You can easily explore the main sights of Prague on foot. On the left river bank, you can see the Prague Castle—a former royal castle and present-day Presidential residence, adjacent to the beautiful districts of Malá Strana and Hradčany. On the right bank, there is the Old Town, the former Jewish ghetto of Josefov, and Vyšehrad castle situated several kilometers away.
There was a time when the townspeople would flock to the square to go to the market, watch public executions and the like. Now this place is crowded with tourists who come here to see the Church of Mother of God before Týn, the Town Hall featuring Prague’s famous astronomical clock, Kinský Palace, and the Stone Bell House next to the Palace. The Stone Bell House, dating back to the second half of the 13th century, is the oldest building on the square, constructed at about the same time as the square itself. The Church of Mother of God before Týn, constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries, is one of the few Gothic churches in Prague that was not rebuilt in the Baroque era to match the new style.
In the 14th century, the city authorities bought a private house on the square and erected a tower attached to it. Whenever the authorities needed more space, they would attach additional structures to the building. The City Hall was damaged during the Prague uprising at the end of the Second World War. Today, the City Hall accommodates a museum and exhibitions, although people can still get married there. There is an observation deck at the top of the building. The most recognizable part of the City Hall is the Prague astronomical clock or Orloj—one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world. The 15th century gadget shows the Old Czech, Babylonian, modern Central European and sidereal times, the sunrise and sunset, positions of the Sun and Moon, the Moon’s phases, the day and month of the calendar year, the day of the week, and Christian holidays. Every hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the figures on the clock, put on a performance.
This bridge, built in the 14th century, connects Prague Castle to the Old Town district. This is the tourist epicenter of Prague, swarming with souvenir sellers and street performers, with three dozen sculptures from the Baroque era overlooking the entire scene. There is also an observation deck on top of the Bridge Tower.
One of Prague’s most visited attractions, the castle overlooking the Vltava River was first built in the late 9th century and has continuously been rebuilt since. It is considered the largest castle in the world and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as such. The former residence of kings, the Castle is now the residence of the Czech President and is protected by the Presidential guards. The handsome and brave-looking guardsmen on duty who don’t smile or move are a popular sight for tourists, who love taking photos with them. The guards’ uniforms were designed by the costume designer of the movie Amadeus. Tourists usually climb up to the Castle from Malá Strana, although it is smarter to take the opposite route and start exploring the left bank from the top, starting at Hradčany by the Hradcanska metro station.
Cool even on the hottest day, the heart of the Castle is the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral. The construction of this grand Cathedral commenced in 1344, and it was later continuously rebuilt until the 20th century. Those willing to climb many steep stairs can reach the top of the main tower of the Cathedral.