Often called the Paris of the East, Prague is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The moment I entered the city center I felt like I was stepping into a real life fairytale – complete with extravagant medieval architecture and winding cobblestone streets backdropped by a romantic riverside location. The capital of Bohemia has an epic history dating all the way back to the ninth century and has witnessed independence, Nazi control, and communism just within the last 100 years.
Prague has a large student population, some of the best beers in the world and a bustling nightlife. While it doesn’t draw the same tourist masses as Paris or Rome, more and more people are visiting this city every year and the prices are slowly (but steadily) increasing. Since I visited during the off season I didn’t experience the overwhelming crowds you’ll find in the summer. Here’s my must do list!
I started my first day by visiting Prague’s most popular attraction, Prague Castle. It’s considered the largest coherent castle in the world and within its walls lies St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, Powder Tower, Basilica of St. George and a variety of other historical buildings. You can buy tickets at the Castle Information Center on the Second and Third Courtyards as well as at the other main attractions ticket offices (students under the age of 26 get a discount). I bought the long tour option and spent the majority of the day meandering around the grounds. The St. Vitus Cathedral took over 600 years to finish and it’s definitely worth going inside.
See a Puppet Show
Puppets are one Czech’s greatest traditional handcrafts; there are over 20 puppet stores and even a museum dedicated to the art in Prague. There are several theaters you can choose from but the National Marionette Theatre is the original. Tickets are inexpensive and it’s a quirky/fun way to spend an evening.
Check Out Holesovice and Grab Dinner
I stayed in Sir Toby’s hostel located in the heart of Holesvice, the up and coming trendy district of Prague. It’s less touristy and boasts some of the best boutiques, flea markets and art galleries in town. There’s also loads of adorable cafes, bars and restaurants. (Some suggestions: Cobra, SaSaZu, Kozlovna)
Old Town Square & Astronomical Clock
A trip to Prague would be incomplete without exploring the Old Town Square. It’s one of the oldest and most picturesque market squares in Europe. (It’s a fun place to people-watch but avoid the tourist traps and DON’T go into any of the currency exchange offices). Under the Old Town Hall you can tour the series of catacombs. Of course you can’t miss the second most disappointing attraction in Europe (the first being the Mona Lisa) – the astronomical clock marking the turn of an hour. While some expect more, I thought it was impressive that this 600-year-old mechanical clock is still running.
Stroll Across Charles Bridge
Walking across the famous Charles Bridge is probably the most quintessential Prague activity. If you want to beat the crowds wake up early and watch the sunrise here.
Do a Pub Crawl
I couldn’t leave Prague without experiencing one of their famous bar crawls. There are several options to choose from but I went with the Drunken Monkey Bar Crawl. It’s a pretty sweet deal thanks to the open bar aspect – the first location includes unlimited wine, beer, shots and absinthe.
Explore the Jewish Quarter / Josefov
Before the war the Jewish Quarter was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. During the war Hitler saved the area from destruction as he intended to create a ‘museum of an extinct race’. There’s much insight to gain and sights to see including the Jewish Cemetery, Jewish museum and the Old-New Synagogue (the oldest running synagogue outside of Israel).
Have a Beer with a View
The T-Anker Sun Terrace has some of the most spectacular views of the city. Access the terrace by going into the main entrance of the department store KOTVA and taking the escalators up to the fifth floor.
Other Tips, Information and Advice for Prague
On the low end you can get by with spending around 30 – 60 euros a day, which is around 760 – 1520 Czech Koruna (CZK).
If you’re staying in the city center, Prague is a walkable city and you won’t need to rely on public transportation. Since I was in the Holesovice district I used the tram occasionally to get around. Trams, buses and subways use the same ticket and 24-hour passes cost around 5 euros.
Pilsner was invented in the Czech Republic. The majority of Czech beers are light, nicely chilled and served with a tall head.
Prague is famous for its classical music and opera. If I had an extra day I would have booked tickets for a show. I probably would have visited the Communism museum and the John Lennon Wall as well (even though I’ve heard it’s overrated).
Czech food is hearty and most dishes involve lots of meat and potatoes. Try their pork in all of its forms. Must try foods: Kolache, Koleno (pork knee marinated in beer and served with pickled vegetables), pickled cheese, Trdelník (chimney cake), and Svíčková (braised beef in a vegetable cream sauce served with bread dumplings, cranberry sauce and whipped cream).
Like most Eastern European languages, Czech is a complicated language and difficult for native English speakers to pronounce. Nonetheless, here are some essential phrases:
Dobry den (dobreh den) Hello
Dekuji (dyekooyi) Thank you
Mluvite anglicky? (mlu-veete an-glits-ki) Do you speak english?
Dobry (do-bree) Well/good
Until the next city!