Edited by Jess Wright
A city with a fairytale skyline and cultural folklore to match, Prague boasts a mix of dark gothic architecture and quirky modern art, streets made for exploring, and hearty cuisine that promises to satisfy in all seasons. This multicultural metropolis is a rich tapestry of history and myth with the open mindset of a modern progressive city and a populace that is tolerant and even helpful to the hordes of tourists that descend upon it.
Drink beer when thirsty – it’s excellent and in Prague might be cheaper than water – and walk as much as you can; it’s the best way to discover this city which is a labyrinth of hidden gems. Lookup; sometimes the view above you is superior to the one at your feet, and when walking can’t get you where you need to go quick enough, use the tram system; it’s excellent and runs 24/7. Grab a few handy travel tips from this Prague travel guide, and let’s get down to the top 10 things to do in Prague!
Explore Old Town Square
Old Town Square is particularly beautiful – and busy – during Christmas time, when the stands of mulled wine strings of fairy lights go up. Dating back to the 10th Century, this large and lively square shows off some impressive architecture including Old Town Hall, where you can enjoy the spectacle of the astronomical clock hailing the new hour in with a show.
Magnificently preserved over the centuries, this intricate timepiece is truly something to behold, so striking that it is almost possible to ignore the swell of tourists flowing around you. Like every good “old town” in Europe, this one began with the castle, around which Prague Old Town was built and expanded, leading to this beautiful square – a perfect culmination of the old and new.
After you explore the stores, stalls and carefully crafted facades, you might be ready for a traditional Czech guláš (goulash). Head to the rustic Mlejnice, where guláš is served in a bread-bowl. After a hearty meal, take a walk across Charles Bridge and to the Prague castle, about 25 minutes of walking; a smart route if your time in Prague is tight. For more ideas for a short visit, read this guide to what to do in Prague in 2 days.
While it seems that every Old Town in Central Europe boasts a castle, this one is a Prague must-see. Ignore the swarms of tourists; there is a reason they exist up at the castle and that’s because this is one of the best things to do in Prague.
The collection of Romanesque and Gothic architecture is breathtaking – you can expect to find yourself frozen to the spot, mouth agape as you gaze up at the gothic turrets of the cathedral or the sheer size of the palace. Prague Castle has been around since 880 and is the largest castle complex in the world, with a combined surface area of a whopping 70,000 m².
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it comprises of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings all of which have undergone significant and ongoing maintenance. St. Vitus Cathedral dates back to A.D. 925, and features neo-Gothic and baroque-inspired detailing.
As jaw-dropping as the outside might be, head inside for an altogether different kind of stunning; intricate silverwork and colorful art nouveau stained-glass window work. You may need a few hours to fully explore the entire complex, and if your visit is around noon you might witness the changing of guard.
Connecting Prague Castle to Old Town Square is Charles Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in the world and a must on the list of top 10 things to do in Prague, explaining why it is perpetually crowded with tourists. Walk across this 14th-century bridge, adorned along the entirety of its length with statues, for gorgeous views of Prague and a feeling of old-world Bohemia.
Not only is this activity free to do, but it is also logical when passing Old Town, and offers a good vantage point of many of the surrounding bridges. If you prefer to skip the crowds, you can view the bridge from a safe distance from said adjacent bridges.
If you do opt for Charles Bridge, you will be rewarded by a vibrantly inhabited space, with musicians, craftspeople, and artists lining both sides of the walkway. You might consider walking across it at night, when the castle and surroundings are artfully lit, making for a gorgeous view. This is only one of the many splendid things to do in Prague at night.
Walk Up Petrin Hill
Take a pleasant walk to the top of Petrin Hill on the banks of the Vltava River – one of the greenest spaces in Prague – with an abundance of benches along the way to rest your legs and admire the view. Once you submit, you’ll be treated to a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower, a rosarium, and the Church of St Michael; a wooden building relocated all the way from Ukraine.
Other features of interest include the Nebozízek Garden, the Mirror Maze, and the Seminary Garden, boasting more than 2,100 fruit trees which, when blossoming, are very pretty.
Long ago serving as an execution site, it now makes for a romantic spot with the vineyards and lands that have been farmed through the centuries. Head up the 299 steps of Petrín Observation Tower, a miniature of the Eiffel Tower – though the locals will proudly tell you its height – for views of the entire city.
On sunny, cloudless days you can see most of Bohemia. If you didn’t ride the funicular railway all the way to the top, and decide rather take an easier stroll downhill, you could choose to ride it down, bringing you to Mala Strana; one of the oldest and the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. Nestled beneath Prague Castle it is only a short walk to Charles bridge.
Prague is not for the weary legged, being as it is a place that lends itself so wonderfully to walking – trust me when I say you will be hard-pressed not to explore the city inch by inch on foot. Letna Park, built on a plateau, is a perfect example of this; while it is quite a climb to get there, the park is a gorgeous reward in every season. With a beer garden ideal for a warm summer visit (day or night), the nostalgic crunch of autumn leaves in the fall, and the pretty sight of gentle snow in the winter, it also offers a wide view over the Vtlava river and the surrounding bridges. An absolute must for photography enthusiasts and blossoming insta-stars, who would be well-rewarded with a walk up the hill; head there before sunset and be rewarded with the sight of the dipping sun setting all of Prague aglow. Not only does the park offer some of the best views in Prague, it also boasts a giant functioning metronome where the largest monument of Stalin used to stand, the destruction of which in 1962 ushered in a new era for Prague. The park is a popular spot for locals, ideal for a hangout with friends, a picnic with the family and an evening stroll.
If you’re wondering what to do in Prague as an art lover, this one's for you. The MeetFactory is the epitome of the international contemporary art scene in Prague – an unlikely venue that has been transformed into a meeting place for artists and art enthusiasts, a spot where creatives mingle and collaborate bringing ideas to life.
A glass factory pressed into the space between a highway and still active railroad, the venue was founded in 2001 by the creator of what most people around here consider the “weird baby sculptures” up Žižkov TV Tower, prominent and controversial Czech sculptor David Černý.
The MeetFactory houses art galleries showcasing the curated work of both emerging and established artists and is not only a meeting point for creatives across Prague but is also considered to be one of the best concert venues in the city.
With Černý’s sculpture “Meat” hanging off of the building, you would imagine that the musical repertoire might be somewhat alternative but in fact, the venue is geared towards a local and international music scene across genres. Along with the offering of Czech and international art and music, there is a theater, a flea market, and three art galleries to explore.
John Lennon Wall
Another one for the creatives at heart, this spot – though full of tourists – has a laid-back, artistic air one might expect of the namesake. Decorated since the 1980s with commemorative John Lennon-inspired graffiti and snippets of Beatles’ lyrics following the assassination.
As one can imagine the wall provided an endless source of irritation to the rigid communist regime of Gustáv Husák, but for young Czechs, it was an outlet for grievances, scribbled on the wall in a time of clashes between students and the security police on the nearby Charles Bridge.
The wall acts as one of the only memorials to John Lennon and voices an aspect of the complex Czech history in the form of graffiti and poetry, symbols of a war against the communist regime that ruled the Czech Republic for many years.
Continuously undergoing change, the wall has lost the original portrait of Lennon beneath layers of new paint but retains its significance as a symbol of global love and peace.
Drink A World Famous Czech Beer
Even if you’re not ordinarily a beer drinker, you might reconsider Prague, the world’s number one consumer of beer in the world. Perhaps this stat is due to the fact that here beer is oftentimes cheaper than water, or perhaps it is simply because Prague serves up some truly excellent beer!
Not only is it the perfect solution to a hot day of walking in Prague, but it is also a great starting point for planning what to do in Prague. Find yourself a cozy brewery or cellar bar, and you can easily lose a day to what I consider one of the best Prague activities; simply enjoying the taste of good beer with friends. Here, all meals start off with a beer, and with hundreds of cellar pubs and restaurants specifically famous for beer to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice.
With such passionate love for beer, you could only expect a resultant bar scene to thrive; and in that department (as in so many) Prague delivers in abundance, making bar-hopping an excellent nighttime activity where you can hope to enjoy light crisp Czech beers, among the newer, darker alternatives. If you love beer as much as Prague does, be sure to pay a visit to the Prague Beer Museum! Pro-tip; “Na Zdravi!” is how you cheers in Czech!
The Municipal House
An testament ot the glory of the Art Nouveau style, this fine example of a civic building (dating back to 1912) houses artistic interiors, intricately decorated. Home to two restaurants, one of which is French in origin and regarded widely as one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in the world.
The second restaurant, the Pilsner is an underground spot that serves authentic Czech cuisine, eaten to the melodic tunes of live accordion music. Among other residents of the Municipal house are the oldest bar in Prague, the second oldest in Europe, and a venue for concerts, exhibitions, special events, and performances.
Orchestra concerts are held in the elegantly decorated Smetana Hall, a monumental, multilevel hall with excellent acoustic qualities which occupies the entire first floor of the Municipal House.
Visit the Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
Last, but not least on the list, is a visit to Josefov, Prague's historic Jewish Quarter. Not only a stunning stroll full of intrigue and myth, but this area is also home to fascinating history and several significant sites, including a number of important synagogues – such as the Spanish Synagogue and the Old-New Synagogue – and the Old Jewish Cemetery.
The oldest surviving cemetery of its kind and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Jewish Cemetery is a truly humbling experience with 12,000 visible graves and countless more beneath. The cemetery was developed due to space limitations, and goes down as many as 12 layers, forming the final resting place for as many as 100, 000 individuals.
Be sure to do your homework before a visit to this district; there are centuries worth of truly striking and significant history embodied in these narrow streets, from Hitler’s proposal to create out of this area the “museum of an extinct race” to legends about the Golem of Prague.
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