36 Hours in Prague: St. Wenceslas

By: Savannah Peat

If the city of Prague is ever in great peril, an unforgettable king will come to its defense. This king and patron of the Czech lands, St. Wenceslas, however, takes the form of a statue.

Homage to St. Wenceslas’ magic and legends can be seen throughout the city’s cobblestone streets and spired buildings. To understand why a king who died nearly 1,100 years ago remains so mystical, come explore his legend and walk in his footsteps for 36 hours.

DAY ONE

10 AM-  Go big or go home: Prague Castle

Address: 119 08 Prague 1

The sun rises early during Prague’s summers, but the day is long — so it’s best to load up on sleep and a filling breakfast. Depending on the location, you’ll find an extensive, traditional Czech lineup in hotels or local cafes. This means rows of varied cheeses, meats, baguettes and veggies (not, typically, pancakes and hash browns).

Once you leave your chosen hostel or hotel, you should be bursting with energy for the day ahead — a day filled with lands blessed by St. Wenceslas.

This royal tour doesn’t get more magnificent than a start at Prague Castle- the largest castle complex in the world.

Prague Castle, the most important Czech castle.

If you’d prefer a guided tour of the ecclesiastical facility, the Discover Prague Office offers tram transport and a jubilated tour guide for about three hours. The castle itself also provides options to buy passes for certain areas of the castle. They tend to be a bit more pricey and give you access to smaller sections to see, because once you get through security, the castle grounds are fairly easy to navigate for free as your own tour guide. History buff or not, the castle showcases a stunning gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture. St. Vitus Cathedral, the iconic symbol of the Castle District — which appears to be a nothing short of a castle itself — reigns above the rest.

Wenceslas comes into play specifically in this religious catalyst.

The man of our 36-hours was Duke of Bohemia from 907 until 935 and led his life devoted to Christianity due to his grandmother, St. Ludimila. This female saint raised Wenceslas and taught him Christianity after his father’s death, which did not make Wenceslas’ mother too happy.

It was this devotion that got Ludimila assassinated by Wenceslas’ mother, and Wenceslas murdered by his brother, Boleslaus the Cruel. His death for Christianity is what made the famous protector a king and eventually, a saint.

“I’m kind of hoping for the same thing, personally,” Prague Castle tour guide Kevin Garland joked.

His religious impact is also evident in the fact that architects rushed to complete St. Vitus Cathedral by the early 1930s in honor of his death in 935, even though the cathedral’s construction already had been ongoing for centuries, according to Garland.

The cathedral contains Wenceslas’ grave and his own chapel, which although not possible to enter, is made up of lines of gold and 1300 breathtaking Bohemian jewels. These jewels cover not only every wall and corner of the room, but a door with seven locks. Behind this lies the sacred Coronation Chamber — home to the Crown Jewels of the Czech Republic.

Sessions of mass are even still held in the Wenceslas chapel, but only on Sep. 28 — St. Wenceslas Day.

Each intricate detail of the castle contains such careful construction, the Castle District will take up a large portion of your day without a second thought.

1 PM : Nothing to “wine” about- Villa Richter Restaurant

Address: 257219089, Old Castle Stairs 251/6, 118 00 Praha 1

After walking 70,000 square meters, your feet most likely will need a break and your stomach will need some grub.

View from the Villa Richter restaurant

If you’re attempting to scout the perfect restaurant, don’t walk any further than the exit down the old castle stairs. While gawking at the unmatchable views of the Prague skyline, you’ll encounter a noticeable gap in the wall on your left. Here, is the worthwhile Villa Richter restaurant, with a St. Wenceslas special. An upwards, ancient staircase will eventually take you to a restaurant surrounded by rows of vineyards founded by none other than St. Wenceslas himself.  Tenth century history shows the patron saint chose and tended to this area known as “the Lord’s vineyard.” In 2008, the now hidden gem was renovated into a post-modern, chic restaurant in honor of Wenceslas’ 1100th birthday. Now, the menu serves a variety of delectable cuisine and Czech wines grown only inches from your nose.

3 PM : Bridge the gap: Charles Bridge

Address: Charles Bridge, 110 00 Prague 1

After eating a meal fit for a king, it’s time to walk it all off as you venture away from the castle.

To get to the other, alluring part of Prague, avoid the metro and stroll along the scenic route via the Charles Bridge. The ancient bridge has had wearing years of renaming and reconstruction due to flooding. What was once built out of wood and called the Prague Bridge in 1402 now holds steady for today’s waves of tourists.

St. Wenceslas gazes down at the thousands of people who cross beneath him in two statues: as a youth with St. Ludmila and farther down the bridge, perched next to two other saints.

L to R: St. Norbert, St. Wenceslas, St. Sigismund

While studying the saint and his neighboring statues lining the bridge, it’s impossible to not snap a few pictures of the crystal blue water flowing beneath the bridge or the long rows of striking buildings on either side of the river. Every few feet on the bridge, you’ll meet painters, sculptors and vendors anxious to meet you and sell their products. Yes, some of the items are authentic and stunningly unique, but be wary of scams and potential pickpockets — the distractingly beautiful view can be a prime opportunity for theft.

4 PM : Don’t be a square: St. Wenceslas Square

Address: Wenceslas Square, 110 00 Prague 1-New Town

If you’re more interested in a commercial scene or wish to continue combining history with activity, St. Wenceslas Square is the next stop on the royal route.

Here, the heart of the city, resembles New York’s many stores and cafes, while mirroring the Washington Mall’s hub for political gatherings.

The square, mounted by St. Wenceslas’ most noteworthy statue, puts past and present together. Here, you can walk where citizens were forced to swear allegiance to the German empire and where 250,000 gathered to protest the Communist regime.

Although these events were during intense times, they apparently did not qualify as extreme enough for Wenceslas to intervene. According to Garland, the triumphant statue of St. Wenceslas will not be alone in his , if it ever comes to that — an army in the mountains of Blanik also will come to life and defend the city.

You could pitch a tent and wait for Wenceslas to wake up, or you could wind through the plethora of shops and get your fair share of Czech souvenirs.

7 PM :Keep your night the right side up: Lucerna Palace

Address: Štěpánská 61, 116 02 Prague 1-New Town

It’s time to freshen up, pull on a cocktail dress or suit, and head back out for a night in luxury — but don’t abandon comfortable shoes.

The sun is just starting to trickle down over the horizon, but an early night in a city which thrives on nightlife would be a disappointment to your potential experiences and to St. Wenceslas. Besides, a literal palace awaits.

That’s right, closer to Wenceslas square lies the Lucerna Palace, a flourishing multipurpose building with everything you need for an extravagant, exciting evening.

Within the palace is not only The Great Hall, a refined ballroom with traces of the 1920s, but also a movie theatre, dinner, art gallery and music bar. Amidst an abundance of activities, hangs the same saint who continues to motivate your time in Prague.

Černy’s take on St. Wenceslas

At first glance, the statue of Wenceslas rides upon the same chiseled horse you saw in the square. But a closer glance reveals the noble steed is upside down. The artist behind it, David Černy, is infamous for his mocking artistry, so locals believe it is a nod against the statue in the square and those in power, but he has never confirmed that suspicion. With a drink in your hand and soft piano from the palace ringing in the background, the parody’s purpose is a thought to ponder.

 

DAY TWO

11 AM : Brunch fit for a king: St. Wenceslas Café

Address: Wenceslas Square 821/39, 110 00 Praha 1

Rise and shine: It’s time for traditional goulash and a mid-morning cocktail. For your last day, skip the hotel breakfast and get your brunch on at St. Wenceslas Café, located (you guessed it) just off of St. Wenceslas Square.

Whether you eat inside and admire medieval paintings and statues of Wenceslas, or relax outside under a bright yellow umbrella, you’re in for great drinks and traditional Czech cuisine.

One of the many Czech cuisine options at St. Wenceslas Café

The restaurant dedicates itself to Wenceslas due to his reputation as a ruler and his importance to Czech statehood. Although there isn’t as intriguing a history behind the café, multiple celebrities have graced St. Wenceslas Café, such as former Czech President Václav Klaus, the second President of the Republic. Besides, do you really need that grand of an excuse for a delicious meal while in Prague?

1 PM : Above and beyond: Vyšehrad

Address: The Fortress 159 / 5b, 128 00 Praha 2

One final, unparalleled view awaits before you leave the saint-blessed city.

This spectacle is at Vyšehrad, the nearby, quaint settlement said to be the oldest seat of Czech princes. The best way to get to the hilly, grass-covered spot is to ride the metro to the Vyšehrad stop- a pretty easy way to remember where you’re going.

Once you arrive, a short scenic walk will take you through half-mile of flowers and cafés before you reach the stone 11th century building Rotunda of St. Martin, or Sts. Peter and Paul’s neo-gothic church.

While you take in the fresh air, you’ll cross aisles of statues and miniature parks — a picturesque stop for a post-brunch coffee or iced tea. Among these is your final statue of St. Wenceslas straddling his horse. You’ve seen a fair bit of these at this point, but one last view serves as a reminder of who overlooks the city you’ve strolled all through.

Prague is a remarkable city for all who drop in, but its mystical energy is even more profound when journeyed through the path of a man, duke, king and saint.

View of Prague from Vyšehrad