How to be a typical tourist in Prague
The city’s typical tourist hotspots in all their glory
After living somewhere for quite some time you develop a tendency to develop an immunity to its beauty, its newness and all those hotspots and attractions that were at the top of your must-see list when you first arrived – after all, how many New Yorkers visit the Statue of Liberty on a regular basis or how many Londoners stop and pause to hear Big Ben chime?
But sometimes, no matter how long you have lived somewhere or how immune you are to its charms, it’s kind of fun to act like a tourist. So, I beseech of you, in order to rediscover Prague, to adopt a typical tourist persona – dig out your factor 30 sun cream, don an ‘I love Prague’ t-shirt and sling a ridiculously large camera around your neck and Prague TV as we look at the city’s typical tourist hotspots in all their glory.
The Astronomical Clock and the Old Town Square
A mecca for all tourist-shaped individuals, though as an expat you’re probably more used to weaving through the madding crowd and pickpocket dodging when you pass through this part of Prague. But slow down for a second or two and soak up what’s around – join the tourists with their mouths agape and stare up at the Astronomical Clock. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the clock is the third oldest of its kind in the world and the only one that is still in working order. The clock tells not only the time in Central Europe but also Babylonian and Sidereal time and the current zodiac birth sign, and on the hour the clock comes alive with 12 figures of apostles appearing before the bell chimes. Take two steps around the corner and you’re in the main heart of the Old Town Square where you can’t look left, right or straight ahead without seeing something of historical significance like the Gothic style Church of our Lady Before Týn with its four spires and the Jan Hus Memorial erected in 1915.
Prague’s main commercial centre though I’m still not sure why it is called a square because it’s clearly more of a rectangular shape, but now isn’t the time for a lesson in geometry. Flocks of stag parties of all nationalities can regularly be seen stalking the length of Wenceslas Square trying to get into its various strip clubs, but there’s a bit more to the square than just that. At the top of the square is the National Museum, built between 1885 and 1891 and designed by Czech architect Josef Schulz, and just below is the monument featuring the square’s namesake and patron saint of Bohemia Saint Wenceslas mounted upon a stallion. And for when you’re feeling a little homesick, there are about a million McDonald’s in the nearby vicinity where tourists can be found clambering for those well-known Czech delicacies of French fries and Big Macs.
The Charles Bridge
The city’s most famous and iconic bridge and, in fact, also its oldest bridge which connects Prague’s Old Town with Malá Strana across the Vltava River. Construction of the bridge began as far back as 1357 and was completed in the early 15th century. Featuring 30 different sculptures of various saint and martyrs, one of the most well-know is that of Saint John of Nepomuk who was thrown off the bridge to his death in 1393 – though despite his rather horrid demise, legend has it that if you rub the plaque below his statue it will bring you good luck and ensure that you one day return to Prague, hence the swarm of fellow tourists gathering around the statue most days. The bridge also is home to three bridge towers – two on the Malá Strana side and one on the Old Town side – and is dotted with stalls selling jewellery, souvenirs and even those caricature drawings of yourself which accentuate all your worst features which I never really understood why anyone would want.
Last on our list of typical tourist hotspots is Prague Castle. Ideal for any tourist who sees themselves as something of a history buff, parts of the castle grounds foundations date back as far as the 9th century and the rest of its many structures are an eclectic mix of architectural styles from between the 10th and 14th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest castle complex in the whole world, Prague Castle is home to some stunning architecture such as the towering St Vitus Cathedral festooned with its Gothic gargoyles and Zlatá Ulička, or ‘Golden Lane’ – a terrace of small houses dating back to the 16th century in which riflemen and craftsmen used to reside and where, at number 22, the famous Prague-born novelist Franz Kafka used to work.
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