me standing at an almost empty Charles Bridge
Czech Republic

Being a Tourist in Empty Prague

Last summer, when the spring lockdown temporarily lifted, we engaged in a bit of an ‘empty Prague tourism.’ It’s surprising how little I get to see the city’s historical parts — I mostly avoid them because they are full of tourists. Prague is wonderful (so I understand that people want to see it), and the distinctive landmarks like Charles Bridge or Old Town Square are usually packed. And so that’s where we decided to go.

We started our stroll at the beautiful Kampa island. With its maze of tiny streets and an old watermill, it’s one of my favorite places in Prague. We didn’t go as far as the famous Lennon wall, but we enjoyed the poetry booth on the edge of the park instead. This invention is one of the indigenous ideas of Ondrej Kobza, who is also behind the Prague street piano initiative and is always looking for ways to make the city more interesting. Needless to say, I am a fan.

The poetry booth.

From Kampa, we headed to the Charles Bridge. I was curious about how many people would be there — after all, we were not the only ones on the empty city sightseeing bandwagon. As it turned out, it wasn’t completely devoid of explorers like us, but there were very few people.
The Charles Bridge is usually a bustling hub of activity with its sides lined by various stalls and the space between them filled by a mass of people. You can move only at a slow pace here — together with the crowd. I have never seen it as empty as that day.

Charming colorful houses just behind the Old Town Square.

We crossed the Charles Bridge and got to the Old Town Square and its famous astronomical clock. When I was a little child, my parents sometimes took me there to see the renowned moving figurines of the twelves apostles, a display that plays out at the end of every hour. But we always had to stand on our tiptoes in the middle of the crowd to see them.
This time was different. We picked the restaurant directly across the astronomical clock, sat at an outside table, ordered lunch, and waited for the whole spectacle to begin

You never see this place so empty.

I have never ever thought that I would be eating in one of the Old Town Square restaurants. Usually, they are full of tourists, and the prices are astronomical — no pun intended. Today though, the restaurant was half-empty and the prices reasonable. And the food was delicious too! I was glad to find out they served a vegetarian burger, and I can definitely recommend it. If you are interested, the name of the restaurant is El Toro Negro.

We slowly ate our lunch, and then the astronomical clock awakened, and everything suddenly set to motion. The twelve apostles moved behind the little windows, a figure of a skeleton that represents death beckoned at us with its little scythe, and the cockerel that symbolizes life ended the spectacle with its crowing. It was pretty nostalgic because I haven’t been here for a long time.

The astronomical clock.

At the end of our excursion, we decided to visit the main Prague library around the corner from OldTown Square. We had a particular reason for it — in the lobby is a sculpture that I love, and Ben has never seen it before. It is a tower built from old books stretching from the floor to the ceiling. Inside of it are two mirrors that reflect the picture, so when you look inside, you see a book tunnel that stretches into eternity.

An infinity of books!

I never get tired of this sight. Ben was properly amazed. We are a pair of bookworms, so we can never pass on a sight like this. And it was a great conclusion to a well-spent day as tourists in our own city. It was a fun thing to do, and I think we will try to repeat it more often from now on, Covid or not. After all, Prague is a beautiful city, and I should realize more often how lucky I am to live here.

This post was originally published on Medium where it won a micro-adventures travel contest 🙂

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