Free city tours are offered in many cities. In Prague, we were really lucky to have found Theresa; a City-Guide, which turned the free city tour into an experience.
I find it very interesting when a local talks about their city. Many things are not even mentioned in travel guides and, above all, there are always good tips that make exploring the city easier. In Prague, our tour was guided by Theresa, who even made her family history part of the tour. An ordinary well instantly became significantly more interesting through this private notion.
We had booked the tour in advance through an agency, but you can also show up spontaneously and join in. Every day at 11 am, the tour starts at the Powder Tower, the guide can be easily recognized by the big light blue umbrella with the small clouds on it. The tour ends at 1 pm in front of the Charles Bridge. You can go further and also explore Prague Castle if you fancy. The tour is offered free of charge, but the guides earn whatever they are given in tips. There are no guidelines, just give them what the tour was worth to you. It is important to know that the tours are going to be given in English.
Our free city tour
Firstly, we went from the Powder Tower through the Prague city centre. We stopped at different spots to learn about the history of the city. We were told, for example, that the foundations of the old houses lay about 3 meters lower than today. Due to floods, the building grounds have been raised and new houses were built on top of the existing houses. Even today during construction projects old buildings are being discovered and partly integrated into the new buildings.
It also fascinated me how house numbers are arranged in Prague. Before the majority of the population became literate, symbols were attached to the houses. On the house of the “black elephant”, the plate with the symbol can still be seen today. How each house got their individual symbol is not yet fully clear. Today, the houses have numeric house numbers. But do not be surprised. Each house has a red and a blue number. The red number is the actual house number. The blue house number helps with orientation in the city. It becomes smaller and smaller the closer you get to the river, showing the way to the Vltava. Once you have arrived at the river, the orientation is somewhat easier than in the winding streets of Prague.
Finally, we arrived at the Old Town Square. Here, we were told about Jan Hus and at 12 o’clock we were standing in front of the Astronomical Clock and were able to watch the 20 second long, famous glockenspiel.
Although I already knew the clock, I was never there on time to see the glockenspiel. It is astonishing how large crowds are pushing and shoving to observe something for only 20 seconds. I wasn’t aware the display would be so short, and frankly, I had expected much more of it.
The tour through the old town didn’t check off all the landmarks, but I didn’t exactly expect it to. With the help of a guide book I can explore these points of interest myself. Much more interesting are tips on where to find good restaurants, cafes or a cash machine with the best conditions. Exactly this was what our tour guide told us in between her little stories about the city.
The Jewish Quarter
The second part of our tour led us through the Jewish Quarter in Prague.
The first piece of useful information will probably help a lot with the planning of future visits: Saturday is not a good day for visiting synagogues! On Saturday, there will be events for the communities, the public has to stay outside.
Theresa led us to two synagogues, which we were able to check out from the outside. She talked about Jewish life during the National Socialism in Prague and added very emotional stories from her own family to the historical facts.
We have seen the great Jewish Cemetery from afar, in order to visit it, you have to pay an entrance fee. A tip from me: If you want to visit a Jewish cemetery, you can do so next to the Television Tower in Prague.
I liked the free city tour very much and I can only recommend it!