Prague, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful eastern European cities I have visited. Gothic and Baroque architecture defines its skyline and history and religion mould its past. Nicknamed ‘the City of a Hundred Spires’ and recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1992, wander the cobbled streets of this capital city and discover 22 best things to do and see on a city break. Enjoy the splendour of its bohemian architecture, the friendliness of the locals and its delicious traditional dishes.
This itinerary is designed for three days in Prague however you could easily adapt it to a two day Prague itinerary by just concentrating on the Castle District and the Old Town.
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Frequently Asked Questions.
When to travel to Prague
I travelled in April – the beginning of Spring is quite unpredictable, and although we didn’t get any rain, it was grey and gloomy.
Late Spring/Summer months – the weather is more pleasant and the sun is out – If you travel in July/August be prepared for lots of tourists.
Autumn – pleasant weather and there are fewer crowds. A lovely time to wander the streets of one of Europe’s favourite cities.
Winter – November/December in Prague is magical. This is a great time to visit the Prague Christmas Markets – wrap up well, it will be cold.
Where to Stay in Prague
I stayed at the Smetana Hotel, previously known as the Pachtuv Palace, a luxurious boutique hotel, steeped in history, and within a stone’s throw of the Charles Bridge.
Find availability and pricing for alternative Prague accommodation here.
How to get from Prague Airport to the City Centre
Pre-book a private transfer and arrive in comfort straight to your hotel door.
Day One – Best Things to Do in Prague
I am going to mention this bridge first as it is unmistakably the most iconic structure in Prague. A photograph of Prague typically features the stone bridge spanning the River Vltava connecting the Old Town to Mala Strana.
Constructed in the 14th century and featuring statues of Catholic saints this bridge is your entry and exit point to Mala Strana and the Castle District. It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar to strengthen the construction of the bridge!
Our hotel was along the river, and we had a perfect view of Charles Bridge from our window. It only made sense that we should check it out on our first morning in Prague.
We headed through the dark looming arch that marks the entrance to the bridge and after refusing to buy boat cruises from the many sellers that thrust leaflets in front of us (yes they were annoying) we were finally ready to walk across it.
Beware the Crowds
It is hectic at most times of the day, so be prepared to be jostled, especially when trying to get that ‘perfect’ photograph. Along the bridge, you will find entertainers playing traditional Czech folk songs alongside vendors selling art, jewellery and refreshments.
Legend tells that this bridge is haunted by the ghosts of peasants whose heads ended up on nearby spikes. Thankfully we didn’t see any of them!
Cross the bridge and then continue through the second tower’s arch and you will find yourself in Mala Strana.
Mala Strana (Lesser Street)
Once you have crossed Charles Bridge, you will be in the district known as Mala Strana or Lesser Street which is divided between the lower and upper halves of the western hillside, opposite the Vltava River.
Prague Castle is in the upper half and offers the pomp and ceremony you would expect but the rest of the Lesser Quarter offers a bohemian vibe with pastel coloured burgher houses and cute coffee shops adding to its charm.
At the beginning of Mala Strana, you will find it very busy with the crowds spilling off from Charles Bridge but continue walking up the hill, and things will become a lot calmer.
We enjoyed browsing the artisan shops, especially those selling Bohemian crystal, Prague’s traditional glassware. The skill that has gone into its manufacture is marvellous and a piece of crystal is the perfect souvenir to take home with you from Prague.
Hike up Castle Hill
Prague castle complex spans an area of approximately 45 hectares comprising of buildings, garden and woodland. Climb the neverending steps from Mala Strana to the top of Castle Hill, and you will be rewarded with fantastic views over Prague.
On your way to the castle, be sure to stop for a traditional sugary treat known as Trdelnik (hollowed-out log) or Tunnel Cake. Made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick and covered in sugar and a walnut mix, it is delicious.
The sugar will give you an energy boost to continue the trek up to the castle!
Allow between 3-4 hours to explore Prague Castle complex and maybe even longer if you will be stopping for lunch or dinner while there. We ate lunch on the balcony of the Lobkowisz Palace cafe overlooking the pretty gardens.
If you want to eat outside the castle complex, there are many restaurants and cafes along the medieval streets surrounding the area.
Novy Svet (The New World) is a quiet and picturesque district with quaint houses, cobbled streets and hardly any tourists! Dating back to the 14th century it has retained its charm and has a cute cafe named after the area (Novy Svet) where you can grab coffee, cakes and ice-cream without the queues.
Exciting things to do in the Prague Castle Complex
Prague Castle and complex is a day out on its own without factoring in any of Prague’s other unmissable sights. Also known as Hradcany, it is a collective of castle, churches, museums, gardens and woodland.
Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ancient castle in the world and constructed in the 9th century it is now the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. One of 19 residences used by the royal family when they were visiting Prague or the Kingdom of Bohemia as it was known centuries ago. You will see the seal of Bohemia on the glasswork that is made and sold in Prague.
If you can’t face the climb to the complex, then use the tram No. 22 to stop Pražský Hrad, turn left and in 5 minutes you will reach the 2nd courtyard of Prague Castle.
I would recommend buying your ticket before you arrive to avoid the queues. There are numerous options to choose from, so it is a good idea to decide how long you have and what you want to see before buying them.
Changing of the Guards
Arrive slightly before noon and claim your spot to witness the daily ceremonial changing of the guard in the castle courtyard complete with fanfare and flag ceremony.
The guards at the gates of the medieval Prague castle change on the hour (this is different from the ceremonial changing of the guard)
Old Royal Palace
Part of Prague Castle, the Old Royal Palace dates back to the 12th Century with the Vladislav Hall once being the setting for royal coronations, banquets, jousting competitions and artisanal markets selling luxurious goods.
Basilica of St George
The interior of the basilica is Romanesque with the tombs of members of the royal families are situated. One of them belongs to Prince Vratislav, father of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Prague.
Fairytale dwellings built into the castle’s walls in the 16th century were once the homes of the castle guards. They have now been turned into an exhibition about life in the lane over the past 500 years along with souvenir shops.
Discover what trades plied their wares from these houses and why the alchemists here gave the area its name. History tells that they were busy turning metals into gold hence “Golden Lane“.
Saint Vitus Church
St. Vitus Cathedral is the largest and the most important religious building in Prague. Apart from religious services, coronations of Czech kings and queens also took place here, and the Gothic temple is the burial place of several saints and archbishops.
Crown Jewels and priceless artefacts are also held here but are only displayed every five years.
Castle Grounds and Surrounding Area
Stroll through the gardens for a respite from the busy castle complex. From here you can walk back down to Lesser Mala via the Deer Moat, a steep, lush valley beneath the castle. Outbuildings are located all around the grounds, including the old horse stables.
Day One Evening – Prague Nightlife
Evening Jazz Dinner Cruise
By the time your first evening arrives, your feet are going to ache from all the walking you have done today. An excellent trip we took which allowed us to sit down for a while was an evening aboard the Jazzboat.
We sailed along the River Vltava for 2.5 hours listening to a local trio performing jazz while being treated to a fabulous 3-course meal. It is a great way to see the sights illuminated at night.
If a dinner cruise isn’t for you, then the popular beer spas that have sprung up around the city may be more your thing. Prague locals consume the most beer per capita in the world, so this was going to happen at some time, wasn’t it?
Book out your “tube” barrel for an hour and soak in a beer bath full of the natural goodness that hops and barley contain. Enjoy a limitless beer supply while you bathe and when you feel you have absorbed enough beer through your skin and down your throat you can relax on the hay bale beds before your session comes to an end.
I must confess I opted for the Jazz Dinner Cruise over the beer spa, but it does sound like a fun activity to try out.
Day Two Prague Highlights
Old Town Square
Old Town Square, the heart of Prague’s historic centre, is awash with Gothic and Baroque structures. It is a hive of activity, and with alfresco restaurants, bars and shops lining its interior, you can just sit, and people watch.
The Astronomical Clock
High on our list of things to do was to see the 15th-century Astronomical Clock in action. On the hour, every hour, from 9 am until 11 pm; crowds appear to watch the clock come to life. A skeleton, signifying Death, rings the bell on the hour and a parade of twelve apostles starts moving. The spectacle only lasts one minute so get there early to be at the front of the crowd.
Local legend says that the original clockmaker was blinded by city officials after completing the clock. They believed this would prevent him from ever replicating their masterpiece elsewhere.
He was so enraged that he climbed the tower, took a piece from the clock and stopped it from working. The astronomical clock lay silent for 50 years before another clockmaker figured out what had been removed and brought it back to working order.
Nowadays, a replica of the Astronomical Clock can be seen in the Hongdae district of Seoul in South Korea; however, this photograph is of the original one.
Visit the Church of our Lady Before Tyn
The 14th-century gothic turreted towers of the Tyn Church are a landmark for finding the square and although it’s entrance is not located in the square itself, it is very near. The darkened towers featuring small spires are a recognisable feature of Prague and dominate the skyline.
The towers are not identical, and the more solid of the two is said to represent man. Horse-drawn carriage rides are located in the square under the shadow of the imposing towers. Hop-on-hop-off buses can also be found here.
St Nicholas Church (below) is one of Prague’s oldest religious building mentioned as far back as the early 13th Century.
Wenceslas Square is primarily a shopping area for tourists and a 10-minute walk from Old Town Square. This area holds significant importance to the Czech people for gatherings, political demonstrations and even martyrdom. In 1969 a student set himself alight in protest of Russia’s invasion of Czechoslavakia. A memorial cross lies outside the National Museum where he died.
The top part of Wenceslas Square is dominated by the National Museum that was founded in 1818. A statue of Saint Wenceslas, the patron of the Czech nation also stands at the top of the square.
At night Wenceslas Square becomes party central and with that comes undesirable characters. You must be aware of your belongings if venturing to the area after dark. Wenceslas Square was a disappointment to us compared to the rest of Prague.
Ghost and Legend Tour of Prague
Once night has fallen, take an alternative walking tour of Prague to learn about the myths and legends of the city through the ages. Hear stories about ghosts and ghouls and discover some of Prague’s hidden secrets.
Learn why there is a skeleton on the astronomical clock and hear the stories of headless horse riders roaming the streets. We chose an Evening Ghost Walking Tour which was a lot of fun and introduced us to Prague’s darker side!
Eat Goulash and Dumplings
You simply can’t visit Prague and not indulge in goulash and dumplings, the traditional dish. We wandered away from the main square and found ourselves in a small cafe down one of the many winding lanes that encircle the area and great food, low prices and the hospitality of the owner were our rewards.
Goulash is a kind of stew consisting of meat (beef), vegetables and seasoning and served with dumplings (small savoury balls of dough cooked in the goulash) with a side of crusty fresh bread. A hearty meal to eat on a cold night in Prague, especially when washed down with local red wine.
Day Three Prague Highlights
In the morning we headed to Josefov, Prague’s Jewish Quarter to visit the Synagogue Museums.
Prague as an Art District
If you haven’t heard of Franz Kafka, you will have done by the time you leave Prague. An acclaimed literary genius said to be one of the most outstanding of the 20th century. The Kafka Museum is dedicated to him and is situated near to Lesser Strana on the same side of the river as the castle complex.
A piece of sculpture depicting Franz Kafka’s head can be found near to Wenceslas Square and is one of the very few pieces of modern architecture in the city.
Prague is like an outdoor art gallery with statues located everywhere. Outside of the Museum of Modern Art are gigantic bronze crawling babies sculpted by David Cerny and many other sculptures can be spotted around Prague.
Crawling Bronze Babies are somewhat creepy!
Dedicated to Franz Kafka, this statue is outside the Spanish synagogue, close to where he lived.
The praying Buddhist monk is located near to the museum and depicts Sri Chinmoy “statue of harmony” beside the River Vltava.
The Kafka Museum in the distance as viewed from the opposite side of the River Vltava
The Peeing Figures Fountain outside the Franz Kafka Museum
Petrin Hill and Tower
Take a moment to admire the series of bronze sculptures at the foot of Petrin Hill. They portray seven broken, decaying men descending a flight of stairs. It is a nod to the times of Communism and the effects on man.
You would be forgiven for thinking that you have time-travelled to Paris when you see Prague’s own Eiffel Tower perched atop Petrin Hill.
It is accessible by foot if you enjoy a hike or by the more manageable funicular railway and once at the top your reward are the views from this pinnacle point; a great way to finish off your city break in Prague.