Zizkov Television Tower looms over Prague with a height of 216 meters (709 ft) and dominates the skyline. Construction started in 1985 long before the end of the Communist regime. The tower was supposed to jam western radio and television transmissions. It never did because building was finished 1992, three years after the Velvet Revolution. Czech artist David Cerny designed faceless baby sculptures who have been crawling up the tower since 2000. A lift whisks you up to the observation platform which allows 1 360 degree view of Prague, Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, Petrin Hill, the Ntional theatre and also Vysehrad, Letna and the Vltava River.
Local Expert tip: Visit the Zizkov Television Tower on a clear day for the best view then come back in the evening and look at the illuminated city that stretches all around you.
Letna is Prague's finest city-center park. It is a vast space between Milady Horakove, a buzzing shopping street, and the Vltava River. The parade ground on the north was the site of May Day parades during the Communist regime. Today, it is the gathering place of joggers and inline skaters. The Letna Gardens on the south offer dazzling views over the city and its bridges. A huge metronome stands on a concrete platform next to the steps leading up to Letna from the riverside. This metronome replaces the Stalin Monument, once the largest in the world. The statue was blown up in 1962 when Stalin fell from grace.
Local Expert tip: The summer beer garden is the he best reason to climb up the steps to Letna. Sit in the shade of chestnut trees and enjoy a mug of frothy Pilsner Urquell. The view is like a picture postcard, the bend in the river, the bridges and Petrin Hill with the miniature Eiffel Tower.
Nerudova Street leads all the way up to Prague Castle. Bordered by townhouses and mansions, this street has retained many of its Baroque characteristics. Most of the houses bear names and painted signs, The Three Violins (No 12), St John Nepomuk (N0 18), The Golden Horseshoe (No 33) and the Black Madonna (NO 36) are only a few examples. The street was named after the Czech writer Jan Neruda who lived in The Two Suns at No 47. In 1878, he wrote Tales of the Little Quarter, stories about daily life in Mala Strana, Little Quarter, neighborhood. Today, many houses in Nerudova Street have been converted into luxurious hotel.
Local Expert tip: Spot the house signs when walking up Nerudova Street. Stop a while to look at breathtaking views of Petrin Hill with vineyards on its slopes. Take in the Baroque splendor of Thun-Hohenstein Palace at No 20, now the Italian Embassy.
The Dancing House, Tancící dum, fills the gap of an apartment bombed in the Second World War. When in 1996 the new building was finished, not everybody liked this modern design. The house starkly contrasts with its Art Nouveau neighbors. This new building overlooks the Vltava River and consists of two elegant towers of nine floors, vaguely reminiscent of two ballroom dancers. He is the stiff vertical half and she the swaying glass partner. The pinch in the middle is her slim waist. The house is used as an office building and not open to the public.
Local Expert tip: The only way to see the interior of the Dancing Building is going to the top floor and enjoy French cuisine in Restaurant Celeste.
Beautifully decorated with flowers, animals and Greek gods, the singing fountain does not sing anymore. The music was created by drops of water dripping on metal bowls. After a complete reconstruction the singing stopped. Still the fountain is wonderful to see and so is the Royal Garden especially when in spring when ablaze with thousands of colorful tulips. On the northern side sits Belvedere, the summer palace of Queen Ann, wife of Ferdinand I of Habsburg. The groundplan of the palace is modeled after the temple of Poseidon at Paestum, near Naples in Italy. On the west side you will find the Ball House covered in exquisite sgraffito. This building was originally used to play a ball game resembling tennis. Look up at the statues on the roof. Number ten from the right is a lady bearing a hammer and sickle.
Local Expert tip: Stroll through the Royal Garden. Especially in summer the garden is a riot of flowers. Be sure to walk to the railings of the garden terrace for an unrivalled view of Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral.
Colorfully painted cottages line Zlata Ulicka, Czech for Golden lane. This picturesque alley runs along the northern wall of Prague Castle. These tiny dwellings were originally built for the castle guards. Later they provided housing for craftsmen, including goldsmiths. Today Golden lane is an open-air museum and popular among tourists who browse the souvenir shops that line the alley. At the far end is Dalibor Tower. When you climb up, you get to s small display of torture instruments. If this does not interest you, go up anyway to see the Parable with the Skull, a modern bronze sculpture showing a prostrate man with a huge skull on his back. Admission to Golden lane is with Prague Castle Tour ticket.
Local Expert tip: Walk up and down cobbled Golden Lane, stop for a moment at No 22, the house where Franz Kafka lived for a while. It is now a bookshop and contains a tiny Kafka museum.
Old Town square, Staromestské námestí, hums with activity. In summer, cafes spill out onto the street. In winter the Christmas market draws a crowd. Brightly coloured houses ring the square. Cobbled streets lined with shops fan out in all directions. The pink and white Rococo stucco work of Kinsky Palace dazzles in the afternoon sun. In 1948, Klement Gottwald proclaimed communist rule from the first floor balcony. The palace is now part of the national gallery and exhibits Czech art from the seventeenth to twentieth century. The eye catcher of the square is Tyn Church with two irregular towers flanked by a forest of spires and pinnacle. The most popular attraction is the Old Town Hall Tower and the astronomical clock. Join the crowd waiting for the spectacle. Marvel at Death ringing a bell and a procession of apostles popping out of a hatch. The monument in the middle of Old Town Square commemorates reformer Jan Hus and is a fine example of an Art Nouveau sculpture.
Local Expert tip: Climb the Old Town Hall tower for sweeping views of Prague, the Vltava River and the city beyond. December is a special month when the Christmas market is in full swing.
Prazský Hrad, Prague Castle, is one of the largest castle complexes in the world. Not only is it home to the Czech President it also includes one of Prague's most popular tourist attractions. The castle complex also comprises St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and the Powder Tower. Visitors can easily spend a full day exploring the castle and the grounds; from admiring Alphons Mucha's stained glass windows in the St Vitus Cathedral to watching the changing of the guards. Stroll along the Golden Lane, a row of picturesque cottages built for the castle's guards and gunners now transformed into souvenir shops and the lane is always bustling with people.
Local Expert tip: Plan your visit early in the morning to beat the crowd and allow at least three hours for your visit. Be sure to include St Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane.
Festooned with statues and crammed with people, Charles Bridge is Prague's best-loved bridge. Named after Charles IV, it replaced old Judith Bridge destroyed in the 1324 floods. The slightly curved new bridge, Charles Bridge was a true engineering feat; wide enough for four carriages to pass at the same time, but now pedestrian only. At first, only a crucifix adorned the bridge. Today a whole string of statues stands guard on the parapet. The most popular is St John Nepomuk. Legend has it that when you rub his feet, you will return to Prague. Others claim this will bring you happiness. Whichever is true, be sure to polish the brass. As wind and rain eroded the bridge statues, the originals were moved to the Lapidarium Museum and replicas put in their place. Mingle with the multitude on the bridge, listen to the Dixieland band and buy souvenirs from the hawkers. If you haven't ambled across Charles Bridge, you haven't been to Prague.
Local Expert tip: Stand on Charles Bridge for sweeping views of Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral. Browse hawkers' stalls and go home with local souvenirs.
The astronomical clock at Old Town Square is probably Prague's most famous attraction. Not only does the clock indicate the hours, it also marks the phases of the moon, the equinoxes, the seasons and the days. At the same time, the twelve zodiac signs make their course through the heavens. Join the crowd and watch the spectacle. Vanity admires herself in a hand mirror. A miser clutches a bag of gold. Death rings a bell and a Turk shakes his head. A shutter opens and out pop a procession of apostles. They make their round and exit through another shutter. The cockerel crows. The hour strikes.
Local Expert tip: Be sure to hurry to Old Town Square just before the clock strikes the hour. Have your camera focused and don't blink. The spectacle of the astronomical clock lasts only one minute.