When you’re planning a vacation and you’re on a budget, you might feel like you will have to miss out on a lot of what a city has to offer. Well, you may have to purchase a ticket to visit the inside of the Prague Castle or tour St.Nicholas Church, but Prague’s beauty comes from much more than it’s historical monuments. Some great things in life come for free. Here are a few:
Old Town Square
The Old Town square is located at the center of Prague’s medieval Old Town. Both tourists and locals meet up in this gorgeous opening after walking through the small and winding cobble-stoned streets of the city. In the square you will find the Old Town Hall, built in 1338 and paid for by the duty levied on wine consumption. Have a wander around the square and take in your surroundings.
Charles Bridge, originally known as Stone Bridge, is a historic bridge that crosses the famous Vlatava river in Prague. Until 1841, it was the only way across the river, connecting Prague Castle to the Old Town and the surrounding areas. It is adorned with 30 statues of saints and lined with beautiful old-fashioned lanterns. The Charles Bridge is a favorite location for artists, who set up their canvases and expositions along the side of the bridge for locals and tourists to admire. Beware of the bridge in the middle of the day as it is packed with tourists taking pictures from all angles.
The Powder Tower
The Powder Tower was built around 1475, as one of the 13 Medieval entrance gates to the Old Town. However, it wasn’t finished for centuries and was barely used, except for a brief period to store gunpowder – which is of course what gives it its name. Today, it is one of the main historical sites of the city and the main entrance to the Old Town Square.
The Petrin Watchtower
The Petrin Watchtower, found in Petrin Park, is sometimes referred to as “the little Eiffel Tower”, although it is different in both size and design. The tower offers a stunning view of Prague and a considerable part of the Czech Republic. When visibility is good, you can spot the highest summit of the Czech Republic (Snezka) from the top of the tower. To access the tower, take the funicular (with a single adult ticket) or go by foot (for free) to the of the park (takes about 30 minutes, beware of the winter months, as the paths can get quite slippery). Once to the top of the park and the base of the tower, if you’re up for more walking, get a ticket (about $2) and head up 299 stairs to a view definitely worth the effort!
Parks and gardens
Prague has numerous beautiful parks and gardens, most of which are accessible cost-free. These include Wallenstein Gardens, Kampa Park, Prague Castle Gardens, and Petrin Park. Letna Park offers a beautiful view of the city. In the center of the park, the biggest statue of Stalin in Europe once stood on what is now a huge metronome visible from the city center. Gardens are usually open from 10am to 6pm.
Mala Strana, or Lesser Town, is one of the neighborhoods of Prague. The Lesser Town is adjacent to the Prague Castle area, and connected to the Old Town by the Charles Bridge. In the Middle Ages, the German citizens were concentrated in this part of the city. The Lesser Town was home to a number of noble palaces, whereas the Old Town was more bourgeois and Bohemian.
One of the most interesting sights in the Old Town square is the clock tower, known as the Astronomical clock. Every hour, just before the hour from 8am to 8pm, the skeleton on the right opens the clock doors by pulling on a string, while looking at his other hand holding an hourglass. Then, the central windows open and the 12 apostles march across the clock. A cock crows to mark the end of the procession. The clock tower also features a calendar painted by the famous Czech painter Josef Manes.
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter dates back to the late 11th Century, when the Jews in Prague were forced to move out of their homes and into one restricted neighborhood. The Jewish Quarter later became known as the Prague Jewish Ghetto. Six synagogues exist, including the Old-New Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue, as well as the Jewish Town Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery, considered the most noteworthy in Europe.
Kampa is an island found in the Vltava river in central Prague, belonging to the Lesser Town area. The island is one of the prettiest spots in the Lesser Town, giving you a great view of the Charles Bridge and the activity that goes on around it. It is separated from Mala Strana (Lesser Town) by a small artificial canal called the Devil’s stream, supposedly named after a sharp-tongued woman who lived in a local home called the Seven Devils.
John Lennon Wall
If you’re a Beatles, or just a John Lennon fan, you can’t miss the famous John Lennon Wall. Since the 1980’s, it has been filled with graffiti and pieces of song lyrics dedicated to John Lennon and the Beatles. The wall has undergone years of additions, and the original face of John Lennon is lost under layers of new colors. The wall is a symbol of youth ideals, love and peace. It is located in Mala Strana (Lesser Town).
If you’re looking for a way to orientate yourself before exploring Prague solo, why not take a food tour? Ok, it’s not free, but it’s a double-whammy of a guiding walking tour plus a 7-course lunch – bargain!