Prague is easily one of the most beautiful and historically interesting cities in Europe.
The capital of the Czech Republic was the primary seat of the oldest ruling dynasty in the state of Bohemia when the city took shape after the building of Prague Castle in the late 9th century.
Today, Prague maintains a cool Bohemian vibe owing to its historical roots and the importance of music, art and culture that still endures in the city and surrounding region.
I fell under this awesome city's spell when I spent two days there ahead of my Danube River cruise. Many Danube River cruise itineraries include days in Prague at the start or end of the voyage. Make sure to look for sailings that include Prague. Because, if you're going to travel all the way to Europe for a Danube cruise, you don't want to miss this spectacular destination.
Prague is located just over three hours away from the nearest port town on the Danube (like Vilshofen or Passau in Germany) and is situated on a marvelous river itself, the Vltava, which is an essential part of its character and charm.
The Vltava is the Czech Republic's longest river, stretching 260-plus miles. In Prague, it features 18 bridges, some of which are highlights of the city. In fact, I've discovered a handful of great things you can do when you visit Prague before your river cruise.
The historic city center of Prague is called Stare Mesto in the Czech language. This is the oldest parts of the city and was a central marketplace as far back as the 10th century. It still bustles today with activity amid the cobbled streets and numerous historic and well-preserved buildings surrounding Old Town Square.
Come here to find open-air restaurants, musicians and performers and culturally important churches, monuments and attractions.
Look for City Hall and the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, a magnificent gothic cathedral with four distinctive spires. This church helps lend to Prague's moniker "City of 100 Spires" for the number of tall churches that pierce the sky (the true count is above 500 spires, actually).
In Old Town, you can also visit St. Nicolas Church and the Prague Astronomical Clock, which was installed in 1410 and reigns as the oldest astronomical clock that still works. Just wander the Old Town district and be amazed at the architecture, with museums, hotels, palaces and bridge towers displaying gothic, Art Nouveau and Baroque designs among others.
While the city features 18 bridges, none are as famous and significant as Charles Bridge. With a sunrise or sunset backdrop, this is the top photo spot in Prague, with massive towers bracketing the span over the Vltava River. Charles Bridge connects the Old Town to the Little Quarter district.
The large stone bridge was built in the 14th century at the behest of Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The span is a pedestrian zone, popular for sunset strolls and featuring dozens of unique Baroque statues on each side of the wide walkway.
You cross the nearly 1,700-foot span to get from Old Town to St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle complex, which loom on the hill. Charles Bridge is filled artists and buskers, as well as thousands of tourists who use it throughout the day.
I always say that one of the best ways to properly immerse yourself in a destination and its culture is to eat and drink like a local. And Prague offers so many flavors to savor in its traditional cuisine. I always make it a top task to seek out the best beers at any place I visit, and the Czech Republic owns a beer culture unlike any other in the world.
The Czech Republic has ranked as the No. 1 nation for beer consumption per capita for the past 20-plus years.
Pilsner was created in this country, and you can see brands like Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (the original Budweiser) and Staropramen plastered in advertising all over Prague. Like in many other places, Prague also has a growing craft beer culture.
A Prague food tour is the best way to get the full mix of all the tastes available when you visit.
Tours led by passionate expert guides can give you the best chance to try all the traditional Czech cuisine, like breads, soups, goulash, sausages, dumplings and sweet pastries -- as well as the country's world-renowned beers and wines.
Prague is a city filled with amazing structures. You'll want to hunt down the top sites.
Prague Castle is a massive complex that dates to the 9th century and serves as the official office of the nation's president. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle.
Also look for the Karlstejn Castle, Old Royal Palace, Okor Castle, Waldstein Palace and Schwarzenberg Palace.
Lovely historic residences can be found in and around Prague. Melnik Chateau is the highlight of a lovely nearby town at the confluence of the Vltava and Labe Rivers. Troja Chateau, Karlova Koruna Chateau and Chateau Mcely are all within a one-hour drive from Prague. Go farther afield, and you can see more stunning castles and chateaus than you can imagine, including some that are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Just wandering through the Stare Mesto in Prague, you are sure to stumble upon many interesting sites or attractions things that catch your eye or are of particular interest.
I took notice of a few spots that you also might want to put on your sightseeing list.
The KGB Museum houses an interesting collection photos and artifacts from the Soviet-era state system. The museum features Lenin's death mask, the Trotsky murder weapon and spy tools.
The Lennon Wall is a living work of art in the form of a mural located on Grand Priory Square near the busy entry way at the Charles Bridge in Old Town. The mural was started as a way for some to express grief over the killing of John Lennon in 1981, and it features images of peace, lyrics to Beatles songs and other ways to commemorate the great musician.
Indeed, there are many, many more artistic displays and cool things to stumble upon.
(Have you been to Prague? Please share some of your discoveries in the comments below.)
With so much to see, trying to cram it all into a two- or three-day stay is impossible. My thought has always been that a river cruise is a great way to get a nice sampling of a destination along Europe's great river routes.
Prague proved to be a step above most other destinations I have had the fortune to explore. This is definitely a place you will want to return to again and again to enjoy all it has to offer.
Thanks for reading,