There is something beautifully haunting about a sleeping city, especially one as blessed with as much character as Prague. When the tourists rest, and partygoers flock to the central bars and clubs, the bustling fairytale city closes it’s eyes, and dreams. If you venture out into the city in the early hours, you will find yourself walking through a slumbering city. Dreams of Brothers Grimm, and the majesty of the Austro Hungarian Empire, silently come to life. let your imagination free, as you explore the deserted alleways, bridges, cathedrals and castles. Not as one of hundreds, but as a solo explorer. See a different side to the city. See nocturnal Prague.
So let me take you on a night walk, and show you what awaits, if you step out into the sleeping city.
We begin our walk at Vysehrad Castle. I’ve chosen this as our starting point, because Vysehrad cemetery closes at night.
We are the last to enter (I literally was, and was almost locked in overnight). The amazing collection of artistic graves, from Art Nouveau sculptures to communist monoliths and even a metal cob web, sit eerily under the imposing spires of the castle. A park surrounds the castle and cemetery, and at night this is lit by rows of ornate lamps, which give it the strange feeling of being both open and closed. It’s as if you’ve sneaked in, for a secret look – a private view of an amazing castle.
Now we take a metro to the centre of Prague. Though Wenceslas Square will certainly not be empty, it rarely is, it’s a convenient place from which to continue our exploration. The trams and metro stops converge near an old tram carriage that is now used as a cafe. There are also many impressive buildings on route from Wencelas Square to our next stop – Mala Strana. These include Kavarna Adria and the Národní Divadlo.
To get to Mala Strana we cross the Vltava river, by the Most Legii bridge, which offers some incredible night views of Charles Bridge and the Castle. Mala Strana (or Little Quarter) is one of the most beautiful areas of Prague, and in the early hours it’s fairly, to almost entirely deserted, and lit up just for you. From the Western side of the Most Legii bridge, we head North towards the castle.
Now we head up the hill behind the impressive St. Nicholas Church. These streets, usually teeming with tourists during the day time, have now fallen still. You have the feeling you’ve accidentally walked onto a closed film set. Get lost in the bohemian alleyways. Explore. Then, directed by lamplight, slowly make your way up to the back of the castle. From there you have an amazing view of the sleeping city all to yourself.
Like a fairytale character, retrace your steps back through the maze of streets, towards the river. Now we head North even further. Our destination is the front entrance to Prague Castle. The entrance is a stairway which leads up the hill. Usually you have to dodge tourists on your way up to the castle, but now there is a good chance you will be making the climb totally alone. Though the castle itself is closed at night, once you reach the top of the stairway and the main entrance, you will be met by another impressive view of Prague, and again, you will have it all to yourself.
We now make our way to Charles Bridge. Because the bridge is so popular, you will probably find a few tourist still strolling across it, but compared to the daytime, the bridge feels much more personal, still and special.
From Charles Bridge we head to the Old Town Square. Again, there will be the odd people still taking in the sights, but the beauty of the lamplit architecture of both the Square and the nearby Jewish Quarter are worth a look. The city feels like it’s yours – your own personal viewing of a public gallery.
Finally, we make our way to Namesti Republiky. On route we pass some incredible Art Nouveau buildings and the Powder Tower – a medieval looking tower, which stands imposingly next to our ultimate destination.
We end our night walk at the Municipal House. This building is one of the most stunning in Prague. A massive Art Nouveau concert hall. At night it’s architectural design is lit up, enhancing its beauty.
So while you wait for your tram, from the nearby metro stop, look upon the Municipal House, and think on your nocturnal exploration. From an artistic cemetery, to castles, to fairytale streets, to incredible views, to lamplit Art Nouveau wonders, you have just experienced the other side of Prague. A city’s dream. Good night.
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