Are you looking a free Prague walking tour? What about a walking guide that explores the quieter areas of the city? You are in luck!
Phyllis Rose, who previously took us on a delightful 24-hour Budapest adventure, shares her tips for a Prague self-guided walking tour. History and music fans will be especially pleased with these touring ideas.
Lace up your comfortable walking shoes, grab your Streetwise Prague map and head out for a two-day Prague self guided walking tour. This easy ramble provides respite from the crowds surging across the Charles Bridge and swarming around the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square.
With this slow-paced Prague walking guide, you’ll have ample time to absorb the history, dine in a cozy eatery, or shop for Czech crystal or a souvenir magnet.
Day One of a Prague walking tour itinerary
Today’s Prague itinerary is all about classical music, beautiful art and WWII history.
Start the walking tour at the Klementinum, located near the Charles Bridge. It is a large complex founded by Jesuits in 1556. Despite its size, the Klementinum is easy to miss unless you stop and talk to the touts selling tickets to concerts in the Mirror Chapel.
That’s what I did because being there in December, I thought hearing a classical music concert in a Baroque chapel would be the perfect holiday event. I bought a ticket and then noticed that tours were offered of Klementinum’s Baroque Library and Astronomical Tower. I made a note to take the tour.
Attend a classical music concert at the Klementinum
Seated in the balcony at the concert, I had a bird’s eye view of the lovely chapel built in 1725. Baroque ceiling mirrors give the chapel its name. The interior also features frescoes, marble paneling and two Baroque organs, once played by Mozart.
The concert, performed by members of the Dvorak Symphony Orchestra, included soloists singing holiday standards such as “O, Holy Night” and a five member instrumental group performing classical selections from Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi.
Take a guided tour of Klementinum
The guided tour of Klementinum was a fascinating treat on my Prague walking tour itinerary. Climbing a circular stairway, we arrived at the Baroque library.
Visitors are not allowed inside the library. From a viewing area, we gazed into an exquisite library, opened in 1722, which houses 20,000 theological books. Ceiling frescoes and portraits of saints decorate this ornate room. In the center of the library is a row of large ancient globes created by the Jesuits.
Climbing more stairs to the next level, we stopped in the Meridian Hall where, using a string and a beam of light on the floor, astronomers determined high noon and then waved a flag or shot off a cannon to alert people to the time.
Finally, at the tower’s summit, we stepped out onto the observation deck for panoramic views of the city. I marveled at the crowds teeming across the Charles Bridge, relishing the fact I was far from the madding crowd with a small group of 22 people high above the fray.
Explore art at the Central Gallery
Back on the ground, I shopped my way through the Christmas market on the Old Town Square. Then I spotted a sign on the Central Gallery at the edge of the square.
The sign advertised an exhibition featuring Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Alphonse Mucha. Warhol and Dali I knew, but who was Mucha?
I bought my ticket and soon was immersed in the art of these great artists, learning that Warhol’s family came from the Czech Republic. It turns out that Mucha was also Czech, known for his Art Nouveau style featured in posters for the performances of the actress, Sarah Bernhardt.
I spent a quiet couple of hours fascinated by the art while outside the crowds battled for space in the holiday market.
Continue to the Mucha Museum
I was so entranced by Mucha’s work that I walked to the Mucha Museum. There I watched a video in English of Mucha’s life story.
Born in 1860, Mucha loved art. Commissioned to decorate Count Karl Khuen’s castle, Mucha so impressed the count with his work that he paid for Mucha to attend art school in Munich.
Mucha also studied in Paris where he volunteered to produce a poster for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt. Bernhardt was so taken with the poster she hired him to produce her posters.
Mucha also created other art work including jewelry and theater sets. However, what he considered his masterpiece was “The Slav Epic,” 20 large paintings depicting Czech history. Unfortunately, this series is not in the Mucha Museum.
However you can see more of Mucha’s posters, his desk and easel and other large scale paintings in the museum. Of note is “Winter Night” depicting a peasant woman sitting in the snow with a star in the sky behind her.
I will always be grateful to the Central Gallery for introducing me to Mucha’s beautiful works.
Learn WWII history at St. Cyril and Methodius Church
World War II history buffs should visit the St. Cyril and Methodius Church. To get there, walk back towards the Charles Bridge and before crossing, turn left.
Walk along the Vltava River until you see the Dancing House, often called “Fred and Ginger,” as in the dancing partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The building has two towers, the curved tower looks like Ginger in her flowing evening gown dancing with Fred, represented by the straight tower.
Turn left at the Dancing House and in a couple of blocks, you’ll find the church and learn its role in the aftermath of the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi ruler of Czechoslovakia. Two Czech paratroopers who carried out the assassination took refuge in the church along with their accomplices.
Eventually, the paratroopers were betrayed and the Germans trapped them in the church’s crypt. Realizing there was no way out, they committed suicide.
Today, the church’s crypt has a moving memorial dedicated to these men who fought against Nazi tyranny. Each man is honored with a bust and information about his life.
Boomer Travel Tip
Do you enjoy exploring a city on foot? Check out our city walking tour articles before your next trip.
Day Two of a free Prague walking tour
Today, you’ll explore more churches, see the Infant Jesus, and climb a hill for a birds eye view of Prague.
Admire St. Nicholas Church
Begin Day Two of the walking tour by crossing the Charles Bridge in the direction of Prague Castle. Coming off the bridge, continue on until you see the St. Nicholas Church. Even though an entrance fee is charged, this eighteenth century Baroque church is well worth the price.
Sit and savor all the frescoes, statues, and the organ with 4,000 pipes. Imagine Mozart playing the organ as he did in 1787 on a visit to Prague.
Meet The Infant Jesus at Church of Our Lady Victorious
From the St. Nicholas Church, find Ujzed Street, just behind the church. Head down this street to The Church of Our Lady Victorious and The Infant Jesus, which dates from the 1600s. Although built by Lutherans as the Church of the Holy Trinity, after the Catholic victory at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, it became a Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady Victorious in gratitude for the White Mountain victory.
Centered in the altar is an 18-inch statue of Baby Jesus made of wood and covered with wax. Created in Spain in the sixteenth century, it was eventually brought to Prague and given to the monks at the Church of Our Lady Victorious.
Several miracles are credited to the statue including saving the city from a Swedish siege. In 1776, a special altar was built for the statue.
The Infant Jesus is dressed in various elegant robes corresponding to the liturgical season. The statue has about 100 robes, which can be seen in the church’s museum. Exquisitely adorned with jewels and gold embroidery, the robes have been donated by people such as Empress Maria Theresa in 1754 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
Admire the view from Petrin Hill and the Petrin Lookout Tower
Leaving the church, turn right and continue down the street to the funicular. Purchase your ticket from the machines in the entrance hall, board the train, and soon you’ll be at the top of Petrin Hill.
At the top, make your way to the Petrin Lookout Tower, a 208-foot Eiffel Tower replica from 1891. Members of the Club of Czech Tourists visited Paris in 1889 for the world exposition. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, they returned to Prague, collected money, and built their own tower.
Today, you can climb the 299 steps to the observation deck or you can squeeze into the six-person elevator. At the top, you’ll have wonderful panoramic views over the city.
Before leaving the Tower, stop in the cafe for a snack and peruse the items available in the gift shop. Downstairs near the restrooms is an exhibit explaining the tower’s history.
This is the end of our two-day Prague free walking tour. Having experienced the quiet side of the city, you’ll better understand why author and Prague native Franz Kafka said, “Prague never lets you go
. . .This dear little mother has sharp claws.”