Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Eastern Europe. This city appeals to tourists thanks to its physical beauty and the beautiful architecture with the 600 year old history. The site has been recognized a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to explore the area, it is best to travel on foot. It is an amazing outdoor museum of history with the impressive architecture. The 14th century saw Prague as one of the most important cities in Europe. However, after the Second World War, it disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. After the Velvet Revolution and the end of Communism in 1989, Prague has stepped out of its repression and appeared to attract tourists with its romance and fairytale locales.
Places To See
The historical centre of Prague is easy to reach. The central part has the Castle District (Hradeany) west of the River Vltava, and the Old and New town (Stare Mesto and Nove Mesto) to the east joined by the Charles Bridge.
Castle District – The Castle District overlooks the city and has within its area the best museums and churches in all of Prague. The historical monuments are set around three courtyards, state apartments and fortifications. The most outstanding of all is the St Vitus Cathedral which occupies a major area of the third courtyard. It was founded in the 9th century and is now the official residence of the president. The Old Royal Palace was the residence of the Kings of Bohemia from the 11th to the 17th centuries. You can visit the Royal Apartments and the Vladislav Hall in the palace. This was the place where the kings were throned and presidents were sworn into office. The Benedictine Convent lies with the red facade of the Romanesque Basilica of St George. This is the place which holds the amazing collection of old Bohemian art. You can also visit the beautiful cobbled alley known as the Golden Lane, which is a row of 16th century tradesmen’s cottages located behind the gallery. An interesting thing to watch is the Changing of the Guard every hour with the proper ceremony.
St Vitus Cathedral – It is situated in the castle complex. St Vitus Cathedral is the country’s largest church. It has many side chapels, tombstones, frescoes and breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows. The most flowery chapel houses the tomb of St Wenceslas of the Christmas carol. This has over the years become a pilgrimage site. The Bohemian Crown Jewels and the Crypt are placed in the Coronation Chamber. This the final resting place for many Kings and queens of Bohemia. To the south of the cathedral is the Golden Gate which is decorated with coloured mosaic to depict the Last Judgment in 1370. You can also climb the 287 steps of the tower to see the picturesque view over the city.
Charles Bridge – The walking Charles Bridge is a huge tourist attraction and is also the most photographed feature of Prague. It was constructed in 1357 to replace the Judith Bridge. The only remaining part of the Judith Bridge is one tower at the Mala Strana gate. The Charles Bridge is a great place to have a stroll with all the painters, musicians and artists entertaining you.
Prague Spring International Music Festival – This festival is one of the most prestigious and famous classical music festivals in all of Europe. During this festival many acclaimed artists and orchestras perform their pieces to the audience. Each year the Prague Spring festival is opened and closed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Prague Autumn Festival – The European summer music festival season is ended with this international festival of classical music held at the Prague State Opera Municipal House.
Christmas Markets – Prague Christmas is truly delightful. You can find Christmas markets all sparkling with lights and decorations. All this with Christmas music, wine and gingerbread makes the season even more jovial. You will find bright coloured huts selling traditional Czech handicrafts like candles, puppets, jewellery and wooden toys. In the Old Town Square you will find choirs singing Christmas carols and the Bethlehem manger scene is recreated in a stable with real animals.
Czech Holiday Traditions
Certain Czech holidays and traditions of importance are as follows
February 2 – Hromnice – This is same as the Groundhog Day celebrated in US. Hromince signifies the middle of winter. Depending on how the weather is on Hromoince, predictions are made on how long the winter would last.
March 19 – St. Joseph’s Day – Joseph is a very common Czech name and celebrations are held all over the nation. The name Joseph used to be extremely popular and this is the reason that the name is a celebrated one.
Easter – Easter in Prague is a time of enjoyment. Different villages and regions in the country have their own varied ester customs and traditions. The main Easter holiday in Prague is the Easter Monday. Boys and men visit their friends in the morning and carry pomlazkas with them. Pomlazkas are braided willow sticks with coloured ribbons tied at the ends. They chase and whip the females lightly wherever they visit. In return the boys get coloured eggs from girls and women. The custom was meant to assure fertility.
April 30 – Burning Of the Witches: With this custom the people bid farewell to the winter. On April 30 evening the Czechs come together to make a bonfire and an effigy of the witch who kept the winter for so long. It is believed that as the weather gets warm the power of the witches also weakens. The effigy of the witch is burned when the darkness falls. People roast sausages and sing songs while the fire burns.
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