'15 Places You Should Go' Part Three: Prague
Prague Castle complex from the Charles Bridge in Prague. PN Photo/Mitchell Doub.
By Mitchell Doub, Reporter
Published April 19, 2021
Imagine walking along the banks of the Vltava River, with a full moon and lights of the distant hilltop castle sparkling in the moving water. As you stroll you pass building after building from the 14th century, the 15th century, the 16thcentury, (you get the idea). You pass not one but two gorgeous opera houses, you cross the cobblestone street and head down an ancient ally-way and turn in to U’Flecku, where soon, you will be eating pork knuckle and sauerkraut in this pub that has been brewing the same original Budweiser beer for 500 years. As you enjoy the regional specialty, you are being serenaded by a wandering accordion player who plays a native song for each table depending on the customer's nationality. This is Prague, and it is easily my favorite large European city.
Prague as we know it (located in central Czech Republic) is over 1,000 years old and is the fifth most visited city in Europe. If you love history, architecture, culture, music and traditional food, Prague should be number one on your list of European cities. One of the things that separates Prague from other major European cities is the wonderful fact that it has escaped much of the bombing and fire damage that have reshaped most other ancient locales. The baroque and medieval architecture is simply mesmerizing. Towers, turrets, tile roofs, cathedrals, the largest castle complex in the world, the oldest functioning astronomical clock in the world… Prague is wonderful.
“Prague is a must-visit! It has great food, amazing architecture, endless activities, and loads of swans,” said Olivia Chiott, a junior at N.C. State who visited Prague in 2018 with a group from her high school through a company called EF Tours.
“I really liked Prague; it had a lot of nightlife, but the city was beautiful during the day as well. There were tons of places to visit and a lot of tourism and markets, but we had to be really careful about pickpockets. Generally, it’s been one of my favorite places in Europe and I would want to go back. The biggest impact from the Prague trip was going to the city square and visiting the museums in the center of the city, then getting caught in an absolute downpour with no car and walking to our next destination soaking wet. What I liked the most was the cathedral we visited, and as part of the cathedral there was a miniature city-like town below with a bunch of shops that were halfway in the ground and only about 6 feet tall. It had a bunch of tchotchkes and knickknacks that seemed one of a kind,” added Chiott.
Olivia Chiott views Prague from Castle Hill. Submitted Image.
Emily Burcham, Olivia’s roommate and a junior at N.C. State also enjoyed Prague. “I thought Prague was almost like a maze. It was kind of fun to get lost. I was surprised to see that they were selling cannabis products in the little shops. The way that you’re able to barter with the shop owners was really neat, but I didn’t have the courage to attempt it. Prague castle made the biggest impact on me personally, it sat on top of a hill/mountain, and it overlooked the city. The view was incredible, it was the first time I ever saw a sight like that. I also was impacted by the amount of history. The buildings were old and historically rich but were being used for modern purposes,” said Burcham.
“My favorite thing about the city was the maze-like streets, and I really enjoyed the sauerkraut soup that I had in a restaurant. The restaurant was neat too—it was like below ground level, so you had to walk down some stairs. I would suggest that students who want to visit Prague have access to a map or gps, so they don’t get lost. I would also wear good walking shoes because the streets are really hard on your feet. I would suggest that they immerse themselves into the culture as much as possible—which means giving bartering a try, going to the market and shopping, trying new foods, going to museums, etc. This is something I wish I had done more of,” added Burcham.
Emily Burcham (left) and friend pose in front of the 700-year old castle ramparts in Prague. Submitted Image.
Prague is a jewel of a city; from Prague Castle to Charles Bridge, to Old Town Square, to the astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, the restaurants, the pubs, the symphonies, the operas, the river, the diverse peoples… Prague is a must visit locale. In fact, if you can only visit one European city, I suggest it be Prague.