Prague is one of those magical fairy tale cities. It’s what most people see in their mind when they picture “medieval European city”. The capital of the Czech Republic is one of the most beloved European tourist destinations, and with good reason. That does come with a fair bit of over-tourism, so I would recommend visiting off-season.
I’ve been to Prague twice now, once in March and once in October. And I have to say, winter or summer, rain or shine, Prague is astonishingly beautiful. Bursting at the seams with historical architecture, rich culture, interesting museums, and cozy pubs, the city has so much to offer. Whether you’re there for the culture or the nightlife, in Prague you’re guaranteed a good time.
With so much to do and see, from famous sights to hidden gems, it can be hard to know where to start. Let me share my favorite things to do in Prague to help you kick-start your trip planning.
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Take a walking tour around the Old Town
I’ve been to few places where history was so palpable as in Prague. As you walk through the cobblestone streets past buildings in gothic, renaissance, baroque, and art nouveau style, you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It is easy to imagine yourself transported into a different era.
But in a city with so much to see, you’re likely to get overwhelmed and miss the best parts. That’s why I would recommend going on a guided tour. Free Walking Tours are my favorite thing to do on solo trips, especially in European cities. They provide crucial context to what you’re seeing and a crash-course in the local history and culture. Both of which Prague has plenty.
This tour by a local guide is absolutely fantastic!
Watch the Astronomical Clock
Within the Old Town, there is plenty to see all around. The biggest tourist attraction, however, is the Astronomical Clock. This massive timepiece hangs on the side of the City Hall building.
The base of the clock dates back to 1410, making it the oldest clock in operation in the world. Since then, a few parts have been added.
The mechanism has an astronomical dial showing the position of the sun and moon in the sky. It also has a zodiac ring and a calendar dial for the months of the year. Above the clock sits a calendar plate with zodiac signs, church holidays, and 365 names of saints.
Apart from all that, the clock has an outer rotating ring that counts to 24 in the old Czech timescale and a ring with Roman numerals that counts to 12 twice. As beautiful as the structure is, actually telling time from the clock isn’t all that easy.
Luckily, the clock does a little show every on the hour. Every hour on the hour (except midnight) the figures surrounding the clock move. They tell a story of vice and virtue, with Death coming for Vanity, Greed and Lust. The 12 apostles also appear from the little windows above the clock.
All in all, it only last a minute, but it still draws scores of people. Mind your belonging if you’re going to see the clock, pickpockets love nothing better than a distracted crowd of tourists!
Walk across Charles Bridge
The Charled Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks of Prague. The stone bridge dates back to the 15th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Until 1841, it was the only crossing over the Vlatva River in the city. It connects the Old Town with Prague Castle and played an important role facilitating trade between Eastern and Western Europe.
The bridge is still in good shape and in use as a footbridge only. It’s usually quite crowded with tourists, but certainly worth walking across. The bridge is lined with statues and has two massive Gothic gates on either side. It also offers a gorgeous view of both sides of the city.
Stroll around Malá Strana
Once you’ve crossed Charles Bridge from the Old Town, you find yourself in Malá Strana. This part of the city was founded in 1257 as the New Town, but renamed to Little Quarter (Malá Strana) when the current New Town was founded in 1348.
Malá Strana runs along the river and up the hill to Prague Castle. It is just as beautiful and charming as the Old Town, if not more so.
You’ll find lots of shops and restaurants here. Some of them are clear tourist traps, so use your street smarts to sniff out which ones are worth visiting. There are also some churches and museums.
Do you love historic towns and Medieval vibes? Then you should also visit Tallinn!
Discover the Waldstein Garden
Malá Strana is full of hidden corners, like the Waldstein Garden. The gate to the gardens lies close to the Manes Bridge, and looks inconspicuous but is certainly worth passing through.
Inside you’ll find the beautiful 17th-century garden that belongs to the Senate Palace. Hedge lined paths lead you to little patches of green with fountains, statues and flower beds. Follow them to the little stage with occasional concerts and plays, an artificial Grotta, fresco’s, and an aviary.
The walled garden provides a serene little hideaway from the bustle of the city.
Visit Prague Castle
High above the city towers Prague Castle, you’ve probably already spotted it as you walked over the bridge. It’s a bit of a hike up the narrow cobblestone streets of Malá Strana.
From the castle, you have a nice view over the roofs of Malá Strana and the city beyond the river.
The castle is considered the largest ancient castle in the world and was built in the 9th century. It once housed the kings of Bohemia, but now it’s the office of the president.
The name Prague Castle refers to the whole complex, which encompassed a lot of buildings, including several churches, palaces, halls and towers. The St. Vitus Cathedral is well worth a visit.
The whole complex and the small area behind are fun to walk around, even if you don’t enter any of the buildings. Especially Golden Lane, a row of small colorful houses.
Climb the Petrin hill
Once you’ve made your way up to the Castle, it’s only a bit further to the top of Petrin Hill. It is one of the largest urban green spaces with a Rose Garden, Nebozizek Garden and Seminary Garden. On your way there, be sure to stop at the Strahov Monastery for a beer from their brewery.
From the top of the hill, you have a spectacular view of the city. Especially if you climb up the Lookout Tower.
There’s a network of footpaths leading back down. But if you don’t want to walk, there’s also a funicular.
Walk through the Jewish Quarter
The final area of Prague that everyone must visit is Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. It lies in the northwest corner of the Old Town. In the early 20th century, most of the Jewish Quarter was demolished and rebuilt in an Art Nouveau style to resemble Paris. The only original buildings that were left are six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall. These old buildings are now collectively the Jewish Museum in Prague.
These days, it’s a wealthy neighborhood with lots of designer shops. It’s a beautiful area, but not very representative of what it was like when it flourished in the 16th century. But if you want an idea of that, you can watch the 1920 film The Golem.
You’ll also find Franz Kafka’s birthplace in the Jewish Quarter. If you look at the ground, you can find lots of “Stumble Stones”. These bronze stones are laid at the last known address of persons deported by the Nazi’s and are engraved with their names.
Visit a museum
A city as full of history and culture as Prague needs a lot of museums.
The National Museums, Národní Muzeum, is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The cupola at the top offers a gorgeous view. It houses a permanent collection on 20th century Czech history and one on natural history and evolution. They also have temporary exhibits on different aspects of Czech culture and history.
History buffs can also visit the Cold War Museum, the Museum of Communism, and the KGB Museum. If you are interested in the history of the Jewish citizens of Prague, you can visit different sites of the Jewish Museum of Prague.
My personal recommendation to art lovers is the Mucha Museum. Alphonse Mucha was a painter and designer who became famous for his Art Nouveau panels, posters, and decorations. The small museum is dedicated to the life and work of my favorite artist and a proud Slav.
If you’re more into writing, you can’t the museum dedicated to one of the most famous sons of Prague: Franz Kafka.
Visit a church
There are some stunning churches in Prague filled with ornate decorations and art. Whether you’re religious or not, they are well worth a visit.
Most notably the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. It is a Gothic masterpiece with imposing architecture and opulent decorations.
Another must in Malá Strana is The Church of Our Lady Victorious. This one is known mostly for the wax effigy of baby Jesus, nicknamed the Infant of Prague.
The Church of Our Lady Before Týn lies right in the centre of Prague on the Old Town Square. It has two uneven spires, one representing masculinity and one femininity. The building style is similar to that of the old city gates.
Of course, there’s more than Christian churches in Prague. There are also a few synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. All of these fall under the Jewish Museum of Prague. The Old New Synagogue is the oldest in Central Europe and dates back to the 13th century. The Pinkas synagogue houses a particularly moving exhibition of paintings by Jewish children from the Terezín Ghetto, before they were taken to Auschwitz.
Feel the magic
Prague has a reputation for magic and the occult. Walking through this city where time seems to have stood still, it isn’t hard to understand why. Prague breathes a mysterious energy.
A lot of this is due to the history of alchemy in Prague. King Rudolf II was obsessed with finding an elixir for immortality and the philosopher’s stone. During his reign, in the times of Renaissance Europe, alchemy was considered a science and many of them settled in Prague. There are still alchemy and magic museums all over the city, such as Speculum Alchimiae.
Bohemian culture is full of folklore and lore, and it is kept alive through festivals, songs, stories, and performances. The Czech people are proud of their culture and heritage.
If you enjoy a good fright, there are many ghost tours that combine the macabre history of Prague with its occult reputation.
Dive into Prague nightlife
The fun doesn’t end at the dusk in Prague, far from it. The city has a vibrant nightlife and is a popular destination for European party-goers. If you’re looking for a good time and bang for your buck, join one of the many pub crawls. All of them end at Karlovy Lazne, the biggest nightclub in Europe.
If you’d rather avoid the groups of drunk bachelors and teenagers, there are still plenty of options. Prague houses a few nice jazz clubs, like AghaRTA and Jazz Republic. There are also a lot of good cocktail bars with old-timey speak-easy charm. Check out the Alchemist Bar, Hemmingway, and Black Angel. For a super unique drinking experience, visit the Green Devil’s Absinth Bar!
Did you know that the Czechs drink more beer than anyone else in the world? A whopping 142 liters per capita annually. Beer is cheap and tasty in the Czech Republic. Visit a beer hall, like Lokal Dlouhaaa, for a real Czech beer experience, or head to T-Anker for local craft beer with a view.
Eat and drink all the Czech classics
Of course, there is more to Czech cuisine than liquor and beer. You can find both traditional Czech eateries and modern international restaurants around the city. Generally speaking, Czech food is hearty and simple. There are a lot of meat-based dishes, fermented vegetables, stews, and soups. But there are some options for vegetarians and vegans as well.
The food and drinks in Prague deserved a whole post of their own, so you can read all about what to eat in Prague here.
Where to stay: I really enjoyed my stay at the Penta Hotel Prague. It’s a quick tram ride away from the Old Town and all the major tourist attractions. The hotel is modern, hip, and comfortable. And the breakfast was delicious!
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive. There are so many more things to see and do in Prague, but these are just some of my favorite. These options will keep you entertained for a few days while you explore the city.
Have you been to the Czech capital yet? What were your favorite things to do in Prague? Let me know in the comments which activities or sites you would add to this list.
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