A castle on a hill overlooking a river, grandiose domes and golden spires, cobbled alleys and marmalade colored rooftops: Prague or Praha makes for a picture perfect destination.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and home to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka, and the legends of Golem.
Through the ages, Prague has played a pivotal role, politically and culturally, in central Europe. It was the historical capital of Bohemia, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and an important center for European Jews.
Mostly of Slavic descent, the people speak Czech, however many speak English today.
The currency is the Czech Koruna (CZK). While some businesses may accept Euros, most prefer dealing in Korunas. 1€ = 27.5 Kč (CZK).
The Quick 360o
Prague is surrounded by hills with the Vlatva river running through it. On one side of the river are the hilly districts of the Prague castle (Hradčany), Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and the Petřín hill.
On the opposite bank is the Old town (Staré Město) with its popular square, its grand churches and numerous restaurants. The Old Town is flanked by Josefov (the Jewish quarter) on the north, and New Town (Novo Mesto) on the south. The famous Wenceslas Square and Prague’s railway station Hlavní Nádraží are part of New Town.
Several bridges link the two banks. Of them the most famous is the Charles Bridge.
Lesser Town (including Charles Bridge), the Old and the New Town are part of a UNESCO Heritage site and Prague’s “walkable” historic center.
The Must-See List
Prague castle (Pražský hrad). (www.hrad.cz/en/prague-castle-for-visitors)
Overlooking the city, the castle is believed to be biggest in the world. It has been renovated over the centuries resulting in a mélange of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance style architecture.
Among the top attractions within the complex are the Old Royal palace, the New Royal palace, St Vitus Cathedral, and the Royal garden.
The Prague Castle complex – 06.00 to 22.00. Historical buildings – 09.00 to 17.00 (till 16.00 during winter).
Entrance fees are between 250 CZK-350 CZK depending on which historical sites you include.
The Old Royal Palace. Built in the early 12th century, the palace houses the majestic coronation hall known as Vladislav hall. Though not lavishly decorated, it’s worth a visit.
The New Royal Palace. The office of the current Czech president, its state rooms are open to the public only two days a year.
Don’t miss! The change of guard that takes place, with much fanfare, every day at noon inside the first courtyard of the palace.
St Vitus Cathedral. Founded in 1344, St Vitus Cathedral is a semi-gothic structure complete with flying buttresses, animal gargoyles, black spires and soaring towers (the tallest one stands at 96.5 meters). Not to be missed within the Cathedral are the St. Wenceslas Chapel, the stained glass windows and the crypt with royal tombs.
The Royal Garden. A beautiful flower garden with Renaissance-style buildings, statues, fountains, and courtyards like the Lion Courtyard, the Summer Royal Residence and Royal Ball Game hall.
Don’t miss! Birds of Prey: At the entrance of the garden you can find a rare collection of falcons, hawks and owls. For a fee, you can take pictures with them, with help from their trainers.
Charles Bridge (Karlův Most). This is definitely the most selfie-inspiring landmark in Prague. It is a 10 meter-wide, cobble-stone bridge with 30 baroque-styled stone sculptures alternating with baroque lamp posts. Stretched across the Vlatva, the bridge is framed by the castle on one side, and with intersecting domes and spires on the other.
Today, the Charles Bridge is dotted with local jazz musicians, sketch artists, and knick-knack sellers who enrich the bridge.
The Old Town Square (Staroměstské Náměstí). The city center for centuries, its main attractions include the medieval Astronomical Clock, the Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn with its 80-meter high towers, and the Jan Hus monument dominating the square center.
Josefov. This old Jewish quarter includes landmarks like Frank Kafka’s birthplace, the Jewish cemetery and several synagogues. It also has an avenue with high-end brand stores.
Top Things to Do
Photo-ops from Petřín Tower and Strahov Monastery. Situated on top of Petřín hill, the Observation Tower (60 meters high) is Prague’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. You can take the funicular to the hilltop. Entrance to the tower costs 160 CZK.
The Strahov Monastery is a 1.5 kilometer walk from the tower through a beautiful landscape. Perched on a hill, this stunning Monastery offers panoramic views of Prague’s orange rooftops and the many bridges spanning the Vlatva river.
Segway Tours. (www.prague-segway-tours.com) A most enjoyable experience of rolling around the streets of Prague. It costs 59€ per person and last three hours.
Walking Tours. (www.newpraguetours.com) Go for the Sandeman’s free walking tour of the Historic centre and the 11€ tour of the castle.
Strolling around Malá Strana and Kampa Island. Going past undulating cobbled streets you can discover many of Prague’s pastel-colored heritage buildings and quaint souvenir shops.
At the edge of Malá Strana is the Kampa Island, Prague’s miniature Venice. A stairway from Charles Bridge will lead you to this picturesque little island perfect for a picnic or a quiet walk.
Operas, ballets, church concerts & black light theatre. (www.pragueticketoffice.com). For a fraction of what it costs in Western Europe, you can watch an opera in Prague for 800 CZK. Don’t miss one the church concerts. It allows you to sit in the ornate halls like that of the St. Nicolas Church or the Clementinum Mirror Chapel, and listen to quartets and orchestras play Vivaldi, Mozart, and more. Tickets range from 250 CZK-750 CZK.
The Best Local Food Experiences
Restaurace Mlejnice (www.restauracemlejnice.cz/en/Mlejnice/kozna/introduction.html)
Known for its tasty meat preparations at affordable prices, this restaurant’s menu includes national classics like goulash with bread dumplings, and roast beef with plum sauce. Mains cost around 220 CZK. A pint of Pilsner beer (pivo) costs 45 CZK.
U Fleků (http://en.ufleku.cz)
Founded in 1499, this microbrewery and pub has eight beer halls and a German styled beer garden. In-house beers cost 45 CZK, while flavored liqueurs cost about 85 CZK a shot. If you are there in the right season, try their honey beer.
Erhart Café (www.erhartovacukrarna.cz)
A favourite among the locals, this café sells Czech pastries like lasonka, apple strudel, větrník, kremrole, and also has a drinks menu.
This shop has a wide variety of items mixed with absinthe. A pistachio absinthe softie ice cream costs 45 CZK
Insider Tips: Lesser Town is the best place to stay though most B&BS don’t have elevators. The Old Town offers a variety of accommodation but can get crowded and noisy while New Town with its international hotel chains lack the heritage charm.
Václav Havel is Prague’s international airport and is situated 20 kilometers from city centre.
Regular trains from Hlavní Nádraží station come from neighboring Schengen countries and also from Russia. Tickets can be booked from the German (www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en) or Austrian (www.oebb.at/en) or the Czech (www.cd.cz/en) railways.
The main bus stop is Florenc from where Eurolines and StudentAgency have regular inter-city and intra-country buses.
The best way to see Prague is on foot with a map. There is a network of trams, buses and three metro lines. A 24 hour ticket costs 110 CZK but you can buy tickets for shorter duration too. Tickets can be easily found at convenience stores, and tobacco shops. Once you board the bus/tram, it is mandatory to validate your tickets in the yellow machines.
Best Time to Visit
Though July, August and December are the most popular tourist months, Prague is prettiest in spring.
During Easter and Christmas the Old Town square comes alive with decorative lights, live music, street performances, pop-up stores selling local artifacts and street food including roasting pigs, Czech hotdogs, Trdelnik pastry and warm wine.
Prague offers an over-whelming experience of history, culture, art and architecture framed in a bohemian fairy-tale setting. When in Prague you can’t help get the feeling of living in a picturesque postcard.