Prague with Kids: A Bird’s Eye View
Prague is known as the “Golden City of a Hundred Spires”. Seeing it from above makes that nickname even more evident. Our first activity in Prague was cruising the Vltava River as an orientation. But, we also like to see a city from above for another perspective. We decided to climb the 287 spiral steps to the top of Prague’s most dominant spire – St. Vitus Cathedral. We saw more than a panoramic view of one of the most scenic cities we’ve ever visited.
St. Vitus Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece and the largest church in the Czech Republic. I had never heard of St. Vitus but have since found out that he was a Sicilian martyr who is the patron saint of Bohemia, dancers, comedians and actors. The cathedral is located inside the Prague castle complex along with museums, galleries, churches and the seat of the country’s president. It is Prague’s top attraction so expect crowds during busy tourist season.
Construction of the cathedral started in 1344. But, due to many circumstances like architects dying, wars, and fires, the cathedral was finally completed in 1929. It took almost 600 years to complete but what a magnificent piece of architecture inside and out.
The tallest of St. Vitus’ towers is the clock and bell tower at 96.5 m (317 feet) and where the lookout gallery was located. This was also known as the Great South Tower. Looking up, 287 steps suddenly felt so daunting.
My kids raced ahead of us to the top counting the steps to make sure there really were 287. You know, in case all the other tourists and officials miscounted. They had so much energy and were so enthusiastic about going up. It really does help to do strenuous activities in the morning after a hearty breakfast. Or maybe it was all the nutella and syrup from breakfast that fueled all that.
The steps were narrow, winding and seemed to go on endlessly. It was also enclosed in tight spaces with a couple of windows in between. This may not be a good idea for anyone suffering from claustrophobia. I was just glad there were no outdoor staircases to climb like we did in Copenhagen. I can imagine it could get pretty crowded here. We didn’t pass anyone going up but did have to step aside for people as we went down.
Along the way we caught a glimpse of the largest church bell in the Czech Republic known as Zikmund. The bell weighs 15 tons and was built in 1549. It takes six people to work the bell with four of them swinging the bell and the other two to control the clapper (the tongue hanging from the bell’s center used to strike it).
We visited a few minutes after the tower opened at 10AM and had the lookout gallery to ourselves and another couple while the Prague castle complex and courtyard was filling up below.
The view from the top was truly spectacular. Red roofs and spires were everywhere.
Prague is one of Europe’s best preserved cities since it wasn’t heavily damaged during the wars. Walking its cobblestoned streets almost felt like stepping into the pages of a fairy tale town.
We got lucky. It was such a nice and sunny summer morning in Prague during our visit and we were able to see much of the impressive architecture and colorful buildings.
We loved seeing the hustle and bustle of the city and the Prague castle complex below.
The kids particularly liked watching all the people below and enjoyed the feeling of being so high up.
Petrin Observation Tower was created as a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower. It was built in 1891 for a Jubilee Expedition and is 60 m tall but sits on top of the hill. It’s a great alternative to getting another incredible view of the city which will include Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral in the landscape. Unfortunately, this was as close as we got to Prague’s Eiffel Tower.
We spotted an American flag flying high from a garden pavilion in the middle of lush Petrin Park. This was the Glorietta and part of the terraced gardens behind the American Embassy also known as Schoenborn Palace. These gardens were not open to the public.
Looking down gave us an appreciation of how the Vltava River cuts through the city, its bridges and the wonderful vista surrounding it.
This was the “camera zoom” version of Prague’s popular Charles Bridge. It was already getting crowded with pedestrians and merchants.
We were at eye level with the towers and spires and it was amazing to see the details up close. Visiting these old cathedrals really makes you appreciate what the architects and builders accomplished considering the tools they had back then.
It wouldn’t be a grand old European Cathedral without flying buttresses supporting the towers. Despite the construction in the area, the buttresses behind the cathedral were still striking to see from above.
These circular maps on the walls that showed the landscape and attractions were very helpful.
There was also a seating area inside for those who needed a little break or rest after the climb.
There were bars throughout the lookout tower but were wide enough not to obstruct the views. It helped ease my mind a bit having these bars here especially with an active 7-year-old boy who likes to climb things.
Prague is such a photogenic city rich in history. Seeing it from a birds-eye view will definitely give you a different perspective and even more appreciation of just how beautiful this city is. Climbing St. Vitus clock tower was worth every step and one we highly recommend with or without kids.
Visiting St. Vitus Cathedral Clock Tower Tips and Basics
- The tower is a separate entrance from the Prague Castle complex and St. Vitus Cathedral. Entrance is at the side of the cathedral. Get tickets from the desk inside the tower.
- Ticket Prices for adults and kids for the lookout tower: 150 Kc ($7.80 US/5.8o Euro). 20% discount with Prague City Card.
- Use the restrooms beforehand (especially the kids). It’s a long climb up with no facilities at the lookout gallery. Restrooms are by the cathedral’s main entrance.
- Bring binoculars if you can. We wished we had one. It would have been fun to see things up close.
- Bring water/juice/snacks for the family. You’ll need it after the climb. There are no concession stands at the gallery.
- Go early in the morning or later in the evening to beat the tourist crowds.
*Have you seen Prague from above? What are your favorite cities to see from a bird’s eye view?
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