Prague is a magical fairytale of a place, with ancient buildings and cobbled streets. It’s romantic, centrally located and pedestrian-friendly, making it a perfect stop on any trip to Europe. In this Prague podcast travel guide, we talk about our experience of Prague, Czech Republic and how you can enjoy it too.
In practice, Prague is quite easy to negotiate and if you enjoy walking a city, it’s one of the best. The city is divided into numbered sections 1-22, but most of the more well-known areas are in Prague 1 and 2:
- Old Town (Stare mesto): Prague 1
- Lesser Town (Malá strana): Prague 1
- New Town (Nove mesto): Prague 2
- Jewish Town (Josefov): Prague 1
- Castle (Hradcany): Prague 1
- Vysehrad (Vyšehrad): Prague 2
The Vltava River (Moldau in English) runs mostly south to north through the city, with the Old Town nestled in a slight bend on the east side and the castle on the west. The New Town is to the south of the Old Town and the main train station is to the east of them. The airport is about 15km to the west.
Prague has a full range of accommodation options, including hostels, apartment rentals and luxury hotels. We’ve stayed in a bunch of different places, including Mosaic House and Fusion Hotel and have found them excellent, and we’ve also heard great things about Sir Toby’s and Sophie’s Hostel — these hostels are pretty much Europe-renowned for their fun atmosphere and the great people that they attract. Whatever level of accommodation standard you’d like, you’ll find it in Prague — though Couchsurfing could be a challenge because of the sheer number of visitors Prague sees.
Name: Prague, but locally Praha
Place: To the north-west of the centre of the Czech Republic. Prague is the capital.
Population: 1.25 million
Known for: Cheap beer, Christmas markets, a beautiful old town and Good King Wenceslas.
Temperatures: Around 0 in winter and early 20’s during summer. Although summer is warm, it can be wet — take a rain jacket.
Airport: Václav Havel Airport (PRG). Served by budget and legacy airlines. Takes about half an hour to get into the centre of town by public transport.
Currency: Czech koruna (crown). US$1 = 24Kč. €1 = 27Kč.
Price of a pint: 25-40Kč
Price of a dorm bed: From €5/US$5.50, but expect to pay around €10/US$11.
Price of a double room: €28-60/US$31-67
Price of a public transport ticket: 32Kč or 24Kč
Food and drink
Lunch is the big meal in Prague, with red meat and potatoes or dumplings being a main feature of a serious sit-down meal. We were amazed at the range of high-quality international cuisine on offer; don’t just limit yourself to Czech fare when you’re there. We enjoyed Colombian, Georgian, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican (among others) during our last visit, but still found time for meat and dumplings.
The Czech Republic is serious Pilsner country, with the famous brand Pilsner Urquell being the foremost. There’s also the real budweisers — you know, the beer from České Budějovice, or Budweis. The local Prague beer though, is Staropramen, which is an excellent lager and dirt cheap in most bars throughout Prague.
There’s an integrated system with the bus, tram and subway (called metro). Tickets are based on the length of time you will be using the service: 30 minutes (24Kč), 90 minutes (32Kč), one day (110Kč) or three days (310Kč). If you’re there for a week or more you can get a monthly pass for around double the price of a three-day ticket, there’s a thriving online market for selling these on. Children and seniors pay half price and if you’re over 70, it’s free to travel. If you’re travelling with luggage, you’ll need to buy a separate ticket for it: 16Kč.
You can buy tickets from ticket machines in metro stations and from kiosks throughout the city. Make sure to validate your ticket before entering the metro and as soon as you enter a bus or tram for the first time, then keep your ticket on you until it expires. Ticket inspectors will issue on-the-spot fines for invalid tickets or not having tickets for big bags. Be aware of false inspectors, ask to see a badge before paying, and they should give you an official receipt.
Attractions – free
It could be said that the whole city is a free attraction; it was mainly undamaged throughout World War Two so, unlike much of Europe, the beautiful medieval buildings remain to be photographed. It gives the whole thing a fairy-tale feeling which has made it such an attractive place to visit.
Some of the highlights are:
The Old Town, especially the central square with the astronomical clock and gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, particularly the Tyn church. Next to the Old Town is the New Town which was built in the 14th century. Walking through these two sections of town is certainly enough to keep one entranced for a day or so if you stop in at some of the little restaurants, bars and shops. This is also where you’ll find the Dancing House, by Frank Gehry.
There are dozens of bridges across the Vltava River and several in Prague, but one in particular stands out: the Charles Bridge. It’s wide and beautiful with statues all along it. In fact, it’s so wide that a bustling mini-market of souvenir-sellers, buskers, painters and craftspeople line both sides of it!
You’ll pass through the Lesser Town, Mala Strana, on your way up to the castle. There are great views from here and some excellent places to relax and look over Prague.
Attractions – paid
Access to the castle complex is free, but you need to pay for access to some areas. Full access costs 350Kč, which is also the cost of an audioguide for three hours. If you are likely to get castled out, wander around for free and only pay for entrance if something looks great. Things tend to happen on the hour: watch the changing of the guard ceremony and listen to the bells toll.
The National Museum’s main building in Wenceslas Square is closed for reconstruction, but there are plenty of other galleries and exhibitions spread throughout the city. Museum entrance costs 160kc for all exhibitions or 300kc for a three-day pass. You might also want to consider one of the many Prague Cards on offer which include entrance to some museums as well as transport or a bus tour.
Prague was home to some excellent artists and two that are both contemporary and accessible: the Mucha museum houses works of Alphonse Mucha, a predominant figure in Art Nouveau. If you like his work, head to the National Gallery to see his Slav Epic. Franz Kafka was also a Prague resident and has a museum in the lesser town.
Another important museum is the Communist Museum which shows many of the ways Prague and what was then Czechoslovakia changed under the regime.
In the Jewish Quarter you’ll find some spectacular sites, including the Old New Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, and the cemetery. The Nazis intended for the area to be a museum of the extinct Jewish race; nowadays it’s an inhabited area full of museums of European Jewish life past and present. Speaking to other travellers about Prague on Twitter, the Jewish cemetery came up again and again as the most memorable thing about their visit.
Attractions – seasonal
May is the month of the renowned Prague Spring Classical Music Festival, drawing stars and fans of serious music from around the world. Not really my kind of thing, but it gives a focal point to the season.
Christmas markets are Prague’s most famous event, with visitors coming from around Europe on short breaks to visit and shop. The markets are spread throughout the city and are easy to find… and enjoy.
All your favourite guidebook publishers have good guides to Prague. The Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring has enough information on the city to make the most of a short trip, though I found it really lacked the historical background that makes Prague such a fascinating place. Reading around, the Rough Guide worked well for that. Since Prague is such a visually rich city, Eyewitness‘s visual slant is perfect. They’re light on the practical information side though.
Where to next
- Day trip to Sedlec Ostlery at Kutna Hora.
- Ceske Budejovice or Cesky Krumlov, then south to Austria via Linz.
- Head west into Germany – Dresden or Leipzig; or south-west to Nuremberg or Munich.
- South-east takes you through to Bratislava or to Vienna.
- East to Poland; Wroclaw is close and probably your entry city.
Context provides private guides and (very) small group tours for the intellectually curious traveler. PhD and MA-educated guides take you deep into your destination, and with a maximum group size of six, you can ask as many questions as you like!
Find out more about Prague tours at Context Travel.
Have you been to Prague? What did you like best? If you haven’t been, what would you like to see in Prague? Leave a comment below.