Traveling to a new city with a limited time frame can be a little overwhelming. We had the good fortune of taking the Prague Discovery Walking Tour with Urban Adventures. They offer day tours with small groups and a local guide that specializes in the area. This six-hour walking tour of Prague was a comprehensive overview of the gothic city.
Our tour began at 9 am in front of the Municipal Building, the most beautiful Art Nouveau gem in Prague. After a few minutes of wondering around among other tourists, we spotted someone with an Urban Adventure sign. Our guide’s name was Tereza. There were 4 people in total in our tour, so the tour was completely personalized and was geared to our individual needs and interests.
After about 15 minutes, she showed us the only Cubist Building in Prague called the House of the Black Madonna. Apparently, it’s the only example of Cubist Architecture in the world! Best of all, she took us into the Cubist Building to the coffee shop for great coffee, pastries, and a sit down chat.
From there we made our way to Wenceslas Square, one of Europe’s most famous and historical squares, where we learned from our passionate local guide about the decisive moments in recent Prague history, the Prague Spring in 1968, the Velvet Revolution in 1989, and then the Velvet Divorce.
We quizzed our local guide on what she remembered about the “Velvet Revolution” in 1991 when the Soviet Union officially disintegrated and Czechoslovakia was given independence to govern themselves and abandon Communism. She was only ten years old at the time but she knew a lot about how the restitution changed the buildings and farms confiscated from the original owners. During the day, she talked us through the history of the 1968 Prague Spring, the first Czech President Havel, and the decision to let Slovakia leave the country to set up on its own (being smaller than the Czechs, the Slovaks were destined to be eternally out-voted by the majority, hence the decision to separate).
Next, we took a stroll to Havelsky Market to visit some of the stalls that sold fruits, vegetables, and flowers grown in farms near Prague. We stopped to sample local cookies, and bought some souvenirs. Our guide confirmed that the market has been around since 1232 (seriously!).
Old Town Square
We wandered into Old Town Square winding through the narrow alleyways and admiring the streets lined with magnificent buildings in different architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque. Once in the Old Town Square, some of the most prominent buildings around are the Old Town Hall (famous for its astronomical clock), the Týn Church, the Kinský Palace and the St. Nicholas Church.
Throngs of tourists gather in front of the astronomical clock every hour to witness the procession of miniature figures moving around. We were just in time to witness it. The whole show lasted about three minutes. The astronomical clock is the oldest such clock in Europe.
The Jewish Quarter was high on my husband’s list of things to see in Prague. There are six synagogues that remained intact, and the Jewish Cemetery from the 15th century which may have as many as 100,000 bodies buried underfoot. We walked through the Jewish Quarter but didn’t get a chance to go and see the synagogues on our tour. We went back another day and spent some time inside the Jewish Quarter. It was very moving to see all the names on the wall of the people that were killed and to walk through the Jewish Cemetery.
Josefov’s Old-New Synagogue is the oldest synagogue still in existence in Europe, built in the late thirteenth century. All interior furnishings are originals.
We walked towards the Vitava riverside and descended a stairway until we were completely underneath. We hopped aboard a replica of a 19-th century sailboat, and cruised up and down the Vitava River and around Kampa Island for 45 minutes. Once on the boat, we were offered Czech beer, lemonade, or a hot drink. Our captain explained in detail what the buildings were and the history behind them. The short boat ride gave us a totally different perspective from the water of this beautiful city.
The Charles Bridge that crosses the Vitava River was rebuilt in 1342. When the original structure was washed away in a flood, King Charles IV replaced it with the one that stands today. Back in medieval times, this was the main pedestrian route linking the Old Town with Mala Strana, and then onto Prague Castle.
The bridge is decorated on each side by 30 baroque statues, some of which are said to give you good luck. I rubbed all of them, so we’ll see. The bridge is lined with tourists most of the time, and kept occupied by interesting performances and makeshift souvenir stalls along the bridge.
Kampa Island / Lesser Quarter
We walked acrossed Charles Bridge in the direction to the Lesser Quarter and then walk down the stairs to Kampa Island. It’s Prague’s biggest island and considered the Venice of Prague. The island is filled with museums of modern art, old mills, parks, restaurants, and it’s where you can play tribute to John Lennon.
It’s also where you find three giant oversize bronze baby structures by David Cerny – an internationally famous Czech sculptor. Kampa is simply a place that you cannot miss!
John Lennon Wall
In the 1980’s, Czech youth painted a portrait of John Lennon on this wall in Prague, now called The John Lennon Wall along with song lyrics and inspirational quotes. Despite attempts to cover the graffiti, art continued to spring up until the Knights of Malta (current owners of the wall) gave up trying to get rid of it and let the painting continue into the evolving project it is today. Layer upon layer of sharpie and paint on the wall have come to represent peace, love and freedom – and it’s a really awesome thing to see.
We went to a marvelous local restaurant in Mala Strana which translate to (Lesser Quarter), called Restaurant Malostranská besede where we had a traditional Czech meal (beef or chicken) goulash with bread dumplings with fabulous Czech beer. The place lacked tourists and seemed to be a favorite of the locals; we appeared to be the only non-Czech in the room.
After lunch, we jumped aboard a local tram that took us uphill to the Prague Castle. Prague Castle stands out from the top of the hillside. It’s the world’s largest castle complex and we were told no visit to Prague is complete without wandering through its magnificent structure. They were right!
Prague Castle/ St. Vitus Cathedral
Inside the complex, we wandered around a little before going inside St. Vitus Cathedral which dates back to the 14th century. It’s the largest and the most revered cathedral in the country. Apart from religious services, coronations of Czech kings and queens have taken place here.
I want to thank Prague Urban Adventures and, especially, our guide, Tereza, going the extra mile to show us Prague in a comfortable, interesting and personalized way. I highly recommend Prague Urban Adventures to anyone planning a visit to Prague. I will always have good memories of my tour in Prague thanks to them.
Disclaimer and Facts: Although, I was a guest of Urban Adventures on this tour opinions are my own. The tour is a six hour walking tour, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes.