People visit Prague for its long and colourful history, to wander along its cobbled streets and to gaze upon its pretty architecture. Some even go just for the beer. But it doesn’t matter how you choose to spend your stay in the capital of the Czech Republic, you’ll quickly find that this fine city has plenty to offer all-comers.
Situated on the banks of the Vltava River, Prague can trace its origins back to the 7th century, but today’s city dates in many ways from 1989, when it emerged from four decades of communist rule. With those turbulent times behind it, Prague has reinvented itself as a bustling, cosmopolitan hub, filled with culture, art and entertainment.
Its position on the Vltava makes it a popular stop on river cruises, and its historic centre is compact enough to explore on foot without the need for public transport.
That means you can cram a lot into one day – but where should you go? Well, we’ve listed ten of our favourites in our Prague city guide.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Here is a castle complex like no other, where you can wander round a former royal palace, admire the incredible St Vitus Cathedral and see the office of the Czech president. And that’s without mentioning the stunning gardens, the quaint St George’s basilica and an entire street dedicated to alchemy and the arts, filled with tiny, colourful houses. It’s a must-see – and an absolute bargain for the small admission fee.
According to legend, the first stone of the Charles Bridge was laid on 9 July 1537 at 5.31am precisely. This yielded the numerical palindrome 135797531, which King Charles IV believed would allow the bridge to stand for eternity. It seems to be working, because this magnificent landmark has spanned the Vltava ever since, allowing tourists to gaze upon its stunning Baroque statues and sigh wistfully at the sun-drenched views of Prague Castle – well worth braving the crowds for.
Franz Kafka Museum
Franz Kafka is Prague’s most famous literary export, and this in-depth museum dedicated to his life is suitably oppressive and ominous. With plenty of original writings, pictures and letters (including extracts from the remarkable Letter To His Father), this is a must-do for fans of the great man – and anybody who wants to find out what ‘Kafkaesque’ actually means.
Old Town Square
Situated on the side of a tower in Prague’s famous Old Town Square, the venerable (15th century) Astronomical Clock always draws a crowd. Every hour, the bell tolls and a small performance is enacted by the figure of Death and the 12 Apostles. It ends with the call of a crow and a generous round of applause from the audience. Good fun and completely free!
Déja vu? That’s because the Petrin Tower is a close copy of the famous Parisian original, though only one fifth the size. Built in 1891 after the Czech Tourist Club visited France and decided they must have one of their own, it’s a charming sight with fantastic views of the city.
Give Peace a Chance
It’s not pretty, but this graffiti wall was once a place for the young people of Prague to air their frustrations with the communist regime and promote their own form of ‘Lennonism’. It’s still iconic.
Wenceslas Square – named after the king from the Christmas carol – could tell many stories. The short-lived Czechoslovak Republic was founded here in 1918; dissidents Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc took their own lives here in protest at the communist regime; and it was here that Vaclav Havel proclaimed the rebirth of a nation in 1989.
Visit one of Prague’s celebrated market stalls and grab a bite while you’re there. Try trdelník, which is a sugar-coated dough, baked and twisted around a stick, then filled with ice cream. Be warned – it can get messy.
Few visit the Czech capital for its shopping opportunities, but those who wish to enjoy a stroll down Na Prikope will be greeted by high-street favourites and shopping malls galore, as well as a couple of Prague’s more upmarket boutiques.
Prague is not especially known for its cuisine – many of its famous dishes are Eastern European staples rather than delicacies. But U Parlamentu near the Old Town is perfect for enjoying some goulash with bread dumplings, or try pivní sýr, which takes blue cheese, paprika and a shot of beer and mixes them all together to eat with bread.