Prague is known as “the city of 100 spires” with its iconic skyline. While visiting, we fell in love with the cityscape and took every chance we could to climb to the top of those towers. I will admit, we climbed what you might call an excessive number of towers, but the view from each spire was unique and special in its own way. Below are a look at each one we climbed, and some of the pros and cons of each location. Also, as a bonus they are quite effective as Stairmasters, especially if you want to digest the giant plate of meat and beer that you have just consumed.
Old Clock Tower – The Old Clock Tower is an architectural landmark and one of Prague’s most iconic towers. Located right in the Old Town square, it is the building that houses the famous Astronomical Clock. You can’t miss it, just look for the hoard of tourists. Aside from its famous façade, the building has historical significance as the Old City Hall dating all the way back to 14th century. Now it serves as the main tourist information center.
To get in to climb the tower, look for the entrance on the left of the clock, a few doors down from the pink building. The building is open most days from 9am to 10pm. We paid the fee and climbed up the 70 meter tower to get an awesome vista of the red rooftops of Prague. The view at the top stretches out from the historical core all the way to the surrounding suburbs. The birds-eye view over the Old Town Square allows you to see live performances of traditional song and dance being performed below. Across the way, you can see the tower of the Church of our Lady before Týn.
The pros are the location and historical significance of the building. The con is the fact that it’s the main tourist attraction and often crowded at the top which will not give you time and space to truly appreciate the view.
Cost: 120 Kč
Charles Bridge Tower – Crossing the river Vltava, we couldn’t help but notice the two imposing towers at both ends of Charles Bridge. These Gothic towers were built for fortifications, but also served as an entrance into the town. On the right bank, is the Lesser Town Bridge tower built in the 15th century to serve as the ancient gate into Mala Strana (also known as Lesser Town).
Passing by the tower on our way to Mala Strana, we decided for the second time that morning to scale the fort. The 138 step stairway leads to an observation room where you will have uninterrupted views over the river. The steep climb was worth it to see the aerial view of Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle on top of Mala Strana. While you’re there, don’t forget to look around, there are beautiful ribbed vaulting and stained glass windows.
I really liked our detour climb, the pro is obviously the location. It’s a great place to admire the bridge without the mass of people. Since this tower is on the Lesser Town side, it’s not as popular and we had the place mostly to ourselves – another bonus.
Cost: adult/child – 90/65 Kč
Astronomical Tower – Let’s call this the accidental tower, since we didn’t really mean to climb it. As much as we enjoyed the beautiful views of the city, we were not keen on climbing a third tower on our first day in Prague. What we wanted to see was the ornate library in the Klementinum, considered to be one of the most beautiful old libraries in the world. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the entrance fee to the Klementinum also included the tour of the Astronomical tower. So up we went.
Astronomical Tower also known as the Mathematical Tower was built in 18th century by Jesuit priests. The 68 meter tower is crowned with a statue of Atlas bearing the celestial sphere on his shoulders, which can be seen from all over Old Town. The tower was initially used as a viewing tower, but with the rise in popularity of astronomical studies around the country, the tower was subsequently equipped with instruments for astronomical and climate observations. It is also home to a very accurate sundial, which still works to this day.
To get to the top gallery, you have to climb 172 steps up a winding staircase. At the top, you will get a 360 degree view of the historical center of Prague. Even though the view is great, we were getting ‘tower fatigue’. The cost is high compared to other towers, but you also get to see the library in the Klementinum, which is definitely worth it if you are into old books and libraries like I am.
Cost: adult – 120 Kč (together with Baroque Library Hall and the Mirror Chapel)
Powder Tower – This Gothic tower was one of the thirteen original gates into the city. Completed in 1475, it served as the starting point of the Royal Coronation Route where monarchs used to walk on their way to St Vitus Cathedral to be crowned. In the 17th century, the tower was converted into a gunpowder storage space, which in turn gave it its name as the Powder Tower.
This tower is slightly off the beaten track of the Old Town Square, so it’s not as crowded. We happened to come across it on our way home from dinner one night. Inside this unassuming tower you’ll find marvelous vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. There is also a spiral staircase that leads to the top where you get an excellent view of the city. This was our first time seeing the city lit up at night and it was unforgettable.
I would not go out of my way to climb this particular tower, but if you are in the neighborhood, especially around sunset, this is a great place to take in a night view of the city.
Cost: 90 Kč
Petrin Tower – This mini Eiffel Tower was inspired by the iconic structure in Paris and built in 1891. Sitting at the top of Petrin Hill, even though it’s only 60 meters tall, the view at the top is unparalleled. On a clear day, you can see the whole city and all of Bohemia, including the highest mountain in Czech Republic, almost 150 km away.
To get to the tower, you have to walk uphill on a long winding path or take the funicular. When we got to the funicular, we saw the long line and decided instead to hike up the hill. Except, instead of taking the nice long path, we decided to take a “shortcut” into the woods. It was an understatement to say that we were not prepared to go off-roading. I can definitely tell you that wearing flats is not great for climbing hills and trudging through wild grass. We almost got lost in the woods because there were not a lot of signs telling you where to go. We had to use the Google map satellite on our phone to figure out where we were. It was a very memorable experience.
Once you get to the tower, you have to decide whether you want to walk up the 299 steps to the top or take the elevator. The elevator ticket is more expensive, and since we were cheap, we decided to abuse our legs further. It’s worth noting that the top of the tower is a small cramped room with only a few windows that actually open. Taking the stairs however, allows you to visit the lower levels with a wide terrace and less people – great for not getting photo-bombed. The view from the tower was worth the physical exertion, you can see a panorama of the whole city with its spectacular spires and bridges.
Cost: 120 Kč + 60 Kč for elevator
At the end of the day, does one need to climb all these towers? Probably not, unless you’re looking to work off some of the pork knees you had consumed earlier. Although five was a bit excessive, each tower provided a unique vantage point of the city and as I said earlier, they work very effectively as Stairmasters. I would recommend climbing at least one during the day to see the captivating roof tops of Prague, and another at night, because the view is amazing when the castle is all lit up. My favorite was the Charles Bridge Tower because of the fact that it is not one of the busier tourist spots. We had the place to ourselves and got to enjoy an unobstructed view of the bridge and the castle.
Know before you go
- If you are going to climb multiple towers like we did, it is better to buy the combo ticket for 480 Kč that let you climb 4-5 towers including the Petrin tower. We didn’t know about it beforehand so we paid for each individually.
- Signage in Prague is not the greatest, and all attraction names are in Czech, so if you have a list of places that you want to visit, make sure you know the Czech name as well as the English name.