Prague has grown exponentially as a tourism destination in the last two decades, which is great for the Czech economy and people of Prague, but bad for visitors who prefer destinations that aren’t swamped by tourists drawn to relatively cheap booze and a fairytale setting.
Happily, real beauty still awaits despite the crowds. The Czech Republic’s position on the frontier of East and West is evident in Prague’s unique architecture – one part St Petersburg and one part Paris. But perhaps Prague’s most attractive quality is its optimism. The city is still flexing its freedom muscles after emerging from behind the iron curtain in 1989, and the lingering air of celebration will sweep you up. You may even be tempted to go to Grand Priory Square and add your own thoughts to the Lennon Wall that precipitated the anti-communist revolution. (Just don’t write ‘Give peace a chance’ – everyone does that. Try ‘Newspaper taxis appear on the shore’ to be a little different.)
Allow yourself to be delighted by Prague’s Christmas Markets, cafes and even the panhandling gypsies that line Charles Bridge,offering to tell your fortune, play you a tune or sell you a ‘genuine’ Rolex. Get up early to beat the hordes to the exquisite medieval centre, with its well-maintained monuments, churches and bridges alongside Vltava River.
At night, your path to the most popular bars will probably be blocked by a sea of Canadian-flag-emblazoned backpacks and red-faced Irish boys on a stag night – especially on weekends. But that just leaves the quieter places free for you to enjoy!
Prague's Top 10
10. Franz Kafka Museum First edition Kafka books, diaries, manuscripts, and more! At the bookstore you can also buy any of Kafka’s works.
5. Church of St. Nicholas The white exterior gleams in the sun to create something a truly divine-looking.
9. Prague Zoo: The zoo has been around since 1931. In 2008, Forbes Travel Magazine deemed it one of the best zoos in the world.
4. Museum of Communism: Catch a glimpse behind the iron curtain and learn about the effect of communism on Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1989.
8. The Strahov Monastic Brewery in the Strahov Monastery is not only an excellent brewery but also a restaurant. Beer, food and history – what more could you want?
3. Petrin Hill:Boasts numerous parks and a 60m Lookout Tower (though much shorter, it’s an Eiffel Tower look-alike).
7. Municipal House (known as Obecni Dum) is the most important Art Nouveau building in Prague. Orchestras perform in its concert halls.
2.Orloj is amongst the only medieval astronomical clock in the world that still works. Don’t go if you have a face that stops clocks. They won’t appreciate that.
6. Charles Bridge Photographed endlessly but still worth a visit for its Baroque statues and statuaries.
1. Prague Castle The Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have all held office here. It’s the biggest castle in the world!
- Old Town Square – This has been a part of Prague since the 10th century.
- Prague Castle – The most famous historical monument in Prague.
- Vysehrad National Cultural Monument – This Prague attraction was thought to be built in the 10th century and was the original settlement in Prague.
- Lesser Quarter – One of Prague’s historical districts, this area contains many baroque palaces and homes of Renaissance burghers.
- Castle District – The regal buildings and narrow streets remind visitors of the long and rich history of Prague.
Prague Art & Culture
- National Theatre – A great place in Prague to catch a symphony or ballet.
- Astronomical Clock – This strange Prague landmark is located in the Old Town Square.
- Church of St. Nicholas – This 18th-century Prague church is famous because Mozart once played there.
- John Lennon Wall – Located in Lesser Quarter, this graffiti-covered wall celebrates the life of John Lennon as well as Prague’s revolutionary past.
- Petrin Tower – This beautiful Prague tower is one of the favourite attractions.
- Besser Gold – This Prague jewellery shop has an extensive array of gold products.
- Novy Smichov – This stylish Prague shopping mall has all of the hottest designers and name brands.
- Havelska Market – This Old Town Prague market sells all types of souvenirs and gifts.
- Palladium – This unique Prague shopping gallery is actually located in the houses of former army barracks.
- Diamit – For those looking for glass or crystal wares while in Prague, start here.
Gay and Lesbian Prague
- JampaDampa – One of the largest lesbian bars in Prague, it is very popular on the weekends and for its karaoke nights.
- PM Club – The last Friday of each month is the best time to visit this gay- and lesbian-friendly bar.
- Friends – Mostly a male gay bar, this Prague favourite is also popular with the lesbian community.
- Mezipatra – This annual Prague film festival mostly screens movies involving lesbian themes.
- Termix – With a mixed crowd of gays and lesbians, this is one of the hottest dance bars in Prague.
- High Ropes – Just outside of Prague in Veltrusy, you can test your balance and skills on these high ropes.
- Letna Park – A great place in Prague to escape the city and take a walk.
- Gutovka – This complex offers a wide array of sporting activities for families.
- Aquapark Barrandov – You can do everything from swimming to enjoying the outdoor volleyball courts and paddling pool.
- Prague Zoo – This is a great way to spend the day outdoors.
- Rent a bike and take a tour around Prague with Praha Bikes.
- Shoot down your target at Prague Range Shooting.
- Tackle your friends during a Prague Rugby Tour.
- Get all your hiking gear at Hudy Sport, one of the biggest chains in Prague.
- Play a quick round at the Albatross Golf Resort in Prague.
Officially, Prague’s districts are simply numbered, Paris-style, from 1 to 10. ‘Praha 1’ is where you’ll find most of the city’s attractions, including the Old Town, which is (gasp!) the oldest part of Prague.
Old Town Square will be overflowing with tourists (understandably so!), but there are other architectural delights like the gothic Tyn Cathedral and the baroque St Nicholas Church to visit.
There’s also the Jan Hus monument, named after a Czech religious reformer, the Convent of St Agnes, named after a saint and the first early Gothic building in Prague, and the Mucha Museum, named after and devoted entirely to Art Nouveau pioneer Alphonse Mucha. Clearly, not a great deal of thought goes into naming these places (maybe due to a lingering communist creativity bypass), but at lest you know what you’re letting yourself in for!
We’re guessing your uncanny powers of deduction have already led you to conclude that the New Town is, in fact, the newer part of town. Here you can saunter through Wenceslas Square, a boulevard that packs bars, restaurants and casinos together like sardines. It also has a statue of St. Wenceslas (aka ‘Good King Wenceslas’ of Christmas Carol fame) on a horse. The National Museum is the place to learn about nature and history (assuming they don’t teach you about the birds and bees and things in your own country). Actually, it’s the grand building itself rather than the exhibitions that will leave the greatest impression.
Also in New Town is the Dancing House, which, um, got its name from the shape of the building – a man and woman dancing. If plants are your thing, the Botanical Garden of the Charles University is the place to go. If they’re not, it’s still a lovely place for a picnic.
Prague North is the most interesting area outside the city centre. It’s home to the Prague Zoo and some prominent parks. The largest, Stromovka Park, features ponds, cafes and even stables. Meanwhile, Letna Park used to have Stalin’s Monument, which was the biggest statue of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the world until it was destroyed in 1962. Its place is now taken by the Prague Metronome. For those with a penchant for shopping, the Holesovice Market has numerous shops and kiosks where haggling is positively encouraged.
From Czech cuisine to international fare, you’re spoilt for choice in Prague.
Bellevue Offers spectacular views of Prague Castle and equally fine food.
Terasa u Slate Studne Hidden away in back streets of Lesser Town, it’s the best place to avoid the tourists. It serves high-class international cuisine.
Kogo Nosh on superior Italian fare at this family restaurant. Also has a formidable wine list.
Kampa Park The place for plaice (and seafood in general). Book early to reserve a table on the (heated) riverside terrace overlooking Charles Bridge.
U Maliru Be seduced by the food and artwork.
U modre kachnicky Takes Czech food to an haute cuisine level.
Celeste Restaurant Located on the top floor of the famous, it’s the city views that really make this place.
Buddha Bar Restaurant is an eatery known for its contemporary pan-Asian food. It’s a little incongruous in such a European city, but the large Buddha statue adds to the Eastern feel.
Coda is an elegant fine dining restaurant serving sophisticated international cuisine. In summer, sit on the rooftop for primo views.
La Degustation Choose from three seven-course menus of Continental and Czech cuisine. The wine is selected by sommeliers (so you don’t have to pretend you know what you’re on about).
Febiofest in March is a one-week festival that screens more than 400 films.
Also in March is another film festival, the One World Festival, which has a documentary focus, as an International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.
In April The Writers’ Festival sees notable writers flock to Prague to discuss literature. One of Europe’s most important literary festivals. Very few stag night parties attend.
The Prague Spring International Music Festival can be enjoyed from May to June. It’s the biggest classical music festival in Prague.
In July, the Prague Folklore Days welcomes folklore ensembles with a minimum of 14 members to sing or dance. Go on, get a group together. We dare you…
The Prague Autumn International Music Festival runs from September to October. It’s the second largest classical music festival in Prague (and is presumably bitterly resentful of that).
Another autumn festival is the Prague International Jazz Festival. It has been running for over 40 years. Unfortunately, it’s not recorded which acts visited during communist times. Uncle Joe’s Big Band, perhaps? Or maybe Vlad Lenin’s All-Stars?
The International Festival of Advent and Christmas Music takes place in November, and allows to amateur choirs to compete for the Petr Eben’s Prize.
In December the Prague Advent Choral Meeting is open to choirs of any size and from any part of the world. Christmas carols in the home of Good Kind Wenceslas, with snow gently falling (if you’re lucky)? It doesn’t get much more sentimentally magical than this.
When To Go
Spring (April to June) in Prague is dry and warm, with temperatures ranging from 5-20°C (41-68°F)
Prague’s summer is from July to September, when the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny – up to 32°C (90°F)
In autumn (October to December), it cools down to tops of about 25°C (77°F).
Winter (January to March) can see temperatures plummet near freezing. It’s also cloudy, but sadly rarely snows.
Getting There & Around
Prague is best experienced on foot. So many of the attractions are condensed in one area that a walking tour is the perfect way to hop (not literally, unless you’re particularly coordinated) from one to another. Other options include the tram, metro, and boat. Though you can take taxis, it’s best to avoid them (and opt for public transport instead) as taxi drivers will try to over-charge you and then suddenly lose their grasp of English.
What To Miss
Prague is known for car theft, so be on guard if you’re getting around with a car.
As well as pickpockets, you also need to be aware of other scams. Often at night, local men at the metro will pretend to be ticket inspectors and claim that your ticket is invalid and then fine you 500 CZK. If they don’t show you a badge and you know your ticket is valid, tell them you’ll alert the police.
It’s common knowledge that the police in Prague don’t speak English – they’re also notorious for being very tough and intolerant of rowdy, obnoxious tourists. Avoid getting thrown in the Prague drunk-tank overnight… let’s just say you might wake up very friendly with a toothless wino named Andrej.
Prague amazes with its astounding architecture and unscathed beauty preserved from both the ravages of World War II and post-communist Eastern Europe. The capital of Czech Republic is a success story in itself, transforming itself as a hip city with cafes, restaurants, art galleries and swinging clubs, a far cry from the staidness which occupied the city for centuries. And with a more dramatic backdrop of hundreds of spires piercing through the skies, Prague glistens as one of Europe’s must-see destinations.
The city offers the perfect weekend break as its compact size encourages a day or two of fine sightseeing. Walk around and you can enjoy the old cathedrals, alleyways made of cobblestones and bridges dating back to the 14th century. Another delightful feature is the city’s passion for the arts, all genres be it music, theatre or film flourish through year-round programmes and festivals - definitely something for the bohemian travellers. As more and more Eastern European cities are undergoing a renaissance of sorts, thus aiming to be called as the New Prague, one thing is certain. The original is definitely one of a kind!
The two major attractions on top of the list are Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. The Castle sits atop the city like a hawk keeping an eye over the streets below. It is a huge complex of towers, museums, monuments and churches linked by courtyards, built between the 10th century to the present. Thus you can find a showcase of different architectural styles in the area. Exploring the entire confines takes a full day but for a morning or afternoon, the popular sights such as St. George’s Basilica, Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, and Powder Tower can be covered in your itinerary.
The Old Town has narrow alleyways you’d love to get lost in! If you can work your way among throngs of tourists, your feet shall lead you to the Old Town Square, the bustling heart of the old city. Fix your gaze upwards to the Town Hall’s astronomical clock that tells time in three different ways. Then take snapshots of the two famous churches on this center. Tyn Church has an impressive Gothic style known for its twin spires and St. Nicholas for its magnificent Baroque architecture. Connecting Prague Castle to the Old Town is Charles Bridge, a pedestrian pathway filled with buskers and artists.
More marvelous structures can be discovered in the Jewish Quarter. Historic sites include old synagogues, a museum and a cemetery. The art nouveau buildings and some good shopping haunts further make this district a worthwhile part of your Prague experience.
The arts scene continues to thrive in Prague. Febiofest caters to movie buffs as more than 400 films in all genres are screened in a week-long festival in March. While documentary films on human rights are on the agenda during the One World festival also in the same month.
On the musical side, Prague Spring International Music Festival running from May to June, is a showcase of classical music at its best. A gathering of performers, orchestras and chamber music ensembles coming from around the globe take part in this prestigious event. A similar extravaganza takes place in Fall when Prague Autumn is held from September to October. Jazz lovers, on the other hand, can look forward to the Jazz Festival, a week of concerts by famed international musicians.
Prague also has special events not just for the musically inclined but for writers as well. One of the major gatherings of acclaimed writers worldwide is held in Prague. The Writers’ Festival is included in Europe’s cultural calendar, with renowned authors visiting the city for talks on the art of literature.
- Winter (January to March) 2-16°C; cold, cloudy with limited snowfall
- Spring (April to June) 5-20°C; warm and generally dry
- Summer (July to September) 15-32°C; hot and sunny
- Fall (October to December) 5-25°C; cool with frequent rain
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