I love exploring cities on my own. It gives me the opportunity to stop for photos as often as I please. It also means I can skip coffee breaks and toilet trips to get to see as much of the city as I possibly can.
By the end of my first day in Prague I had taken over 300 photos, while all I had to eat was a grilled sandwich right before getting the train out of the city. On my second day in Prague, I actually managed to treat myself to a three-course meal and still take the same amount of photos.
Do I have some sort of obsessive photo-taking disorder? Possibly, but Prague is incredibly photogenic, and words fall short of capturing the city’s eccentric charm. Despite stopping for photos every five minutes, I still had enough time to visit the different quarters of Prague, get into the city’s top attractions and little-known ones, and shop for unusual souvenirs.
Choosing the best photos from my trip to Prague has been a long, painstaking process, but here they are at last.
Prague is imbued with magic and intrigue. Its architectural grandeur conjures the spirit of the city’s Bohemian past, creating an aura of timeless romanticism. I picked up this sense of mystery the moment I emerged from the metro station. Giddy with excitement, I ditched my map and wandered through random streets, discovering parts of Prague beyond the main highlights.
It’s very easy to get lost in the winding streets of the Old Town, but there’s no such thing as a wrong turn – unless you bump into a speeding segway. It took me three attempts to get to see the Astronomical Clock’s hourly performance. When I finally returned to the square in time for the glockenspiel spectacle, I was met by a large crowd posted at the foot of the medieval clock.
‘This must be good,’ I thought to myself.
As the first bell chimed, the crowd fell silent. I found a narrow gap among the raised hands and swaying phones to watch the famous mechanical performance of the 600-year-old masterpiece.
At the end of the show, the crowd dispersed as quickly as it had gathered, leaving me wondering why on earth people felt the need to record the whole thing on their phone. It made me feel less of a tourist, and with that gratifying thought, I walked down a quiet alley and stumbled upon some peacocks in a deserted garden. Having always been wary of big birds, I immediately retraced my steps out of there, only to accidentally plunge into a large group of slow-moving tourists.
I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow I found myself on the other side of the Vltava river without crossing a bridge.
Ok, perhaps I did cross a bridge, but I have no memory or photos of it ever taking place. In fact, it’s very possible that I had already crossed over to Prague Castle when I came across the creepy peacock garden. Anyway, what really matters is that I managed to get out of the throng of selfiestick-wielding tourists unscathed.
I was now on one of the main streets leading to the castle, so I was quite certain that nothing would get in my way – except my innate ability to sniff out weird places every time I visit a new city.
It was a chance glance at a small side street on my left that led me to the Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague
. Intrigued, I ventured further down the street, into a dark courtyard and through a creaky door. Beyond that point, I found myself enveloped in complete darkness.
It took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the dim light of the room, and I felt rather nervous until I could finally make out my surroundings. To my surprise, I was greeted by two cheerful girls at the ticket counter. Being the only visitor there made me feel like an outright weirdo, but it earned me a discounted admission to the Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum
The museum turned out to be a letdown. The history of alchemy and mysticism in Prague was presented as large chunks of text on even larger plaques. The tower attic, equipped with all sorts of alchemy ephemera, was less disappointing. The exhibition guide for the attic was a two-sided laminated sheet, which I could hardly read in the subdued light of the loft.
I walked out of there feeling like I had just wasted 30 minutes of my time in Prague. To really experience the city’s magic, I needed to be back in the streets. Scratch that – I needed to visit the castle.
I spent at least an hour and a half exploring the largest castle complex in Europe – and I didn’t even get to see all of it! Going into St. Vitus Cathedral and the other historical buildings within the castle grounds would have taken me another hour, and I wasn’t sure if I would be spending another day in Prague. So I kept roaming through cobbled lanes and along the ramparts, where I stopped for some panoramic shots of the city.
By then I had nearly forgotten about my ticket for the Prague Ghosts & Legends Museum. My stomach growled, but there was no time for lunch. Instead, I followed the sign to the museum, and ended up in another dark street.
The moment the chirpy young man at the ticket booth handed me a two-sided laminated paper, I knew straightaway the museum was going to be a waste of time. In fact, I was out of there after five minutes, but not before walking under phantom babies hanging from the ceiling and past headless figures lining up a winding staircase.
I needed another dose of magic, and I knew the right place for that.
The construction of the iconic Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) started in 1357 under the patronage of the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. According to legend, Charles IV ordered egg yolks to be added to the mortar to make the bridge stronger. Well, whatever they put in there seems to be doing a good job of keeping the bridge in one piece.
Since its completion in 1402, Karluv Most has survived severe floods, most recently in 2002, and the rise in heavy traffic during the 20th century, before becoming a pedestrian zone. Nowadays, Charles Bridge withstands the weight of millions of tourists visiting Prague every year.
Despite being crowded at the peak of day, crossing over Charles Bridge was a breathtaking experience, made more magical by the folk band playing that popular score
from How to Train your Dragon.
While everyone else queued to touch the statue of St. John of Nepomuk for good luck, I stopped to enjoy the staggering views from both sides of the bridge.
Upon reaching the end of the bridge, I got so overwhelmed by the brilliant colours around me that I tripped over some stairs and nearly smashed my camera.
Recovering from that brief dizzy spell, I promised myself I would stop at the nearest restaurant for something to eat.
If it weren’t for the fact that my day in Prague was nearly over, I would have turned around and walked back over the bridge, but there was one last thing I really wanted to do before leaving the city.
On my way back to the metro I took the lift up the Astronomical Clock for some stunning shots. This was when I got to see why Prague is known as ‘the City of a Hundred Spires’ – good thing I stepped away from the railing seconds before being hit by another dizzy spell. I was done with heights for the day. It was also time I finally put something in my stomach.
Five days later I was back in Prague. On the recommendation of my Czech hosts, I started my day at Vysehrad, a lesser-known historical quarter a few minutes away from the city centre. Relishing the crisp air, I took a walk along the fortification walls and got to see a more modern and industrial side of Prague.
I was truly enjoying the spell of quietude in Vysehrad, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to return to the city centre. But instead of getting the train back to the Old Town, I took a stroll along the Vltava river.
Bordered by gorgeous architecture and multi-coloured buildings, the Vltava river is a hub of activity. River cruises, canoeing, floating boat hotels and restaurants – mainly things that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy unless I overdose on motion sickness pills.But there was one activity I could enjoy more than anything else, and that was taking photos of Prague Castle and Charles Bridge from this vantage point.
But there was one activity I could enjoy more than anything else, and that was taking photos of Prague Castle and Charles Bridge from this vantage point.
One place I’d overlooked on my first day in Prague was Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. The birthplace of the great Czech writer Franz Kafka, Josefov is home to six synagogues, including the Spanish Synagogue, which is thought to be the most beautiful in Europe.
I came across the Jewish Quarter by accident, and I regret not having explored more of it. Ten minutes later, I was sweating my way up Letna hill. I arrived at the top gasping for breath and marvelling at the staggering sight that lay before me.
From Letna Park I ended up in the Royal Gardens, walking along exquisite palaces and viewing the castle complex from a different angle.
Before stopping for lunch, I went for another wander around the castle grounds and noticed the beautiful medieval frescoes on the walls of St. Vitus Cathedral.
My last day in Prague was drawing to a close. Heavy-hearted, I revisited some of my favourite attractions, including the Powder Tower and the Municipal House, then bought myself some chocolate.
And finally, I couldn’t leave Prague without taking one last walk over Charles Bridge… and a few more pictures.
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