On a train to Edinburgh in 2012, two friends and I sat at a table talking about where we wanted to travel in Europe. Our fourth seatmate, a stranger, interrupted to say:
“Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The other two are Paris… and Prague.”
We were a bit stunned, but also excited. I had seen Paris (and agree, it’s beautiful!) and were about to see Edinburgh. A few months later, I visited Prague and agree: Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
I spent three days in Prague in early 2013, and three weeks there in late 2016. I’ve spent enough time to know that Prague is a fascinating city full of alleyways to explore and new experiences to try. In this post, I’m putting together my best-of-the-best recommendations to help you plan a trip to Prague.
Read on to learn everything you need to know for a three-day trip to Prague – don’t be surprised if you come back for three weeks too!
Why Visit Prague?
Uh, why not??? For a long time, Prague was under the radar for many travelers in Europe, perhaps out of fear of visiting Eastern Europe. After the Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism in 1989, Prague has slowly come onto people’s radar as a must-see city.
In the past decade, tourism to Prague has exploded; the city had an estimated 8 million visitors in 2017! Low-cost airfare carriers have helped make Prague easy and cheap to reach.
Prague is a fairy tale town of Baroque architecture, colorful buildings, castles, towers, beer, pastries, and goulash. It’s accessible to travelers with plenty of English speaking tour providers and businesspeople, and loads of accommodation options.
Traveling to Prague
Depending on your travel plans, you can easily reach Prague by train, plane, and even by bus.
By train, there are loads of high-speed and sleeper train options to cities like Munich, Zurich, and Vienna. These cities are all major change points for trains to other cities around Europe.
By plane, you have two choices: you can fly direct from the U.S. to Prague on major airlines like Delta and American Airlines. You can also travel from within Europe on low-cost carriers like Ryanair, Wizz, and EasyJet.
You can even travel to/from Prague by bus! Flixbus offers bus services to Prague from other cities including Vienna, Berlin, and Budapest. (This was how Mr. V and I left Prague in 2016: we took a bus from Prague to Vienna!)
Getting Around Prague
Prague is an incredibly walkable city, if you’re sure-footed. Many of the pedestrian streets are cobblestone, both large and small, so be sure to wear stable footwear that can handle the constantly changing stones.
If you’re exploring more widely in Prague, there is a subway system (the Pražské metro) which has three lines with transfer points around the Old Town/Prague 1 area. You can also ride the tram network which has 34 lines and operates at street level. These colorful trams are also picture-worthy.
Where to Stay in Prague
There are loads of accommodations in Prague, and Airbnb options have become super popular.
I can’t even remember the name of the hotel where I stayed on my first trip to Prague, so let’s skip that. On my second trip in 2016, I stayed in this Charles Bridge Apartment. It was the cutest loft and a perfect base for exploring the city. (Here’s a link to get $40 off your first Airbnb stay.)
If you’re more of a hotel person, here are some options:
- Hotel Three Storks – On the Malá Strana side, a modern, spacious option. From $110/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
- Grand Hotel Praha – A more traditional option with fascinating architecture. From $156/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
- Hotel U Prince – In the heart of Old Town, right near the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square. From $159/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
What to Pack for Prague
Prague is a city with very traditional seasons. That means in summer you can expect warm, sunny days, and in winter plan for cold, windy ones.
I’ve visited Prague in cold weather both times, so I can make one major recommend: pack layers if you’re visiting Prague in autumn or winter! You’ll thank me later.
A lot of the items on my Packing List for Long-Term European Travel are perfect for Prague in cooler months. I’m also working on a packing list for Prague specifically based on seasons, so stay tuned for that.
The Best Things to See & Do in Prague
It’s always fun to try and sit down and say “here’s exactly what to do” in a city. For Prague, there’s so much to choose from, I couldn’t restrain myself from including everything! I put together a map to show you where each place is, and you can scroll down to read more about them.
While there are far more locations than the ones I’m about to cover, this list can start as a point of inspiration to help you plan your trip to Prague.
Old Town Prague
If you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale when you visit Prague’s Old Town, don’t worry: that’s a normal reaction!
The Old Town in Prague is a dreamlike maze of cobblestone alleyways and colorful buildings, punctuated by squares surrounded by stunning towers and cathedrals. It’s outrageously picturesque and easy to get distracted snapping photos of every new, magical-looking street.
Within the Old Town, there are a few spots you absolutely have to visit.
Astronomical Clock & Old Town Hall Tower
The Astronomical Clock is one of Prague’s most famous landmarks. The beautiful clock has an hourly show where figurines move in and around the face, and there’s regularly a crowd gathered to watch the stunning mechanisms move.
You can also climb the Old Town Hall tower for a panoramic view of Prague. It costs 250 CZK (about $11) to climb or take the elevator, and it’s definitely worth it. Pro-tip: visit at sunset to see golden hour light all over the city.
A Note on the Astronomical Clock: The Astronomical Clock was undergoing restoration through most of 2018 but is now open again!
Old Town Square
In the shadow of Old Town Hall, Old Town Square is the center of happenings in Old Town Prague. It’s where you’ll see street performers and live bands working all summer long. Children will be wildly running around (parents chasing after them!). Tourists will be everywhere. But for all the chaos and noise, it’s the place to be.
You can explore Old Town Square, visiting the buildings (like Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock or Church of Our Lady before Týn), or use it as a base to explore the rest of the city.
In the winter months preceding Christmas, a massive Christmas market is set up in Old Town Square with a gigantic Christmas tree. You can shop, eat, drink mulled wine, and listen to live Czech music!
I’m not a big shopper when I travel, but I know some people are. In Prague, the place to shop is along the long boulevard at Wenceslas Square. You can window-shop too, if that’s more your style, or enjoy the buskers and street performers working along the long street.
There are several bridges across the Vltava River in Prague, but the most famous by far is Charles Bridge. It connects Old Town Prague to Malá Strana (“Lesser Town”).
Charles Bridge is a pedestrian-only span over 2,000 feet long with 30 statues along its length, and 3 towers at the ends (one on the Malá Strana end, two on the Old Town end). These statues are all replicas of the originals, due to damage and exposure (you can see the originals at National Museum). Along its length you’ll see artists and street performers, as well as occasionally some people begging.
Charles Bridge is expected to begin repairs in 2019, so it may be more crowded and some statues may not be visible during the next few years.
A Note on Begging in Prague: On my first trip to Prague, I was a bit unsettled by the way that people beg. They lay almost flat on the ground with a hand or arm outstretched for donations – and while they may not block the walkway, you may need to step around them. It is up to you whether you choose to donate to someone asking for donations, but be respectful of their space when walking in Prague, especially in the Old Town.
Just off Old Town Square, the Sex Machines Museum is a bit of an unusual destination – but a noteworthy one! This museum definitely isn’t family friendly, but if you’re an off-beat or curious traveler, pay the 250 CZKand be amazed.
If this museum isn’t your style, there are loads of other small oddball museums in Prague, like the Apple Museum (dedicated to Steve Jobs) and the Beer Museum (no explanation needed) or Prague Beer Museum. Yes, there are two beer museums.
When I stayed in Prague for three weeks in 2016, one of my favorite activities was going for a long walk along the Vltava River. This river is the longest in the Czech Republic, and runs through the center of Prague. There are numerous bridges, so you can cross back and forth, and use it as your base/landmark to explore other neighborhoods.
I somehow missed that this was even a thing to see/do in Prague on my first visit, but on my second visit, I made sure to make a stop! The Lennon Wall is a beautiful, colorful wall of street art in Malá Strana. Originally started as public art in the 1980s, it was used as a canvas for messages of dissent the communist revolution in 1989. Now it’s covered in Beatles lyrics, notes to loved ones, and more.
You’ll regularly find a crowd of Instagrammers and selfie-stick-wielding people trying to snap the perfect pic… but I honestly just enjoyed looking at all the messages of love and peace people leave on the wall. We need more of that in this world!
On the western side of the Vltava River, Prague Castle is high on the hill overlooking the city. To reach the castle, you can approach from one of two ways: through the Hradčany neighborhood after crossing Charles Bridge, or by climbing the castle steps. I recommend entering through Hradčany and leaving down the castle steps so you can enjoy the city views on your climb down.
You can book a guided tour of Prague Castle which includes a visit to St. Vitus Cathedral on the castle grounds as well. Tickets are 350 CZK ($16).
Petřín Hill is another major hill on the Malá Strana side of Prague. You can climb it from any number of sides. The hill is covered with trails, parks, and green spaces to explore, so if you have the time, try climbing from one direction and descending another.
Petřín Lookout Tower
Atop Petřín Hill, you might imagine you’re seeing a small Eiffel Tower. This is actually the Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna) with two observation decks, including one at the top. You can climb the 13 flights of stairs to see panoramic views from the highest point in Prague.
Memorial to the Victims of Communism
At the base of Petřín Hill, a small memorial honors the victims of Communism. This disconcerting set of statues shows a figure being slowly decayed to nothingness, a stark reminder of the impact of Communism – especially on political prisoners.
So far, we’ve talked all about culture, history, etc. etc. etc. in Prague… but beer lovers (and foodies in general) will know that Prague is the home of Pilsner-style beer. You’d be remiss if you didn’t try any while visiting!
You can definitely pop into any local pub and try the beer there (Pilsner Urquell is the go-to, even if it’s not the best), or you can book a beer tour.
I went on a multi-stop beer and tapas tour with Urban Adventures Prague, here’s the whole story. The best part about this tour is that it got me out of the Old Town (where I was staying) into some of the cool, hip neighborhoods where real Czech folks live and drink and eat tapas (Czech tapas, click the link above to learn more).
If you only have time to visit one place, I was totally impressed by Vinohradský Pivovar. This modern kitchen and brewery is experimenting with different takes on traditional Czech beer styles and had an insanely cool menu.
If tasting beer isn’t enough for you, consider booking a session at the Prague Beer Spa. This hilarious concept includes soaking in a tub of beer, drinking beer, eating beer bread, and relaxing in a bed of straw after this indulgent experience… wait, straw?
My blogger friend Ashley wrote about her experience at the Beer Spa, if you want a first-hand account. It’s #1 on my list for my next trip to Prague (likely in 2019, to be honest!).
Explore Prague on Your Own!
Trust me when I say that in three weeks, I barely scratched the surface of what Prague has to offer. In addition to the places above, which are my ‘must-do’ recommendations, Prague is a great city to just get out and explore.
Here are some other sights you might want to try and visit:
- Powder Tower – A restored 15th Century tower gate to the Old Town
- Dancing House – A modern office block designed by Frank Gehry with a top-floor restaurant
- Jewish Quarter – Not far from Old Town, you can explore the historic Jewish neighborhood, synagogues, and cemeteries
- National Museum – Because natural science and history museums are good for your brain
- Kampa Island – An island in the Vltava river with houses and a park
- Strahov Library – A picturesque Baroque library that’s part of a monastery
- Klementinum Praha – Also spelled ‘Clementinum,’ this Baroque library dates back to the 18th Century
A 3-Day Itinerary for Prague
With all those cool things on your to-do list, how do you put them in any order to see them all? Here’s a quick itinerary for spending three days in Prague that squeezes almost all of it in.
Day 1: Explore Old Town
On your first day in Prague, spend the whole day exploring Old Town. This isn’t a large geographic area, but there’s so much to see.
Start by getting to Old Town Square and use that as your base to explore in each direction. Climb Old Town Hall and get oriented by seeing Prague from above. Wander toward Wenceslas Square for souvenir shopping. Visit the Jewish Quarter to learn a different perspective on history. Meander through the alleys toward Charles Bridge.
Oh, and don’t forget to be in the square to see the Astronomical Clock show at least once!
Day 2: Explore Malá Strana (Lesser Town)
On your second day in Prague, spend time in Malá Strana, the “Lesser Town.” If you’re staying near Old Town, cross Vltava River via the Charles Bridge early in the morning. Climb Castle Hill to Prague Castle before the crowds and get a view of the city. Don’t forget to stop and see St. Vitus’ Cathedral, a stunning Gothic structure.
Do some window shopping along Golden Lane of the Hradčany neighborhood, and wander through the Wallenstein Palace Gardens to get a break from the crowds. Visit Lennon Wall for a few selfies. Stop by the Memorial to the Victims of Communism for a quick reminder of that chapter in Czech history.
Climb Petřín Hill, explore the vast green areas, and take in the panoramic vista of Prague. If you’re feeling really ambitious, climb Petřín Tower for an even better view or to watch sunset bathe Prague all shades of golden light.
Day 3: Experience Czech Beer Culture
On your final day in Prague, the goal is to go beyond the tourist sights and get a real ‘taste’ of Prague. That means beer!
Book a morning session at the Beer Spa to start the day on a relaxing note. Spend the afternoon at the Beer Museum or Prague Beer Museum to learn more about Czech beer heritage and the history of pilsner.
End the day by taking the Beer & Tapas Tour from Urban Adventures Prague (read my review, website). You’ll eat, drink, and be merry with fellow travelers and learn more about life in Prague from a local guide. If you’re having a great time, stay out with fellow travelers to end the night.
Have other questions? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help you finish planning your trip!
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