End to end, Prague’s cozy, small center is just two and a half miles long, ensuring a quick, satisfying reconnaissance of this ancient capital.
In the early dawn, I head straight into its cobbled heart at Old Town Square, where a street cleaner and flitting pigeons (and the cats stalking them) are the only beings I see. I marvel at the splendidly Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, its two signature spires rising majestically toward the sky, and hasten past the famous Astronomical Clock (which celebrated its 600th birthday in 2010). I’ll return later to watch its mechanical dance of apostles that takes place at the top of the hour.
Rays of bronze light highlight the uppermost reaches of buildings sporting a mix of architectural styles, spotlighting such intricate features as Greek mythology figures etched into the plaster of the Renaissance facades, known as sgraffito. There’s no one on the statue-dotted Charles Bridge, unlike yesterday afternoon when I had to maneuver among the hordes.
I spy Prague Castle up on the hillside ahead of me — my destination. Huffing and puffing my way up stone lanes, I finally make it to the top, to a lovely belvedere where I pause, taking in the city far below me and the Vltava River that snakes through it. From my perch, it’s obvious why Prague is called the City of a Thousand Spires — they’re all sparkling below me, set off by the rising sun.
Mileage: 2.91-mile loop
Best time: Early morning
Start: Old Town Square
End: Old Town Square
From Old Town Square, follow Celetna, Jilska, and Karlova to the river.
Cross Charles Bridge (Karluv most) and snake up the hill via Mostecka, Josefska, Letenska, Nerudova, and Ke Hradu.
Return via the stairs on the castle’s east side (Stare zamecke schody).
Turn right on Pod Bruskou/Klarov at the bottom of the hill.
Cross the river on Manesuv Most, then turn left on Dvorakovo nabr., and right on nam. Curieovych/Parizska.
Photo: Pernek Vinko/My Shot