Prague is a great city to head for if you enjoy a decent pint but also want a whole raft load of culture and history to enjoy. Czech beers are famous across the globe, especially the Bohemian Pilsners, but there are also many different types of wine. Draught and bottled beers are hugely consumed here, close to their sources near the city, although canned beers are produced only for export as nobody would dream of drinking them. With plenty of plenty of cheap car hire available available you can explore this fantastic historic city and the surrounding countryside with its exotic castles and rolling landscapes.
Like many Central and Eastern European countries that have only fairly recently thrown off the wet blanket of dreary old Communism, Prague has been energetically getting reacquainted with its own glamorous history. It was a thriving town by the tenth century and experienced a golden age in the Middle Ages due to its central position at Europe’s crossroads. Under Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, it was bigger than London and Paris and under the Habsburg Rudolph II played a major part in the European Renaissance, attracting scholars and scientists like astronomers Kepler and Tycho Brahe who revolutionised our ideas of the cosmos. The first university in Central Europe was built here – this has always been a brainy city as well as an intoxicatingly beautiful one.
Prague is fairly bursting at the seams with museums, galleries and palaces, and even the bridges are works of art in their own right. You can see how the word Bohemian caught on and acquired its overtones of flamboyance and free thinking by looking at Prague’s baroque splendours and its eventful history of religious tolerance (to the Jews and Christian sects) and proud defiance (of the megalithic and seriously corrupt and dysfunctional Catholic Church) during the Renaissance and Reformation. It’s fair to say that Prague stood like a beacon of enlightenment in a medieval world up to its eyeballs in superstition and intolerance.
The whole of Prague is really a big outdoor museum with fairytale gabled rooftops lining twisting cobbled alleyways in the Old Town centre, and medieval spires shooting up like elegant stalagmites all over the place. At the same time, Prague is also a top European destination for demanding gastronomes and energetic clubbers, with jazz especially in evidence but also gigs, concerts and festivals catering for all musical tastes throughout the year, in a wide range of venues from beer cellars and taverns to baroque concert halls and street corners.
The old part of Prague is home to most of the attractions visitors come to see, and the good news is that they are all within an easy stroll of one another. The famous cathedral and castle rub shoulders on a hill that overlooks the river and city, and the Charles Bridge, lined with statues of local rulers, connects the New and Old towns and the castle district.
Don’t miss the astronomical clock in the Town Hall with its rotating procession of the twelve apostles and signs of the zodiac. St Wenceslas Square in the New Town (which dates from 1348!) is a good place to start off on a hike around the city after you’ve parked the car.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities. Image by Moyan_Brenn (I’m Back)