My first trip to Prague was a tease.
Sure, I hit the usual “must-sees” over the course of one very ambitious day. But I could tell from the moment I stepped off that train all those years ago that Prague was a city worthy of a lingering pause. I knew someday I would return.
Read More: How to Spend 24 Hours in Prague
Luckily, when my husband and I moved to Germany last year, Prague was practically in our own European backyard – just a 3-hour drive away! We make the trip regularly now and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally given this magnificent city the attention it deserves,
What makes Prague a great city to explore?
There’s an endless supply of delightful things to do in Prague whether you’re visiting just for the day, a weekend, or longer.
Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” as you gaze over the historic Czech capital from above you might wonder if someone undercounted those golden spires. And gaze over it, you should, from one of Prague’s soaring Gothic towers or perhaps the world’s largest ancient castle.
Situated along the banks of the Vltava River, Prague reigned for centuries over the historic region of Bohemia. Unlike many European capitals, the city escaped the ravages of World War II with most of its original Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture intact.
That alone makes Prague a dream destination for architecture lovers. You could spend days wandering the narrow cobbled lanes that feed into the city’s cultural hub, the expansive medieval Old Town Square.
Got a little extra time? Venture outside the city to discover more charming Czech towns within a 2-hour radius (more on that later!).
But before we dive into all the wonderful things to do in Prague, let’s take a quick look at where to stay and how to get around.
Where to stay in Prague…
On a budget:
Hotel Pod Vezi – This hotel’s incredibly affordable rates make it the top budget option in the heart of Prague. But the Pod Vezi feels more like a luxury hotel without the high city center rates. Located at the base of the Charles Bridge on the Lesser Town (castle) side of the Vltava River, the Pod Vezi’s charming rooms are large, clean, and well-appointed. The 4th-floor terrace overlooking the rooftops of Prague is open to all guests and it’s the perfect spot to savor a cold drink after a long day exploring the city. (BYOB, of course!)
With room for the whole family:
Wenceslas Square Terraces – if you’re traveling with the family, staying a while, or just looking for some extra space, these centrally-located apartments are the ideal choice. These modern, stylish apartments range in size from studios to 2-bedroom units. They feature well-equipped kitchens and many offer a terrace with a lovely view over the square. And with just a 5-minute walk to the Old Town Square, you’ll be able to explore the best of Prague on foot.
When only the best will do:
Four Seasons Hotel Prague – If you’re looking for a little luxury or the perfect place for a romantic getaway, the Four Seasons is tough to beat. This historic hotel occupies a prime location directly on the Vltava River in the heart of the Old Town. Riverfront rooms are nearly double the price of a standard room but their stunning views of Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge just might be worth it. Service is top-notch but WiFi is just about the only thing that’s free.
How to get around Prague
Prague’s city center is compact and perfect for walking. Book a room at any of the hotels listed above and you’ll have easy access to the city’s best sights on foot.
However, if you need to cover a lot of ground in a short time (or if you can’t stomach the hike up to the castle in the mid-day heat!), the tram system is clean, fast, and easy to navigate. Trams 22 and 23 will save you the walk up to Prague Castle.
Tickets can be purchased at metro stations, newsagents, information centers and from yellow/orange ticket machines at larger stops. Tickets are timed for 30 (24 CZK/$1 US) or 90 minutes (32 CZK/$1.45 US) and must be validated inside the tram upon boarding. You can also purchase a 1-day or 3-day pass for just 110 CZK ($5 US)/310 CZK ($14 US) respectively.
The 1-day pass is a great way to expedite your visit to Prague Castle if you’re short on time.
10 Top Things to Do in Prague
If you’re short on time, this list will help you get the most out of your visit to Prague. If you have more time, check out #9 and #10 for two terrific places to explore outside the city.
1. Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti)
Begin your walking tour of Prague in the heart of the city’s historic core – the Old Town Square. Located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, it’s the perfect introduction to the Old Town.
Founded in the 12th century, the enormous square is anchored by the impressive Gothic facade of the Church of Our Lady of Tyn. Top sights include the Baroque era St Nicholas Church, the Astronomical Clock and the Old Town Hall (more on those next!).
The Old Town Square is one of Prague’s best places to sip a Czech beer and soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant European capital.
2. Old Town Hall & Astronomical Clock
Prague’s Astronomical Clock is the highlight of the massive medieval square. First installed in 1410, it’s the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.
Don’t miss the hourly “Walk of the Apostles” show to watch the Apostle figures on the clock come to life.
After the show, make the climb to the top of the Old Town Hall for some of Prague’s most incredible views.
3. Charles Bridge & Towers
Majestically spanning the Vltava River connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town, the Charles Bridge is without a doubt Prague’s most famous sight.
Commissioned by Charles IV, the stone bridge was completed in 1390 and is lined with statues of Catholic Saints.
For a terrific view over the city, climb to the top of either of the two Bridge Towers. Both offer impressive views, but if you only have the stamina to climb one, the Old Town side gets my vote. (Hours: 10am-10pm, Cost: 100 CZK/$4.50 US).
Best time to visit? Dawn. By mid-morning the bridge is often crowded with tourists and hawkers selling art, jewelry, and souvenirs.
As you cross the Charles Bridge from the Old Town, you’ve entered the Lesser Town or “Mala Strana.” While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss a visit to St. Nicholas Church to climb up to the bell tower for the best views of your next two stops.
4. Prague Castle
It’s the largest coherent castle complex in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the one thing you truly can’t miss when visiting the Bohemian capital.
Historical buildings within the castle complex include the Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Golden Lane, and the Great South Tower of the Cathedral.
Hours: Castle Complex – 6:00am-10:00am, Historical Buildings – 10am-6:00pm (Winter: 9:00am-4:00pm). Ticket prices vary from 70 CZK ($3 US) to 350 CZK ($16 US) depending on the type of tour.
5. St. Vitus Cathedral
Dominating the expansive courtyard of Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral is Prague’s largest and most significant church. The coronation of Czech kings and queens once took place here and the Cathedral is also home to the Czech Crown Jewels
Hours and ticket prices follow those of Prague Castle.
6. Cruise the Devil’s Channel
When you need a break from tower-climbing, take to the water for a different perspective of the city.
Book a scenic tour of the Devil’s Channel to appreciate the sights along the Vltava River that most city tours miss. These narrow waterways of old Prague are known as “Prague’s mini-Venice” and a relaxing boat trip is a perfect way to give your legs a rest after a long day of sightseeing.
Cruises typically last from 45 minutes to an hour and cost about $20 US per person.
7. Try Prague’s Tastiest Treat – Trdelnik!
Now, let’s talk about the important stuff…food!
When in Prague, it’s hard to resist the sugary draw of the city’s tastiest treat – trdelnik! Also known as chimney cakes, you’ll find stands selling these delicious snacks nearly everywhere you look (though you’ll smell them first!).
Made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick, the pastry is then grilled over a spit and topped with sugar and walnut mix (and often a wide variety of other toppings like ice cream, chocolate, and fruit).
8. Beer! (maybe even a Beer Spa)
The Czech Republic is world famous for beer. In fact, the country boasts the highest per capita beer consumption in the world. The largest breweries are Pilsner Urquell (the world’s first pilsner) and Budweiser Budvar (the original, not the American version).
While the spa town of Karlovy Vary is home to the original beer spa (pictured below – my husband and I visited last winter!), you’ll find several places to try out this uniquely Czech experience while in Prague.
Based on traditional Bohemian healing practices, the bath is composed of thermal waters, brewing yeast, hops, malt, and natural extracts. While enjoying your beer soak, indulge in a heavy pour from the light & dark beer taps next to your tub (those are for drinking).
It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the best way I could think of to get my husband to a spa…I had him at beer!
For a good beer spa in Prague, my sister and brother-in-law visited this one last summer and gave it rave reviews:
9. Take a Day Trip to Český Krumlov
Just as Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Germany’s fairy tale village, Český Krumlov is the Czech Republic’s ode to storybook fairy tale towns.
Like Prague, Český Krumlov is situated on the Vltava River which curves its way romantically through town in a way that brings the streets of Venice to mind.
Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992, Český Krumlov’s historic old town is a jumble of 750 years of architectural design including Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance-inspired facades.
Its most spectacular feature is the castle that towers over it – Český Krumlov Castle – the second largest in the Czech Republic, after Prague Castle.
While it’s easily visited on a day trip from Prague, do yourself a favor and spend the night (it’s the best way to beat the day trip crowds!).
10. Book a Spa Day in Karlovy Vary
Also known as Karlsbad, Karlovy Vary translates as “Charles Bath” and was named for Charles IV, King of Bohemia who founded the city in 1370. Bubbling hot springs and colorful, whimsical architecture are Karlovy Vary’s claims to fame.
But you’ll want to add this unique town to your itinerary just for the Karlovy Vary spa experience!
In the eighteenth century, Karlovy Vary was a popular holiday destination for both elites and creatives the likes of Beethoven, Tolstoy, Wagner, Brahms, Karl Marx, and Tsar Peter the Great. The start of World War I brought tourism to a halt in those days. But today this charming town has seen a tourism resurgence thanks to the wealth of natural hot springs that fuel the town’s spa industry.
And those hot springs aren’t just for soaking! Pick up your souvenir spa drinking cup and make the rounds tasting Karlovy Vary’s healing waters.
Read More: A Spa Getaway to Karlovy Vary
And there you have it!
The top 10 things to see and do in and around the beautiful city of Prague. You could easily devote your entire holiday to exploring within the city limits of Prague.
But if you make the time to get outside the city and explore the Czech Republic’s smaller towns you won’t regret it!