Prague’s history dates back over a thousand years. The city rivals any other in Europe in terms of sheer beauty but there is much more on offer than just a pretty face. Bisected by the Vlatava River, Prague will astound even the most well traveled tourist with its Gothic grace and Renaissance architecture, its many world-class museums and baroque style churches and bridges. Explore the medieval streets in the daylight, meander down the riverside in the evening and if all of the sight seeing becomes too tiring you can always relax with some hearty Czech cuisine and a choice of the finest lagers in the world. From jazz music, puppet shows and pork knuckles to an astronomical clock and a mind maze, without further ado, here is our list of the best things to do in Prague.
TIP – Consider the Prague City Card for discounts and unlimited use of public transport.
Infant Jesus of Prague – Located in the Mala Strana in the heart of the city, the Infant Jesus of Prague (also known as the Child of Prague) is a Roman Catholic statue of Jesus Christ as an infant. Everyday hundreds of believers pay a visit to this shrine to pray, bow and make wishes hoping that they will come true. The statue itself is encased in an ornate gilded shrine and while the origin of the figure is unknown, it has been dated back to the 16th Century.
Old Town Square – Despite Prague’s lively history of invasions, the Old Town Square has remained relatively untouched since the 10th Century. Swarms of tourists crowd the historical streets, packing out the alfresco restaurants everyday. The square itself is the perfect place to admire the wonderful architecture Prague has to offer and to enjoy various street performers, musicians and merchants that line the streets here.
Astronomical Clock Strike an Hour – Whilst in the Old Town Square, time your visit to the Old Town Hall so that you can watch the spectacle of the mechanical clock marking the turn of an hour. The clock itself is on the south face of the town hall and is the pride of Prague. It was built in the fifteenth century and despite being damaged and repaired during its lifetime, it is widely regarded as the best preserved medieval mechanical clock in the world. The show at the top of the hour never fails to disappoint the many onlookers.
The Charles Bridge – A walk across the 14th Century bridge is one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of visiting Prague. The bridge was commissioned in 1357 by Charles IV to replace an older bridge that had been washed away by floods. Although completed in 1390, with the striking statues added in the 17th century, the bridge did not take Charles’ name until the 19th century.
Old Jewish Ghetto – The Jewish quarter, also known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town and the Vltava River. Its history began in the 13th century when Jews living in Prague were ordered to vacate their homes and settle in this one area. The Jews were banned from living anywhere else in the city and were joined by fellow exiled Jews from other European countries. To add to their hardship, many buildings in the area were destroyed in the late 19th century when the cities layout was remodeled. Fortunately, many significant historical buildings remain including six synagogues and are well worth a visit.
Prague Castle – Located in Hradcany (the Castle district), Prague Castle is without a doubt the city’s most popular tourist attraction and it is easy to see why. The breath-taking castle has traditionally been the seat of Czech rulers and is today the official residence of the president. Entry to the grounds of the castle are free although many buildings such as the St Vitus cathedral, Basillica of St George and Golden Lane can be visited with a combined entry ticket. If you want priority access to skip the huge lines you should buy the Skip the Line.
Treasures of St Vitus Cathedral – St Vitus cathedral is one of the attractions located in the castle grounds. It is visible from all around the city of Prague. Although the cathedral looks many hundreds of years old, it was in fact completed in 1929. Many treasures await visitors including the tomb of St John of Nepomunk, the splendid Chapel of St Wenceslas and the magnificent art nouveau stained glass.
Golden Lane – Playground for Alchemists – Also located within the grounds of the castle is the mysterious Golden Lane, so called because, according to legends, alchemists had to look on this street to find a reaction to turn ordinary materials into gold. Despite the streets name, it is debated whether alchemists ever worked or lived here. Czech-Jewish writer Franz Kafka used a house on the street for around two years as he enjoyed the peaceful environment it provided whilst writing.
Eat a Pork Knuckle – This meat lovers dish, also known as Koleno, is a rather large hunk of pork knee and is very popular in Czech (and also German) cuisine. Expect the meat to be marinated in beer and served with pickled vegetables and dark Czech bread. Eating such a large chunk of meat can attract the attention of plenty of onlookers but the mix of aromatic tender pork and crispy skin renders the dish well worth eating despite of the audience.
The KGB Museum – This small museum was established by a Russian enthusiast and houses a large variety of memorabilia relating to the secret police of the Soviet Union. You may well be shown around by the collector himself and you can expect to find an assortment of spy cameras, secret weapons and interrogation equipment. Another interesting exhibit within the museum are the photographs of Prague taken by a KGB officer in the year of 1968 in which the streets of the city appear eerily empty.
Seven Foot Tall Sigmund Freud – Walk through the sublime urban area of Stare Mesto within the Old Town of Prague and look to the sky. You will be surprised to find a seven foot tall sculpture of the world famous psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud hanging from a metal beam above the cobbled streets at your feet. The unusual artwork has proven so popular that it has been exhibited in cities all over the world including Chicago, London and Berlin.
Lennon Wall – Although Prague is a long way from Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles, fans should certainly check out this shrine to one of the most famous bands of all time. The wall has been covered in John Lennon and The Beatles graffiti, lyrics and quotations since the 1980s and is very popular among tourists and young fans wishing to pay homage to the group.
Farmer’s Market – Nestled upon the river embankment just underneath the fortress of Vysehrad, gourmets would be wise to visit this farmer’s market, which pops up every Saturday. Blend in with the locals as you experience some of the best food (and sights) that the city has to offer. The market usually offers seasonal vegetables, freshly baked bread and cakes, pickles and preserves along with sausages and other specialist meats.
Communism Lessons – Europe is a continent rich in history and political turmoil and the Czech Republic does not buck that trend. The country was a communist nation from 1948 until the Velvet revolution of 1989. Under communist rule, more than 200,000 Czechs were arrested and 327 shot dead as they attempted to flee the country. Inside the communism museum you will find photographs, films and even sculptures documenting the state-sponsored terrorism that occurred under communist rule.
Puppet Show – The city has over 20 puppet shops, 30 puppet makers and even a puppet museum. The Czech love affair with puppets probably dates back to the 12th Century when the figures were used as entertainment at royal feasts and ceremonies. The best places to catch a puppet show in Prague are the National Marionette Theatre and Theatre Spejbla & Hurvinek which both offer popular performances.
Cruise the Vltava – Seeing Prague from the river Vltava is a unique experience and offers a way to see the many historical buildings and monuments from a different perspective. Cruises within the city are competitively priced and often include lunch or dinner depending on the time of day you choose to embark. Choosing a cruise with a duration of two hours or more, will ensure that you are aboard long enough to escape the hustle and bustle of Prague city center and allow you to enjoy the serenity of some of the quieter riverbanks on the Vltava river.
Drink a beer – The Czechs claim to have the best beer (pivo) in the world and Prague is a great place to test their claim. The huge choice of bars in the city offer famous Czech lagers such as Budvar and Staropramen alongside craft beers from the top microbreweries in the country. Most Czech beers are light beers, brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. Increasingly, breweries are producing a dark ale too as an alternative, but most Czechs like their beer light, nicely chilled and with a tall head. Beer aficionados should also ensure a visit to the Prague Beer Museum which offers more than 31 quality beers on tap. Check out this Czech Beer Museum Tour and Bottle Your Own Beer.
Mala Strana – Across the river from the Old Town are the baroque backstreets of Mala Strana (the Lesser quarter), built in the 17th and 18th century by victorious Catholic clerics and noblemen on the foundations of their Protestant predecessors Renaissance palaces. At its heart is the baroque square which offers small shops to browse, traditional Czech pubs and restaurants and some fantastic views of the river.
Prague nightlife – Prague’s nightlife has it all. World renowned for its jazz and classical music, there are many live music venues in Prague that can provide a good evening of entertainment. Take a stroll down the riverside and arrive at JazzDock which draws some of the best local jazz musicians. For serious clubbers, the Cross Club is an industrial nightclub in every sense of the word. Located in an industrial setting, the interior is a must-see jumble of gadgets, shafts and cranks, many of which move to the music.
Changing of the Guard – Arrive at the castle before midday to ensure a good view and watch the ceremonial changing of the guard including a fanfare and flag ceremony. The guards technically serve only the president of the Czech Republic and have some rather strict recruiting requirements including the specification that a guard must be between 1.78 and 1.88 meters tall to serve. The uniforms worn by the guards are unique to the castle guards and are light blue in summer and dark blue in winter.
299 Steps to Petrin Hill – Petrin is a hill on the left bank of the Vltava River, it offers great views of the city and is one of the greenest spaces in Prague. It is a pleasant walk to the top of the hill and there are plenty of benches to rest your legs on whilst admiring the view on the way up. Alternatively, you can ride the funicular railway from the lesser quarter all the way to the top of Petrin Hill. At the summit, you will find a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower, landscaped gardens and the unusual Church of St Michael, a wooden building relocated from Ukraine.
Letna Park – This park, which used to be home to a giant statue of Stalin until it was destroyed in the 60’s, is a popular meeting spot for skateboarders. The park is located on the steep river embankment of Letna Hill. Sit down and relax at one of the many beer gardens here while people watching and if the skateboarders fail to entertain, the cityscape certainly will not.
Pickled Cheese – This Czech delicacy is a must try for the traveling foodie. It is the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of pivo making it a Czech pub classic. The dish is essentially a soft Camembert like cheese, with an edible rind, submerged and pickled in oil, spices and garlic before being served with chilli peppers and Czech fried bread. This snack is both potently hot and creamy at the same time and is a casual introduction to Czech cuisine.
Mind Maze – Inspired by the legends of alchemists, the mind maze in Prague is an interesting and memorable challenge. Upon entering the Mind Maze, you will find yourself locked in the Alchemist’s chamber and will have 60 minutes to escape by solving a series of riddles and puzzles. When you first enter the chamber it looks old-fashioned and rather empty, however as you begin to investigate the objects around the room, you will soon realize there is much more to this small room than meets the eye. Take a friend as teams are allowed and two heads are better than one!
Jelení Príkop (Stag Moat) – Once used as a moat along the backside of Prague castle, this strip of land is now a beautiful stretch of greenery. Enjoy a picnic or pre-dinner stroll within this area and allow yourself time to recover from the tiring exploration of Prague.