Exploring Prague's glistening (and empty) churches

Soaking in the glittering Catholic heritage of an atheist nation

Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, has many nicknames––among them, "The Heart of Europe," "The Golden City," and "The City of a Hundred Spires." No matter what moniker it goes by, the city's beauty is undeniable, from the glittering Vltava River that runs through it to the historical Prague Castle that overlooks the hillside, and can be seen from the Charles Bridge. The city's biggest treasures, however, are in its cathedrals and churches—Prague owes much of its heritage to Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, a Catholic king who did not fail to commission religious architecture and ostentatious iconography throughout the city. It's ironic, then, that the Czech Republic has one of the highest, if not the highest, rate of atheism in the world.

Why is this significant? This provides the historical junkie with several questions to mull over while giving lovers of art and architecture buildings just as glittering inside as they are outside. Though they are, for the most part, empty. The possibility for exploration is limitless.

Prague's rich religious history is ingrained in the architecture of its houses of workshop––whether you admire the aesthetic or the questions these empty temple represent, here's a list to get you started in traversing the most beautiful churches in the Mother of Cities.

St. Vitus Cathedral

E.R. Pulgar

Located at Prague Castle and taking up as much space if not more on the city's gorgeous skyline, visiting this jewel of Gothic architecture kills two birds with one stone as far as must-sees are concerned. The inside is as grandiose as the outside, and features art from several different periods, including cameo statues of the architects among the saints and angels and an Art Nouveau window designed by legendary Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. Founded in the year 930, the cathedral was first used in the 12th century, but was not completed until 1929. This jewel of Prague's cityscape has both history and beauty, and its proximity to the castle complex (complete with royal gardens and restaurants with a view of the Old Town) makes for a day full of adventure. This one won't be as isolated an experience, but can you say you've been to Prague if you haven't been to the Prague Castle complex?

The Church of Our Lady Victorious

E.R. Pulgar

This beautiful church is near the Charles Bridge gateway that leads to Malá Strana, Prague's Lesser Quarter. Built in the Baroque style—the first of its kind to be built in Prague—the real draw here if you're not as interested in 15th century architecture is the legendary Infant Jesus of Prague, a wax icon of the baby Jesus robed in luxurious gowns and an air of mystique. Held in high-esteem by tourists and believers alike, the figurine comes with a storied history that's as entrenched in the city as it is the church itself; despite its enduring global popularity, the church is typically sparse, allowing for free roaming between the marble columns, the basins of holy water, and the legendary figure of the Infant.

St. Jilji Church

E.R. Pulgar

This hidden gem, lost amid the alleyways near the Old Town Square and two of the other temples on the list, is a jaw-dropping find. The 13th century cathedral has several panels of saints, as well as golden sculptures of sacred triangles and a high roof that seems to extend upward forever, providing fantastic acoustics for regular classical concerts—I can guarantee you that few moments in your life will be as ecstatic as hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on a church organ, the iconic beats vibrating off Czech church walls. Despite having no heat, the church still gets packed for shows in the colder seasons, and blankets are provided for concertgoers. This best kept secret was also used as one of the shooting locations for Miloš Forman's Oscar-winning Amadeus; go in, and see for yourself what inspiration lies in store.

St. Nicholas' Church (Old Town Square)

E.R. Pulgar

Not to be confused with the other two St. Nicholas churches in Prague, this Baroque gem holds court over the Lesser Square, and stands out because of its green roofs. The church also boasts tower access with an unbeatable view of the square itself and the nearby former Jesuit college, as well as the sparkling Vltava River. The inside is less expansive than the others on this list, but your eye will immediately be drawn to the crystal chandelier and golden detailing on the walls. Like St. Jilji's, this church also has ties to Mozart—he played organ here during one of his several visits to the city. Indulge in both music and architectural history, and don't forget to make a trip to the top.

Church of Our Lady Before Týn

E.R. Pulgar

Impossible to miss, the centerpiece of the Old Town Square is a looming presence of Gothic architectural beauty. The entrance is hidden away amidst a few shops, which makes entering the church proper a bit of an intimidating experience. Get past the tunnel of modernity, and come out the other side greeted by high ceilings, a stunning yet simple white palette, and an interior both imposing and welcoming. Art history nuts will rave about the central altar, which features paintings by legendary Czech Baroque painter Karl Škréta, an appropriate decision after the inside of this Gothic gem was reworked in the Baroque style. Two other large draws are the tomb of astronomer Tycho Brahe and the oldest working organ in Prague—despite having so much to see, the church enjoys wide space even when in service, and tourists are free to wander as long as they are quiet and respectful.

The best part? Prague has so many winding alleyways that you're likely to find a new, golden cathedral to wander into—maybe one that's not even on the list.

For a short-list of more of Prague's cathedrals, churches, and monasteries, click here.

Subscribe now

Related Posts

7. Low Prices (vs. other Airbnb lodging options and flexible cancellation policy)

Before I found out about Getaway, I thought, gosh. Travel can be expensive, even with everything that is going on. Cabin rentals on Airbnb are so pricey, not to mention their no exceptions cancellation policy—which is totally a turn-off. Even the discounted all-inclusive lodging vacation I've been daydreaming about was out of the picture with my work schedule, sigh.

I was almost at my wits end, then, my friend Kiara brought up this cool new Getaway experience she recently got back from at a beautiful tiny cabin outpost nestled nearby in Hill Country, Wimberley, Texas for $99 a night! I immediately told my boyfriend, and we decided why not go ahead and try it for the weekend!

6. Facilities and Amenities (What's included)

So we went online to Getaway's website and chose the Cabin for Two, which actually had everything we wanted for a weekend escape in nature—giant windows with beautiful views and great amenities including: a comfy queen bed that sleeps two, warm shower, bath products, AC and heat, plus a mini-kitchen stocked with cooking supplies and light meal provisions available for less than $10 each. And, with self-check-in and check-out, booking was as simple and easy! That next weekend we set off into the auburn sunset, next stop—Getaway Hill County!

When we got to our tiny hand-crafted hideaway we instantly fell in love.

5. The Blue Hole Experience

The next morning after my boyfriend cooked us breakfast (yes, he's house-trained), our first stop was the Blue Hole Park Trail Loop with one of the most beautiful natural swimming holes in Texas. We made sure to make a reservation in advanced, and boy can I still smell the oak, cypress and cedar trees surrounding the crystal blue water and canopied trails, I didn't hesitate for a second and jumped in body-first. After a dip, we spent the rest of the afternoon in leisure completing the 1.6-mile hike around the Blue Hole Trail, can you say unplug and unwind, I couldn't recommend visiting this magical place enough.

4. The Wimberley Valley Driftwood Estates Winery Experience

Later in the evening, we headed to the Driftwood Estates Winery which had a great wine varietal, and the winery hostesses were very friendly and helpful in explaining the various wines. The building garden areas and facilities were set perfectly on lush rolling acres of surrounding vineyards with the cutest donkeys and little ponies—and the passing burros, longhorns, double decker English buses which added to the atmosphere, just perfect. Plan your to make a reservation in advanced and soak up the experience of tasting and exploring, a must-go winery!

3. The Wimberly Zipline Adventures Experience

After a sound sleep under the moon and stars, we woke up the next morning with one thing on our mind, the last and final stop on our Getaway weekend-adventure (and arguably most favorite) which included soaring over 10-miles of breathtaking views of Wimberley Valley creeks and canyons, absolutely a thrilling and unforgettable experience. Another must-go, you'll learn about the local ecosystem of plants and wildlife, local history, and other interesting Wimberley area facts. By the end of our tour, I was bursting with adrenaline and excitement. We had so much fun, and I must say I can't wait for our next weekend escape!

2. Disconnect to Reconnect

We got back home late after a late dinner following the ziplining, we were so exhausted but honestly I would not trade a great experience for anything else in the world. It's nice to disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with nature. I was so happy with my stay and how clean and cozy the cabins were. If you haven't had the chance to Getaway, then what are you waiting for!

1. Experience Your First Getaway

If you're looking for a safe, clean, and rejuvenating place to both relax and have an adventure, whether with your partner or friends, I'd highly recommend Getaway.

Plan Your Escape With Getaway! Book One Month In Advance And Take $20 Off Your Fall Adventure With The Code FALL20!

It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!