After a hearty breakfast in the Hotel Pav’s modern restaurant, we wrapped up well to protect us from the below freezing temperatures and set off to visit the castle.
Overlooking the Vltava river stands the magnificent Prague Castle, the largest medieval castle in Europe and today the home of the President of the Czech Republic who rules from here. The castle, located above the Lesser Town covers an extensive 18 acres and is centred around three courtyards.
Dominating one of these squares is the St. Vitus Cathedral which we were able to look round. A changing of the guard takes place hourly on the hour and at midday this includes a fanfare and banner exchange which we were fortunate to see. As it was a chilly Saturday in January there were few tourists about so we had excellent views of the guards performing their exchange. It’s possible to walk round the castle grounds without charge but to view inside the historic buildings a ticket is required.
Needing to warm up, we carefully made our way down the steep, cobbled hill which was very slippery in places. Soon we came across a comfortable small bar where we indulged in pancakes with cream and chocolate sauce followed by mugs of hot coffee. Our afternoon was spent wandering round the Jewish Quarter with its stunning architecture and collection of synagogues, some of which were open to the public.
We then returned to the main square which is the focal point of the city and bursting with life. We marvelled at the buildings surrounding the square painted in a palette of pale pinks, blues and yellows that had stood the test of time and were so well preserved. Groups of people were gathering to watch the astronomical clock perform its actions on the hour.
Tourism has arrived with many cafes and bars, their terraces spilling out onto the square, but this adds to the atmosphere. Some more time was spent wandering along the maze of narrow cobbled lanes leading from the square. Horse drawn vehicles passed by, their passengers huddled beneath thick red blankets keeping out the cold air and we felt we were in the midst of a winter wonderland.
It was then back to our hotel for a little rest before wrapping up snugly and braving the cold once again to find a cosy inn for our evening meal.