Daily Escape

Star Mesto

Photo by David Santiago Garcia / Aurora Photos

Stare Mesto

Prague, Czech Republic

Old takes on another dimension (and a few more centuries) in Stare Mesto. With many areas dating back to the 13th century, cobblestone streets and historic architecture make for an afternoon of adventure. Be sure to relax with a famous Czech beer at a cozy beer garden along the way.


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Prague Castle
Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Dating back to the 9th century, the Prague Castle complex is home to the Bohemian Crown Jewels, the office of the president, courtyards, shops and countless other sights that shouldn't be missed. Open daily, Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world. Though many areas of the castle are free, it's worth the price of admission to tour St. Vitus Cathedral. Other attractions include the changing of the guard, castle gardens and Golden Lane shops. The castle is not well-marked, so bring a map. 960 1280

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Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is Prague's iconic vaulted arch bridge, connecting Old Town Prague to Lesser Town. Huge crowds swarm to the 15th-century bridge each day to watch performers, browse street art and vendors’ wares, and to take pictures of the 30 Charles Bridge statues. Trips across the historic bridge vary from a half-hour crossing to a day-long guided tour. Start your visit before 9 a.m. to get the entire bridge to yourself. 960 1280

Ronira / iStock / Getty Images  

Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague’s Old Town Square features animated entertainers, hot local street food, horse-drawn carriages, colorful architecture and a medieval astronomical clock that is impossible to miss due to the large crowds who gather every hour. Go in the morning and enjoy ham and coffee while you watch the short mechanical performance on the hour. For a small fee you can take a tour behind the clock and gain an impressive view of the city. 960 1280

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Dancing House

Dancing House

Evocative and unique, the deconstructivist Dancing House stands out in rich contrast to the cobblestone streets and traditional architecture that surrounds it. The building was designed in 1992 by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. At the top floor, you'll find Celeste: a highly regarded French restaurant with a glass-enclosed dining room and soaring views of the Vltava River and Prague Castle. From June through September, diners have access to a rooftop terrace. Celeste is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are a must. 960 1280

  

National Gallery at Veletrzni Palac

National Gallery at Veletrzni Palac

Not to be confused with the larger National Gallery, the gallery at Veletrzni Palac offers five floors of contemporary art. The museum boasts important Czech works from artists like Kupka and Mucha as well as widely recognized masters such as Picasso, Seurat, Gaugin, Cezanne, Klimt, Rodin and Renoir. Veletrzni Palac also features items on loan from other Prague museums, including the Museum of Decorative Arts, making it an efficient visit for those on a tight schedule. 960 1280

alcuin, flickr  

Old Jewish Cemetery

Old Jewish Cemetery

The surreal Old Jewish Cemetery is home to an estimated 100,000 gravesites in what is thought to be up to 12 layers, with approximately 12,000 grave markers visible at the surface. The price of admission is worth the moments you'll spend reflecting among crooked tombstones, moss and erosion fighting to reclaim the space for Mother Nature. Visitors must pay an extra charge to take pictures, and access is granted as part of a combo ticket to visit other Jewish Quarter sites. 960 1280

Dnaveh / iStock / Getty Images  

Prague State Opera

Prague State Opera

The Prague State Opera features an often-changing schedule, English subtitles and wonderful acoustics. The Prague State Opera offers a surprisingly populist and fun atmosphere for audiences whose dress varies from casual to formal. The interior drips gold with opulent balconies, a baroque ceiling and ornate side panels. Prague opera tickets are affordable and specials are often available. A large second-floor balcony is where you can sip champagne and indulge your senses. 960 1280

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Vltava River Cruise

Vltava River Cruise

One of the most notorious Prague activities is the scenic river cruise. Cruising down the Vltava and admiring the Charles Bridge from the river is appealing, but it is important to find a trusted recommendation. Prague river cruises are notoriously overpriced with lackluster gastronomy, but that is not the case with every cruise tour. Select Prague cruises rival even the best European river cruises in beauty, entertainment and cuisine. Premiant City Tour in Zizkov comes highly reviewed by American travelers, as do the river cruises arranged by Prague Airport Transfers. 960 1280

Marina Geysman / iStock / Getty Images  

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

Take in the festive atmosphere and enjoy a trdelnik (traditional sweet pastry) at Wenceslas Square. Originally the site of a horse market, Wenceslas Square is home to a garden center, the neoclassical National Museum, the Wenceslas Monument and the main shopping area of New Town Prague. In addition to shopping and entertainment, the square was the site of critical chapters in history, from Nazi demonstrations to protests as part of the Velvet Revolution. 960 1280

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Zizkov

Zizkov

Zizkov makes a refreshing break from tourist-oriented districts. Zizkov, a district centered between streets named Histka and Seifertova, is home to many pubs and fashionable but affordable cafes. Visit Palac Akropolis, a venue famous for indie culture, music, theater and art projects that also houses a restaurant, independent cinema and bar. Another must-see is the unmistakable TV tower. Zizkov offers panoramic views of downtown and the best green open spaces in Prague, including Vitkov Hill, a wooded ridge with a statue commemorating a 15th-century battle, and Parukarka, a public park with stunning views. 960 1280

Yuri4u80 / iStock / Getty Images  

Karlštejn Castle

Karlštejn Castle

Take a bike tour through Prague to Karlštejn Castle, a Gothic castle founded in 1348 AD by the King of Bohemia, Charles IV. One of the most famous and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic, this castle has served as a safe place for the Imperial Regalia, Bohemian or Czech crown jewels, holy relics and other royal treasures. 960 1280

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Nizbor Glass Factory

Nizbor Glass Factory

See how the world famous Czech Republic pilsner beer glasses are made at the the Nizbor Bohemia glass factory. Learn the history and see the production firsthand of decorative Bohemian crystal used for decanters, perfume bottles and trophies. Visitors can also pick up newly-blown crystal at discounted prices. 960 1280

Wikimedia Commons  

Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare Company

Prague Shakespeare Company, continental Europe's premiere English-language classical theatre company, presents a wide variety of classic and modern plays and musicals year round. Relish in the rich history and culture of the city during the day and then in the evening be entertained with Prague Shakespeare Company. 960 1280

  

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine
Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

This ornate castle stands atop a cliff 130 feet high, on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Built between 1911 and 1912, the neo-Gothic structure offers great views of the Black Sea. And while the castle may look a little shaky there on the edge of Aurora Cliff, don’t be fooled -- the castle was strong enough to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake in 1927. 960 1280

flickr  

Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is home to several towns -- and the village of Positano is arguably its star attraction. Situated on a steep, rocky slope, the town is dotted with colorful stucco buildings that enliven the Mediterranean scene. 960 1280

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Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

At a dizzying 3,000 feet above Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Taktshang Monastery is the most famous Buddhist Himalayan monastery in the South Asian country. It was built in 1692, with subsequent restorations in 1958 and 2005. 960 1280

Douglas J. McLaughlin, Wikimedia Commons  

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

On a rocky hill above the German village of Hohenschwangau stands Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by the king of the German state of Bavaria Ludwig II. At an elevation of 2,620 feet, the palace offers amazing views of the Alpine foothills to the south and hilly terrain to the north. 960 1280

Nite Dan, flickr  

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

On the southwest tip of the French island of Corsica you’ll find Bonifacio. This ancient fortress town was established in the 12th century by the Republic of Genoa to thwart invasion by the Moors. Here’s a view of the Bonifacio fortress, perched on a limestone plateau overlooking the harbor of the same name. 960 1280

Antony Stanley, flickr  

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Small white houses dot the rocky hillside of the Greek village Oia, overlooking the Aegean Sea. The porous volcanic rock upon which the houses stand are the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred during the Minoan period -- about 3,500 years ago. 960 1280

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Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Perched on a cliff 1,224 feet above central Greece’s Meteora Valley, the Greek Orthodox Holy Monastery of Varlaam stands in tribute to faith -- and engineering precision. Built on natural sandstone rock pillars in 1541, Varlaam is one of 6 similarly constructed monasteries in the region. 960 1280

Dido3, Wikimedia Commons  

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

The Spanish town of Castellfollit de la Roca is situated on a rocky precipice -- over 164 feet high and more than half a mile long. The eye-catching terrain is a result of volcanic eruptions that took place thousands of years ago. Once solidified, the lava became the hard rock basalt upon which the town resides today. 960 1280

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Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

This stone mansion -- known as the “Rock Palace” -- served as a summer retreat for the imam of Yemen in the 1930s (in his day, the country’s equivalent of a president or king). Intricately built on a towering rock, the 5-story structure dates back to 1786. The upper level was added in the 1930s. 960 1280

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Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

The rock-cut architecture of Petra, Jordan, stretches back to the 6th century B.C., yet it remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. Since then, the “rose-red city half as old as time,” as an 1845 poem described it, has become an enviable tourist destination -- described by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top places to see before you die. Among Petra’s sites is the Al Deir monastery, pictured here. 960 1280

Dennis Jarvis, flickr  

Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Nestled in the foothills of the Aravili mountain range in western India is Neemrana Fort Palace. The 25-acre fort was built in the 15th century, then converted into a luxury hotel about 25 years ago -- with gardens, a pool and an amphitheater on its sweeping grounds. 960 1280

Akshay Davis, flickr  

Xuankong Monastery, China

Xuankong Monastery, China

Built -- amazingly -- more than 1,500 years ago, the Xuankong Monastery stands more than 246 feet high, on a precipice in China’s Shaxi province. Its remarkable endurance over a millennium is a result of oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the rock. 960 1280

Brunner Emmanuel, Wikimedia Commons  

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Perched on the rocky islet of Mont-Saint-Michel (less than a mile from the Normandy coast) is this 13th-century, Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Its eye-catching location stands in technical and artistic triumph: For centuries, the abbey’s bay location has been subject to some of the strongest tides in Europe, as high as 39 feet. 960 1280

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Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

At more than 2,417 feet high, the vast volcanic plug of Taung Kalat in central Burma is home to this Buddhist monastery. At the top of the summit, enjoy a panoramic view: the ancient Burmese city of Bagan to the south, a conical peak to the north. 960 1280

Robert Tyabji, flickr  

Hearst Castle, California

Hearst Castle, California

At an altitude of 1,600 feet, you’ll find the Hearst Castle in Sam Simeon, CA. The mansion was built in this area of coastal California over a 28-year-period for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He nicknamed the estate “La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) -- you can see why with dramatic views of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains and nearby Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Anna Fox, flickr  

Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Spain

Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Spain

Tucked into a mountain valley at 8,000 feet you’ll find Cuenca. The town’s most amazing sight is Las Casas Colgadas, or "overhanging houses" -- a row of 14th-century homes a nail-biting distance from Huécar river canyon. 960 1280

  

On the Rocks  16 Photos

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