>  Trip 2023   >  Prague’s Famous Landmarks

Before visiting Prague, I had formed the impression that it was a destination overrun by tourists, something guidebooks and the web reinforce. Still worth visiting, of course, but not nearly as great as if you had the good fortune to visit 20 years ago, when it was just emerging from communism and not yet a regular stop for cruise ships and tour groups. It is true that in the middle of town, in the middle of the day, there are large groups being led around a circuit of top sites. Many of the storefronts in the centre of the old town were schlocky tourist traps, filled with cheap souvenirs and overpriced novelty food. But the charms of Prague are so plentiful and pleasant, that even when it’s crowded, it’s a delightful place to visit, and ridiculously photogenic.

The three main sights in Prague are the Charles Bridge, the old Town Square with its astrological clock, and the sprawling Prague Castle. We found the crowds easy enough to avoid at Charles Bridge — it is nearly empty at 8:30am, except for a half-dozen Chinese couples shooting pre-wedding photos. In those early hours, the most touristy locales are shut, so the Old Town is entirely charming, and you don’t have to jostle for a view of the clock striking the hour. By the time the castle opens at 10am, there are lots of visitors, but it’s such a large compound with so many different sights that it doesn’t feel overly busy (and certainly not compared to the Louvre). Only the tiny cottages on the Golden Mile felt unpleasantly crowded when we visited them after lunch.

The Lesser Town Tower of Charles Bridge, early on a glorious sunny morning.
A soon-to-be married couple captures some early morning photos with a pretty Prague backdrop.
A slightly more crowded Charles Bridge, from the top of the Old Town Tower Bridge
At the top of the hour, the characters on the astrological clock put on a little performance to strike the hour.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn in the Old Town Square
A marching band walks past the gate to Prague Castle.
The view out over the Lesser Town from Prague Castle. Also in the shot is the “most famous window in Prague” (the left-hand one in the middle row of the building to the right), from which three Catholics were thrown – defenestrated – by angry Protestants in 1618, thereby kicking off the Thirty Years War.
St. Vitus Cathedral, on the grounds of Prague Castle. Although the cathedral wasn’t finished until the 1900s, this part has stood since the 12th century.
A 20th-century stained glass window in the newer section of St. Vitus Cathedral.
The silver tomb of St John of Nepomuk. Legend has it he was thrown off the Charles Bridge for refusing to divulge the queen’s confession, but that turns out to be apocryphal.

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