By Briana Seftel
The fairy tale city of Prague (Praha in Czech) enchants all who visit. As one of Europe’s best preserved cities, Prague can easily rival Rome, London and Paris when it comes to architectural gems. From bustling Old Town Square to the quirky neighborhood of Karlin, here’s everything you need to know about the Czech capital.
What to Know
Divided by the Vltava River, Prague is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Known as the City of a Hundred Spires, the walkable city is made up of grand squares, gothic churches, striking monuments and elegant bridges. During the 14th century, Prague was the home of the Holy Roman Emperor, while the 1500s saw the rise of the Habsburg empire. Today, Prague is an exciting modern capital with history at every corner.
When to Go
Like most European cities, spring through fall (Apr–Oct) is peak travel season in Prague. Easter and Christmas are two popular and festive times to visit, while the Prague Spring International Music Festival brings together music lovers from around the world. If you don’t mind the cold, traveling in the shoulder months of January to March can be a rewarding experience without the crowds.
How to Get Around
Prague is an extremely walkable city, so bring a comfortable pair of shoes and prepared to get in your steps! The city also has an excellent public transportation system including bus, tram and subway lines. For the most scenic rides, take the tram. Taxis can be found in the city but have a reputation for overcharging. If you plan on taking a taxi, consult with your hotel concierge and make sure you agree on the price before getting in.
Where to Eat
While Czech food may not have the notoriety of its European neighbors, eating in Prague can be a wonderful experience if you know where to go. Bring a Czech language pocket guide to help you detect Czech specialties like knedlíky (bread dumplings) and trdelnik (a rolled pastry covered in sugar). In addition to hearty dishes, the Czech Republic is famous for having some of the best beer in the world. After all, pilsners were invented here.
- Letna Beer Garden Letenské sady Phone: +420 233 378 200
- Antoninovo Pekarstvi Strossmayerovo nám. 966/11 Phone: +420 734 783 443
- Zly Casy Čestmírova 390/5 Phone: +420 723 339 995
- Cafe Louvre Národní 22, 110 00 Nové Město Phone: +420 224 930 949
- Strahov Monastic Brewery Letenské sady, 170 00 Phone: +420 233 107 704
- U Fleku Křemencova 11, 110 00 Nové Město Phone: +420 224 934 019
- Lokál Dlouhaaa Dlouhá 33, 110 00 Staré Město Phone: +420 734 283 874
- Cafe Savoy Vítězná 124/5, Malá Strana Phone: +420 731 136 144
What to See
A complex of palaces, museums and courtyards encircled by mighty walls, Prague Castle is said to be the largest coherent castle complex in the world according to Guinness World Records. As the seat of Czech monarchs for centuries, Prague Castle is the city’s pride and joy. You’ll need at least a few hours to explore its many treasures, from the vaulted ceiling of Old Royal Palace to the colorful homes of Golden Lane.
Old Town Square
A plaza surrounded by former palaces, Old Town Square is Prague’s gleaming centerpiece. Dating back to the 10th century when it served as a marketplace, the square’s highlights include the gothic Tyn Church, baroque St. Nicholas Church, Old Town Hall, and astronomical clock. For 600 years, tourists have gathered in front of Old Town Hall to watch the procession of the Twelve Apostles and admire the unique features of the clock.
Commissioned in the 14th century by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, Charles Bridge is one of Prague’s signature sights. Crossing the Vltava River, the pedestrian-only bridge is a favorite among tourists looking for that iconic Prague photo. Thirty statues of saints adorn both sides of the bridge, with the most famous being the statue of St John of Nepomuk. Legend says that if you rub the bronze plaque, you will return to Prague.
Travel tip: If you’d like to cross the bridge without the crowds, get there as early as you can.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Dominating the city skyline, St. Vitus Cathedral is one of the highlights of Prague Castle. Its striking gothic spires can be seen from miles away, while inside it holds the tombs of of Bohemia’s kings, emperors and saints. Commissioned by Charles IV in 1344, the cathedral took nearly 600 years to complete. For incredible views over the city, climb the 287 steps to the top of the cathedral’s main tower.
Tips and Tricks
Follow the signs of the Royal Route, a traditional path that Prague’s royals once followed on the way to their coronation.
After a meal, place your fork and knife side by side on your plate if you’d like waiter to take your plate away.
For a taste of tourist-free Prague, head to artsy neighborhoods like Karlin and Zizkov.
Official taxis in Prague must have a yellow roof lamp with "TAXI" printed in black letters on both sides.
Nestled in the hills of South Bohemia, Cesky Krumlov is an enchanting town sitting above the Vltava River. Dominated by a stunning 13th-century castle, walking through Cesky Krumlov is like stepping back in time. Explore its delightful old town, admire the frescoes at the Church of St. Vitus, and stroll the grounds of the Renaissance castle.
For a truly authentic Czech experience, hop on a train to the Moravian city of Olomouc. Stand slack jawed in the city’s main square surrounded by historic buildings, then admire the facade of the 18th-century Holy Trinity Column. Share a pint of pilsner with a local student and don’t forget to try Olomoucky syr or tvaruzky, considered the smelliest cheese in the Czech Republic!
Immerse yourself in early 20th century splendor at Konopiste, the lavish residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Just 30 miles south of Prague, the castle was built in 1900 and features surprising modern amenities like an elevator and running shower. Don’t leave without seeing the Archduke’s impressive coat of arms collection, considered one of the finest private collections in the world.