WHEN IN PRAGUE
Headed towards the Czech capital?
Make sure to read NOMADSofORIGIN's insight on the must-see places and the things you can do there
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
29 August 2019
Famous all over the world for cultural venues like the Prague Summer festival, when classic musical array sounds from ancient cathedrals, traditional theatres and historical buildings, the Czech capital has a lot to offer for visitors. Turned into one of the most loved locations in Europe, Prague bursts with fascinating artistic and historic scenes. If you ever wondered where the Czech Republic got its fame from, then read ahead. Just prepare to be planning a visit by the end of the article with insights on some of the most iconic visits across Prague.
In 1342 floods washed away the 12th-century Judith Bridge and over a decade later in 1357 Charles IV wished to replace it. He commissioned the architect of St Vitus Cathedral, a man called Peter Parler. When the work was completed in 1390, the name of the monument was Kamenný most, translating to Stone Bridge. In the 19th century the bridge took Charles' name and it took until post WWII times for it to be made pedestrian. The legend states the reason the bridge withheld floods and traffic for over five centuries, were the eggs added into the mortar, although this was later denied by experts.
With the soft stone statue, including the figure of St John of Nepomuk, lined upon the parapets and the baroque cathedrals overlooking the bridge, it has turned into one of the most satisfying locations to visit in the Czech capital city.
Between statues number seventeen and nineteen, you would notice a bronze cross. Its position is not accidental but marks the place where, according to local legends, Wenceslas IV dressed himself up in armour and threw himself off the bridge in 1393. Having been the queen's priest, he refused to reveal her confessions, while stirring away from the myth would point to the state-church conflict as the reason for Wenceslas IV's bold act
Another use of the bridge was made through Bradáč - a carved stone head translating to Bearded Man. Positioned at the Staré Město end of the Charles bridge, the monument would serve as flood marker for the citizens of Prague, who would know to head for the higher mountain areas once the river level rose above Bradáč.
When you visit the famous area of the Charles Bridge, make sure you go before down and be weary of pick pocketers. You would be able to take in the river scenery and ancient architecture without all the tourists, who seem to be flooding the place themselves as soon as 9am rolls around. Oh, and one more thing to put on your list. Don't forget to rub the bronze plaque of the Wenceslas IV's marker spot. The saying goes this would be your ticket for a return to Prague at least once in the future.
Old Town Square
Known as Staromák to locals, this location has served as the city's main marketplace until the beginning of the 20th century. Today it is one of Europe's largest urban spaces, cherished for its artistic scenery and well-preserved traditional outlook. Formerly Prague's principal area, the Old Town Square now hosts Christmas and Easter markets, fashion shows, musicians, and political meetings under the supervision of the 1915 statue of Jan Hus. The location also unveils the brass strip placed on the ground, known as the Prague Meridian. Qhat you would witness would be the upgraded version of the 17th century plague column, which was used as an indicator when it would cast a shadow upon the meridian at noon.
St Vitus Cathedral
A symbol of religious and cultural life not only in the Czech Republic but also in central Europe, the St Vitus Cathedral took nearly six hundred years to complete. Emperor Charles IV laid the foundation of the building in 1344, which was intended to have a completed French Gothic look. Charles' architect Matthias of Arras first started to work on the project, which was descended at his death by Peter Parler, who managed to complete the eastern part of the cathedral before his own death in 1399. The intentions for the monument to be finished were only restored in the late 19th and early 20th century after the Czech National Revival.
The cathedral houses wooden statues and rich in colour stain-glassed windows. The chapels have preserved a range of treasures including mosaics, the silver tomb of St John of Nepomuck, supported by a squadron of silver angels, and the baroque tomb of Charles IV. Carved wooden doors display bohemian saints, while colourfully told stories and legends associated with the Last Judgement decorate the south windows. The Royal Mausoleum build out of cold marble in the centre, keeps the remains of Ferdinand I with his wife Anna Jagellonska and son Maximilian II. Past the ambulatory and the old confessional booths lay the tomb of St Vitus - patron of actors, dancers and entertainers, and the Gothic Royal Oratory - a splendid, carefully carved out balcony. The Parler's Chapel of St Wenceslas, covered in semiprecious stones, 16th century wall paintings form the life of the Czech saint are just what precedes the Coronation Chamber. Hidden behind a seven-locks door above the Golden Gate, the chamber is the hiding place of the Bohemian crown jewels.
There is plenty to do in Prague, famous for being the cradle of Europe. And while history begs to unveil itself to you at every corner in this magical capital city, make sure to also go around the tourist hotspots. We can write about every monument, fortress and chapel, but recommendation is to also find the time to experience some of the old-fashioned venues, traditional bars and charming cafes scattered around the side streets and small alleys.