Prague. Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting this magical city? A place where modern life meets castles, basilicas, and stone bridges. A place with a seemingly infinite sea of terra-cotta roofs and cobblestones streets. A walk through the alleys of Prague is a walk through the Middle Ages. Prague has the allure of Paris with a touch of Eastern Europe but the Czech history has taken different paths than Western Europe, creating a contrasting feel from other well traveled areas.
We stayed in Prague for four nights as part of our nine day trip through the Czech Republic. Make sure you take a look at our first post on this area, Czech Republic #1: Český Krumlov, which details the overview information for this visit including costs and exchange rates.We took the RegioJet bus from Český Krumlov for our return to Prague. The trip cost €7.85 per person and is a great way to get between the two cities. We discuss this transport option in detail in our previous post.While in the city, we stayed at an Airbnb in the heart of Old Town just three blocks north of the Square. This was a great location to access all parts of the city, with plenty of surrounding food and transport options. We were on the fourth floor, so had a buffer from the noise of the street below. It tends to get loud in the evenings as the town likes to socialize late into the night. While in town, we visited the Castle District, the Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge, the islands in the river, the Astronomical Clock and walked many of the parks and gardens. We had ample time during our visit, but didn’t spend much time in museums, so an additional day or two would be recommended for anyone who would like to tour the extensive network of Castle buildings and museums.We did a free walking tour through Discovery Walking Tours, but our guide was unprofessional and not very informative. There are many other companies to choose from including Sandeman’s, Freetours, and Free Prague Tours.Prague is home to the largest ancient castle complex in the world, known as Prague Castle. It is made up of ten buildings covering 70,000 square meters of land. It is impeccably well preserved and is highly worth the visit. As mentioned, you could spend a couple of days working through all of this area. Tickets are sold with three different options, each offering entry to a different group of buildings. Tickets are good for two days.The grounds inside the castle walls are free to visit, although you must pass into a security check point to enter. We spent an afternoon walking through and marveling at the impressive scenery, along with the Waldstein Gardens around the senate building.
We spent one evening watching the sunset from the Charles Bridge, which was built in 1357 under rule of King Charles IV. The bridge is of stone construction with a cobblestone street, which is now only a footpath. The bridge is lined with musicians and artists in the evening and tends to get very crowded with tourists. It offers an impressive view of the Vltava River and the Castle.After we had visited an unending number of buildings and streets, we decided to spend some time exploring the parks and gardens located around town. While not apparent at first glance, they cover a significant portion of the city and can be linked together to create a lengthy walk around most of the portion west of the river. We found a walking path on the Prague city tourism site called Under Green Arches. These areas could also be explored via bike. There are also a variety of bike tours available.The walk started north of our lodging and wrapped through green space in a counter clockwise five mile semi-circle, ending at the west shore by the islands. From the tourism site: “Beginning in Holešovice, it ascends to Letná, continues along the river to Prague Castle, through Petřín Park to the very edge of the Lesser Town, to finally reach one of Prague’s most beautiful parks – the Kinsky Garden”. The full route details and map are in the previous link. This was one of our favorite activities during our stay.
After this walk, we stopped on Hunters Island and relaxed in the park by the water.One evening, we rented a paddle boat and watched the sunset from the middle of the river. The boat rental cost 200 CZK ($9) per hour and was a great relaxing activity to do around sunset.
While in Prague, we found a few restaurants which we really enjoyed.
- Banh-Mi-Ba – Quick, delicious and cheap Vietnamese food north of the square. Around 130 CZK per meal.
- Kmotra Pizzeria – Underground with pizza oven in the dining area. The chef whips out tasty pizzas at an amazing rate.
- Crème de la Crème Gelateria – Best tasting homemade gelato in the area. Located on the tourist strip but by far the largest portion and best flavor. 35 CZK per scoop or 100 CZK for 3 scoops.
- U Fleků Brewery – Over 500 year old brewery in the area with a spacious courtyard beer garden. They only have one type of beer which comes out on large trays and is passed out to diners eating the traditional Czech style food.
We had mixed experiences with the train and bus system in the city. Upon arrival to Prague, we were easily able to purchase tickets and navigate to our Airbnb. When we were leaving for the airport to catch our plane to Romania, we ran into several snags. The ticket machine in the train station did not accept credit cards, and we had skillfully used every last CZK in our possession before leaving the country. Moreover, the machine only took coins, so a visit to an ATM would have required a purchase to break the bill and get coins, then wasting the money on the purchase along with having to exchange the remaining cash afterwards. We had a deadline, so ran to the neighboring bus station looking for another vending machine, but unfortunately it was out of order. We ended up finding wifi and calling an Uber, which quickly got us from Old Town to the airport for 320 CZK ($14). There is also an Airport Express (AE) Bus for €6 per person, but it only operates from the main railway station, Hlavní Nádraží, which was not convenient. Other airport routes include the 100 and the 119 (24 CZK/pp for 30 min pass) which pick you up on the outskirts of town, but you may need to take a bus or metro (24 CZK/pp) to get to the origination of these routes. You can also buy a 90 min pass for 32 CZK pp.
Thing we learned while in Prague:
- We recommend spending 3-4 days here.
- Use RegioJet to get around Czech Republic. The local bus, metro, and train systems were reliable.
- Make sure you always buy your train/bus ticket in advance or make sure you always have some cash left in case the ticket machines don’t take credit card.
- Ubers are safe and readily available as an alternative option.
- Watch out for pick pocketer’s in crowds or in transport stations.
- Try a free walking tour.
- Take a self guided walking tour off the beaten track like a park and garden tour “Under Green Arches” (5 miles round trip).
- Castle complex, but prioritize what you actually will enjoy seeing. If you are a history/museum buff then you may want to pay for the overpriced ticket, but sometimes exhibits are closed so keep this in mind. Don’t waste money on the audioguide, written explanations throughout are in English. Take advantage of the free activities: castle gardens are free all day, Golden Lane Street which offer free entry 5-8pm after shops close), watch change of the guards at noon, or view a small praying section of St. Vitus for free. Insider tip: If you want to see St. Vitus sanctuary for free go to a mass, or see a concert at St. George’s Basilica (550 – 1050 CZK).
- Don’t miss Charles Bridge for street performers/artists/views.
- Try a 1 hour paddle boat around the Charles Bridge for 200CZK/boat, there are many points where you can rent them. You are limited as to how far up the Vltava River you can go due to man made water falls. Just before sunset is a good time, but they close at dusk.
- Relax on one of three islands on the Vltava River near old town. Read, sunbathe, or take a nap.
- Enjoy a jazz or blues concert. At Jazz Republic they have a free entry concept, but some larger acts may have an entry cost ~150 CZK. Insider tip: We found a way around the entry cost when we sat in sections away from the musicians like near the entry or in the bar. Once the show starts they let anyone in for free.
- Free summer concerts/folk dance performances in front of the Rudolfinum Gallery.
You can see other posts from our Eastern Europe trip, including Hungary and Romania. And take a look at our Adventure Gallery where you can see our pictures from all around the world. Also check out other posts from our adventures including our trek through Nepal, Great Ocean Road trip and South African safari. They are sure to inspire your lust for travel!
Do you have an interest in long term travel? Check out our Trip Planning posts, where you can learn how to prepare for a lengthy trip, see how to never check your bags on planes, find out about travel security and make sense of travel insurance, amongst others.