Prague is a beautiful city in the midst of the stunning Czech countryside. It is steeped in history and a center of power for centuries. It competes with Belgium for the quality of the beer, it rivals St Petersburg for architecture and the hearty cuisine will keep you looking for more. There are some attractions which will be particularly delightful to a scientist on their travels.
Whilst you stroll around the atmospheric old town, stop by the Astronomical clock. The mechanism and the distinctive astronomical dial date from 1410 when they were made by Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Sindel, imperial clock makers under the Emperor Wenceslas IV. The astronomical dial is an early form of an astrolabe and reflects the movements of celestial bodies as well as the passage of time. The clock is incredibly intricate and tracks the phases of the moon and the local current position of the sun. According to legend, the clockmaker upon completion of his masterpiece was blinded to prevent another similar clock ever being made, luckily the blinding is apocryphal but the beauty is very real. Make sure to watch the hour strike.
Once you’ve seen the clock, head over to the Speculum Alchemiae. An incredible 2002 find after flooding in the old town has made this beautiful UNESCO heritage site open to visitors. Connected to the castle by secret tunnels, this laboratory shows the heritage of early science amidst the occultism of early alchemy. Modern scientists will appreciate the depth of progress that has been achieved and the vision and hope of early scientists stumbling forward.
For a tour of the prizes, brought back by early adventurers, visit the National Museum. Aside from being a grand institution that feels like a hallowed hall, a cavernous room houses a collection of beautiful and exotic minerals in a rainbow of hues in antique wooden cases. The taxidermy collection is extremely antiquated which soothes any ethical qualms but as an exhibit, it is a fascinating example of the biological diversity of the last century and a variety of historical exhibits are available as well.
Amongst the scientific traditions of the region is the production of Bohemian glass, to see the tradition in action take the short bus to the neighboring town of Nižbor and see the molten glass poured from the furnaces as well as artisans hand cutting crystal glass into works of art.
Lastly, don’t leave Prague without making a pilgrimage to a brewery. Prague is full of gorgeous beer, largely pale pilsners served cold with a tall head. Popular around the world, the Staropramen brewery is a good choice for a day out. The fermentation process will be familiar to biologists but seeing it on a large scale combined with the option for a beer tasting is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. For something a little more individual, Klášterní pivovar Strahov is a restored 17th-century brewery that offers tours, tastings and specializes in craft beer.