Walk a Day in Prague
January 1, 1970
by Stef Fares
When I lived in Prague, my favorite thing to do was to go for walks. It is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe so every walk revealed something new and enticing about this veteran city that strengthened my admiration for it. But of all my walks, one became my absolute favorite. It’s the first long exploration walk I ever did in Prague, the walk I took with every single person that visited me, the one walk I recommend to everyone spending some time in this city.
Start at the Letna Park & Beer Garden
There are two big reasons for starting here: this is where you will get the best views of the entire city and everything is downhill from here which makes for an easier walk. Letna in the fall is a masterpiece of golden brown leaves and young crowds congregating on the picnic benches that line the beer garden. Letna in the winter is an snowy winter wonderland where the trees lie bare in their slumber awaiting the spring. So it doesn’t matter when you decide to do the walk, prepared the be in awe.
Start the walk by grabbing a Pilsner from the beer garden concession stand. The Pilsner is the traditional Czech beer, it’s delicious, and will only run you around 35 CZK (about $1.10!). If it’s winter time, opt for the Svařák – hot red wine boiled with cinnamon and orange slice and served with sugar. It is extremely traditional in Prague during the winter and will keep you warm as you walk around.
Prague (Stalin) Metronome
The Prague Metronome is probably the least known of the historic sites in Prague. Many people had never been to the see the metronome high above the city. Lucky for me, my walk led me straight through it on the way to the castle. Being only a few hundred feet down from Letna, the hill on which the monument sits atop also offers breathtaking views of the city. In the 1960s, a GIANT statue of Joseph Stalin stood overlooking Prague as a symbol for the blanket of communism that covered the Eastern bloc. But in 1991, the metronome was erected in its place to honor the fall of the iron curtain and end of communism. Nowadays, the spot is a popular meet up point for young people, skateboarders, and local dog walkers coming in from Letna.
Under the metronome, buried into the hill, is an old nuclear bunker. I went to a music rave there one night. In midst of all of the concrete pillars, the kicked up dust, and the hundreds of standing bodies, I actually had a lot of fun partying underground in a place that was built to protect everyone from a nuclear disaster.
After the Metronome, we come to the main attraction of the city. The largest ancient castle in the world, the Prague Castle. It was built in the 9th century and it has housed many historical leaders from Emperor Ferdinand to Adolf Hitler to the leader of the Velvet Revolution, Alexander Dubcek. Today it is the official residence of the current Czech president and the most popular tourist attraction in Prague.
A common misconception is that the immense, gothic cathedral on top of the hill is Prague castle. But the St. Vitus Cathedral is only one of the churches that make up the 70,000 square feet castle complex. Don’t worry, you can’t access all 70,000 sqft of that but you can make a visit into the St. Vitus Cathedral and visit the markets inside the complex.
Wallenstein Palace Gardens
Truly a hidden gem in the middle of a tourist zone, the Wallenstein Palace Gardens is the stuff of fairytales. Here you can pick an apple off the tree and eat it while you watch wild colorful peacocks parade around the lush landscaping. Our friend took us there for the first time and I was enchanted. The peacocks laying around the sun flashing their vibrantly blue and green feathers were magnificent.
Of all the bridges one will encounter in Prague, this is the most famous. The Charles Bridge is a long bridge crossing the Vltava River decorated with 30 baroque statues of Saints built under the rule of King Charles. One of the statues is particularly famed for being an omen of good luck to anyone who touches it. If you want to be THAT tourist (go ahead, do it, everyone does), then walk over to the statue of St. John Of Nepomuk and rub the golden plaque depicting the Saint being tossed into the Vltava River – legend says it will bring you good luck and you will return to Prague one day.
This is around the time during the walk where everyone starts getting hungry, which makes it the perfect time to stop in to my favorite restaurant in Prague for Czech cuisine, Cafe Slavia. Cafe Slavia is a historical restaurant that sits right along the river just a few bridges down to the right of the Charles Bridge. With killer castle views, it once was a hub for revolutionaries who opposed the radical view of the government such a Vaclav Havel, who would later become the first president of the Czech Republic. Don’t let its fame fool you, it is charmingly a reasonably priced restaurant serving the best authentic Czech food in Prague. Anything from the menu is good but if you want some authentic Czech dishes, try the Svíčková – Sirloin steak pieces served in a traditional sauce served with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce – it is to die for! If you prefer chicken, opt for the farm raised chicken with gnocchi – it’s served in a soft paprika sauce with a dollop of sour cream. If you still have room for dessert, they have an amazing daily selection of cakes you can choose from…choose any, you won’t be disappointed.
Old Town Square
The next stop after food is Old Town Square – the most famous and popular square in Prague. Surrounded by restaurants, shops, museums, and statues, the square is probably the most tourist-ridden spot in all of the Czech Republic. There are many famously historic buildings surrounding the square, the most intriguing being Prague’s astronomical clock, Prague Orloj. The clock is currently the oldest working astronomical clock in the world, being over 605 years old. Every hour on the hour, you can stand with the multitudes under the clock to watch a show of animated figures representing vanity, greed, death, and
lust dance around as the 12 apostles are displayed above. The show only lasts about 1 minute but it’s worth seeing, especially considering the age of the clock and the impressive engineering behind it for how old it is.
If you’re lucky to be visiting Prague during the holiday season, a real, decorated Christmas tree stands tall in the center of the square surrounded by the glorious Christmas markets. Wooden huts filled with traditional Czech food, hot wine, gifts, clothing, and other trinkets line the snow covered streets and Prague comes to life like I had never seen it before.
The final stop on the walk is Wenceslas Square – the second busiest square in Prague and the shopping center of the city. Walk a narrow cobblestone street from Old Town Square that leads directly to Wenceslas square. The square is essentially a long, double-sided street jam-packed with both local and chain stores, restaurants, and bars. This is the perfect place to be if you want to get some shopping down during your stay in Prague. One of my favorite Czech statues is the iconic monument of St. Wenceslas himself at the end of the street. The plaque on it reads, “St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia, our Prince, don´t let neither us, nor those in the future, die.” A few steps across the street is the grandiose Prague National Museum where there is also a street memorial to Jan Palach – a student in 1969 who set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Czechoslovak invasion by the Soviets.