The Jewel of the Czech Republic, Prague, is a wonder of culture and beauty that continues to draw visitors from all over the world. It also happens to be one of the most photographic cities on the planet, from the ancient Prague Castle lurking over the city to the famous red-roofed buildings the Bohemian masterpiece is known for. For photographers of any level, here is a guide to finding some lesser known vantage points and making the most out of the city’s must-see staples.
Ins and Outs of the Prague Castle Complex
Dating all the way back to the 9th century, Prague Castle is a building of enormous importance throughout the country and is a beautiful sample of Gothic architecture that naturally draws millions of cameras a year. From its perch atop a hill on the left bank of the Vltava River, it’s also a site that can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. Capturing the nearly as famous Charles Bridge in the foreground with Prague Castle in the background from across the river has become a favorite of postcards and travel sites, yet you can get other striking photos of the castle from a wealth of other spots around the city.
A terrific place to start would be the restaurant Bellavista, which has a tremendous balcony that provides panoramic views of the cityscape and Prague Castle. As the biggest surviving ancient castle complex in the world, Prague Castle also offers plenty of other terrific visuals once you get closer, including other famous ancient buildings like Saint Vitus Cathedral. The famous Gothic towers at the heart of the castle complex are actually a part of Saint Vitus Cathedral, which has been a crucial component of the city for more than 600 years and showcases Art Nouveau stained-glass windows as well as other unique artwork.
The white towers and red roof of Basilica of St. George offer another great photo opportunity and the complex has a series of exquisite sculptures, gardens, and halls that provide a glimpse into the rich history of the city. With its terrific lighting, Prague Castle is also an ideal location for a night shoot, giving you reason enough to turn your lens towards Prague Castle during more than one time of the day for a little variety.
Old Town Square
Even if Old Town Square is one of the busiest parts of the city, it’s an absolute must-see for first-timers and offers a range of photographic possibilities. The Baroque-based St. Nicholas Church and Gothic Tyn Cathedral both provide additional glances into the city’s past, although the scene is also likely to be packed with street musicians, dance troupes, and vendors to give it a vibrant modern-day feel. Even if you may not want to spend all day in Old Town Square, popping in for a bite to eat and to line-up a few shots is a great way to experience another famous part of Prague.
It’s almost unthinkable to go to Prague and not cross over Charles Bridge, as the 14th-century cobblestoned masterwork is a visual wonder that offers tremendous views and spectacular photos ops. The lines of Baroque statues have become famous symbols of the bridge but it can simply be a great way to see the splendor of the river while skipping over to the other side. Being on the bridge itself is also just the beginning, as many of the best shots of Charles Bridge (and of Prague in general) can be found on either bank looking up at the 16 arches that compose the bridge. While Charles Bridge can be particularly beautiful and peaceful near dawn, it’s collaboration with the Vltava River makes it a photographic marvel around sunset as well. If you get lucky enough to have clear skies and a little moonlight, a photographer will also be in for a treat.
Other Spots Worth Checking Out
Although it won’t take too long, dropping by the Prague astronomical clock (located in Old Town Square) can yield some great photos, particularly for those who can’t get enough of the medieval theme. The clock is also famous for being shrouded in mystery for centuries, as it wasn’t until 1961 that historians figured out that it was Mikulas of Kadan who built it all the way back in 1410.
Vysehrad Castle is another ancient structure that dates back nearly a millennium and provides some exciting photo opportunities. While visitors pack into the Prague Castle complex, you’ll have much more room to shoot the famous building called “Castle on the Heights” by the locals. Not only is the structure itself impressive, some of the best cityscape and river shots of Prague can be found from Vysehrad, particularly from the Gothic-infused Libuses’s Baths.
For anyone looking for a little more of a modern vibe, the quirky–and somewhat controversial–Dancing House is one of the most unique buildings in the city, as it was designed in the 1990s and resembles something out of a Dr. Seuss daydream. The acclaimed Ginger & Fred Restaurant that sits on the top floor of the building yields spectacular views of the entire region and is generally considered one of the best restaurants in Prague.
Meanwhile, the graffiti-caked John Lennon Wall in Mala Strana pays homage to the famous Beatle, who was a hero in the region despite his music being banned until the fall of the Soviet Union. Tucked directly next to Charles Bridge, the wall was a gathering point for pro-democracy protestors throughout the 1980s and has since become a colorful symbol of peaceful protesting as well as one of the most unique spots in the city.