Czech Republic

Visiting Prague and Nearby Castles

Prague, in the Czech Republic, is a beautiful city with striking architecture and an interesting history. It is a city that lends itself to walking. The Vltava River (the same river that runs through Český Krumlov) divides the two main tourist hubs, Old Town Square and Prague Castle hill.

Here are just a few highlights of Prague along with two castles outside the city.

Prague Castle

As castles go, it’s a little hard to recognize Prague Castle as such from the exterior – it just looks like a collection of buildings, and yet there is a lot to do here – palaces, museums, churches and shops. The castle area surrounds a large square which includes St. Vitus Cathedral. The cathedral is so massive and “shoehorned” into such a small area, it is difficult to get a good close-up photo of this stunning structure.


A view of St. Vitus Cathedral (begun in 1344 and finished 600 years later), along with various buildings of Prague Castle.


Basilica of St. George and Convent. This red building is Prague’s best-preserved Romanesque church. It dates from the 900’s. The convent to the left houses an art museum. These buildings are part of the Castle Square.

Golden Lane. This is an old medieval street just below the castle grounds.


Golden Lane. Little shops in old medieval houses. A quaint little area in Prague’s Castle Quarter.

Charles Bridge

This bridge was built in the 14th century by King Charles IV and was the only bridge in Prague to cross the Vltava river until 1850.


On the Charles Bridge, with lots of tourists moving between the Old Town Square and Prague Castle. Artists and various vendors line the bridge along with statues. The tower (on the east end, near Old Town Square) was originally a toll booth.


The Castle (west) end of the Charles Bridge.

Old Town Square

Located on the east side of the Vltava river, this square dates from the 11th century. It was once the center for executions of convicts. A lane, called “The King’s Walk” connects Old Town Square to the famous (and busy) Charles Bridge which then leads to Prague Castle.


A view of Týn Church and Old Town Square.

The Gothic Týn Church is a major landmark of the Square and has been the main church in this part of Prague since the 14th century. Nearby is the 15th century Old Town Hall and astronomical clock, which is quite fascinating–it tells time in a variety of ways (with Roman numerals, Gothic numbers and planetary symbols).


The 15th century astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall. It was damaged in World War II and largely reconstructed.


Another view of Old Town Square and Týn Church (the astronomical clock and Old Town Hall are just to the left of the church).


A street scene in Old Town Prague.

Jewish Quarter

Close to the Vltava River, the Jewish Quarter contains several synagogues and a Ceremonial Hall which can be visited. In addition, there is an old Jewish cemetery (which was the only burial ground in Prague allowed for Jews for 300 years). Centuries ago, the Jews were required to live separately from Christians. Of the 120,000 Jews living in this area in 1939, only 10,000 survived to see liberation from the Nazis in 1945.


Old-New Synagogue. Built in 1270, it’s the oldest synagogue in central Europe.

Nearby Castles – Karlštejn and Konopiště

Twenty miles southwest of Prague is Karlštejn Castle, one of the Czech Republic’s great attractions. It is a bit of a hike up to the castle from the car park, but the route has lots of little shopping booths to keep you entertained along the way.


Karlštejn Castle. Built in 1350 to house the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. Reservations are required to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross where the crown jewels were housed.

Konopiště Castle. This castle is 30 miles south of Prague. There is an interesting (and free) display of numerous statues of St. George “slaying the dragon” here.


Konopiště Castle. Construction began in the 14th century, but the castle was largely modernized around 1900 by Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg throne. The castle houses an excellent medieval arms collection.





Getting Beyond Prague – Visiting Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora and Sedlec Bone Church

The Czech Republic is a wonderful country to visit, and while many tourists head straight to Prague, there is so much more to enjoy in this country. (I will share a bit about Prague and a couple nearby castles in my next post).

Here are some recommendations beyond Prague:

Český Krumlov

This town, located in the southern part of the Czech Republic, is about 170 (106 miles) south of Prague or 225 km (140 miles) northwest of Vienna. It is one of the most delightful medieval towns in Europe.


A view of the old town of Český Krumlov from the Krumlov Castle tower. The Church of St. Vitus dominates the skyline.

Although there have been various settlements in the area going back to 100 BCE, the town and castle we now see were founded in the 13th century. The town was under Communist rule after World War II, and since there was no money to modernize the town, it was (thankfully) preserved for today’s tourist.


A small square in Český Krumlov.


Street scene in Český Krumlov.


The Vltava River encompasses the old town, with the Castle and tower providing a scenic backdrop.

The Vltava river makes a u-shaped bend as it winds through the town, providing scenic views and foot bridges from almost every point, in addition to being a major venue for canoeing and rafting. The town is considered the Czech answer to picturesque Rothenburg, Germany. The major sight, besides the town itself, is the majestic castle (see featured image at top of post) and the adjacent Baroque Theater sitting on the hill above the town.


A courtyard at Krumlov Castle. You can climb the tower for good views of the town.


The Krumlov Castle entrance. No photos were allowed inside the Castle.

Our hotel (Maleho Vitka) in the center of the old town was like Middle Earth (from The Hobbit), with winding corridors, unique “woodsy” rooms and furniture.

Kutná Hora and Sedlec Bone Church

Kutná Hora is about 64 km (40 miles) east of Prague and is considered a “typical” Czech city, not high on the tourist circuit. Its economy centuries ago was based on its silver mine.


View of Kutná Hora town.


The pointy roof of St. Barbara’s Cathedral in the background. The Cathedral was founded in 1388 and has original frescoes inside.

Other than seeing the Cathedral of St. Barbara, our main reason for visiting Kutná Hora was to go to the Sedlec Bone Church. Sedlec is a little town just a mile outside Kutná Hora.


The exterior of Sedlec Bone Church.

If you like seeing human bones in about every imaginable configuration, this is your place. The bones of about 40,000 people rest here.


The Sedlec Bone Church chandelier – it includes every bone in the human body.


Another unique configuration of bones.


Lots of skulls and bones in every recess of the Church.

The plagues and wars of Middle Ages took their toll on the population and provided the “decorative” materials displayed by the monks in creative fashion throughout the church.