it is impossible to pick up highlights – my review would be enormously long. So, my suggestion is to get lost in the streets… during that, one can find the first class monuments from the periods spanning from middle ages to 21st Century.
The classical route starts by Strahov Monastery with views towards Petřín hill, continues in direction Hradčany Square and main entrance to the Prague Castle with beautiful panorama of the very core of Prague, then it descends through Lesser Town to the Charles Bridge, and it ends at the Old Town square or at Wenceslas Square.
I also like walking in the area of New Town, which is not such picturesque as Lesser Town or Old Town, but it is refreshingly non-touristy and everyone can find his/her own hidden treasure there, such as the southern area around the Charles Square, which is the largest gothic square in the world (PHOTO: New Town municipal hall that remembers the first Prague defenestration in 1419 – the beginning of the Hussite revolution).
Now in July, I am afraid that the pristine fleur of tourist-free Prague is slowly disappearing…
When you visit Prague you have to distinguish between the new area and the old area, both very nice. In the old area you can appreciate the old palaces and medieval buildings, but not only. Nearby there is also the Charles Bridge, the symbol of the city. In the north of the old town you can visit the Jewish Quarter. All this is of great architectural and cultural interest.
I visited this WHS in May 2012. The city of Prague is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. The Chain Bridge and Mala Strana District at sunrise were the highlights of my visit in Prague. Great panoramic views of the city can be enjoyed from the Metronome Park or Castle Hill Vineyards.
I have visited many countries across Europe (have been 7 times there)and no other place can be compared to Prague. I still remember the magic and wonderful athmosphere when I first visited it, I felt in a fairy tale. Of what I know, I still can say that Prague is the most magical and beautiful city I have seen so far in my life. Only Mont St Michel in northern France gave me a similar magical feel and a sense of wonderful place. I still have to go to Kracow to see if it is as good as everybody say.
Praha, Prague, Prag - the Golden City. Unfortunately I only spend one day there during my trip to Czech Republic in August 2005, but it was great! It's amazing how many tourists stay on Carl's Bridge at the same time. The whole city has so much to see, so many interesting churches, the castle, the Jewish Cemetery and facades of so many perfectly restaurated houses. Fantastic!!
Is Prague a heavily touristed town? Without a doubt. It draws people from around the world, and, with the expansion of cheap European airlines, the crowds are only going to get bigger. Is Prague a town that in spite of its drawbacks still deserves an extended visit? Absolutely! While I often complain about the sheer number of tourists that descend on towns like Florence and Prague, one has to admit that they have it right. Prague is a scintillating experience, worthy of visit even at the most popular times of the year. Go for the spectacle, go for the fairy tale setting, go for the beer, it's all there to be enjoyed in Bohemia's capital. I particularly enjoyed walking around the Josefov district and the Old Town Square, gazing upon the truly beautiful Tyn Church that rises above the houses. Just a wonderful city.
Another vote in favor of Prague from me. It's true, the city can get enormously crowded at any time of the year and day, but this is true for other cities as well and people seem to criticize only Prague for it. So if you want a quiet city just for yourself without the crowds, this is not the place for you to go. But for those who don't mind a few other tourists, Prague remains one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The Hradcin with the Cathedral is really a great sight from the city below, and the old town and Charles Bridge are must-see sights as well. A daytrip to any of the older Czech cities or the many castles around Prague will help you get away from the crowds at least a little bit.
First things first; Prague has a lot of tourists! However its massive charm is more than enough to make this one of Europe's most impressive destinations.
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can not think of a setting I have seen that can beat the combination of Vltava Charles Bridge, Mala Strana and Prasky Hrad (Castle). The beer is the best in the world and competes to be the cheapest (and I would like to point out this is not just in terms of Western Europe this is still the cheapest quality beer I have come across!) This would be enough for me but Prague throws more at you. Staromestka namesti (Old Town Square) is taken directly from a fairy tale, Joefov is one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Europe, Vaclavsky Namesti (Wenceslas Square) is dripping with contemporary history. On top of this you have one of the densest clusters of Art Nouveau art anywhere in Europe; with Obcedni Dum ranking amongst the very elite of this style in architectural terms. Then there are the outlying parts such as Vysehrad to add to this. All is then mixed with an artistic heritage which even by Central European terms is amazing.
And it is only once you see all this you can appreciate why you will no longer have Prague to yourself. It may have changed a lot since 1989 but this is still a city that should feature highly on any traveller's itinerary.
The best advice I can give is just to go off and explore (the same with every touristy city). The main drag between Staromestka Namesti and the castle is very impressive however this is the focus of the crowds. Delving into side streets to find hidden gems like Valdstejnska zahrada (Wallenstein Garden) exploring the bars and clubs of Nove Mesto will help you see that there is more to Prague than shops selling communist nostalgia to Western drinking parties. Prague is an astonishing city and the small amount of effort required to lose the crowds is all that is needed to find a highlight of Europe.
There can be no doubt that Prague is a beautiful city, but, sadly, it has sold its soul to tourism. The old city is enormous and generally in original condition, the lack of war damage is remarkable. The downside is the high cost, compared to the rest of the Czech Republic, the unfriendliness of the populous and the tourist traps.
Prague is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I have been there counless times and remember the city from times before the iron courtain fall. That time you could walk alone at the mysterious old Jewish cemetery, peopleless Charles Bridge or even Zlatá ulièka. Nowadays you can avoid crowds of tourists if you go apart the main tourist routes. The historical city is big enough, so just take a city map and enjoy your walk around the quiet streets and squares.
Fanny Melian Havela
I was disappointed by Prague. Filled with tourists and badly organized traffic, it was chaotic and unpleasant.
To avoid the atmosphere, it's better to buy a book of the architectural wonders of the city.
Also the food was similar to elsewhere in eastern block, grease and mayonnaise ruled all over.
I only recall one nice even, getting off the metro in Vysehrad, and walking over the bridge to the center. That fifteen minute walk over the valley beyond was beautiful.
Some people say Prague is the most beautiful city in Europe. While we might not go that far, it’s difficult to find a “one-view” that would surpass the sight of the Vltava River and Karluv Most (the Charles Bridge, a pedestrian bridge adorned with 75 statues and statue groups), with the Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral high above Marla Strana (Lesser town).
Yes, in summer Prague is pretty crowded, not so charming. Walk in Zlata Ulicka was terrible. Once I visited Prague at the end of February - no tourists, but not so pleasant weather as well.
What I liked in this city? Its huge historical centre. We in Baltics have used to rather small Old Cities, but here it takes looong time to go through it - the buildings and sights are very interesting. I consider that Czechs keep their capital very well - they also have sense of taste, what is not the case with many modern Western European cityplanners and architects.
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