Situated in the northwest of the country on the Vltava River, Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic. This magical city of bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers and church spires is also the fourteenth largest city in the European Union. The city is home to about 1.3 million people, but its larger urban zone has approximately a population of nearly 2 million. Since the Middle Ages Prague has cherished the reputation of one of the most beautiful cities in the world as well as the political, cultural, and economic center of central Europe. While cobblestones abound in many historic areas, many tourist sights are surprisingly accessible, and the city is easy to navigate with public transportation and ample curb drops. Here are my suggestions for the best accessible things to do in Prague.
1 . Prague Castle. Prague Castle has been an important symbol of the Czech state for more than a thousand years. It was founded in the 9th century and became the seat of Czech rulers and later presidents. The castle, one of the largest complexes in the world, is made up of historical palaces, offices, church and fortification buildings, gardens and picturesque spots. It covers an area of 45 hectares. The panoramic view of Prague Castle is one of the most spectacular in the world. The castle complex is easy to reach by taking the accessible #22 tram from the city center. Once you exit the tram, you will have to roll over moderate cobblestones down a path and across the moat bridge to reach the courtyard. Along the way you’ll see some stunning views of the St. Vitus Cathedral (below). All the courtyards of Prague Castle and Kralovská zahrada (the Royal Gardens) are completely barrier-free with a smoother surface. There are two stairs by the entrance gate to the gardens. The barrier-free entrance is on the righthand side. Most areas of the castle are accessible, and entry is free for wheelchair users.
2. St. Vitus Cathedral. St. Vitus Cathedral is the largest and the most important temple in Prague. Apart from religious services, coronations of Czech kings and queens also took place here. The cathedral is a place of burial of several patron saints, sovereigns, noblemen and archbishops. In 1344, Charles IV began the construction of a Gothic cathedral. Its first builders, Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler, built the chancel with a ring of chapels, St. Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Gate and the lower part of the Great South Tower. Unfortunately, in 1419 the construction of the Cathedral stopped because of the Hussite Wars. It was not until the latter half of the 19th century that the Union for the Completion of the Cathedral began the repair of the original part and the completion of the Cathedral in Neo-Gothic style. The church was solemnly consecrated in 1929. Visitors enter the Cathedral through the portal in the western facade, opposite the passage-way between the Second and Third Courtyard of Prague Castle.
3. Old Town Square. Known in Czech as Staroměstské náměstí, this is the central square of the historic part of Prague. The square is one of the greatest tourist attractions of the Czech capital, along with Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. It is almost impossible to miss it if you’re coming to Prague as a tourist.The absolute highlight of Old Town Square is the famous Prague Astronomical Clock, a.k.a. Orloj. It is a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the Old Town Hall and shows the current position of selected celestial objects. The lower part of the Orloj is a calendar dial and shows the current day on a beautiful dial. The cityscape of Old Town Square is dominated by another landmark, which even is not located in the square itself, but very near. The Gothic towers of the Church of Mother of God before Týn (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem) a.k.a. the Týn Church (Týnský chrám) are visible from all over the square. These iconic towers feature characteristic small spires and belong to the most recognizable Prague landmarks. You will have to deal with cobblestones when exploring Old Town Square, although there are criss-crossing lines of smooth pavers that can make rolling a bit easier in spots. There are few curb cuts from the center Square area to the sidewalks across the street, so you may end up doubling back a few times.
4. Charles Bridge. Prague’s oldest bridge was built to replace the Judith Bridge that had been badly damaged by floods in 1342. The Stone, or Prague, Bridge, called Charles Bridge since 1870, was begun in 1357 by Charles IV and was completed in 1402. The bridge is built of sandstone blocks, flanked at each end by fortified towers (Lesser Town Bridge Towers, Old Town Bridge Tower). From 1683 to 1928, 30 statues of saints were carved to decorate the bridge, the most famous of which is the statue of St John of Nepomuk. Although the views are prettiest at sunset, arrive early to avoid the inevitable large crowds.
5. Municipal House (City Hall). This Art Nouveau building, built from 1905 to 1911, is proof of unprecedented artistic and craft skills and quality. The café, the French and the Pilsner restaurants, the American bar, the Lord Mayor’s Salon and the Smetana Hall are all examples of perfectly executed Art Nouveau interiors, decorated by leading artists and sculptors such as Alfons Mucha, Jan Preisler, Ladislav Šaloun, and others. Lovers of Art Nouveau can take a guided tour of the whole building. I was able to attend a performance by the Prague Chamber Orchestra here, as well as see a special exhibition of Mucha’s famous Epic series of wall-sized paintings. There is a ramp at the front entrance, and employees can escort you to other floors by the small, but stylish, elevator.
6. Spanish Synagogue. The Spanish Synagogue (Španělská synagoga) in Prague is known as the most beautiful synagogue in Europe. Set in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, it is certainly a stunning sight. The Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 on the site of the oldest Prague Jewish house of prayer (“the Old Shul”). It was designed in a Moorish style by Vojtěch Ignátz Ullmann. Under both Nazi and Communist rule the Spanish Synagogue was neglected, fell into a sorry state, and was eventually closed. But in the latter part of the 20th century the Jewish Museum in Prague took control, and began work on its restoration. In the evening, the Spanish Synagogue becomes a wonderful setting for classical music concerts. There are steps from the street level into the main chamber, but wheelchair users can signal the ticket taker to lower them via an electric platform lift.
7. Mucha Museum. The Mucha Museum – the only museum in the world dedicated to the life and work of the world-acclaimed Czech art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) was opened in Prague to the general public on 13 February 1998. The different exhibitions offer an extensive overview of the works of the painter, with a special focus to the artwork he did while he lived in Paris, where he created his best and most famous pieces. Oil paintings, posters, pages from Mucha’s sketchbooks, decorative objects, and three-dimensional works can be found in the artist’s museum. Visitors can also discover a reconstruction of his study in Paris. Although the Mucha Museum is quite small, it is especially interesting for those who love art and Art Nouveau in particular.
8. Convent of St. Agnes. The St Agnes Convent is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Prague. It was founded around 1230 AD by the Premyslid princess St Agnes of Bohemia along with her brother King Wenceslas I. The guided tour traces the history of the individual parts of the uniquely preserved medieval monastery. All major areas are accessible for viewing, including the Oratory of St Agnes, the Shrine of the Saviour, and the Church of St Francis, where the remains of King Wenceslas I are buried. It’s a difficult roll over a lot of rough cobblestone to get there, but well worth it. There are elevators and ramps throughout the complex, as well as in the attached religious art museum.
9. Gallery of Steel Figures. Gallery of Steel Figures prepared almost 100 handmade exhibits in the Art Nouveau building City Palais in the center of Prague. 100% recycled exhibits are inspired by fairy tales and sci-fi heroes as well as celebrities, animals and luxury cars. The basic building blocks of the figures are pieces of steel scrap in the form of gear wheels, elements of gearboxes, brake pads, chains, all kinds of gears, bolts and nuts. More than 120 craftsmen work on the statues, and the production of one exhibit takes an average of 8 months. The main entrance isn’t accessible, but there is a side entrance next to the metro escalator with a sliding door. Just yell to the ticket desk from the front steps or call the museum to have them let you in.
10. Střelecký Island. A romantic place hidden in the shade of mature trees in the heart of city under the Legion Bridge enchants visitors with its old-time atmosphere and exceptional views of the city directly from the surface of the Vltava River. Under the reign of Charles IV, the island became a place for Prague’s shooters to practice the art of shooting from bows and crossbows. From the 18th century it became the sight of the Midsummer celebrations associated with gunfire and fireworks. Thus, the island received its name after this shooting tradition. Occasionally, celebrations, concerts, open-air festivals, and various other cultural events are held here. If you go roughly halfway across the Legion Bridge, you will find the elevator that will take you down to the island.