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Things to Do in Czech Republic

The Czech Republic combines impressive natural landscapes, a complex history, and arguably the best beer in the world into a country that's finally being properly recognized by international travelers as a top European destination. Prague, the capital, is a Gothic fairy tale guaranteed to enamour the wandering explorer. Highlights include Charles Bridge (Karluv Most), Prague Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti), and the Castle District (Hradcany), best seen on a beer-bike or Segway tour, or from above during a hot-air balloon ride. In the evening, a cruise on Vltava River, a Mozart recital, or a beer tasting in the Bohemia neighborhood reveal a different side to the city. Outside of Prague lie the medieval towns of Kutná Hora—home to the must-see Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel decorated with the bones of thousands of people—and Cesky Krumlov, UNESCO World Heritage sites that beg to be explored on a day trip from the capital city. Former capital Brno and the spa town Karlovy Vary, with its famous thermal baths, will appeal to history buffs and relaxation seekers alike. For beer lovers, brewery tours in Pilsen are a top draw; while for outdoor adventurers, the Saxon Switzerland National Park is rife with hiking, climbing, and cycling opportunities. Plus, the Czech Republic’s prime location in central Europe—embraced by countries such as Slovakia, Poland, Germany, and Austria—make it an ideal launchpad for exploring the rest of the continent.
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Prague Castle (Prazský Hrad)
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What is called Prague Castle (or Pražský hrad) is actually a huge complex containing museums, churches, palaces, and gardens. The immense Gothic cathedral of St. Vitus is dominant on the skyline. The Castle complex, high on its hill above Charles Bridge and the Vltava River, is the focal point of Prague.

You can just go to wander - it's free to enter the Castle, even at night - or you can pay to enter some of the buildings and get a more in-depth view. Either way, the grandeur of the place will keep you busy for at least half a day. After all, this is the biggest castle complex in the world.

The buildings range from the Romanesque to the Gothic. The Royal Palace itself was home to Bohemian kings during the 9th century. The Basilica of St. George dates from the 10th century. You can also visit the Riding School, the gardens (open in the summer only), and Golden Lane, a charming row of medieval houses from the old goldsmith's district.

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Charles Bridge (Karluv Most)
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Even when it's groaning under the weight of sketch artists, jazz musicians, trinkets and tourists, there's no resisting the charm of the Charles Bridge ('Karlův most' in Czech). Its 500 meters (1,640 feet) link the Old Town with Castle Hill and provide some of the best views of the city and of the graceful river Vltava. It was built in the 15th century to replace the older Judith Bridge, which had been swept away by floods. The Charles Bridge (originally called the Stone Bridge - the name was changed in the 19th century) has proved remarkably resilient. Some say it's down to the eggs mixed into its mortar. What makes the bridge so special is its rows of blackened baroque saints, each attended by angels and lions and followers. The statues emerging from the mists of a Prague dawn is one of the loveliest sights of the city. If you want to make sure you come back to Prague, touch the statue of St. John of Nepomuk (he was martyred by being thrown into the river from the bridge).

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Bohemian Switzerland National Park (Narodni Park Ceske Svycarsko)
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Snuggled up against a giant swath of the German border, is the Czech Republic’s Bohemian Switzerland National Park. Though it’s the country’s newest national park, the region has long drawn people — from traders to artists — to cross into its borders. In fact, the park’s curious name was inspired by two 19th-century Swiss artists, who settled here because it fondly reminded them of their homeland.

For most, it will likely recall something that dreams are made of, given the park’s majestic lush landscape, and especially because of the otherworldly sandstone rock formations, including Pravcicka Brana (Europe’s largest sandstone arch, and the symbol of the park). Park visitors relish in navigating Bohemian Switzerland’s various routes (marked by different colors), taking boat rides down the river gorges, and visiting the sweet village of Hřensko, very much the hub of the park, and from which many trails depart.

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Prague Old Town Square (Staromestské Námestí)
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The Old Town Square (or Staroměstské náměstí) is quintessential Prague, and the star of most of the photos you would have seen of the city. Coming out onto the huge square after negotiating the dim mazes of the Old Town's lanes, you'll pinch yourself - it's hard to believe that the airy pastels and incredible profusion of stunning architecture don't belong to a film set. The Old Town Square began life as a medieval market and has remained at the center of the city's life, acting as a stage for celebrations, gestures of political power and even (during a rebellion in the 17th century) executions. Most visitors are content to join the crowds wandering or sipping coffee, but if you want a more in-depth experience go into at least a few of the buildings. Some of the best are the impressive Gothic church of Our Lady Before Týn, the Stone Bell House with its Gothic Tower, and the Old Town Hall.
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Strahov Monastery (Strahovský Kláster)
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The Strahov Monastery in Prague was established in 1143. It has survived fires, wars, revolutions, and communist regimes, though it has occasionally been rebuilt. Even when the monks were unable to remain in the monastery, they waited in a safe place until they could return. Today it is still a place of learning, meditation, and tranquility, and approximately 70 monks live there. The impressive spires of the basilica are a famous part of Prague's skyline, but the library is the monastery's most important feature. The library contains thousands of volumes, including 3,000 original manuscripts. The Theological Hall contains mostly literature of a theological nature and thousands of editions of the Bible.

The monastery's location on Petrin Hill near the Prague castle is a good place for views of the city due to the higher elevation. The monastery has also been the backdrop for several major films, such as the horror film “From Hell” starring Johnny Depp.

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Wenceslas Square (Václavské Námesti)
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Prague's central boulevard and largest public square, Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske namesti) has been the social and political heart of the city for hundreds of years and is home to some of the city’s finest works of architecture. Originally laid out in the 14th century as the centerpiece of King Charles's Nové Město (New Town), the square was used as a horse market until being renamed after the patron saint of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslas, in the 19th century.

Today Wenceslas Square is the commercial center of the city, dominated by grand monumental buildings and making the perfect starting point for walking tours of the city’s attractions. At the top of the square looms the striking neo-renaissance façade of the Prague National Museum, with its iconic dome marking an important strategic landmark.

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Prague Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj)
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One of Prague’s biggest visitor attractions, the ornate 15th-century astronomical clock is found on the southern side of Prague’s Gothic Old Town Hall. Gilded and complex in design, the clock was made by Czech master clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň in 1410 although it has been repeatedly restored and added to over the centuries. Its upper face shows the time and day of the week, the lower one reveals delicately painted signs of the zodiac. Every hour, on the hour, hundreds of tourists gather around the clock to witness the figure of Christ emerge from tiny trap doors above the upper dial of the clock, followed by a collection of wooden Apostles, to act out a mini-medieval morality tale, while the skeletal figure of Death strikes a bell, Greed counts out his money and Vanity worships his reflection.

The Old Town Hall itself was built in 1338 and is today a popular venue for Prague weddings as well as home of the city’s main tourist information center.

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Paris Street
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Originally called St. Nicholas Street, but renamed in 1926 to pay tribute to France for helping free the Czechs from Austria-Hungary during World War II, Paris Street is one of Prague’s most prestigious. Also called Parizska Street, it runs between the Old Town Square and the Cechuv Bridge. Lined with trees, it is home to some of the top designers in the world, including Louis Vitton, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada and Gucci. The street’s architecture is also an attraction, with examples of neo-Baroque neo-Renaissance and Secession styles. Buildings feature richly decorated balconies, elegant moldings, busts, statues, turrets and towers.

In addition to clothing boutiques and shops, Paris Street boasts some of the top makers of watches and jewelry, such as Rolex and Cartier. It is also home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in Prague, including Barock, widely considered the best restaurant in the city.

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New Town (Nové Mesto)
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Twice as large as the Old Town area, Prague’s New Town (Nove Mesto) is sprawled across one of the banks of the Vltava River. Despite its name, the New Town was founded by Charles IV back in 1348 following his coronation under the Holy Roman Empire. It was later redeveloped during the late 19th century.

The New Town features a mix of historic buildings and squares with more modern developments. Wenceslas Square lies at the heart of the area. This was originally built as a horsemarket and is now a popular place for visitors due to its variety of hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Other notable squares in the New Town include Charles Square and Republic Square, which also hold plenty of appeal for visitors. The main attractions and historical buildings within the New Town include the Dvořák Museum, the National Museum, the National Theater, the Dancing House, and the New Town Hall.

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Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana)
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Malá Strana is the area that meanders down from the Castle Hill to the Vltava River. A literal translation of its name would be 'Small Side' but its most often called the Lesser Side. Unfair? Well, while it might not have the grandeur of the Old Town across the river, many find it more charming.

Because the area was razed by fires in the 16th century, the architecture here is mainly baroque. Its finest site is the Wallenstein Palace with its fabulous walled garden full of fountains and statues. There's also the Church of Saint Nicholas and, high on Petřín Hill, a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower.

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More Things to Do in Czech Republic

Old New Synagogue (Staronová Synagoga)

Old New Synagogue (Staronová Synagoga)

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The Jewish ghetto in Prague grew up in Josefov around the Old-New Synagogue, which was in use as early as 1270. It has the distinction of being oldest functioning synagogue in Europe – for over 700 years services were only halted during Nazi occupation between 1942–45 – and today it is once more the heart of Jewish worship in the city. A Gothic oddity, the whitewashed synagogue is topped with brick gables and its interior is starkly simple and little changed since the 13th century, with one prayer hall for the men and an adjoining gallery for women, who originally were only allowed to witness services from behind a glass screen. An elaborate wrought-iron grill encases the pulpit and the Torah scrolls are contained in a plain Ark on one wall.

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Powder Tower (Prasná Brána)

Powder Tower (Prasná Brána)

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Like many old European cities, Prague once had city walls and gates. The Powder Tower is one of those gates, and it dates back to the 11th century when it was one of 13 entrances into Prague's Old Town. It was originally called the New Tower, but its name was changed in the 17th century when it was used to store gunpowder. This is the gate future kings of Bohemia used to pass through on their coronation parades along the traditional Royal Way to the Prague Castle.

Today the tower houses a permanent exhibition called Prague Towers. The tower is 213 feet high, and there is a viewing platform at 144 feet, accessible by 186 stairs, where visitors can see the city from above. The Powder Tower and the Old Town Bridge Tower are the only remaining parts of Prague's former old town fortification.

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Municipal House (Obecní Dum)

Municipal House (Obecní Dum)

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Prague’s imposing Municipal House is the city’s most famous Art Nouveau civic buildings and many Czech artists of the time, led by Osvald Polívka and Antonín Balsánek, had a hand in its creation. It was built between 1905 and 1911 and fast became a potent architectural and cultural symbol of Czechoslovakia’s newly found independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The state of Czechoslovakia was declared here in 1918 and the building now houses the Smetana Concert Hall, several restaurants and temporary art exhibitions.

Part of the joy of a visit to the Municipal House is its design and decoration; externally it is a vision of complex patterned stained-glass windows, ornate stonework and frescoes flecked with gold. The mosaic Homage to Paris by Karel Spillar glitters underneath the decorative cupola and is tucked between sculptures representing the oppression and independence of Czechoslovakia.

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Spanish Synagogue (Spanelská Synagoga)

Spanish Synagogue (Spanelská Synagoga)

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Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Zidovský Hrbitov)

Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Zidovský Hrbitov)

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The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is located in the Josefov area, which was once the Prague Jewish Town. The Jewish name is Beth Chaim, which means House of Life. It is the second oldest cemetery in Europe and was founded in the 15th century. The oldest existing gravestone is dated April 23, 1439. There are around 20,000 graves in the cemetery with headstones of varying styles from different time periods, such as Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic.

Throughout the cemetery, pieces of paper can be seen weighed down by rocks in front of graves. Legend has it that the dead can fulfill wishes written on these pieces of paper. However, the rock used to weigh down the paper must be from where you live, not from the cemetery. You'll also notice overlapping headstones crowded together. This is due to a lack of space, resulting in graves being stacked on top of each other. The last person buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery was in 1787.

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St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Vita)

St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Vita)

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St. Vitus (or Katedrála svatého Víta) is the biggest and most important church in Prague, the pinnacle of the Castle complex, and one of the most knockout cathedrals in Europe. It's broodingly Gothic, with a forest of spires and a rose window to rival that of Notre Dame.

Enter by the Golden Portal to take a look at the stunning Last Judgement mosaic. Inside you'll find the final resting places of both Charles IV (who gave his name to Charles Bridge) and Saint Wenceslas. The chapel containing Wenceslas' remains is a stunner, encrusted with semi-precious stones.

The cathedral also contains the crown jewels of the Bohemian kings and an Art Nouveau window by Mucha. Climb the tower for a stunning view of the Castle District.

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Loreto Sanctuary (Loreta Praha)

Loreto Sanctuary (Loreta Praha)

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Located in Hradčany near Prague Castle, the ornate, gleaming white Loreta is a Baroque jewel constructed around several arcaded courtyards and surrounded by cloisters and chapels. Topped with a copper spire, the monastery was built between 1626 and 1631 at the behest of Baroness Beligna Katherina von Lobkowicz; it was designed by Bohemian architects Kryštof and Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer and is still occupied today by an order of Capuchin monks. The complex is one of the foremost pilgrim destinations in Bohemia, thanks to its replica of the Holy House (Santa Casa) of the Virgin Mary, copied from the original humble abode she occupied in Nazareth, which was moved from the Holy Land to Loreto in Italy for safekeeping in the 13th century. The Loreta’s Santa Casa shrine is made of simple brickwork on its interior and is encased in carved stone bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.

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Jewish Museum (Zidovské Muzeum)

Jewish Museum (Zidovské Muzeum)

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The Jewish Museum (or Židovské muzeum) operates over several sites, including the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Spanish Synagogue and the Maisel Synagogue. Together this cluster of sites - which you can visit as a tour with an English-speaking guide - gives you a rounded picture of the history of the Jewish people in Prague.

The various exhibitions center on Jewish customs, artifacts such as Torah covers and synagogue silver, and memorials to those lost in the Holocaust. The Old Jewish Cemetery, with its ancient tombstones all packed in together, is a reminder of the ghettoization of Jews in the medieval city.

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Kampa Island

Kampa Island

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Kampa Park is on the west bank of the Vltava River in Prague. The park is famous for three giant baby sculptures designed by controversial artist David Cerny. Cerny purposely made his art with the intention to provoke people, and you can find his art throughout the city. He also made 10 other baby sculptures which can be seen crawling up the Zizkov TV Tower. The ones on the TV tower are made of fiberglass, but the ones in the park are bronze. The babies don't have normal faces. Instead they have alien-looking heads with long rectangular slots where the face should be.

The sculptures in the park were supposed to be part of a temporary exhibit, but they were so popular that they are now a permanent part of the scenery. They are located near the entrance to the Kampa Museum, which is the Museum of Modern Art from Central Europe.

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Hradcany (Castle Hill)

Hradcany (Castle Hill)

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One of Prague’s most visited attractions and the largest ancient castle in the world, Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad) is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, but the vast complex is made up of much more than just the castle. A distinctive part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Prague, the Hradcany, or Castle District, includes some the city’s finest works of architecture.

The hilltop castle stands proud in the center, a 7-hectare complex that includes the magnificent gothic St Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Riding School, the 10th century Basilica of St George and the medieval houses of Golden Lane, the former goldsmith’s district. A collection of grand palaces are also dotted around the castle district, including Archbishop's Palace, the Czernin Palace, the Martinez Palace and the Tuscan Palace, along with the Sternberg Palace, now the Museum of Military History, and the Scwarzenberg Palace, now home to part of the National Gallery.

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Rudolfinum

Rudolfinum

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The Rudolfinum is a prestigious music and art venue located on Jan Palach Square on the bank of the Vltava River in Prague. This impressive neo-Re­naissan­ce bu­il­ding was built between 1876 and 1884, opening in 1885 to serve as a multi-purpose cultural center combining concert halls and exhibition rooms.

Today, the Rudolfinum is home to the Ga­le­rie Ru­dol­fi­num and hosts a varied programme of classical music concerts and art exhibitions. It is the home venue of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1896. The Philharmonic Orchestra holds world-class classical performances throughout the year from the building’s largest hall, the Dvořák, which is one of the oldest concert halls in Europe and is noted for its exceptional acoustics. As well as being able to buy tickets for various performances and exhibitions at the Rudolfinum, guided tours are available for those interested in the history and architecture of the building.

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Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova Synagoga) and Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Zidovský Hrbitov)

Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova Synagoga) and Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý Zidovský Hrbitov)

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There are dozens of places to honor fallen Jews in the city of Prague, but few are as iconic—or as striking—as the Pinkas Synagogue and nearby cemetery. Travelers who enter into the dark doors of Pinkas will find walls inscribed with the more than 77,000 Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, a stunning representation of the atrocity on a visual scale. At the front of the structure a list of concentration camps where men and women perished is listed and the Synagogue’s second floor showcases a small exhibit of moving children’s art.

The nearby burial site serves as the final resting place for some 20,000 Jews. Travelers can wander the well-worn path through 12 layers of graves that belong to famous rabbis, poets and scholars. Off-kilter stones worn by decades of weather serves as a reminder of all that was lost and provide a space of quiet contemplation for visitors.

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St. Agnes Convent (Kláster Sv. Anezky Ceské)

St. Agnes Convent (Kláster Sv. Anezky Ceské)

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The St. Agnes Convent is a complex of 13th-century buildings and churches tucked away in a corner of Prague’s Old Town. Consisting primarily of the convent of the Poor Clares and the monastery of the Friars Minor, it represents the first example of a Gothic style of architecture in Bohemia, although part of the monastery was reconstructed in a Renaissance style in the 16th century. The complex was restored and renovated in the 1980 and began exhibiting the National Gallery’s collection of medieval and early Renaissance art in 2000. The collection includes art from the 13th to 16th centuries from Bohemia and central Europe, including more than 200 paintings, sculptures and other crafts. Works from the reign of the Luxembourgs and artwork associated with the rise of the Czech lands during the reigns of Vladislav and Ludwig Jagellon are considered national treasures.

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