One of the pleasures of Prague is that it’s perfect for walking. The city is small and its surroundings will make you reach for a camera to snap the unexpected. On my first full day of solo sightseeing, I walked into Old Town Square on a Monday afternoon in September to find people riveted by the sky. They watched as a speck of a man balanced on a tightrope strung between buildings.
Old Town Square is more than 1,000 years old and was a marketplace for most of that time. Today, it's a tourist hotspot of historic sites, restaurants, and souvenir shops. In and around the square is a mashup of history and architectural styles from Art Nouveau to Baroque to Gothic. At the top of my to-do list was the Old Town's Jewish Quarter, home to four synagogues, the oldest dating to the 16th century; Ceremonial Hall; and the Old Jewish Cemetery. This collection of sites is called the Jewish Museum in Prague. The synagogues house parts of the museum's permanent collection, such as "Jews in the Bohemian Lands, 10th to 18th Centuries" at the Maisel Synagogue and "Synagogue Silver from Bohemia and Moravia" at the Spanish Synagogue, known for its Moorish interior.
As I wandered the streets of Prague, I relished the hours of free time to experiment with my Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera. The best way to capture the city's grand architecture is in bits and pieces: the frilly corner of a building, the scoop of a door handle, the lacy balcony on a scrolling base.
One sight you'll want to photograph from top to bottom is the Astronomical Clock, one of the city's icons. It was installed on the facade of Old Town Hall in 1410.
Near the Astronomical Clock is St. Nicholas Church. It was first built in the 12th century and had 16 altars. In the 1700s, the church was ripped down and rebuilt in the Baroque style, though you can see the remains of the original walls in the building's cellar. Come here to enjoy classical music concerts and see the lavish interior, complete with a flower-shaped crystal chandelier.
As I crisscrossed the Old Town, I kept coming back to Celetná Street, where shops sell garnet jewelry, glass, and puppets—all Czech specialties. Celetná is one of the oldest streets in Prague and is named for the buns baked there in the 13th century. It is also part of the "Royal Route" taken by Czech kings on coronation day over the centuries. The house signs on this street are among my favorite architectural flourishes in Prague. They were used in lieu of addresses to tell houses apart.
I took Celetná Street to Grand Café Orient inside the House at the Black Madonna, a Cubist building designed by the Czech architect Josef Gočár. The cafe is a stylish place that befits a sweet finish to a satisfying day of viewing architecture. I had the namesake chocolate cake decorated with English cream and flavored with mint and wrote about the day's events in my journal.