NB: This article has been published in Tiep Thi & Gia Dinh Magazine no. 77, published on 25 Apr. 2016, as “Top 10 things to do in Prague”.
As of June 2020: I travelled to Czechia amidst a life crisis. I chose to travel to be away from the house and my surroundings, which reminded me of the things I had wanted to forget.
My photos, as a reflection of my soul, were dull and sad, mostly in B&W with subjects like a lonely lamp in the old town, or an angel statue in the cemetery on a rainy day…
It has been four years ever since, and I knew one day I’ll be back to Prague.
Last March I spent one week travelling alone in Czech. I had three days in Prague before heading to Český Krumlov for two days. Then I took the bus back to Prague for two days and then back to Norway.
For this Czech trip, I did an enormous workload of searching, downloading guides, taking notes, etc. This was the best homework I’ve done so far!
Here is my final list of the top 10 things to do, see, and eat in Prague!
1. The Prague Castle and St. Vitus Church
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle complex in the world at 570m (1870 feet) long and on average 128m (419 feet) wide. It’s also the place where the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperors, and presidents of the Czech Rep. have had their offices.
The main attraction is St. Vitus Cathedral, an interesting 14th-century Gothic structure with gargoyles which can be easily seen from ground level. You can climb to the top of the bell tower, which I, unfortunately, couldn’t do due to some renovation.
Entrance fees are required for a few selected areas, but you can walk freely through the grounds and into a large portion of the cathedral.
My advice: Buy the ticket! The most popular one is Circuit B – 250CZK (≈ 9.5€), includes St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, exhibition “The Story of Prague Castle”, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane & Daliborka Tower.
2. Take a stroll on the Charles Bridge
Strolling this charming 14th century Charles Bridge is everybody’s favourite activity when in Prague.
The bridge, which is 516m (1692 feet) long, contains 16 pillars and 3 bridge towers. One of them, the Old Town Bridge Tower, is considered to be the most beautiful bridge tower in Europe due to its rich sculptural decoration.
The place on Charles Bridge, where St. John of Nepomuk was thrown in the river in the year of 1393, is connected with a nice legend. It is said that if you touch the brassy cross here, and whatever you wish will come true!
My advice: To avoid the crowds you have to either wake up early or come late. I did both, and it’s worth all of my attempts to wake up early and come late!
3. Watch the show of the Astronomical Clock
Prague’s Astronomical Clock is one of the oldest and most elaborate clocks ever built. The clock is composed of 3 main components:
- The astronomical dial, representing the position of the sun and moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details.
- “The Walk of the Apostles” – a clockwork hourly show of figures of the apostles and other moving sculptures.
- A calendar dial with medallions representing the months.
You can watch “The Walk of the Apostles” every hour from 9 am to 9 pm in its upper section.
My advice: Beware of your belongings, since huge crowds gather well here with their heads up, it’s perfect for pickpockets to do their job! Also, buy the ticket and go to the top of the tower. Even though I didn’t do it, I bet you’ll get a stunning bird view from there!
4. Týn Church
This magnificent church dominates one side of Old Town Square. It has a rich Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque interior. The entrance of the church is through the passage from Old Town Square no. 14.
You may ask who on Earth could think about building houses in front of a church. But the truth is that the church was built behind those houses!
The guide from a free walking tour in Prague told us the story, but sorry, because of his strong Eastern Europe accent and the noise from other walking tours I now can’t recall anything from his explanation!
My advice: Take a free walking tour in Prague if you wish to have a look at the Old Town and gain some interesting information about the city.
5. Old Jewish Quarter Josefov
(Due to some terrorism warning during my time in Prague, Easter 2016, I just paid a rough visit to this area, not into any of the buildings.)
The Jewish Quarter is a small area known as Josefov which contains the remains of Prague’s former Jewish ghetto between Old Town Square and the river Vltava.
Josefov is quite a heavily visited location in Prague. This area is small and compact, so a fairly thorough tour should take less than half a day.
My advice: Buy a ticket for all sites, which cost 480CZK (18€). You then can enter The Old Jewish Cemetery which is 4m higher than the street level and has 12 layers of tombs over time, High Synagogue, Klaus Synagogue and Ceremonial Hall, The Spanish Synagogue, Jubilee Synagogue, etc.
6. Enjoy the city’s architecture
If you’re interested in architecture, Prague is for you. Take a day walking around the city centre, the Old Town Square, a stroll at Wenceslas Square, you’ll find many examples of different architectural style.
Next to the Astronomical Clock is a Renaissance-era house named “At the Minute” with black and white designs covering its façade. Grand Hotel Evropa at Wenceslas Square is an example of Art Nouveau. Figure them out yourself!
My advice: Invest in a good guide book. Although you cannot get lost in Prague, it’s better to know where you’re heading to.
7. John Lennon Wall
The Lennon Wall is just an ordinary wall in Prague, and John Lennon didn’t even visit it in real life. However, since his death, Prague’s youth have covered it with John Lennon inspired graffiti and the Beatles’ lyrics.
My advice: Feel free to paint your graffiti at the John Lennon wall. I can say #7 is the most gimmick thing to do on this list, but it’s still fun to play a little bit with colours and sprayers, isn’t it?
8. Visit Vyšehrad Castle
Tired of the ultimate crowds in the Prague Castle?
Then just visit Vyšehrad Castle instead, which I did on the last day I was in Prague, which turned out to be a huge mistake as it takes about 3 hours to visit this complex thoroughly, which is a reason for me to visit Prague (and Vyšehrad Castle) again!
Vyšehrad Castle was built during the 10th century on a hill over the river Vltava. Within the castle grounds is the Church of St. Paul and St. Peter, as well as Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history.
It’s easy and quick to visit this complex from the city centre. Take the tram line C to Vyšehrad (2 stations from the National Museum). From there, you can walk about 10 minutes to Vyšehrad Castle’s main gate.
My advice: Don’t forget to buy a map of the complex. And if you wish, bring your food for a picnic.
9. Czech cuisine
I assumed that everybody knows about Czech beer. I drink beer but not a great fan of it, so I have no beer preference. But food is another thing.
I fall in love with these Czech dishes: roasted duck with potato dumplings and cabbage (kachna s červeným zelím) and roasted pork knee with mustard (pečené vepřové koleno). Both of them go well with a pint of beer, or two, or maybe three.
My advice: Don’t go for schnitzel. It tastes better in Austria. Don’t go for goulash either. It tastes better in Hungary.
Originated from Hungary, yet trdelník is one of the most common pastries to find on Prague’s streets.
It’s a kind of cake and sweet (yes, very sweet, indeed) pastry made from rolled dough and wrapped around a stick, then grilled on charcoal and topped with sugar, walnut mix and/or filled with Nutella!
My advice: Try trdelník with sugar-coating and Nutella filling.