After enjoying a hearty breakfast in the lovely restaurant at Mama Shelter we boarded a tram to Wenceslas Square so that we could visit the National Museum. This square is the largest in Prague and takes its name from St. Wenceslas, the Czech patron.
It’s actually more of a rectangle than a square and was formerly known as the “Horse Market”. This square has been the scene of many important moments in Czech history and nowadays is a lively area, lined with shops, bars and home to the enchanting Prague Christmas market.
It was just before the 10.00 a.m. opening time when we arrived outside the National Museum which is the largest in the Czech Republic. It’s located in one of the most famous buildings in the city with this imposing neo-Renaissance building standing proudly overlooking the square. Names from Czech history are etched in gold lettering on the building’s façade and the entire effect is stunning.
Entrance to the museum is 260 czk (£9.00) and included in the Prague Cool Pass (Prague Card). The main building underwent a major restoration programme and re-opened in 2018 after a lengthy period of closure. The overall effect is breathtaking with its marbled grand entrance hall, sweeping carpeted staircases, intricate stonework and exquisite ceiling frescoes. Even if you are not so interested in the museum, a visit can be enjoyable just for viewing the interior alone.
Exhibition galleries lead off the entrance hall but we decided to start our self guided tour by taking the lift up to the top floor so that we could inspect the museum’s dome. It’s definitely worth taking a look inside the cupola (dome) with its uninterrupted views of Wenceslas Square and the city beyond. Glass walls and walkways have carefully been constructed enabling visitors to access the rooftop year round.
Working our way back through the museum we were enthralled by the interior as much as its galleries. The main building is home to natural history, geology, archaeology and pre-historic collections. The pantheon is a must see too with its huge cupola of stained glass crowning the roof under which busts and statues of famous Czech scholars, writers and artists stand. The zoology section is very popular especially with families of young children with its huge whale skeleton taking centre stage.
There’s a connecting underground passageway and lift through to the adjoining new building. A rolling film is projected onto the sides of the corridor as you walk through that depicts the history of Wenceslas Square from ancient times to the present day. Visitors are able to purchase tickets and enter the museum from either building. This section covers aspects of Czech history and features many interactive elements and an immersive 360 degree small cinema.
On leaving the museum we just had time to pop into one of the cafes in the square before taking the metro to the riverside to board a Prague Boat for one of their two hour lunchtime cruises. This boat trip is also included in the Prague Cool Pass (lunch and drinks optional extra).
Unlike the small wooden boat that we’d taken the previous day from Charles Bridge, this was quite different being of a sleek, large modern design. We settled down on deckchairs on the open-air sun deck but sadly this didn’t last very long as dark clouds soon appeared and it started to rain.
We then relocated downstairs in the glass roofed section which was very pleasant as a musician serenaded us on his piano accordion as we slowly made our way along the beautiful Vltava river. We were so comfortable that we stayed there even after the sun decided to shine again.
Although this pleasure boat trip was very relaxing we actually preferred the smaller boat trip as this larger boat lacked a commentary and food and drinks tended to be quite expensive. On a positive note, this river boat excursion was much longer and we did see more in both directions than on the 45 minute trip. If you do have time it might be a good idea to do like us and take a trip on each of them as they are both included in the Prague Card.
Our journey commenced at the Czech Bridge passing beneath the Charles Bridge and National Theatre just north of the old town. The boat then made its way through the Smichov locks and upon reaching Vysehrad cliffs near the Podoli waterworks it turned around and headed back in the opposite direction.
This two hour excursion was a good opportunity to rest our legs in readiness for a visit to what is undoubtedly the city’s premier attraction, Prague Castle. Standard admission 422czk (£14.60) and also included in the Prague Cool Pass. The castle attracts huge numbers of visitors so I recommend arriving at around 3.00 p.m. when people on day trips are leaving so that it is much quieter without the crowds. It’s actually free to walk around the castle complex but tickets are required to enter the various buildings.
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle complex in Europe and was once the seat of the Kings of Bohemia. It now serves as the office of the president of the Czech Republic.
Tickets for the castle allowed us entry into four separate areas. The first of which was the Old Royal Palace. This dates back to the 12th century and its Vladislav Hall is still in use today. A former seat of Czech rulers, the Palace houses the ‘Story of Prague’ exhibition.
Within the castle complex stands the country’s most important religious shrine, St. Vitus Cathedral. It was in this church that the Kings of Bohemia were crowned with several of them buried in tombs beneath the church floor. Non-ticket holders are permitted to glimpse the interior from the cathedral’s main door.
St. George’s Basilica is the second church in the Prague Castle complex. Although originally built in 920 AD in Baroque and Romanesque style, nowadays it only retains its foundations from this period. The Basilica serves as a final resting place to numerous important people including Ludmila of Bohemia, the grandmother of King Wenceslas. Currently, the church serves as a concert hall as it benefits from excellent acoustics.
The Golden Lane is a narrow street within the castle consisting of small colourful houses that visitors can enter, portraying the lives of those who lived in them from seamstresses to herbalists and shoemakers. It’s very interesting so try not to miss the lane as it’s tucked away slightly.
The Golden Lane is also included in the ticket but free to visit after 5.00 p.m. in summer and from 4.00 p.m. over the winter months. We spent around two hours exploring the castle before walking down the old castle stairs to Malostranskä interchange station from where we took a tram back to our hotel after a lovely day exploring the beautiful sights of Prague.
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