Want to immerse yourself in old-world charm yet enjoy a modern lifestyle? Brimming with history, culture and absolute grace, Prague is a breathing riddle of modern times infused with legendary historical tales, says Christine Karan.
Lovingly called Praha by the locals, the capital of the Czech Republic was also once the capital of erstwhile Bohemia, the largest historical region of the sprawling Czech lands.
Unlike other big cities in Europe, Prague is compact and very walkable. Architecture and history lovers can have a feast with stunning and well-preserved buildings from the Renaissance, Gothic, Bohemian, Baroque and Art Nouveau eras, which have luckily escaped unscathed from two world wars and communist regimes.
The city is the proud home of the only working, and the third oldest, astronomical clock in the world, which draws millions of visitors annually to the Old Town Square to see it. Wander off from the clock tower along the narrow streets to Wencelas Square for some souvenir shopping.
One of the must-dos is a walk on the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. Or better still, beat the crowd and take an early morning walk or a night walk to enjoy the bridge and its famed 30 statues of saints, all by yourself. Charles Bridge has featured in many Hollywood movies such as Mission: Impossible (1996), Casino Royale, The Illusionist, Hellboy and many more.
Another must-visit place is Prague Castle, which is perched on top of a hill, commanding a spectacular view of the city. Once the seat of power for Bohemian kings, it is now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. It also has a place in the Guinness World Records as the largest, most ancient castle in the world.
The Prague Opera house and the National Museum are two other important places that you should visit if you have time.
Prague offers you a variety of local cuisine to choose from. For those with a sweet tooth, tredelnik is a must-try. The cake and sweet pastry is wrapped around a log and grilled with a cinnamon, sugar and walnut mix. Make sure to coat your tredelnik with melted chocolate and whipped cream. For those who want to taste the savoury part of Czech cuisine, dumplings are a must. Mostly served as side dish with meat soup (gulas), it is a dish perfect for lunch out in one of the traditional restaurants.
If you are looking for modern-day shopping, the massive Palladium mall has every brand that you can imagine. To get there, KLM offers flights from Muscat to Prague via Amsterdam.
My favourite place- The National Theatre, without doubt. More than 100 years old, it’s a perfect example of Renaissance architecture and cultures coming together in one place.
Highlights- The hourly spectacle of the astronomical clock and the wondrous architecture of Prague Castle is a treat to behold.
Lowlights- Just like any other tourist city, Prague has its share of pickpockets and petty thieves. Just make sure to guard your purses and wallets, especially when you are on public transport.
Souvenirs- If you are looking for something a little more traditional, then the famous Czech glass is a must.
Where to stay- Prague offers some amazing lodging options; from five-star hotels to bed and breakfasts to hostels. Whether by the riverside or within the city you have numerous options to choose from. You will be surprised. Prague is very, very affordable compared to other European tourist cities! Although euros are used here, Czechs continue to use the crown (koruna).
1. Take a tram to Prague Castle, wander around and walk back to the city.
2. Visit Charles Bridge at sunrise or at night to enjoy its full glory.
3. Visit Old Town Square where the locals hang out.
4. Attend one performance at The National Theatre for its décor, acoustics and interior.
5. Take a day-trip to Karlovy Vary for its mineral-rich spas.