Prague is one of the best cities in the world to visit, especially during the holiday season. Prague is also one of the busiest cities in the world, especially during the holiday season.
This blog will tell you all about how to beat the crowds during the holiday – and any time of the year. Bonus…you can also watch my very first VLOG!
The city where the beer is cheaper than water, bars are guarded by big-busted ghosts and food is…everywhere. And I mean the stick-to-your ribs, cabbage-soup-in-a-bowl, whole grilled pig kind of food.
The Czech people are a hardy bunch. They eat outside even when it’s really cold. They eat and they eat and they eat.
Of course, all those hardy folks with big appetites could be tourists too. Because tourists are everywhere here.
Avoiding the Tourist Crowds of Prague
Fear not…there is a way to beat the tourist crowds. It involves doing something that I hate the thought of doing, but never regret. That’s right. Getting up early.
Prague is a late-night town, which means cafes start to think about opening up at about 10 a.m.
But even Old Town Square, which tends to be just packed with tourists, well, it’s all yours before ten.
The Magic of Old Town Square
It sounds clichéd, but Old Town is magical. Unlike so many European cities, after the destruction of World War Two, Prague wasn’t as damaged and didn’t have as much rebuilding to do (in terms of physical structures anyway).
A market place since the middle ages, this very square has seen its fair share of coronations, celebrations, parades and executions. In fact, 27 Prague nobleman and leaders of a rebellion were executed in the square in 1621. Twenty-seven crosses in the pavement mark the spot. The heads of the nobleman men were displayed on the Charles Bridge for years and legend has it that the heads return each year on the June 21st anniversary.
The square is also interesting for a certain obsession with time. The famous Astronomical Clock on the front of Old Town Hall gives quite the show on the hour…starting at 9 a.m. And if you shift your gaze down instead of up, you can spot the Prague Meridian – the mark where a column used to cast its shadow at exactly noon; this is the way time was once measured.
The Charles Bridge
Speaking of time…we’re still up early and beating the crowds on our trek to one of Prague’s most famous attractions, the Charles Bridge. To get there from the Old Town Square, we head down the winding Karlova Street. This is another place that can get pretty packed, but in the morning it’s all yours.
Approaching from the Old Town side, you are welcomed by the bridge’s namesake and commissioner, Charles IV. First a King and then a Holy Roman Emperor, Charles spoke five languages and certainly had a knack for bridge-building. He must also have had a sense of humor as people say from this view it looks a little like the Emperor is peeing on the tourists. Hmmm…
Continuing onto the bridge, check out the ornate statues that line the sides. On a clear day, you can see Prague castle in the distance. Take your time on this walk.
Keep an eye out for the small plaque marking the place where it’s said that St. John of Nepomuk was thrown into the river in 1393. People say that a wish made here while touching the cross will come true within a year and a day.
Make a Wish!
John of Nepomuk is the patron saint of good confessions, and for good reason. The legend is that he was thrown in the river because he wouldn’t tell the King of Bohemia the confessional secrets of the Queen.
It’s also said that stars appeared above the water where his body landed, which is why the statue of the saint himself – just a few feet away from his plaque – is depicted with stars. This statue also brings a lot of wishers. It’s said that touching the falling priest on the saint’s statue will bring good luck and ensure a return to Prague. One can only hope!
Moving on down the bridge, each of the ornate statues has the ability to fascinate, but everyone seems to have their own favorite for different reasons. Mine is St. Anthony because of his propeller hat. Also because he’s the patron saint of lost things (I asked him to find my missing glove!)
At the end of the bridge, head up to the castle grounds or take a sharp right and explore many of the hidden treasures of what’s called the Little Quarter. Shakespeare and Sons, the famous English bookstore in Paris has a little sister store quietly tucked away here.
Speaking of tucked away, there is also a tiny little alley that even has its own pedestrian street signals. This little street in the little quarter opens at 11:30 a.m.
Finally, wander into the courtyard of the Franz Kafka Museum (gates are usually open early!) to see the sculpture called “Piss”. Yep, Piss. These guys are actually peeing on a map of the Czech Republic.
Wait a minute…that means the Charles Bridge begins and ends with….piss.
On a serious note, the Piss artist, David Cerny, has a lot of interesting and eye-popping creations throughout Prague including the Hanging Man back in Old Town.
Next time I return to Prague I think I’ll do a sculpture tour. Or, maybe, a legends and ghosts tour. Which reminds me…remember how I mentioned big-busted ghosts guarding Prague bars?
A Ghostly Pub
Awww yes, my very favorite restaurant in Prague is U Provaznice Restaurant, which means “the Ropemaker’s Wife’s Restaurant”.
It is said that the Ropemaker’s wife was a beautiful woman who owned this bar, but when her husband got jealous of the goings-on at the pub, he strangled her with a rope. Yikes.
Now, it’s a perfectly pleasant place filled with good food, good beer and lots of locals. Though…people do still touch the portrait and the statue of the ropemaker’s wife if they need a little luck in their relationships.
I found my glove! Thanks, Saint Anthony – patron saint of lost things!
Also: BOTH of my wishes on the statues of John of Nepomuk came true. This is interesting because I wished for true love and a return to Prague. Both came true when my true love brought me back to Prague where I walked in his footsteps after his death.
Schedule yourself a trip to Prague and make yourself a wish!
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