Walking Tours of Prague, Czech Republic

            Walking Tour of Prague, Czech Republic
     Prague is a great walking city. Each section of town can be covered in a separate tour or the ambitious (or someone with very limited time) may want to merge the tours into one large one.  Here are my suggested walking tours:

     First visit the Prague Castle. Enter thru the Matthias Gate at the Hrdcanske namesti (Castle Square). Proceed into the second courtyard with its lovely fountain and The Chapel of the Holy Cross, which houses the information and ticket office, is in front of you. From a portal on the north side of the courtyard, there is an entrance to the Kralovska Zahrada (Royal Gardens). If they are open, take a stroll later. Proceed into the third courtyard where you will find the entrance to St Vitus Cathedral. The interior of this largest church in Prague is breathtaking. Work on the church began in 1344. Check out the elaborate St Wenceslas Chapel in the southern trancept. A stairway leads to the Chapel of the Holy Rood and to the crypts. The Royal Palace, opposite St Vitus, contains the broad and majestic Vladislav Hall (1486-1502) where knights held indoor jousting tournaments. One annex houses the Bohemian Chancellery, from whose windows angry bohemians threw the imperial governors in 1618. Behind the dome rises the Mihulka Tower, in which you can visit an alchemist’s laboratory. Leave the palace and walk along picturesque Zlata ulica (Golden Lane), behind St George’s Basilica (1142), a remarkable Romanesque church, which you can also visit. On Golden Lane, be sure to note #22, where Franz Kafka lived and wrote. Continue to the walk below.

     Walking tour of Castle Hill and the Mala Strana district (3 hrs) (3 km)

     Take the Belvedere Entrance to the Kralovska Zahrada (Royal Gardens, on the south side of Marianske hradby (highway). Walk around the lovely west facade of the 16th century Belvedere (Queen Anna for whom this summer palace was built, died before it was completed. If it is playing, squat to listen to the music of the Singing Fountain on the Italian-style giardinetto (garden terrace). Take in the view of the castle. Then walk west, past the long Oragery to the Micovna (Jeu de Paune) where the Hapsburgs played tennis without a racket. Stroll among the almond trees before leaving the gardens beside the Lvi dvur (Lion’s Court). Turn left onto Prasney most (Powder Bridge) over the wooded Jelani Pkikop (Stag Most).

      Prasney most leads to the North gate of the Second Courtyard in the Castle precincts. Cross the courtyard to the second exit (Matyasova brana) (Matthias Gate) leading out of the Castle through the first courtyard. See the changing of the guard parade at noon.

     Go thru the castle gates into Hradcanske nemesti (Castle square). Walk left to the ramparts for the view south over Mala Strana across the Vitava River to the Stare Mesto (Old Town). Continue west along the south side of the square. The first of two palaces owned by the powerful Schwartenberg family is now the Swiss Embassy. The adjoining step-gabled Schwartzenberghy Palac (#2) notable for its ornate sgraffiti, houses the Military History Museum. In the middle of the square, the baroque Plague Column was the work of Ferdinand Brokof. Turn right at the west end of the square past the Thun-Hohen Sterinsky Palac with its austere version of an Italian Renaissance facade. Exit the square in the northwest corner along Kanovnicka, to the left of the Martinicky Palac, a renaissance re-styling of 3 gothic houses. Kanovnicka curves around to the fine baroque church of Jan Nepomuchy. The lavish interior merits a quick peek. Continue north past the church and turn left into Ulice Novy Svet (New World St). Its charming painted cottages (#1 was once the residence of Johannes Kepler) are a last vestige of Hradcany’s medieval quarter — castle workers’ houses now refurbished as wine bars and restaurants. You might have lunch in the Golden Pear winery (U zlate hrusky) at #3.

     Turn left on Cerninska for one of the few uphill stretches, to Loretanske namesti (Loreta Square). On the right is the monstrous Cerninsky Palac, the Foreign Ministry building, from which Jan Masaryk fell to his death from an upper window in 1948. Directly opposite is the Loreta pilgrimage sanctuary and the Church of the Nativity of Our Lord.

     At the southern end of Loreta Sq, turn left to walk east along Loretanska St just past the south side of Thun-Hohenstein Palac on Castle Square and turn right down the Radnicke Schody stairway. At the bottom of the stairs, leave cobbled Ke Hradu on your left and take the right fork down Nerudova. Past the old Dittrlich Pharmacy (1821) at #32, turn right again down the Jansky vrsek stairs. Take another right on Sporkova which bends right to come out in front of the baroque Lobkovisky Palac, housing the German embassy. To see the palace’s splendid rear facade, take a left into the Patrin Woods and left again on a path leading to the embassy garden’s railings.

     Retrace your steps to turn right on Vleska past the German Embassy. This merges into Trziste, passing in front of the grand Schornborn Palace, off limits now that it houses the US Embassy. Kafka had a second floor apartment here in 1917. Continue on Trziste to Karmelitska and turn left. Take another left just before the square to see the Church of St Nicholas. Retrace and turn left into the noisy bustle of Malostranske namesti (Mala Strana Square). Here you may choose to have lunch at one of the square’s many pubs and cafes. Take Tomasska St and visit St Thomas Church and, further along, the Wallenstein Palace and Gardens. Retrace back to Mala Strana Sq. Complete the walk by going down Mostrecka at the southeast corner of the square, leading straight to the Mala Strana Bridge Towers at the entrance to Karlov Most (Charles Bridge), a delightful walk on a pleasant evening. Climb the tower.

      Walk 2 — Prague Old Town (Stare mesto)

     Begin at Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske namesti). Walk the huge square to see the equestrian statue of King (Saint) Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, several palaces, and the National Museum. From the square, walk east along Na Prikope (Moat St) to the Prasna brana (Powder Tower), which rises 65 meters and affords a panorama of the city. Continue on to the glittering Art Nouveau Obecni dum (Municipal House). Be sure to visit the interior, especially the ceremonial rooms. Turn westward along Celetna St, turn right through the courtyard of #17/595 continuing into Mala Stupartska. Opposite St James Church (one of the city’s great religious edifices), turn left into the Ungelt (Tyn Court) and check out this medieval courtyard, then continue on into Starometske namesti (Old Town Square).

     In the square, note the Hus Memorial (he was a reformist preacher burned as a heretic in 1415), the Starometska Radnice (Town Hall) which contains a 70 meter tower (climb for a great view), and the Orloj (Astronomical Clock –figures spring into action on the hour). Also note U Kammeneho zuonu (House of the Stone Bell — #13/605), the palac Goltz-Kinskyeh (one of the city’s finest Rococo palaces), St Nicholas Church (a resplendent Baroque church), and Gothic Tyn Church, with its twin steeples, which dates from 1360.

     Leave the square by walking north along Pariska into the Josefov (Jewish Quarter). The Staronova Synagogue (Old-New Synagogue)(1270) is on your left. After the visit, take a left on Bhehova and left at its end. Check out the Stary Zidovsky hribitov (Jewish Cemetery), and continue along Kuzovnicka, past the Clementium, on your left. Turn left at the Charles Bridge and follow westward through Male namesti (Lesser square) to end at Staromeste namesti (Old Town Square) where there are numerous cafes for outdoor people-watching.

     Prague — Must SeesCastle District

     Prague Castle

     Zleta ulicka (Golden Lane)

     Chram sv Vitan (St Vitus’s Cathedral)

     Castle Gardens

     Mala Strana Square

     Strahov Monastery

     Villa Bertranka

      Old Town

     Karlovy Most (Charles Bridge)

     Old Town Square

     Astronomical Clock

     Tyn Church and Ungeit

     Stavocske Divedlu (Estates Theater)


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