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While the days of bargain travel prices might be over in Prague, it’s currency as a tourist destination keeps rising more than 20 years after the Velvet Revolution and the fall of communisim. Aside from rising prices the sheer number of tourists in the streets of Prague during high season can make it difficult to get around and almost obscure the breathtaking beauty of some of the views on offer. Early spring is the ideal time to visit if you want to avoid the masses. It will be a little colder but walking over Charles Bridge in relative quiet more than makes up for it. Here’s our top 10 things to do when you visit Prague.

1. Prague Castle

Prague Castle, founded in 870 AD, is the largest medieval castle in Europe. The castle was the ancient seat of Czech kings for centuries, and is now the seat of the President of the Czech Republic. The Prague Castle complex comprises three courtyards and a great many buildings. Destructive wars and fires (and the subsequent renovations), along with differing political forces have combined to create an intriguing mix of palaces, great halls, churches and fortifications spread over 18 acres.

2. Charles Bridge

It is well worth getting up early to experience sunrise on Charles Bridge. This magnificent stone bridge has been linking the two sides of Prague since the 14th century and today is still the main pedestrian route connecting Old Town with the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Prague Castle.

3. The Old Town Square and The Astronomical Clock

Dating from the 12th century, the Old Town Square started life as the central marketplace for Prague. Over the centuries buildings of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles were erected around the market and these imposing facades still make an impact today. The Astronomical Clock, built in to one side of the Old Town Hall Tower, dates from the 15th century and is well worth stopping by on the hour.

4. The Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Its torrid history dates back to the 13th century, when the Jewish community in Prague were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in one area. Again the very special atmosphere of the area is best experienced when the city is quieter.

5. Wenceslas Square

Part of the historic center of Prague and a World Heritage site also is the magnificent broad avenue which is Wenceslas Square. Starting out originally as a Horse market Wenceslas Square is now a vibrant area of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs.

If you decide to stay in a 5* hotel for your city break it often involves a compromise. To create the seclusion and luxury essential to a high end hotel experience hotels are often forced to look outside the bustling centre and for you, the guest, this means that location suffers.

The Iron Gate Hotel and Suites in Prague have managed to combine all the elements of a 5* experience just a 3 minute walk from the Old Town Square putting you right at the heart of the city.
Prague is a city of history and immediately on entering the old stone arch doorway of this hotel you feel like you are becoming a part of that history. The rooms and suites are a real treat for anyone who appreciates that feeling with original frescos exposed on the walls and painted wooden ceilings from the 1500’s discovered in the recent renovations. But even if history is not your thing these beautiful suites are a treat.

No expense has been spared in the latest refurbishment and the attention to detail throughout adds to the overall feeling of luxury. The private inner court yard where breakfast is served in the morning and refreshments can be enjoyed throughout the day completes the atmosphere of secluded luxury. This is truly one of the hidden gems of Prague.

Essentials

Rooms43 rooms and suites
Rates From €130 per person
Check out 12pm check in 2pm
Facilities Bathrobes & Slippers, DVD players, WI-FI, Tea and coffee making facilities, Minibar, ETRO designer toiletries
Also The Tower Suite is a unique experience. 71 sqm over 3 floors with spiral staircase, private outdoor terrace and double Jacuzzi.

www.irongate.cz

 

Bali

7 nights at the 5* Bali Hyatt Resort on a B&B basis from €869 + €431 tax. Prices are based on 2 sharing a Garden Room, flying from Dublin, Cork or Shannon with Malaysia Airlines via London between September 16th and December 11th. Upgrade to an Ocean View Room from €70pppw.

www.classicresorts.ie

Las Vegas

4 nights at the 5* Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas from €859. You will be staying in a “Terrace One” room with sliding doors opening to a spacious private terrace with a deep Japenese soaking tub. Price includes return flights from Dublin to Las Vegas with US Airways and all taxes and charges.

www.trailfinders.ie

Cuba

10 nights all inclusive Havana and Beach combination from €1,299. Spend 3 nights at the Hotel Nacional in the capital city Havana before heading to the white sand beaches of the all inclusive Breezes Varedero Hotel for 7 nights of relaxation. Flights are from Dublin or Cork with Virgin Atlantic.

www.tropicalsky.ie

Mexico

7 nights on an all inclusive basis staying at the Dreams Puerto Aventuras in Cancun from €1,169 (based on 2 sharing). Price includes return flights and all taxes and charges.

www.touramerica.ie

Prague, Vienna & Budapest

Experience the breathtaking Bohemian capital of Prague,
Vienna the beautiful Pearl of the Danube and Budapest the great Imperial capital of the Hapsburg Empire on this 8 day tour from €795 per person. All accommodation (4* hotels), flights and transfers included. Departure  dates August 10th and August 25th.

www.travelbroker.ie

Greek Islands Cruise

7 night Greek Isles and Turkey fly cruise departing October Bank Holiday weekend from €679 per person. Fly Aer Lingus Dublin to Venice and enjoys ports of call including Corfu, Santorini and Olympia in Greece and Ephesus and Kusadasi in Turkey.

www.etravel.ie

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

The Pantheon is the best-preserved Roman building in Rome and was built as a temple to all gods in Ancient Rome. The current building is actually a reconstruction of the first temple which existed here. Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church (and yes, masses are still held here on important Catholic holidays).

One of the most interesting features of the building is the central opening called the Great Eye. When the Pantheon was used as a temple, the fire inside the temple would create smoke which escaped through the opening. Today it is the only light source in the building.

Schonbrunn Gardens, Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. For decades it has been a very popular tourist destination for those visiting Vienna. Only the Gardens can be visited for free and they are worth some hours of your time.

The gates open at 6 a.m (or 6:30 a.m. during winter) and close between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., depending on the season. If you arrive by metro you’ll probably enter the grounds via the Zoo gate, while if you come by tram, you can enter the grounds via the main gate.

The Privy Garden is located between the palace and the Gloriette (on top of the hill). In between those, there’s Neptune Fountain. The western parts of the grounds have been turned into an English Garden. On both sides of the Privy Garden there are 32 sculptures. Generally speaking, unless you enter a building, the maze, the Zoo, or climb up to see the views from the Gloriette, you don’t need to pay anything.

It’s pretty much impossible to see all the parts of the Gardens during one day. It gets very hot during summer so make sure to bring enough water (you have to enter to Zoo to get to the mini-shops, so that’s not exactly a good idea) and good walking shoes. It’s pretty easy to climb the hill to the Gloriette and the views are magnificent, even if you don’t go up on the viewing deck.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Paris is filled with incredible places to visit, and Notre Dame is one of those iconic landmarks we all have learned about at some point during our school years.

The beautiful Gothic Cathedral is located on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité. It was the first building in the world to use the flying buttress, although it was not originally designed to use them. The construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345.

Just like visiting any other Roman Catholic or Orthodox cathedral, make sure to dress accordingly (or how they put it on the official web site “show a respectful attitude, through both their behaviour and their clothing”).

The Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany

Once the barrier dividing West and East Berlin, the Berlin Wall is an important part of the German history. The wall fell on November 9, 1989 after a series of protests. Right after the fall, the government opened ten new border crossings and visa-free travel was allowed starting on December 23, 1989. In the summer of 1990 the official dismantling of the Wall began.

Today, only some sections of the walls exist as memorials, and nearly all of the original wall is gone. The longest remaining stretch is the East Side Gallery, which is now considered an open-air museum. There are also sections of the wall along with their histories located in the busy Alexanderplatz area.

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

The Charles Bridge is one of the most beautiful places and best-known attractions in Prague. And best of all, it’s free. The stone Gothic bridge started its life in 1352. There are towers on each end of the bridge but only one can be climbed. The bridge is lined with 30 statues (most of them are replicas of the originals). Touching the statue of St. John of Nepomuk is believed to bring luck.

The pedestrian bridge is almost always full so if you want to avoid the crowds, plan to walk on the bridge either early in the morning or late at night.

La Rambla and La Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain

The most famous street in Barcelona is, without a doubt, La Rambla. During summer it’s awfully crowded with both locals and tourists but it represents a lovely way to do some people watching and window shopping. The middle part of the street is pedestrian only and at any time during the tourist season it comes to life due to the live performances and the flower market.  There are interesting buildings on both sides of the street and if you want to relax, go to Placa Reial, just off La Rambla. And for a colorful and exotic meal, check out La Boqueria, the iconic street market filled with pretty much anything you might want to buy or eat.

St. Peter’s Basillica, Vatican City

St. Peter’s Basillica is one of the greatest Roman Catholic churches in the entire world. It is also has the largest interior, capable of holding 60,000 people. Catholic tradition holds that the tomb of Saint Peter, one of the Apostles of Jesus, is under the altar of the basillica. Despite popular misconception, St. Peter’s Basillica is not a cathedral (as it is not the seat of a bishop).

There was an old Constantinian basillica on this site since the 4th century and the present building was completed in 1626. It is associated with Michelangelo (the first chapel on the north aisle contains the famous Pietà) and with papacy. There are over 100 tombs within the Basillica, many located beneath the building (including 91 popes).