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Czech this out

Prague is a fantastic location for sightseeing and is a cultural and historical melting pot of diverse European influences. It is based in central Europe and was part of the former soviet Eastern Bloc before the Velvet Revolution in 1990.

Visitors to Prague can expect a large programme of events all year round. From the International Spring music festival, to seasonal specialized markets. Opera events run year round, and further afield in the Czech Republic, film festivals and renaissance fairs.

Tourism has been welcomed with mixed emotions from varying generations of Czechs. Since the velvet revolution, the European Zone membership has brought trade and tourism from across the globe. Most Czechs have been friendly to many cultures and customer service has improved considerably in the past 10 years, nearly all tourist areas will know a moderate amount of English, and appreciate any attempt to speak Czech.

Prague holds a magical allure to any adventurous explorer, and has something to offer for almost anyone. If you’re stuck for ideas of what to do or what to see in Prague, consider some of the most essential points of interest below.

Ghost walk tours are given in several languages, including English, daily in the Old town square, meeting in front of the Astronomical clock at 7pm and 9pm. Tickets can be bought at the booth on Týnská 7 or right in front of the Astronomical clock. Look for the red umbrella. The website http://www.mcgeesghosttours.com/ has more information.

The Old town square itself hosts regular events from seasonal markets, concert events to Christmas fairs and an impressive firework display with live music on New Year’s Eve. Both Tyn church and the Astronomical clock tower over the square and are worth visiting.

Karlův most (Charles’ Bridge) itself is unmissable, a leisurely walk across can offer impromptu street performances, artists and caricature painting, as well as traditional Czech dolls and goods for sale. There’s a great view of the river and the Castle above.

Prague castle is an amazing place to explore. A guided tour of Golden Lane is on offer for a small ticket price. St Vitus Cathedral sits in the centre, its famous spires can be seen from several miles away on a clear day.

The Vltava river separates Mala Strana and Stare Mesto. Mala Strana offers many wine bars and park areas, whereas Stare Mesto has plenty more restaurants, bars and museums. There are many cafes and wine bars along the river front making for a refreshingly relaxed stroll along the waterfront.

Alternatively river cruises are available, tickets can be purchased from the many docking bays for around 500kc (€9) a person, more if you book a dinner cruise. Though some do include a complimentary glass of wine. The best time to opt for this is shortly before sunset in spring or summer. Visit http://www.marys.cz/sightseeing/prague-cruises/ to find out more.

The International spring music festival is now in its 67th year and is held every May to June. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra will return to perform in 2012. Prague and likewise Czech culture is greatly influenced by Jazz music and you will find many places to enjoy Jazz around the city. Stop by Reduta on Narodni 20 for a taste of Blues and Jazz nights.

Literature fans of novelist Franz Kafka may be interested to know of Kafka cafe located at Široká 12 nearby to his childhood home in the Old town square. The Kafka museum is across Charles Bridge in Mala Strana at Cihelná 2b, visible from the bridge. The museum is open 10am to 6pm and offers an interesting story of his life experiences and romantic interests in Prague.

Wenceslas Square is perhaps the most well known street in Prague because of its statue of Saint Wenceslas at the top end of the square, just in front of the National Museum. Wenceslas Square is also notorious for exotic nightclubs and casinos, many owners lure the tourists in with various temptations. There are numerous shops for all your book, fashion or tech gadget desires, as well as several bars and restaurants. You can also grab hot dogs or drinks from the many vendors up and down the square. Nearby metro stations Mustek or Muzeum will take you to large shopping malls such as Andel, Palace Flora and Palladium.

Palace Lucerna is home to wondrous shops, cafes, clubs and an art gallery, hidden from the main street. Any visit to Prague is not complete without exploring the many halls of this shopping complex. Within you can find Lucerna art gallery, exhibiting work by the famous David Černý. Nearby on Vodickova you can visit Hajek for the best ice cream in Prague.

Travelling on the metro is quick and affordable. Tickets cost 20czk (€1) for a 60 minute journey and need to be validated in the machine before travel.

Accommodation in Prague ranges from cheap hostels around town, to luxurious hotels on Wenceslas Square. Dlouhá Hostel http://www.travellers.cz/en/dlouha-pension-hostel-prague.php offer private rooms and shared dorms from 270czk (€11) and are just a short walk from the Old Town at Dlouhá 33. Luxury at the Corinithia Hotel http://www.corinthia.com on Wenceslas Square starts from around. €110 a night. Many places include wifi internet in the rooms.

For those looking to explore further into the Czech Republic there are several other towns offering various cultural experiences and sights to see. All of these can be reached from Hlavni Nadrazi, the main train station in Central Prague, within a couple of hours.

Karlovy Vary is home to the International film festival each August, with a large programme of films from new and experienced directors. There is a large Russian community settled in Karlovy Vary which gives a comforting feel of little St Petersburg.

The famous springs are here too, many tourists come just to drink the mineral water from the spring, its warm and slightly salty but said to be very healthy. A popular place to visit also is Manes Spa for relaxing treatments.

Kutna Hora is another favoured destination with an impressive Bone Church Museum which is definitely a must see stop during your visit.

Karlstejn is a small town south of Prague just a few Kilometres down the river Vltava. It is the site of historic Karlstejn castle. Guided tours are available every 2 hours during the week, in several languages. The town itself, and the castle is closed on Monday.

Cesky Krumlov offers many outdoor festivals throughout the year, summer is the best time to visit and possibly catch the medieval exhibitions and tournaments, in full swing during July. The castle itself is worth a visit with its extensive gardens, a few hours wandering and you’ll be surprised how quickly the time vanishes.

The Czech Republic is an intriguing cultural country well worth visiting and those venturing into the smaller towns will be well rewarded. I look forward to the day I return to visit again and get to use the Czech I learned during my time there.

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2011 by in Travel and tagged , , , .

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