City Guide to Prague, Czech Republic | Must See Attractions
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Prague is known as a city of cobblestone with magical architecture, unique artwork, and an enormous castle. It’s high on many travel destination lists and was one of the first central and eastern European cities to westernize after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The city embraced western culture while holding strong to its historical charm, creating a melting pot of old and new. Therefore, if you’re looking for a modern and funky art scene, this is your place. If you’re looking to step into a fairy tale and live the charming life of cobblestone streets and a castle on a hill, this is your place. Or, if you’re looking for a night on the town that won’t end until the following morning, this too is your town!
In our own way, we experienced the aforementioned in just a couple of days touring the city. As we do, we woke up early enough on a Sunday morning to explore a city that was still quiet and calm. We enjoyed Old Town in a way not many tourist do, nearly void of other people. We also experienced something we hadn’t expected to see, a nightlife that was still in full swing, with some cafes and bars still serving drinks to patios of people. As we moved about the city, we admired the famed architecture and cobblestone streets. Although, as we’ve commented before, cobblestone streets may be charming and beautiful in pictures, but actually walking on them is another story!
We used public transportation, riding on both the metro and trams, however we spent most of our time exploring on foot. Within a few hours, as the sun rose overhead, the city began to awake. Noises, smells, and crowds formed and we saw the tourist side of Prague as we continued to go to some of the most popular sites in the city as well as quieter corners and lesser-known spots. Since, before we arrive in a new place, we spend quite a bit of time researching everything there's to see, we end up with a very inclusive list of attractions plotted out on a map. We, of course want to see the well-known, popular attractions, but we also want to explore the hidden gems and slightly more obscure sites and places in a city. We find this gives us great diversity in what we see, and ultimately helps us get to know the feel and heart of a city!
So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Prague (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Czech Crown (czk), also known as Koruna (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Prague.
Must See Attractions in Prague
If you’re anything like us, you prefer to visit attractions without needing to fight crowds of people and you prefer pictures of the attractions and not of other tourists in front of the attractions. While, we can’t be fortunate enough to vanish all people in our framing of a picture, we can work our itinerary to schedule the most popular destinations at times when not many other people are visiting. The best way to accomplish this is to wake up early. Also, keep in mind that the most popular times are usually mid-day and the calmest time is usually Sunday morning (in our experience). It’s also helpful to know what the most popular destinations in a city are, so you can prioritize your schedule. Prague followed suit with most other cities in that Old Town (including the Astronomical Clock and Jewish Quarter) is a huge draw for tourists. Moreover though, Charles Bridge and the Castle District, including both Prague Castle and St. Vidus Cathedral, are the largest and most popular attractions in Prague. So, If you have a few days in Prague, we’d recommend visiting Old Town one morning and Charles Bridge and the Castle District on another (of course keeping in mind opening hours of places you want to enter).
Charles Bridge is one of the most popular places in Prague for tourists, so be prepared to share the bridge with your tourist counterparts and vendors selling souvenirs, unless you arrive early morning (think within an hour of sunrise!). You’ll notice the Baroque statues that line the bridge, and in particular you may have a line to stand in to take a picture with the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, a martyr who was executed and thrown into the Vltava River from the bridge (his statue is 8th on the right when crossing towards Prague Castle). It was the first statue added to the bridge, and legend has it, if you rub the bronze plaque, you’ll one day return to Prague. Also, if you want to see where he was thrown off, a cross is in the parapet (the low wall) between statues 17 and 19 marks the spot. Most of the statues here are actually replicas, if you want to see the originals, head over to the National Museum – Lapidary (Národní muzeum – Lapidárium) website.
It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the world (installed in 1410) and the oldest one still in operation. At any time of the day, it’s a beautiful sight to see, however every hour on the hour between 9 am and 11 pm, you (among the crowd) can witness 45 seconds of a mechanical show and masterpiece. It’s a show full of symbolism, as all the figures have a meaning. Visit and you’ll set eyes on the figures that represent Vanity, Greed, Death, Pagan Invasion, Chronicler, Angel, Astronomer, and Philosopher. ‘Death’ literally rings in the hour by ringing a bell on the hour. Plus, on the hour the 12 Apostles pass by in a procession past a small window above the clock.
The Jewish Quarter, also known as Josefov, is located in Old Town. This area is rich in history, as it’s the former location of the Jewish Ghetto during World War II. Explore the area by foot and don’t miss the various areas of interest (avoid visiting on a Saturday, since most sites are closed):
- Old Jewish Cemetery – This is the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery which dates back to 1478. Jewish people were not allowed to be buried outside of the ghetto, therefore the tombs in the cemetery are built on top of other tombs. Somehow, there are roughly 12,000 graves in the small graveyard.
- Old-New Synagogue – Built around 1270, it’s the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe.
- Pinkas Synagogue – The names of over 77,297 Jewish Czechslovak victims of World War II are written on the walls of the synagogue.
- Klausen Synagogue – It houses Hebrew prints and manuscripts, as well as an exhibition on Jewish traditions and customs.
- High Synagogue – It's unique in that the prayer room was built upstairs, possibly for protection from unfriendly neighbors.
- Jewish Town Hall – The Kosher Eatery is open to the public, however the rest of the hall, must be admired from afar.
- Maisel Synagogue – The original synagogue that stood here was destroyed by a fire in 1689, though it was rebuilt in the late 19th century in a Neo-Gothic Style.
- Spanish Synagogue – Arguably one of the most stunning synagogues in the city, as it combines many styles and traditions, uniquely including both Catholic and Muslim traditions.
It’s one of the main city squares and is named after Saint Wenceslas, the Patron Saint of Bohemia. Historically, it’s the center for demonstrations and public gatherings, and today it's also the base for business and cultural events. At the top of Wenceslas Square is the Prague National Museum, which focuses on natural, scientific, and historical exhibitions.
Sitting on Rebpulic Square, the Municipal House is a beautiful example of an Art Nouveau building. Admire the stonework, gold accents, paintings, and stained glass windows from the outside, or take a tour to see the even more delightful interior!
Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)
It’s the largest ancient castle in the world and covers an area larger than seven football fields! The castle dates back to the 9th century and has since been the home to Czech Monarchs. When visiting, be prepared to walk a bit of a distance uphill to get to the entrance, or alternatively take public transportation. If you’re walking from Charles Bridge, although it’s mostly up hill, the narrow cobblestone streets lined with stores make for an atmospheric walk. Once you arrive, expect a security check before entering the castle complex, which can cause a bit of a line to build up. You can explore the grounds and gardens for free, however if you wish to enter the museums, the cathedral, or a few choice areas on the grounds, you’ll need to purchase tickets. The castle is a bit different than others in Europe, as it’s several independent and different buildings that have been joined over the centuries. It feels a bit more like a small town, than one large castle when touring it.
- St. Vitus Cathedral – The outside stone work of this cathedral is spectacular! If you pay the price for tickets to enter, you may wonder what lays behind the door with seven locks. Since they’re rarely put on display, you’ll have to take our word that the Czech Crown Jewels are in the Coronation Chamber that sits behind the well secured and heavily locked door. If you want a view of the city and a climb of 280 steps that pass by the largest bell in the country (named Zikmund), be sure to purchase tickets that include the Great South Tower of the Cathedral.
- St. George’s Basilica – You’ll know you’re at the basilica when you see the exterior, as it stands out from the rest of the buildings. The foundation of the basilica dates back to the 10th century, however it has been rebuilt and restored many times over its life. For the trained eye, you’ll see many different architectural and style elements incorporated in the church.
- Old Royal Palace – The residence building has been home to many kings over the centuries, and more recently has been the place every president of the country has been sworn in. When visiting, don’t forget to look up, as you don’t want to miss the interlaced arched ceiling of Vladislav Hall.
- Golden Lane – It’s a small, narrow, romantic, and extremely picturesque lane. It dates back to the 16th century and was where castle servants and marksmen had their homes. Today, it’s mainly a place to take pictures and purchase souvenirs. Tip: It’s free to visit between 5 pm and 8 pm (as of the time of our visit).
- Powder Tower (Mihilka) – It’s a 15th century fortification tower on the north side of the castle grounds that offers views of the city and Stag Moat.
- Castle Gardens – There are several gardens that encircle the castle grounds, however access is permitted only between April and October.
- Changing of the Guards – At each entrance to the castle, guards are posted. Plan your visit to be there around noon and you’ll be treated to a ceremonial changing of the guards.
Old Town Square
Like most historic city squares, its history and surroundings make this a popular destination. The square dates back to the 12th century, when it started as a marketplace. While there, be sure to not only enjoy a snack at one of the many cafés, but to also spend time visiting the surrounding sights.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
The Gothic spires of this church are recognizable from across the city. Although the outside is unmistakably Gothic in design, once you enter you’ll realize the inside is primarily Baroque in style. The church is located in Old Town Square and set behind Tyn School.
Tip: The front of the church is blocked by two buildings, making it challenging to locate the entrance to the church. To find it, from the square you'll want to be facing the church and looking at the two smaller buildings in front of it. Count the archways of the the buildings, starting from the far left. The third one will be the passage way that will lead you to the entrance. For reference, the archway is at Staroměstské nám. 604/14.
Old Town Tower and Astronomical Clock
Old Town Tower was built in 1338 and today a tour will take you through the historical halls, the underground areas, and up the tower to a beautiful outlook of the city. Also, on the side of Town Hall is the Astronomical Clock.
- Jan Hus Statue – Inaugurated in 1915 to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the reformer Jan Hus’ death.
- Memorial to Martyrs – Twenty-seven crosses commemorate the martyrs who were beheaded in the square.
Prague National Theatre
The building dates back to 1868 and is a beautiful example of Neo-Renaissance architectural style. If you’re interested in opera, theater, or ballet, check the National Theater's website for show and ticket information.
Letna Park (Letenské sady) and the View from Hanavsky Pavilion
There are many spots in the city that offer views of the Vltava River that’ll stop you in your tracks. However, make the trek to Letna Park and to the peak that Hanavsky Pavilion sits on. The pavilion is beautiful in and of itself; however, the outlook in front of the pavilion offers one of the best views in the city, as it’s the spot where you can capture all the bridges that cross the Vltava River in one shot.
The typical buildings in Prague are generally older and historic sites; however the Dancing House was built in the ruins of World War II, but not until the mid 1990s. The modern style and unique design have earned the building its nickname and it’s worth a visit!
John Lennon Wall
You might wonder, how Prague, a city John Lennon never visited, has a wall named after him. During the Communist Era in Prague, pop songs, including John Lennon’s songs were banned. However, as his lyrics celebrated peace and freedom, he became a symbol of free speech and a role model to non-violent rebel activists in the country. So much so, that activists started covering the wall in John Lennon lyrics and anti-Communist graffiti. They weren’t deterred by the many attempts of officials to whitewash the wall. In 1998 the wall underwent restoration and today it’s covered in messages of peace, written by visitors from around the word. When you visit, don’t forget a paint pen to write your own message, and don’t worry, the owners of the wall allow the graffiti.
Art on Kampa Island
Prague is known for it’s unique art, and one of the places you’ll find a few examples of it is on Kampa Island. The Island is on the Vltava River and is only separated from land by an artificial and narrow channel that was historically used to power water mills.
- Crawling Babies – An art piece created by David Cerny of three baby sculptures that stand (crawl) in a corner of the park. The sculpted babies are known for having bar codes as faces. It's a popular display, so when visiting, if you want a picture, you’ll probably have to wait your turn.
- Yellow Penguins – Created by the Cracking Art Group, this lineup of yellow penguins are on a metal beam in the river, so you’ll have to make your way to the walkway near the river bank and look over the small wall to see them. Plus, if you visit at night, they’ll be lit up!
This Neo-Renaissance style building is home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Galerie Rudolfinum. It’s exterior is beautiful and its music hall is well known for excellent acoustics.
Tower Park Praha (Žižkov Television Tower)
The tower was built between 1985 and 1992 and it’s actively debated on whether it’s one of the ugliest or best features of the city. Besides its futuristic design, the art feature of 10 large crawling babies by David Cerny, make this tower unique and very controversial. Plus, it’s the tallest structure in the city with an observation deck at the top for visitors. Visiting information, including ticket prices can be found on the Tower Park Praha's website.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and the Infant Jesus of Prague (Pražské Jezulátko)
The church was built in 1613 and is a beautiful church to visit. However, the most prominent feature of the church, and likely the reason for most visits, is the Infant Jesus of Prague. The 47 cm (18.5 inches) tall wax figure of Baby Jesus was brought from Spain and was donated to the Carmelite Friars in 1628. The Infant Jesus of Prague is thought to have protected the city from plague and destruction and today it draws pilgrims from around the world. The wardrobe of the Infant Jesus of Prague consists of over 70 robes that are changed by the sisters of the church in accordance with the Catholic religious calendar.
Powder Tower/Gate (Prašná brána)
Powder Tower is one of the 13 original city gates and interestingly, its purpose was to be an attractive entrance to the city, not a fortification tower. It earned its name of Powder Tower because, after 1715, it was used to store gunpowder. Today, visitors to the tower can enjoy the “Prague Towers” exhibition and access the 186 steps that lead to the viewing terrace. Additional information can be found on the City of Prague Museum's website.
Wallenstein Palace and Parliament (Valdštejnský palác)
Wallenstein Palace houses the Senate of the Czech Republic, and while it has limited entry, the courtyard and gardens (open during the summer) are worth the visit. On your visit, be sure to stroll the garden and enjoy the ornamental pond, the bronze statues of Greek Gods, the fountain, and the grotto. If you’re patient, you’ll be able to spot creatures and faces in the tall gray stalactite wall.
Petrin Observation Tower (Petřínská rozhledna)
Petrin Observation Tower was part of the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition and modeled after Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It’s located on a hill 130 meters above the Vltava River in the center of Prague, but if you can make the hike, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the city! On the other hand, take the Funicular Railway or tram #22 to avoid the hike! Visiting information for the Petrin Observation tower can be found on The City of Prague Museum's website. Also, while on Petrin Hill, consider visiting the Mirror Maze. On our visit, we choose to walk both up and down the hill and were treated with an apple orchard at the bottom of the hill. We must admit, the couple of apples we picked were delicious!
A house sit brought us to Prague and not only were we fortunate enough to meet a great dog, Gatsby (AKA The Great Gatsby), but we were also able to explore a charming city! Prague is known for so many things, particularly its charm and architecture, and in our humble opinion, it certainly lived up to its reputation!