10 quintessential Prague experiences

Most people start their visit to the Czech Republic in Prague, the cradle of Czech culture and one of Europe’s most intriguing capitals.

Famous for its Gothic architecture and its incredible castle complex, Prague is also a vibrant city with beer gardens, modern as well as traditional cafes, and a developing foodie scene. Start planning your trip with this guide to the very best things to do.

1. Recharge at a traditional coffeehouse

Prague has become a haven for specialty coffee lovers. Slow drip, nitro brew, Chemex: coffee fans have all bases covered. The popular Vinohrady district contains the highest concentration of contemporary cafes, though it’s easy to find good coffee all over the city. 

Yet you may be more interested in experiencing the charm of days gone by at one of Prague’s more traditional coffeehouses. Grand Cafe Orient is located in a stunning Cubist building near the Old Town Square, while Café Imperial brings you back to a more elegant era.

Planning tip: Want to enjoy some live music with your brew? Head to Kavárna Slavia, once a popular hangout of the late Czech president Václav Havel, where a professional pianist plays live every evening from 5pm.

Cubist House of the Black Madonna, Prague, Czech Republic
The House of the Black Madonna is a memorable example of Cubist architecture © Dietmar Rauscher / Shutterstock

2. Admire historic architecture

Baroque structures abound in Prague, especially in the Lesser Quarter area. St Nicolas Church is a fine example: with rich frescoes decorating its walls and its large green dome, this cathedral represents one of the grandest Baroque displays found in Central Europe.

The era of Cubism may have been short-lived, but Prague found a special affinity for the style. The angled lines of Prague Cubism can be studied at the House of the Black Madonna in the Old Town, which houses a small Museum of Czech Cubism, as well as the Cubist-inflected Grand Cafe Orient.

People enjoying the sunset over a city with a river running through the center of it
Watch the sunset from Letna Park, one of Prague’s many much-loved green spaces © Petr Pavlica / Shutterstock

3. Unwind in one of Prague’s lush parks and hiking spots

Prague is home to many green spaces, with plenty of shaded resting areas. Beer gardens are also a big draw, especially in the heat of summer. Hilly parks such as the one in Letná or Riegrovy Sady offer views out over the city. 

If you crave a wilder nature escape, Prague has some fantastic hiking opportunities just a stone’s throw away from the city center. One of the most popular hiking getaways for Prague locals is the Prokopské údolí valley, featuring winding trails through forests and meadows. Divoká Šárka is another great – and wilder – area, with creeks and marshes to explore.

 traditional Czech lager beer served in the Dva Kohouti taproom, Prague, Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, beer is a national dish, too © Riccardo_Breda / Shutterstock

4. Indulge in hearty Czech cuisine

By hearty, we mean Czech classics such as svíčková (sirloin beef and bread dumplings generously topped with a creamy sauce), vepřo knedlo zelo (roasted pork with sauerkraut and bread dumplings), fried cheese, and a few widely adopted staples from neighboring countries, like goulash and schnitzel. You can enjoy such traditional fare a local chain of pubs called Lokál, whose dishes are prepared so well that they’d please even the most finicky Czech elders. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a crisp beer to aid your digestion, like a Pilsner Urquell, a Prague-brewed Staropramen or a malty dark Velkopopovický kozel.

Local tip: Smaller breweries have taken Prague by storm, too. A local favorite, the Dva Kohouti (Two Roosters) mini-brewery is located in the industrial-turned-hipster neighborhood of Karlín.

A couple sites by the Vltava River with the Charles Bridge in the background, Prague, Czech Republic
Cross the historic Charles Bridge – then admire it from the banks of the Vltava River © NataliaDeriabina / Getty Images

5. Cross the enchanting Charles Bridge

Whether you visit alone in the early-morning mist or shoulder your way through the afternoon throngs, crossing Charles Bridge is a quintessential Prague experience. Constructed in 1357, the picturesque span connects the medieval Old Town and the Lesser Quarter, at the foot of Prague Castle. (Local legend says eggs were used to create the mortar for its construction, and have held its 16 elegant arches together for 500-plus years.) Climbing the bridge tower on the Old Town side provides a bird’s-eye view of this intricate bridge, with the castle above.

Prazska Náplavka riverside district, Prague, Czech Republic
The lively riverside area of Náplavka is especially beautiful at sunset © Ondrej Bucek / Shutterstock

6. Chill by the river at Náplavka

On sunny afternoons, you’ll find many Czechs relaxing in the Náplavka riverbank area. Both day and night, it’s lined with barges selling refreshments, from classic sausages to beers and cocktails. At sunset, it’s an especially gorgeous spot to settle in. If you want to do it in the Czech style, take a bottle of wine, a couple of fellow travelers and a blanket to sit on. Dangle your feet over the water watching the swans and ducks float by. 

Planning tip: Visit on Saturdays to enjoy the farmers market, with its organic produce, fresh bakery items and live music.

The ramparts of Vyšehrad fort, Prague, Czech Republic
The neo-Gothic spires of the Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad loom over the city © Andrew Koturanov / Shutterstock

7. Behold Vyšehrad, the first seat of Czech royalty

Icons of the Prague skyline, the two neo-Gothic spires of the Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul are perched atop the Vyšehrad hill. The historic fort of Vyšehrad was built during the 10th century, and became the seat of the first Czech ruler, King Vratislav II of the Přemyslid dynasty, a century later.

A walk through the adjacent grandiose cemetery will take you past the final resting place of many famous Czechs, such as the composers Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák, as well as the renowned writers Karel Čapek and Jan Neruda.

A damp city square in the evening with an ornate astronomical clock in gold and blue
Prague’s Old Town Square is home to the world’s oldest functioning clock – and it’s a stunner © Luciano Mortula – LGM / Shutterstock

8. Watch the Astronomical Clock 

A mechanical masterpiece that dates tot he Middle Ages, the Astronomical Clock is the world’s oldest functioning one. At the top of every hour, 12 mechanical apostles parade between small doorways above the face of the clock. Crowds of visitors start to gather hourly to watch as the playful spectacle unfolds.

Local tip: Pickpockets are known to take advantage of people’s focus being on the clock, so be mindful of your belongings during the hourly display.

The funicular up Petřín hill, with the skyline in the background, Prague, Czech Republic
Ascend Petřín hill via funicular to enjoy views of the city © Michaela Jilkova / Shutterstock

9. Ride the funicular to Petřín

An Eiffel Tower lookalike, the Petřín observation tower stands atop Petřín hill. If you fancy a workout, you’ll enjoy the walk up, stopping at plenty of spots to admire beautiful city views. The other, softer option is to ride a small funicular to the top. As it’s part of the Prague transportation system, you can use the same tickets for the funicular as you do for the trams and the metro. 

Planning tip: Once you’ve reached the top of the hill, climbing the actual Petřín tower can be quite vertigo-inducing. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded by marvelous views.

Tourists look at the historic houses along Golden Lane, Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic
Charming Golden Lane is a photogenic part of the Prague Castle complex © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock

10. Explore Prague Castle

More than 1000 years of history lives within the walls of Prague’s hilltop castle, a complex of churches, towers, halls and palaces that is almost like a small city in its own right. This UNESCO World Heritage–listed site is the cultural and historical heart of the country – both as a repository for national treasures and the backdrop for many significant historic events, including the coronations of the kings of Bohemia and the election of Václav Havel as president in 1989. The jewel in the crown, St Vitus Cathedral, is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture.

Planning tip: Also make time to wander the charming (if touristy) Golden Lane. This antique path is lined by small, colorful houses, originally constructed as residences for the castle guards. Later it accommodated local goldsmiths, hence its name today.

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