6 Nights in Magical Prague

2013 05 04 Old Town Square from the clock tower 7901

Magical Prague

Our first night we got right into the swing of Prague with Czech microbrewery samples at the Beer Museum (no, it’s not a museum – it’s a pub!), a first visit to the Old Town Square, and down to the Charles Bridge.

Prague Castle Complex at night

Prague Castle Complex at night

Sandeman’s Free tour and Castle tour

Old Town Clock Tower

Old Town Clock Tower

The free tour was a GREAT intro to Prague. Our guide Vivien made the history come alive in a very entertaining way, plus you cover a lot of ground in 3 hours, even with a rest stop at Bohemia Bagel.

It was such a good intro we went with Tyjo on the Prague Castle tour directly after. On the Castle tour, you get a tram ticket to go up to the Strahov Monastery where you have another rest stop (Huh? the tour just started!) Oh well. Plenty of time for photo ops on the paid tour, the pacing was much slower than the free tour, but it was good – we saw a bit of the Castle Quarter and the St. Vitus Cathedral plus changing of the guard and a very interesting courtyard with a amphitheater that definitely amplified. Fun! I knew we would be back in the Castle Quarter in a couple of days to see the Lobkowicz Palace, which we did, but ultimately we didn’t feel the need to pay for any additional sights in the Castle Quarter.

Tip: What should you tip on the free tour? 500 CZK for the two of us seemed about right. A frame of reference – the Castle tour is 300czk each.

The Prague Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum is terribly sad – and wonderful at the same time. You know the monster Hitler spared Prague because he loved the city, he wanted to live here, and he allowed the Jewish community to collect and store treasures from synagogues because he wanted to have a museum of the “extinct Jewish race” in Prague. Well, the Jewish population was pretty much wiped out in Prague, as well as so many other places. But they survived and persisted and have a community in Prague, that community runs the Jewish museums.

Pinkas Synagogue interior

Pinkas Synagogue, names of the murdered on every wall

The only synagogue that still functions as a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter is the Old-New synagogue, the rest of the historic synagogues in the Jewish Quarter house the various exhibits of the Jewish Museum.

If you have time for only one synagogue, make the the Pinkas. It’s the most evocative, especially before any crowds. Upstairs are drawings made by the children in the Terezin concentration camp. The route out takes you through the Old Jewish cemetery.

Tip: Get your ticket in advance and go to the Pinkas synagogue before they open at 9:00 a.m. There were people waiting to buy tickets before the ticket seller arrived but we waltzed right in and we were the ONLY people in the museum for about 5 minutes.

We bought the ticket for ALL the sites and visited over 2 days.

Tip: The ticket is valid for 7 days so you don’t have to try to see everything in one day.

One other synagogue not often visited by tourists is the Jerusalem (or Jubilee) Synagogue. It has beautiful Art Nouveau Moorish architecture and a wonderful exhibit upstairs that shows the postwar history of the Jewish Community of Prague through photographs, documents and film.

Jerusalem Synagogue interior

Jerusalem Synagogue, Moorish Art Nouveau

Another part of the exhibit shows the work being done to recover synagogues in little towns that were destroyed. This synagogue isn’t part of the Jewish Museum ticket, but if you go to the Old-New synagogue that ticket gets you a discount to the Jerusalem synagogue.

Back to the Castle Quarter – Lobkowicz museum and Petrin Tower

Lobkowicz Palace museum is fascinating, how the family lost everything TWICE! The audioguide is narrated mostly by William Lobkowicz and is the best audioguide ever – it’s personal! It’s his family and his heritage he’s talking about. Leaves you wanting to know more about how they recovered their property. A break at the café has wonderful views. We were taking our time and by the time we headed back into the castle quarter everything was closed and delightfully deserted. We saw a bunch of wonderful exteriors and visited the outside of places we missed on the Castle Tour.

It’s light out very late in May, one of the reasons we love to travel during this month, and after unsuccessfully trying to get a seat at the Strahov Monastic Brewery we decided to go over to Petrin Tower. Terrific view! Glad we weren’t encumbered by a beer!

St. Vitus Cathedral from Petrin Tower

St. Vitus Cathedral from Petrin Tower

A hike down a beautiful path in the Little Quarter and over the Charles Bridge to home.

Mucha Museum, Municipal building and Mucha exhibit, Communist Museum

The Mucha Museum visit only takes about an hour, even with the interesting video. It turned out that seeing the Mucha museum early on made the Ivan Lendl collection of Mucha posters displayed in the Municipal House MUCH more interesting. There wasn’t any real info on Mucha in the Lendl exhibit, mostly just the names and dates of the posters.

Actually, the reason we went to the Municipal House was to tour of the wonderful Art Nouveau interior, the tour highlight a room designed entirely by Mucha. The Lendl exhibit was a bonus!

Municipal House tour Alfons Mucha room

Municipal House tour Alfons Mucha room

Museum of Communism ticket

Museum of Communism

The Museum of Communism was really interesting – so interesting we bought the book “Legacy” sold in the museum. The book is described as “…witness to the struggle of a nation” and you can describe the museum this way as well. A sobering look into what it was like behind the iron curtain.

Day Trips went out the window in both Vienna and Prague

In my original Vienna itinerary, I’d penciled in a day trip to Melk followed by a boat ride down the Danube. In the Prague itinerary, an excursion to Kutna Hora. Early in this trip we abandoned these ideas – both Vienna and Prague are such beautiful cities with so much to see and do, and with only 6 days for each city there wasn’t any point rushing to go somewhere else.

Practicalities

  • Prague map
  • My House Travel – Maiselova 17 “Mozart” apartment, 6 nights across from the Old-New Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
Jewish Cemetery

Jewish Cemetery from the apartment building stairwell

My House Travel – “Mozart” Apartment

If you stay in the Jewish quarter in Prague you can walk just about everywhere and still be close to “home”. The location of our apartment was perfect, and perfectly quiet at night. The Jewish quarter is full of tourists and tour groups during the day and then – they all leave! My House Travel has several apartment offerings, I chose the apartment called Mozart on Maiselova street for our 6 night stay. We loved this apartment, everything we needed was here and I’d stay again in a heartbeat.

Arriving in Prague

An easy 4 hour 36 minute train ride from Vienna on the EuroCity train called Vindobona. Tickets on the Austrian Rail Company OBB website aren’t expensive, especially if you get the SparSchiene fare that’s offered about 90 days in advance.

Leaving Prague

Unexpected surprise! Visiting Prague’s Jewish Museum turned out to be a terrific intro to the next leg of our trip – 3 weeks in Israel.

Travel: fly from Prague to Tel Aviv, via Vienna – 5 hours 40 minutes not counting time to and from airports.


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