Acting as a gateway between Eastern and Western Europe, Prague is a melting pot of various cultural influences, writes Naomi Smith.
Prague has been affectionately known as the city of a thousand spires. From a height, these spires are laid out magnificently and the vast array of Christian churches and cathedrals, mosques, synagogues and Orthodox cathedrals tower over the city.
Prague itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is not hard to see why. When approaching the city, the dramatic landscape is startling. The great river Vltava splits the city – the east side dominating the entire landscape with its castle, the largest ancient castle in Europe, and the west side is full to the brim of church steeples and spires.
On first glimpse, the city appears to have been frozen in time, but as you explore deeper into the city, the New Town situated around Wenceslas Square is as modern as any other capital city, with shopping to rival anywhere else.
An unmissable sight in Prague is Charles’ bridge. Uniting both sides of the Vltava, it is the most ornate of Prague’s bridges. Commissioned in 1357, it is covered in numerous religious statues, each one telling a story. Measuring a half mile long, it has plenty to offer, with 30 statues in all. Being one of the city’s most popular attractions, it is best visited at night or early in the morning.
“The Astronomical Clock is one of the cultural highlights in the city”
The castle is like a city within a city. It deserves a day spent wandering its vast domains, encapsulating St Vitus’ cathedral, beautiful gardens and state houses. The view from the top of the castle is spellbinding – the whole of the city is laid out before it, with mountains behind it.
In the castle’s gardens, there is a fountain known as the ‘singing fountain’. It was built from the same materials used to construct a bell, and when you place your head beneath the fountain, a pure ringing sound can be heard.
The Astronomical Clock is one of the cultural highlights in the city. Constructed in the 1400s, it is a marvellous feat of engineering, and is still functioning today. On the hour, the twelve apostles appear. Tame by modern expectations, it is still worthy of its reputation. There is guaranteed to be a large crowd gathered in anticipation each hour to see the procession of the apostles.
The city itself is full of winding, narrow, cobbled streets. While these streets hold a great charm in themselves, they can easily become chaotic and claustrophobic in the height of the tourist season.
In Prague, the price of living is considerably lower than in Ireland. However, as Prague is such a popular tourist spot, most restaurants charge prices typical of Ireland. It is essential, therefore, to look around in order to find a meal at a good price. For around€@10, a three course meal with a beer can be had.
Prague offers a great selection of choice when it comes to a night out. For the clubbers, Karlovy Lazne is a must see, it is one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and is set in a great location overlooking Charles Bridge.
The allure of the city is remarkable. The city of a thousand spires has something to capture everyone’s imagination, and is sure to keep drawing in tourists to experience this unique location.