City in focus: Prague


There are two types of people in the world: those who love Prague, and those who have never been there. When I came to St Andrews, every time I mentioned where I came from it caused a lot of excitement. Having grown up in Prague, I used to take the city for granted, but leaving it made me realise what a remarkable place it is.

Prague is a city of the Emperor Charles IV (by many considered the greatest Czech in history), Vaclav Havel, and Franz Kafka amongst others. The sixth-most-visited European city, it is a place of great history, a magical atmosphere, and a rich cultural heritage. With its many cultural sites and inexpensive pubs and nightclubs which serve famous Czech beers, it has become a particularly popular weekend destination that is price-wise ideal for students.

Yet, for many, Prague still has the stigma of a post-communist country, which prevents it from being fully appreciated as much as other popular European tourist destinations. As my friend Thom, who has recently visited Prague, said, it is one of those under-appreciated European cities.

Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, of which the most renowned are the Prague Castle, the biggest castle in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the picturesque Charles bridge, Old Town Square with its famous Astronomical Clock, the Jewish Quarter, and, if you are looking for modern architecture, the Dancing House. You can find all this and much more in a guidebook, but what no guidebook can fully grasp is the uniqueness of this place. If you manage to get up early enough to walk across an empty Charles bridge, and from there on climb up to the Prague Castle dominating the city’s skyline, you will be rewarded with an unrivalled view of the city below you: hundreds of spires of different churches, and red-roofed houses on both sides of the river Vltava, all emerging from the morning fog. Apart from sights, the city boasts more than ten major museums, along with numerous galleries, theatres, and other historical exhibits.

After sundown, the city comes alive. In case you wish to experience some of Prague’s rich cultural life, you can catch local acts at the art deco theatre Akropolis, or maybe enjoy some jazz in places like Jazz republic or Reduta. For those of you who enjoy clubbing, there is Karlovy Lazne, the biggest nightclub in Central Europe, with five music clubs over five floors. Any beer-fan should visit the Pub. Here, at a table with self-service beer taps, you can take part in a beer competition with other tables, as well as other pubs across the Czech Republic. With prices as low as £1 per pint for a premium Czech beer, there is a reason why the Czechs are number one for consumption of beer per capita in the whole world. However, if you are not interested in the night life, you could try the Ghost tour of Prague, or simply go for a romantic walk along the river. You never know, you might even get lost under the light of gas lamps illuminating the wet cobble-stoned streets of Prague, and later on find yourself in one of many picturesque courtyards or secluded places with a magical atmosphere and a history of many centuries.

Photo credit: Callum Hyland


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