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Exploring the sights of Prague, one of the great cities of Europe

Prague is a fascinating place to visit and there are so many things to do and see. We were lucky enough to be able to spend 2 days exploring this amazing city. 

We loved our time in Prague but there are, as with many of the major cities, multitudes of tourists which makes the main tourist attractions very crowded. It is worth checking out tours that enable bypassing the lines – these can be pricey but if you don’t like getting up at the crack of sparrows and camping outside hours ahead then you might want to consider this option.

Day 1

  1. Exploring the beautiful and inspiring Prague Castle
  2. Explore the streets of Prague’s Lesser Town (Malá Strana)
  3. Visit the museum dedicated to the life and works of Franz Kafka
  4. Go to a musical event

Day 2

  1. Visit the famous Charles Bridge
  2. Visit the Old Town Square and the famous astronomical clock
  3. Visit the National Gallery Prague – Kinský Palace
  4. For something different tour Prague’s seedy Sex Machine museum
  5. Admire the beauty of the Art Nouveau master Alphonse Mucha
  6. Visit the Jewish Quarter
  7. Wander the streets of Prague to see its architectural delights

Day 3

  1. A day tour of the Bohemian and Saxony Switzerland National Parks

Day 1

For our first day in Prague, we decided to mainly use foot power to get us around. Luckily, the city is compact and easy to navigate as a pedestrian.

 

1. PRAGUE CASTLE

Dominating the skyline of Prague is Prague Castle which has been an important symbol of the Czech state for more than a thousand years. It was founded in the 9th century and became the seat of Czech rulers and later presidents. The castle, one of the largest complexes in the world, is made up of historical palaces, offices, church and fortification buildings, gardens and picturesque spots. It covers an area of 18 acres (45 hectares). From the castle and surrounds there are spectacular views across the whole of this amazing city.

 

2. LESSER TOWN (MALÁ STRANA)

The Lesser Town (Malá Strana) is extremely picturesque with its ancient burgher houses, quaint side streets and St. Nicholas Church, one of the finest examples of High Baroque architecture in Central Europe, this massive imposing green dome and the Catholic church have continued to look over and protect the Lesser Town for centuries.

At its heart is the Baroque Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí). Here, and all-around in the cobbled side streets, there are small shops to browse, churches to explore and traditional Czech pubs and restaurants to discover; including some with fine views over the river.

3. FRANZ KAFKA MUSEUM

The museum is dedicated to the life and works of the legendary Kafka. The first gallery really helps set his life into context with a timeline of his short life and a family tree. There is also a short multimedia film that tells the story of Prague in the early 20th century and the role the Jewish community played in it.

The rest of the exhibits tell the story of Kafka’s education as a lawyer and his time working for the insurance company and how this experience paved the way for the development of his major works, including “The Metamorphosis”. Many of Kafka’s first editions and his letters, manuscripts, photographs and drawings are housed in the museum.

4. MUSICAL EVENTS

During the summer months, especially, Prague is host to numerous musical events. The music ranges from classical through to current artists. We wanted to try out some of the classical music performances that are held daily in various venues. There was a lot on offer and opted to try out a couple of different concerts over two nights.

The one thing we learned is that you get what you pay for – the cheapest of the concerts in a small church near Old Town Square was disappointing. The most expensive and best evening concerts are held at Prague Castle – so, I recommend splashing out a bit more cash and go to a concert at the castle!

Day 2

1. CHARLES BRIDGE

One of the most iconic and popular tourist spots in Prague is the Charles Bridge, the city’s oldest bridge. The Charles Bridge was built to replace the Judith Bridge that had been badly damaged by floods in 1342. The Stone, or Prague, Bridge, called Charles Bridge since 1870, was begun in 1357 by Charles IV and was completed in 1402. The bridge is built of sandstone blocks, flanked at each end by fortified towers (Lesser Town Bridge Towers, Old Town Bridge Tower). From 1683 to 1928, 30 statues of saints were carved to decorate the bridge, the most famous of which is the statue of St John of Nepomuk.

Most of the time the bridge is packed with people but if you want to try and get some shots free of the crowd then you will have to get up early, and even then you’ll find some people of a similar mind – particularly wedding photographers with newly married couples trying to get those intimate, romantic shots.

2. THE OLD TOWN SQUARE

From our hotel in the Lesser Town it was a short walk across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town Square (“Staroměstské náměstí” or familiarly “Staromák” in Czech), the oldest and historically most significant square in Prague, is according to many people one of the most beautiful European squares. Not only was it the venue of numerous dramatic historical events, but it is incredibly beautiful and charming. The Old Town Square is nowadays still Prague’s beating heart.

Nowadays, The Old Town Square is, among other things, the historical centre of the Old Town of Prague and one of the most visited places in the Czech Republic. Also, the Square is a venue for numerous occasional and regular events, such as Christmas fairs (when there is always an enormous Christmas tree installed) or exceptional public broadcasts of significant sports matches.

3. THE NATIONAL GALLERY (KINSKÝ PALACE)

Kinský Palace (“Palác Kinských” or “Palác Golz-Kinských” in Czech) is a significant historical Rococo building on the eastern side of the Old Town Square. Today, The National Gallery places some of its valuable collections inside the Kinský Palace. During our time in Prague, there was a collection of impressionist paintings that were on temporary loan to the National Gallery.

4. SEX MACHINE MUSEUM

I am always on the lookout for unusual places to visit and in my research, before visiting Prague, the Sex Machines Museum jumped out at me. It was not something I expected to find in Prague, especially with its location in the heart of the Old Town of Prague, close to the main square.

Set in a historic 17th Century building this museum contains more than 300 exhibits across three floors. The collection comes from all around the world and looks at the history of sex machines through the ages. The amount of effort and creativity that had gone into some of these contraptions is mind-boggling.

5. ALPHONSE MUCHA MUSEUM

Mucha’s artwork can be found in many places in Prague including the Municipal House, the National art gallery, and even his design of a stained-glass window in the St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague. But there is no better place to go to see Mucha’s famous art than the Mucha museum in the centre of Prague.

The Mucha Museum is the only museum that is fully dedicated to Mucha’s work, it was created in 1998 by the Mucha Foundation and has a large selection of original Mucha lithographs, posters, canvases and paintings along with the history and timeline behind them.

6. PRAGUE’S JEWISH QUARTER

The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River.
The torrid history of the former Jewish Ghetto began in the 13th century when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in this one area.

To add to this, inhabitants of the ghetto were forced to endure structural changes at the whim of the emperor or whichever ruler exercised control over them. The latest occurred in 1893-1913 when a number of buildings were flattened, and the layout of many streets remodelled.

Fortunately, most significant historical buildings were saved from destruction, and today they remain a testimony to the history of the Jews in Prague. They form the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe.

7. ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

The streets of Prague have largely escaped the ravages of invasions and pillaging so much of the charm and beauty of its buildings and architecture remain and the city provides a catalogue of styles that have evolved through time from ranging from Romanesque, Baroque, Renaissance to Cubism. This legacy has been left to Prague through its development over hundreds of years.

Just walking the streets takes you through the ages – our favourite style is the art-nouveau and Prague has some fine examples on show. The finest examples are probably the Municipal House and the Hotel Paris which are located close to one another. Completed in 1911, the Municipal House is a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture in Prague, perhaps even the best. Designed by Antonin Balsanek and Osvald Polivka and built on the former site of the Royal Court Palace, the Municipal House is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Day 3

1. BOHEMIAN & SAXONY SWITZERLAND 

After a few days of trudging around the hard pavements of cities, we felt the need to escape to the countryside and get some fresh air and slow down the pace of life somewhat. When most people think of the Czech Republic they think of Prague or the fairy tale town of Cesky Krumlov, the birthplace of Pilsen beer Plzen, or the spas of Karlovy Vary. But there is so much more to see, and if you are a fan of the outdoors and want to experience some great hiking or biking then head for Bohemian Switzerland.

I had booked for us to take a tour from Prague to the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, which takes about 90 minutes to drive. After a bit of research, well not too much, I decided to go with Northern Hikes who offer a few different tours that cover Bohemian Switzerland and Saxony Switzerland (located in Germany) National Parks.

Planning your visit to Prague 

Prague is an interesting city to explore and it is safe to explore – of course, usual precautions apply about being wary of what areas of town you are in and not flashing your wealth overtly (i.e. expensive jewellery and watches), especially late at night.

Getting There:

Most people will likely arrive by plane at Václav Havel Airport, which is about 17km (10 1/2 miles) west of the city centre. This is the main international gateway to the Czech Republic and the hub for the national carrier Czech Airlines, which operates direct flights to Prague from many European cities. There are also direct flights from North America (from April to October) as well as to select cities in the Middle East and Asia.

The airport has two terminals: Terminal 1 for flights to/from non–Schengen Zone countries (including the UK, Ireland and countries outside Europe); Terminal 2 for flights to/from Schengen Zone countries (most EU nations plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway).

Transport Options:

Exchange rate: $1USD = 22.50 Czech Kr.

The cheapest (and often quickest) way to get into Prague from the airport is by public transport. Bus 119 stops outside both arrivals terminals every 10 minutes from 4 am to midnight, taking passengers to metro stop Nádraží Veleslavín (metro line A), from where you can catch the metro into the centre. The entire journey (bus plus metro) requires one full-price public-transport ticket (32Kč) plus a half-fare (16Kč) ticket for every suitcase larger than 25cm x 45cm x 70cm. Buy tickets from Prague Public Transport Authority desks (located in each arrivals hall). If you’re heading to the southwestern part of the city, take bus 100, which goes to the Zličín metro station (line B).

For connecting directly to Praha hlavní nádraží (the city’s main train station), the Airport Express bus stops outside both arrivals terminals and runs every half-hour. The trip takes 35 minutes. Buy tickets from the driver.

Official airport taxis line up outside the arrivals area of both terminals and can take you into the centre for 500Kč to 700Kč, depending on the destination. Drivers usually speak English and accept credit cards. The drive takes about 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

Getting Around:

Our preferred method of getting around a city is to walk wherever possible. Prague is fairly compact and most of the main tourist sites are within the city walls so walking is easy – there are a few hills but nothing too drastic. During the summer Prague can be very hot and humid, so make sure you carry plenty of water.

Prague has an integrated metro, tram and bus network – tickets are valid on all types of transport and for transfers between them.

A valid ticket or day pass is required for travel on all metros, trams and buses. Tickets and passes are sold from machines at metro stations and some tram stops (coins only), as well as at newspaper kiosks and information offices at the train & tram stations. You must validate (punch) your ticket before descending on the metro escalators or on entering a tram or bus (day passes must be stamped the first time you use them). For the metro, you’ll see stamping machines at the top of the escalators. In trams and buses, there will be a stamping machine in the vehicle by the door

Prague is an interesting city to explore and it is safe to explore – of course, usual precautions apply about being wary of what areas of town you are in and not flashing your wealth overtly (i.e. expensive jewellery and watches), especially late at night.

Getting There:

Most people will likely arrive by plane at Václav Havel Airport, which is about 17km (10 1/2 miles) west of the city centre. This is the main international gateway to the Czech Republic and the hub for the national carrier Czech Airlines, which operates direct flights to Prague from many European cities. There are also direct flights from North America (from April to October) as well as to select cities in the Middle East and Asia.

The airport has two terminals: Terminal 1 for flights to/from non–Schengen Zone countries (including the UK, Ireland and countries outside Europe); Terminal 2 for flights to/from Schengen Zone countries (most EU nations plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway).

Transport Options:

Exchange rate: $1USD = 22.50 Czech Kr.

The cheapest (and often quickest) way to get into Prague from the airport is by public transport. Bus 119 stops outside both arrivals terminals every 10 minutes from 4 am to midnight, taking passengers to metro stop Nádraží Veleslavín (metro line A), from where you can catch the metro into the centre. The entire journey (bus plus metro) requires one full-price public-transport ticket (32Kč) plus a half-fare (16Kč) ticket for every suitcase larger than 25cm x 45cm x 70cm. Buy tickets from Prague Public Transport Authority desks (located in each arrivals hall). If you’re heading to the southwestern part of the city, take bus 100, which goes to the Zličín metro station (line B).

For connecting directly to Praha hlavní nádraží (the city’s main train station), the Airport Express bus stops outside both arrivals terminals and runs every half-hour. The trip takes 35 minutes. Buy tickets from the driver.

Official airport taxis line up outside the arrivals area of both terminals and can take you into the centre for 500Kč to 700Kč, depending on the destination. Drivers usually speak English and accept credit cards. The drive takes about 20 minutes, depending on traffic.

Getting Around:

Our preferred method of getting around a city is to walk wherever possible. Prague is fairly compact and most of the main tourist sites are within the city walls so walking is easy – there are a few hills but nothing too drastic. During the summer Prague can be very hot and humid, so make sure you carry plenty of water.

Prague has an integrated metro, tram and bus network – tickets are valid on all types of transport and for transfers between them.

A valid ticket or day pass is required for travel on all metros, trams and buses. Tickets and passes are sold from machines at metro stations and some tram stops (coins only), as well as at newspaper kiosks and information offices at the train & tram stations. You must validate (punch) your ticket before descending on the metro escalators or on entering a tram or bus (day passes must be stamped the first time you use them). For the metro, you’ll see stamping machines at the top of the escalators. In trams and buses, there will be a stamping machine in the vehicle by the door.

Best time to visit the Czech Republic

Peak tourist season in the Czech Republic coincides with the summer months when temperatures are pleasantly warm and humid with occasional thunderstorms. Between May and September the Czech Republic is at its busiest with major festivals held at this time to benefit from the good weather.

The early spring months of March and April can be unpredictable when it comes to the weather. The winter snows are beginning to melt and temperatures begin to rise above freezing but it can still be quite chilly with strong winds. The autumn months of October and November can be equally as unpredictable with temperatures starting to drop although the countryside comes alive with colour.

Winters in the Czech Republic are cold, cloudy, icy and wet with freezing temperatures. It’s still possible to visit most of the country’s monuments though opening hours are reduced.

Vegan dining ideas

There are plenty of places to eat, as you might expect, many offering traditional Italian food. As we try to follow a vegan diet (sometimes on holiday we expand our range to be more vegetarian) there were not a great many options. You can always try the Happy Cow website or app to find a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. We tried and enjoyed Vegans in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana) close to Prague Castle and Forkys a vegan buffet located just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square.

1. VEGAN’S PRAGUE

Vegan’s Prague is found in a 16th-century building near Prague Castle on Nerudova street. It is a narrow building with the restaurant located on the first and second floors (second and third floors for my American friends), which are accessed with a steep and winding staircase. There is no elevator so disabled access is almost impossible.

Our favourite areas in the restaurant were the top floor, with its sloping roof, and from there the terrace which has a spectacular view across to Prague Castle.

The top floor room has exposed beams with simple furnishings and gets ample light from the numerous skylights that have been put into the roof.

The outdoor terrace is simply the best place to be. It is small and intimate, with only about four tables, so you will have to be lucky to get a table there.

2. FORKY’S

Located close to the historic Old Town Square in Prague, Forkys is a vegan bistro with international recipes, serving breakfast until 11 am, then burgers, kebab, hot dogs, bowls, and a daily menu. This is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat, with great energy to boot. I loved the wall at the entrance that lists all the famous people who have been vegan, dating from ancient Rome to the present day.

3. LIFEHOUSE

Small takeaway health food bistro in the city centre since 2017. The menu is based raw vegan and cooked vegan cuisine. Serves lemonade, smoothies, milkshakes, raw spreads on sourdough, veggie wraps, summer rolls, salads, and raw desserts.

If you are looking to try traditional Czech food, such as goulash (guláš), dumplings or trdelnik ( a rolled pastry – a bit like a doughnut – that can be plain or filled with ice cream and fruit). Vegans beware the Czechs like most Central Europeans are highly carnivorous and like their cheeses!

Trdelniks being made
Traditional goulash

Coffee and soft drinks can be fairly expensive, especially in tourist areas. But if you like beer then you are in for a treat as it is cheap and plentiful … and most importantly tasty.

Where to stay

1. U PÁVA

For our stay in Prague, we wanted to stay close to the city centre as we planned to walk everywhere. After looking around on hotel booking websites I decided to book a room at U Páva – which means ‘At the Peacock’ in Czech. The hotel is ideally placed to explore the surrounding markets, museums and historic buildings of Mala Strana, but it’s also just a 15-minute stroll across the bridge to the Old Town. It is only a 10-minute walk to Prague Castle.

U Páva is an intimate four-star hotel, located right next to Charles bridge, offering 26 romantically inclined rooms in a historical building, parts of which date back to the late 15th century.

2. BOAT HOTEL MATYLDA

For something more unusual you should consider Boat Hotel Matylda.

Lying at anchor on the Vltava river in the centre of Prague, 0.6 miles from the Charles Bridge and a 10-minute stroll from the Charles Square

Standard double rooms are situated on the original Matylda boat. This boat also has a bar and the well-known restaurant with a summer terrace serving Italian cuisine. The other rooms are to be found on the newer Klotylda boat.

Each of the cabins on the two boats features an elegant interior design with hardwood floors. Some have their own private balcony and dark leather armchairs.

The Boat Hotel is situated in the vicinity of the famous Dancing House, right next to the tram stop Jiraskovo namesti and 1,000 feet away from Karlovo namesti metro station.

3. CHARLES BRIDGE HOSTEL & APARTMENTS

For the more budget-conscious the Charles Bridge Hostel and Apartments is a good option

Charles Bridge Economic Hostel is a small boutique guesthouse located in the very heart of the historic centre of Prague, right at the Charles Bridge. All important sights are within walking distance of the property. The building comes from the 14th century and belongs to protected cultural heritage.

Rooms and dorms are fully furnished and have been recently remodelled. A kitchen is located on all floors and inside all private rooms. Bedsheets, linen, towels and toiletries are provided free of charge.

Charles Bridge Economic Hostel provides free tours daily at 6 pm, as well as a free Ghost Tour. Luggage storage is available for free. The laundry facility and dryer is available for an extra fee.

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