Dobry Den! That is Czech for “hello” and it was one of the only phrases that I could manage to correctly pronounce during the summer of 2010 when I lived in Prague, Czech Republic. While in Prague I discovered its charm and quirk, which make it unique from other large European cities, and in my bias opinion what makes it the best city in Europe to visit.
During its 1,100 year-existence, Prague has been in the middle of all things cultural and political. It thrived during the Gothic and Renaissance ears, was once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and played a role in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, and both World Wars. However, unlike like other major European cities, Prague survived much of the destruction that World War II brought to the area and left many of its cultural attractions unscathed (which is great for all tourists and history buffs!).
A good place to start your tour of Prague is right in the center of the city at Old Town Square. Located between Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square, Old Town is where old world and new world converge. Where else could you see a Starbucks inside a classic baroque building standing next to a wooden cart selling roasted pork on a spit? Old Town is where tourists go to shop for souvenirs, get full of delicious treats like Smazak and Houba, and then travel to the top of Old Town Hall to see the most picturesque panoramic view of the entire city. Old Town Square is a good introduction to the city, but to see what Prague has to offer off the beaten path you have to travel to the other side of the Vltava River.
To get to the other side of the river you can walk across Charles Bridge, which is considered to be one of the most astonishing Gothic style building in the entire world. The bridge itself is a site to be seen: 621 meters long, 10 meters wide, 16 arches, three bridge towers, and 30 baroque style statues adorn this massive piece of architecture. During the day various artists, painters, and kiosks set up shop on the bridge and provide tourists with an art fair of sorts to stroll through on their way to the Lesser Quarter.
Once in the Lesser Quarter, on the opposite side of the bridge, tourists generally migrate towards the Prague Castle. However, this side of the river boasts more non-touristy destinations that are begging to be visited. Walking past the Lennon Wall you can pull out a Sharpie and legally graffiti the wall before visiting one of the countless martinet shops the city is famous for. And before you know it, if you loose yourself in the same winding streets of this old part of the city, you could end up at the Kafka museum or face to face with one of David Černý’s, a local artist, giant baby sculptures. This side of Prague showcases local flavor that greatly differs from the more refined city center.Prague is the perfect mixture of all things classic, modern, beautiful, and quirky. It is a tourist's paradise with heavy Central European comfort foods, world class operas, untouched historical sites, and friendly locals who don’t mind visitors struggling to pronounce tricky Czech words. And best of all, if you touch the statue of St. John of Nepomuk on Charles Bridge you are guarenteed good luck for the rest of your life, which definitely makes it worth the trip!