Prague is known not only for its old-world charm but also for its crowds of people there to see what all the fuss is about. So how can you enjoy 2 days in this venerable city while dealing without being hampered by your fellow travelers? Here are some suggestions based on what worked for me last summer.
Head to Old Town Square
While you are in the Old Town Square, be sure to get a close look at the famous astronomical clock. Built in 1410, the clock features four figures that move when the clock strikes the hour. The skeleton, representing death, strikes the time. The doorways above the clock open to reveal the apostles. At noon, all 12 apostles appear. A calendar was added below the clock in 1490. Aim to stand right below the clock on the hour, if possible. You will be in a mass of folks, but the clock sits high on the City Hall, so just look up and you’ll be able to see it in detail. Read this post for more about Old Town Square.
Next up? A good way to see highlights of Prague (and many other cities) is to take a walking tour with a guide to fill in some background on the sights. We chose the World War II in Prague tour, which I highly recommend. Our guide met us near the Old Town Square at the old Powder Tower and took us around the edges of the square, informing us of the Resistance activities during the war. When members of the Resistance were caught, they were shot, and we stood by the still visible bullet marks.
The most awesome part of this tour is that your guide has access inside the City Hall to the underground tunnels used by the Resistance and also through earlier centuries for various reasons. The building itself is worth a look, with its ornate ceiling, and then we went down into the underground. Our guide instructed us not to wander, as we could become hopelessly lost in all the darkened arms of the tunnel network.
Explore the Jewish Quarter
About 100,000 people are buried here. The Jews were restricted to burying their dead only within the ghetto walls, so for hundreds of years, this was the only place for graves. When one layer of ground was full, dirt was added and another layer was made. It’s estimated that 12 layers of graves lie here.
We visited the synagogue bordering the cemetery, which is a memorial to the Jews taken from Prague in WWII. Care was taken to list the names of each person with the last known dates of their lives. It is so moving to visit this hushed place of remembrance. Read this post for more about the Jewish Cemetery.
Another key to beating the crowds: Eat dinner early. Head early — maybe between 5:00 and 6:00 — to a sidewalk cafe or a quaint restaurant in a side street off the square and you can enjoy dinner without a wait. Our first dinner of seafood, complete with a checked tablecloth in an outdoor cafe, was perfect.
Another key to negotiating a crowded Prague: Start early. Head out right after breakfast to the Prague Castle. You will be ahead of the crowds this way, and you can stay in this complex of buildings as long as you like. We arrived about 9:00, when the buildings open to the public. We climbed the dome of the St. Vitus church to see the view and wandered through some other buildings, then had lunch at a cafe in the castle. By the time we emerged from lunch, the lanes had filled with people, but we were ready to move on. Read this post for more about the Prague Castle.
We took a bus from the castle area to the museum dedicated to the paratrooper heroes of WWII at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Church. Our tour guide told us about this somewhat obscure museum, and we were glad we sought it out. This proved to be fascinating. We entered the tiny place, which is in the church crypt, and stayed as long as we wanted before a busload of people arrived and it became too crowded to read the signs. You can read this post for more about the museum.
The Charles Bridge
End your day with a stroll on the Charles Bridge at sunset. The views are unforgettable. You can read more about the Charles Bridge in this post.
The Hotel Jungmann, named after a man who ensured that Czech would remain the language of Prague, is located just a few long blocks from the main square. The rooms are large, and a little sidewalk cafe is right outside. My favorite part was the breakfast room down a winding stairway into a stone room. There’s some history here, right? The hotel is not fancy, but it was the perfect location and very comfortable.