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By Joann Plockova in Prague—
Prague has its share of tours – via shuttle bus, horse drawn carriage, and antique car – but why would you pay top dollar when you can hop on the tram (street car) for just 26 kc? Comprised of 33 lines, Prague’s tram system offers not only a local perspective, but some of the city’s most scenic routes. I encourage you to just jump on any one of the cars and see where the road takes you.
But to get you started, let’s take a ride on the #22 – an excellent route that takes you past some of Prague’s most renowned landmarks.
And we’re off!
Tram 22 runs from Nádraží Hostivar to Bílá Hora. You’ll be headed in the direction of the latter and will catch the tram running on the same side of the street as the square, Námestí Míru, which is also the name of the stop where you’ll begin the journey. Peace square (as the name translates) is just outside the main center, but you will start off in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods – Vinohrady.
Also the site of a metro station, Námestí Míru is dominated by the twin-towered, Neo-Gothic St. Ludmila church and during the holidays hosts one of Prague’s most well adored Christmas markets.
From Námestí Míru, the next stops are I.P. Pavlova and Štepánská. As you’re headed to the following stop, Karlovo Námestí, look out on the left side (on the corner just before the rectangular green square) for the beautiful Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, built in the 1600’s.
Once past it, look straight ahead and way down the street toward the left corner and you’ll catch a glimpse of the famous Frank Gehry building, The Dancing House.
You’ll then turn the corner and head toward the stop Národní trída. The one after it, Národní Divadlo, is named after one of Prague’s most renowned landmarks: The National Theater. Located directly on your left at the stop, look up at the gold railings on its domed roof, the triga or three-horse chariot and other sculptures. Just before heading over the bridge, look on the right corner for Café Slavia, one of the city’s most famous gathering places, attracting artists and intellectuals since the late 1800’s.
Over the bridge and into the picturesque Lesser Town
As you head over the bridge, hold you’re breath- the view of Prague’s most photographed scene – Prague Castle on the hill and the Charles Bridge just below it – will take it away. You’ll also pass over one of Prague’s many islands, Strelecký ostrov.
At the next stop, “Újezd”, look directly in front of you and you’ll see a series of provocative statues on the stairs. This is the “Memorial to the victims of Communism”. The work of renowned Czech sculptor, Olbram Zoubek and architects Jan Kerel and Zdenek Holzel, the statue symbolizes how political prisoners under the regime were affected.
As you turn the corner, you’ll now be entering one of the city’s most picturesque areas, Malá Strana or Lesser Town. Petrín park will be on your left as will many of the narrow cobblestoned streets that characterize the area.
After the stop “Hellichova” you’ll cross over Tržište street (where many embassies are located). Keep your eyes open now for one of Central Europe’s most shining examples of Baroque architecture, St. Nicholas Church. It’s white stucco and has a huge green dome. It will be in front of you toward the left just before your next stop, Malostranské námestí – one of Prague’s most well known squares.
To the castle
From here, you’re headed toward castle territory. Once through the winding streets, under a short tunnel and onto the next stop, Malostranská (a metro station), look up to your left and you’ll be able to see parts of the castle and its gardens. The two tall, dark spires dominating the skyline are that of Prague’s largest church, St. Vitus cathedral.
But it get’s even better. Headed up the hill with two sharp turns you’ll have a look at one of the city’s best views on your right side. It’s expansive and breathtaking and everything that makes Prague the wondrous city that it is.
Once up top, the backside of Letna park will be on your right and to your left, Villa Bílek – an Art Noveau building designed by architect and Art Noveau and Symbolist sculptor, František Bílek. Designed to serve as his home and studio, today it is a museum that was recently reopened after an extensive renovation.
The next stop, Královský Letohrádek, will sit you beside The Royal Summer Palace (on the left). An excellent example of Renaissance architecture, it’s situated in the Royal Garden and is open to the public when hosting art exhibitions.
Although the tram goes on, our journey will end after heading along the track with grass on both sides, toward our final destination, Pražský hrad, Prague Castle. You can of course opt to journey on (there’s more treasures up ahead) or you can cross the street and take to your feet through the castle grounds and down into Lesser Town.
Additional tram recommendations to consider: tram 3, tram 17 and historic tram 91 (runs from March through November).