The Prague Castle, an ancient symbol of the Czech lands, is the most significant Czech monument and one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic.A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles, from Roman-style buildings from the 10th century through Gothic modifications in the 14th century.
St. Vitus Cathedral
For a great number of people, St Vitus Cathedral is the Prague Castle, except for the fact that it is not. It is but an extremely vital part of the Castle complex. This 14th Century Cathedral was built for over 600 years and is a cultural and religious symbol of the Czech Republic. Bestowed with all the beauty and luxuriance of the world, the foundation stone for St Vitus was laid by Emperor Charles IV and it now houses his tomb along with a multitude of rulers and saints including St Wenceslas. The many stained glass windows, wooden sculptures, crown jewels, wall paintings, mausoleums and chapels of St Vitus Cathedral are significant pages in art and history. The Gothic south entrance to the Cathedral, known as the Golden Gate is a sight to see considering its intricately beautiful design courtesy of a certain Peter Parler. The otherwise incomplete bell tower is yet another important sight and a 300 step ascent from the inside offers you some arresting views of Prague. The Sigismund bell it is home to, is the largest in the whole of Czech Republic. Essential Information: Two types of tickets for the Prague Castle, a ‘Long Tour’ and a ‘Short Tour’, are available at the information centres in the second and third courtyards inside the complex and both provide entry to different combinations of sights. Other ‘Exhibition’ tickets are also available and you are free to choose one out of the three. These tickets are valid for two days and can also be bought at the entrances of all major sights. However, the information centres are recommended because they are not all that crowded. The first ticket includes a tour of St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, an exhibition on "The Story of Prague Castle", St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane (Franz Kafka lived here for a short period), the Daliborka Tower, the Powder Tower and Rosenberg Palace. It comes for 350 CZK. The second ticket comprises of St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and Golden Lane with the Daliborka Tower and costs 250 CZK. Entry to the Bell Tower is separate and costs 150CZK and it is open from 10am to 6pm during the summer months and 5pm during the winters. If in case you are a student or a senior citizen, you pay half the price provided you produce a valid ID. Make sure you walk around the beautiful palace gardens towards the end of your tour. Getting There: Tram 22 gets you to Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle). Get off at 'Pohorelec' so that the walk to the fortress is shorter. The historical buildings usually shut by 5 in the evening while the rest of the complex is open till 10.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
A shining gem in the UNESCO World Heritage list, this eerie yet fascinating salt mine is located 14 kilometres from the city of Krakow and its rich deposits are well known for their preservative properties and their multiple health benefits. Everything here has been carved by hand by virtue of salt blocks and is of immense material and spiritual value in the country. The length of the many tunnels inside the mine amount to some 300 kilometres and there are as many as 22 chambers. Then there are salt chapels, statues, monuments and even underground lakes for that matter. Heck, even the chandeliers are made of pure salt. There’s also a reception room for private weddings. Yes! There’s the Eram Baracz Chamber with an elaborate salt lake, the Stanislaw Staszic Chamber with a panoramic lift and the beautiful Chapel of St. Kinga. There’s also the Krakow Saltworks Museum to be seen during the 2 hour tour during which you are expected to walk around 2 kilometres and be entirely covered in salt towards the end. Tickets for the mine come for 49PLN inclusive of everything and English language tours depart every 30 minutes between 8:30am to 6pm during July and August. During the rest of the year, there are six to eight daily English tours.It is advisable to buy your tickets online (and a lot in advance) from their official website: http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/ Minibuses to the salt mine originate from the Krakow Glowny train station between 6am till 8pm and a single ride costs around 3PLN. You could even take the suburban public bus but the ride is longer. You could however take this bus 304 on your way back to Krakow.
If you have a day spare or are visiting the city with your family Prague Zoo is a great alternative to wandering around the streets all day. Situated just outside the city center it is easily reachable by public transport or a taxi. From March to October it is also reachable by steamboat. The trip takes 75 minutes and is an exciting way to start your visit. Highlights include Elephant Valley home to around 12 Elephants, an Indonesian Jungle with orangutans, various monkeys, tropical birds and Komodo Dragons! There are also Polar Bears, Big Cats Habitat, Lemur Island, a large pavilion of Gorillas including a big Silver back and an African Savannah, filled with Giraffes, Zebra, Meerkats, Lions and other African animals. There is plenty of things to do and see for the entire family as well as various shows and talks about some of the animals. There is even a petting farm for the young ones. TIP ALERT: Entrance for a family of four is 600Kč. Adult/Child 200/150Kč. Prague Zoo is open daily all year round. Time period: Opening hours: April, May, September, October 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. June, July, August 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. March 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. November, December, January, February 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Famous as one of the most notorious concentration camps and gravest place of mass murder, Auschwitz and Birkenau emanates an eerie calm which sends down shivers in the tourist’s body. At its peak the whole complex of the Auschwitz death camp was a deadly prison to some 150,000 inmates that were being either murdered outright or starved and worked to death. If you have read Mien Kampf and wish to dig deeper into the Nazi psyche, Auschwitz and Birkenau is a must visit historic site.
Old Town SquareThe Old Town Square is one of the most popular squares in Prague with the Wenceslas Square on one side and The Charles Bridge on another. This square is the center to some of the most historic statues and structures in Czech Republic- the Old Town Hall, Jan Hus Memorial, The Church of St. Nicholas and the Astronomical Clock, oldest active astronomical clock in the world.The Astronomical Clock particularly attracts a lot of attention amongst tourists, with its popular hourly displays and the legends that surround it. Towards December, the Old Town Square becomes even more vibrant with the Christmas Markets; it is the biggest and most visited in Czech Republic.
I had seen the picture of the Dancing House mentioned in an article about Unusual Architectural Designs. Therefore when I saw it, I wasn't very surprised. This structure is only worthy of a picture; you should still check it out if you are strolling south, along the river side.
Prague Astronomical Clock
It was 9:45pm and we were near the Astronomical Clock. We observed a big gathering of people at the Astronomical Clock. As we got closer to 10:00, the crowd doubled. We had no clue what was happening. Our guess was that once the clock strikes 10, we shall see something wonderful coming out of the clock tower. People started gearing up with cameras and phones. We could not wait longer as curiosity started killing us.This clock is the world's oldest functioning astronomical clock. We wondered what the architects and watch makers in 1410 BC would have designed.Clock strikes 10!We see 2 tiny windows open and various figurines appear. To tell you the truth this was bloody disappointing. We found out from someone that this is one of the World's top most disappointing tourist attraction after Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.Have a look at the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fl41yQ5pfe0
Church of Our Lady before Týn
My first glimpse of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn deluded me into believing that I had somehow arrived at Hogwarts. As I stepped closer, I changed my mind and thought that I was facing a much darker version of Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. This magnificent structure is however a Gothic-Baroque church that dominates most of the cityscape of Prague and even serves as an emblem of sorts. The Tyn courtyard behind the cathedral is the source of its name. The most intriguing aspect of the Church of Our Lady is the fact that the two tall and imposing yet asymmetrical spires, replete with their fairy tale charm, are representations of masculinity and femininity. While most of the structure is hidden behind the Tyn School, it manages to dominate the fabled Old Town of the Czech capital. The golden image of the glorious Mother Mary is as conspicuous as it could possibly be. This cathedral of the aristocrats is therefore unmissable. Getting There: This 14th century beauty is open from 10 am to 1 pm and 3pm to 5 pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays. On Sundays, it is open from 10:30 am till noon. For those taking the subway, the station 'Staroměstská' should be your stop and if in case you are taking the tram, lines 17 and 18 get you to Staroměstská. The stop is some 500 metres from the church.
Wawel Royal Castle
The Wawel Royal Castle, perched magnificently on the stunning Wawel Hill is undoubtedly one of the most culturally and historically significant structures in Poland. It is most importantly an emblem of Polish identity. This 16th Century palace has been home to a line of Kings and Queens who kept beautifying it and has also seen troubled times in the form of vandalism and occupation by enemy troops. It was only entirely restored after the Second World War and is now an elaborate museum where one can see the splendid Halls of Deputies and Senators as a section of the State Rooms. Then there are the Royal Apartments and the Treasuries apart from other exhibitions. All of the interiors are spectacular and are brilliant examples of the Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic style of architecture. There are five permanent exhibitions to be seen at the Wawel Castle and there is a different ticket for each one of them: State Rooms: 18PLN from April to October and 16PLN from December to March. Royal Private Apartments: 25PLN from April to October and 21PLN from December to March. Crown Treasury and Armoury: 18PLN from April to October and 16PLN from December to March. Exhibition The Lost Wawel: 10PLN from April to October and 8PLN from December to March. Exhibition Oriental Art: 8PLN from April to October and 7PLN from December to March. The State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments and Exhibition Oriental Art are open from 9:30am to 5pm from Tuesdays till Fridays and 10am to 5pm during the weekends. They are closed on Mondays. The Crown Treasury and Armoury and Exhibition The Lost Wawel are open from 9:30am to 5pm from Tuesdays till Fridays, 10am to 5pm during the weekends and 9:30 am till 1pm on Mondays. It is advisable to book your tickets by calling the reservations office in advance or you could buy them at the visitors centre. Arrive as early as you can and avoid weekends. For more information about the office, the winter timings and the updates for the month of November, visit their official website: https://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en
Krakow-Auschwitz At Auschwitz concentration camps, the atrocities against deported Jews changed the definition of human monstrosity forever. Millions of Jews were gassed to death. The railway tracks, barbed wires, personal belongings of the victims(there's fabric made of human hair!) all narrate horrifying tales of Nazi cruelty. In Krakow, synagogues were destroyed, Jews rounded up. But one man rekindled faith in humanity - Oskar Schindler. He saved nearly 1,200 Jews by providing them employment in his factory (remember, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List?)
Plague Column of the Holy Trinity
You travel back even further in time to learn about the history of the region and what importance architecture had in the lives of people during the 17th Century. The Plague Column was constructed by the artists who were the citizens of Olomouc, as a part of a celebration of the end of the Plague which struck the state of Moravia during 1713-1715. This column was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 when it was described as “one of the most exceptional examples of the apogee of central European Baroque artistic expression”.
St. Vitus Cathedral
The biggest, most important, most beautiful. The Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle is a place of so many superlatives. Above all, it’s the spiritual symbol of the Czech nation and the resting place of Czech history’s greatest rulers. Learn the story of this fascinating architectural masterpiece which is among the most important cathedrals in Europe.
For the best view of Praha, the park of Letna Hill is one of the best spots to relax and take pictures. Climbing up hill could take a while, but the view is absolutely worth the efforts! It is also where Legendary Pop star Michael Jackson started his HIStory World Tour in the September of 1996!
An ancient street located within the Prague Castle complex, the colourful yet quaint Golden Lane is somehow largely reminiscent of the tiny cottages that formed a major part of Enid Blyton’s works. 16th Century alchemists and artisans once called these historic cottages home. Today, their doll-like houses have been brilliantly restored in order to illustrate the kind of life they led during their times. While a handful of them now function as souvenir and book shops, some are just wonderfully refurbished homes. Right from the cottages of seamstresses and film historians to goldsmiths and fortune tellers, every one of them looks lived in and you often feel like the owners have merely stepped out for work and are perhaps on their way back. The most popular out of all cottages is House 22, the one in which Franz Kafka’s sister resided. Kafka himself spent a couple of years in her humble abode in order to write his most celebrated pieces. As you stroll down the Golden Lane, you realize that there’s some magic here; inexplicable yet tangible. Essential Information: Two types of tickets for the Prague Castle, a ‘Long Tour’ and a ‘Short Tour’, are available at the information centres in the second and third courtyards inside the complex and both provide entry to different combinations of sights. Other ‘Exhibition’ tickets are also available and you are free to choose one out of the three. These tickets are valid for two days and can also be bought at the entrances of all major sights. However, the information centres are recommended because they are not all that crowded. The first ticket includes a tour of St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, an exhibition on "The Story of Prague Castle", St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane, the Daliborka Tower, the Powder Tower and Rosenberg Palace. It comes for 350 CZK. The second ticket comprises of St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and Golden Lane with the Daliborka Tower and costs 250 CZK. If in case you are a student or a senior citizen, you pay half the price provided you produce a valid ID. Make sure you walk around the beautiful palace gardens towards the end of your tour. Getting There: Tram 22 gets you to Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle). Get off at 'Pohorelec' so that the walk to the fortress is shorter. The historical buildings usually shut by 5 in the evening while the rest of the complex is open till 10.
Church of Saint Thomas Situated in Mala Strana this beautiful church has some of the best examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture and frescoes in the whole of Prague. Filled with gold statues and beautiful carvings, this is one of the most beautiful churches I have had the pleasure of being part of. Situated next to the Augustine Hotel, the church is also part of a monastery, of which part of the hotel now owns and has built into. It’s worth a visit if you are in the area. It’s a stone throw away from Charles Bridge and St Nicholas Church. Entrance is free. TIP ALERT: If you’re visiting during the weekend be mindful that there will be several masses held, especially on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. Please respect that people will be attending mass and will not want flashing cameras going off during the service.
St. Mary's Basilica
The Church Of The Assumption Of Our Lady or St. Mary’s Basilica is an 80 metre tall brick church standing tall and pretty adjacent to the Rynek Glowny. The crimson façade is essentially composed of two asymmetrical towers one of which is a watch tower and the other a bell tower. While the 13th Century Tartar raids left it in ruins, it was rebuilt in Gothic style to look like the iconic structure that it is today. The southeast entrance is open for tourists and it is illuminated courtesy of breath-taking stained glass windows. The blue starred ceiling of the nave and the intricately carved wooden altarpiece are the most striking aspects of the interior. Designed by Veit Stoss, the beautiful altarpiece represents the assumption of the Virgin surrounded by the Apostles and is an extremely important piece of medieval art. 13 metres high and 11 metres wide, it is also the largest. Tourists are expected to pay 6PLN for the side entrance and 5PLN for ascending the tower for arresting views of Krakow. The church is open from 11:30am to 6pm Mondays through Saturdays and on Sundays, it is open from 2pm till 6pm. The timings for the watch tower with its gilded ball and stunning spire may differ.
Strbske Pleso Lake
Hanging in the ropeway on our way up was more fun that climbing on big rocks, committed to reach to the top which seemed to close, even from great distance. It took us 2 hour to hike up to the summit of Predne Solisko. We were quite fast as we knew we had last funicular to catch on our way down to Strba where we were staying. As it took us long time gasping at the rocky peeks hidden in clouds, we missed the last fernicular. Not quite happy, as we also had last train to catch back to the hotel, we asked a local man how long would it takes us to go down by feet. Despite his not exactly cheerful reply: 1 hour if ‘you can fly' we decided to fight the odds and get to the train station on time. With fear in our feet, we literally ran down the rocky hill (not recommended) all the way via ski paths, through the woods around the lake and to the station just in time to catch our last funicular (all in 40 minutes).
Founded in 1140 by Prince Vladislav II, Strahov Monastery is a large, impressive building located at the back of Petrin Hill and Prague Castle. This elevated area of the city offers visitors a calm oasis, somewhere to stroll around, enjoy views over the Lesser Town (and indeed the whole of Prague), and to visit one of the city's finest churches. Strahov Monastery, and its surrounding area, has a serene, meditative quality, however its library is its most important feature, which comprises one of the oldest monastic collections in the country. The library is located in the theological and philosophical halls, and is over 800 years old. Despite ransacking by invading armies, it holds 16,000 books.
Franz Kafka Museum
Sticking with the art theme, perched on the edge of the Josefov Quarter is this suitably bizarre and cerebral statue of Franz Kafka, depicted sitting on a headless man’s shoulders. Track down the statue in Dušní Street, where the author used to live, and pay your own tribute. TIP ALERT: You can visit the statue whilst you explore the Josefov Jewish Quarter. Its free of charge to see the statue (it’s literally on the street), but if you want to see the various sites in the Jewish Quarter you might want to purchase the combined ticket from the Jewish Museum that lets you into most sights. Adult/Child 480/320Kč
Well, we think it's one of the best hikes we've ever done anyhow! It was only 8.5 kms (5.3 miles) but it took us six hours from start to finish. Quite a few people on the trail considering it was the middle of the week, but it's because it's such an interesting trail. Terchova is a town about 30 kms (18 miles) from Zilina where we are staying. It's popular in both summer and winter because it's a big snowboarding and skiing area. And the scenery is gorgeous. In fact, after having done this hike, we think we're going to Terchova and staying for the next four or five days! Michal had to go near Terchova to visit clients, so he dropped us off at the trail head. There are many obstacles on this trail. The first one was the root and mud section! And then it gets really interesting! There are some very steep sections that you need chains and railings to help you out! What an exhilarating day! It was 5:00pm when we caught the bus back to Zilina, and then we had to take the local bus back to Michal and Ivona's flat.
Krakow’s Central Square, replete with its grandeur and charm is undoubtedly one of the most stunning plazas around the world. This 13th century marvel is perpetually bustling with activity and occupies a massive area of some 10 acres. It therefore happens to be the largest square out of all medieval cities in Europe. The layout was intriguingly based on a Roman Military Camp. If Krakow was a human body, Rynek Glowny would be the blood running through its veins; both are ultimately incomplete without each other. The rectangular square is surrounded by churches and town houses and the most prominent of them all are the Town Hall Tower, St Mary’s Basilica and the Krakow Cloth Hall. They rise like giants and account for the most conspicuous structures around the plaza. The pubs, restaurants and cafes are so large in number that it is almost impossible to keep track. Rynek Glowny is also a playground for buskers right from musicians to dancers to rather amusing magicians. And they sure keep you entertained with all the talent they possess. If nothing, hop on to a horse carriage and allow yourself to feel like a member of the royalty!
VyšehradThe Vyšehrad is a historical fort by the hill on the side of the Vlatva River. It was probably built in the 10th century with a hint of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic architecture styles. The Basilica of St Peter and St Paul and the Vyšehrad Cemetry are also a part of its premises. The Vyšehrad Cemetry has been a burial ground for some of the most famous Czech people.A walk by the riverside at Vyšehrad at the sunset time is one of the most recommended things on your Prague-To Do-List!