Family Vacations to Prague, Czech Republic
|Cross the Vltava on the Charles Bridge, stopping along the way to listen to local musicians. (courtesy, Czech Republic Tourism)|
Prague Family Travel Tips
- Explore the Prague Castle.
- Stroll the flower-filled Palace Gardens.
- Linger in cafes in centuries-old squares.
- Visit the oldest Jewish house of prayer in central Europe.
- Listen to concerts in churches, palaces, and other historic structures.
Prague makes it easy to step back centuries in time. Fortunate enough to avoid bombs during World War II, the city showcases more than 900 years of architecture, including Gothic, Baroque, and Cubist buildings. Nicknamed the City of a Hundred Spires, Prague ranks as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, combining sophisticated Old World charm with plenty of post-Communist energy. Explore a castle, stroll historic and trendy neighborhoods, people-watch from café-lined squares, and relish in amazing restaurants and fashionable hotels.
Get a feel for the city on a cruise down the Vltava River. Don't worry that the loudspeaker system makes it hard to understand the guide or that by the time the commentary is in English you've floated way past the site being discussed. Simply enjoy the splendid views of towers, turrets, and grand buildings. Rich in history and short on kid-friendly museums with English explanations, Prague works best for families with older grade-schoolers and teens.
Explore Pražský hrad (Prague Castle), set high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River, but don't push yourself to see every bit of the castle, as that would exhaust most visitors. The castle dates to the ninth century, but much of what you see dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. Highlights for families include the 14th-century Saint Vitus' Cathedral; Vladislav Hall, site of 16th-century jousting tournaments; Golden Lane, a row of one-story, narrow shops built in the 1500s (Franz Kafka lived at number 22 for a few months); and the flower-filled Palace Gardens, especially the South Gardens, with its stunning city views.
Crowded during tourist season, the Karlův most (Charles Bridge) crosses the Vltava, lined with statues of saints and dotted with street musicians playing for tips. Climb the bridge tower for a panoramic view.
Like many European cities, Prague spreads out from a series of centuries-old squares. One of the most beautiful in all of Europethe Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square)began as a marketplace in the 11th century. Bordered by yellow, pink, and green pastel houses, some constructed in the 14th century, the square blooms with outdoor cafes. Pick one and linger. Watching the mechanical figures on the Old Town clock move every hour from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. is a bit overrated, but kids may want to join the gathered throngs.
In Josefov (the Jewish Quarter), many original buildings were destroyed and replaced by Art Noveau structures, but several synagogues survived. The Staronová Synagóga (Old-New Synagogue) dates to around 1270, and is the oldest Jewish house of prayer in central Europe. The Moorish-style Španělská Synagóga (Spanish Synagogue) features exhibits on the Jews of Bohemia. A sobering sight, the seemingly endless list of the names of the nearly 80,000 Czech Jews who died at Terezín is inscribed on the walls of the Pinkasova Synagóga (Pinkus Synagogue). The exhibit upstairs has children's drawings from the campmoving images of girls holding hands and flying over beds into green fields. Starý Židovský Hřbitov (Old Jewish Cemetery), the only place Jews could be buried from 1478 to 1787, is a somber place where weathered headstones attest to Prague's centuries-old Jewish community.
End the day with musicin summer, Prague hosts many concerts (mostly classical) in churches, palaces, squares, and the opera house.
From Prague, it's easy to explore Bohemia, a landscape of forests, rivers, and, of course, castles. Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site crowned with a medieval castle, lies about a two-and-a-half to three-hour drive away.
Tip: Depending on your family's interests, take a walking tour focusing on ghosts, Jewish history, architecture, or other topics.
For more information: www.czechtourism.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication