On our fourth day in Prague, we awoke to an impossibly blue sky, scorching weather, and the prospect of a full day, open to explore the city on foot, with the protection of plenty of SPF 50. And let me tell you – we covered a lot of ground! Of course, not before eating breakfast at our hotel. My usual daily breakfast consisted of a hard-boiled egg, fruit, and yogurt with granola.
My Frommer’s guidebook first led us to the Powder Tower, which was conveniently near our hotel. This 15th century late-Gothic structure’s original purpose was to hold the city’s gunpowder. The tower also is the starting point for the royal coronation route.
Beside the Powder Tower resides the Municipal House, a lavishly decorated Art Nouveau building that today houses eateries, a cocktail bar, and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. We tried to take the guided interior tour suggested by our guidebook but couldn’t find any information about it after inquiring inside, so we admired the façade instead.
Just a ten minute walk down the street Celetná, from the Powder Tower, is Prague’s Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí, in Czech).
Old Town Square is a historic public square that has been an important, central square in Prague for over 1,000 years. Beautifully well-preserved Gothic and Baroque buildings surround the square. It really was quite an incredible space! I suggest parking yourself down on a bench, or at a nearby café, and taking it all in over a cup of coffee or mug of beer.
In one corner of the square, sits St. Nicholas Church:
We walked across the square and stepped inside St. Nicholas Church, a welcome respite from the noisy square and hot sun:
While the structure does still serve as church, it also functions as a breathtaking space for classical concerts. Not ascribing to any religion myself, I found it interesting to learn that the majority of Czech citizens are non-religious, agnostic, and/or atheist [source: a local guide on one of our tours and the CIA World Factbook.] With the dwindling population of religious Czechs, many of the churches are used less as places of worship, and more often as magnificent concert venues.
Despite my personal views, I still have a great appreciation for the history, architecture, and artwork found in old churches around the world, and love learning about other cultures’ beliefs and traditions.
Back outside in Old Town Square:
Me in front of Old Town Hall Tower:
On the side of Old Town Hall Tower is the Astronomical Clock, where tourists flock at the top of each hour to see the show. It is quite a spectacle, involving a medieval play of twelve apostles gliding past the windows in the clock.
The clock marks moon phases, seasons, and Christian holidays, rather than being used to tell the time.
The little skeleton guy pulls on the cord at the top of the hour, and I zoomed in and took at picture when this happened. Ironically, at that exact instant, a bird flew by! (Which I didn’t even realize until I got home and uploaded my pictures!).
After watching the “show” at the Astronomical Clock, we then climbed the Old Town Hall Tower:
And by climbed, I mean we took the elevator up! Hey, we were saving our legs for the big day ahead. To our credit, we did take the stairs back down, for the experience. Circular elevator shaft:
At the top were the best views of Prague that we found on our trip!
Looking down, we could see the crowds gathering to see the Astronomical Clock.
And the view looking across the Old Town Square was beyond spectacular, with the 14th century Church of Our Lady Before Týn and its Gothic spires looming over the square.
“Bewitching” is the adjective my guidebook employs in describing the Church of Our Lady Before Týn, and I tend to feel equally bewitched.
From the top of the tower, one can also see lush, green Petřín Hill, and the Observation Tower atop it. We climbed that tower too – another day!
View of St. Nicholas Church. See the tree-filled park area in the square below? That is where we sat on a bench and ate our lunch.
My huz is cuter than yours. 😉
It was tricky snapping a selfie at the top of tower – lots of pushy tourists! Watch your belongings up here. We keep all of our valuables (like money, credit cards, and passport copies) in money belts under our clothes, rather than in purses or bags, when we travel.
Here’s that lunch I mentioned. I haven’t traveled all that widely across Europe, but in the four countries I have visited, I have found that dining out is universally a Big Event. It takes a lot of time. Not wanting to devote a big chunk or our day to grabbing lunch, we had an easy lunch, procured from the small take-away food stalls flanking Old Town Square.
A lover of huge slabs of meat, the huz couldn’t resist ordering the highly flaunted chunks of Old Prague Ham. Apparently ham is a “thing” here. The smell is undeniably enticing.
Not enticed enough by the chucks of Old Prague Ham, I instead went for protein that is much less popular among Czechs: chicken. A grilled chicken and veggie skewer, drizzled with hot sauce, on a grilled hoagie bun, in fact. Though, I had a few bites of Old Prague Ham included on my skewer as well – the best of both worlds!
We enjoyed our lunch beneath the shade of a tree-filled park area beside Old Town Square.
In my next post I’ll tell you about our second half of the day, spent exploring the Lesser Town area of Prague (which was my favorite part of the city!).
Other Posts from this Trip:
- Europe 2013: Day 1-Arriving in Prague
- Europe 2013: Day 2-First Full Day in Prague, Part I
- Europe 2013: Day 2, Part II–Taste of Prague Tour
- Europe 2013: Day 3-Dresden, Germany
- Europe 2013: Day 3-Dinner at Café Imperial
Or check out my Travel page, compiling all of my past travel recaps.