It may not be as well-known as European capitals like Paris or Berlin, but Prague offers travellers a healthy amount of history and a brilliant array of (accessibly cheap) things to do. Frankly, this city’s a must on any trip to Eastern Europe – and you should get involved ASAP.
Perhaps the Czech capital’s most appealing quality is its ability to appease both the highs and lows of European culture. So whether you fancy spending the day gawping at its magnificent attractions, museums and architecture, or washing those hours away in any number of restaurants and bars where the beer flows freer (and sometimes cheaper) than water, this Bohemian paradise has you covered. This is our run-down of the best attractions in Prague right now.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Prague
Best attractions in Prague
After you check in and unpack, head over to Old Town Square. Lined with pastel Baroque buildings reminiscent of classic fairy tales, the city centre brims with perfect spots to grab a beer or coffee and people-watch in between catching the sights. This 600-year-old square is home to many of the city’s finest historic monuments and buildings, including the Astronomical Clock, Old Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady Before Týn.
You could easily spend a day exploring the gardens, museums and tombs of Prague Castle. The structure, which dates back to the ninth century, has been a seat of power for Czech emperors, kings and presidents alike. At the centre of the complex stands the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral with its striking stained-glass windows by Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
If you want to combine historic architecture with excellent shopping opps, Wenceslas Square is the place to head. Just a short walk from the Old Town, this square was originally a horse market in the Middle Ages, so it makes sense that it’s now the city’s main shopping area. The square also functions as the go-to spot for big public gatherings, from protests and rallies to parades and celebrations. The famous statue of St. Wenceslas perched on his horse sits near the National Museum at one end of the square.
A night of music at the National Theatre feels like a trip to the 1700s. Technically, this complex contains four stages – the National Theatre, the State Opera, the Estates Theatre and the New Stage – with the oldest dating back to 1783. The Estates Theatre, which features high gallery seats, was where Mozart premiered his opera ‘Don Giovanni’ (with himself as conductor). Even today, it’s still the venue’s most performed work.
Linking Prague Castle to the Old Town, Charles Bridge offers a thoroughly romantic promenade across the Vltava. The open-air gallery of Baroque statues been inspiring poets and novelists alike since it was built in 1357. Pick up a souvenir from one of the artists stationed on the bridge’s cobblestones while listening to street musicians perform jazzy renditions of pop songs. And don’t forget to touch the base of the St. John of Nepomuk statue for good luck.
Prague boasts countless beer gardens, but Letná offers first-class views to pair with your Pilsner. Atop a hill overlooking the Vltava river, this is little more than a collection of picnic tables and food stands. However, once the sun comes out, the area bustles with locals and their dogs, here to enjoy the spire-filled cityscape. During summer, the garden also hosts outdoor film screenings and the occasional concert.
Although it’s just a few blocks from Prague’s Old Town, the Jewish Quarter feels very distinct from the centre. For one thing, the Spanish Synagogue contrasts starkly with the city’s various Gothic cathedrals, with its graceful arches and North African-inspired design. Next door you’ll also find the brilliant Jewish Museum, one of Prague’s most popular attractions.
Those interested in Prague’s music scene should make sure to visit MeetFactory, a gallery and performance space in a somewhat isolated area of the city’s south-west. Don’t let the train tracks and industrial surroundings fool you into thinking you’re in the wrong place. Whether you’re visiting during a daytime flea market or taking in an evening concert, you’re certain to be mingling among Prague’s edgiest folk.
Perhaps you’ve encountered David Černý’s ‘Tower Babies’ crawling up the sides of Žižkov Television Tower on your Instagram feed. This transmitter tower offers striking views of the Žižkov and Vinohrady neighbourhoods from 216 metres up – perhaps that’s why they want to get up there. The Communist-era landmark houses a restaurant, bar and café, as well as the luxurious OneRoom Hotel, while on ground level you’ll find another restaurant, a mini-golf course and a beer garden ideal for picnics.
Did you know there’s a little slice of Paris in Prague? A scaled-down Eiffel Tower at the top of Petřín Hill, to be precise. While it’s not an exact replica of the famous French landmark, it does offer a decent lookout from the hillside. (If you’re a wannabe stargazer, you should also make for Štefánik’s Observatory nearby.) Once you’ve had your fill of vistas, stroll through the idyllic cherry blossom orchards that paint the landscape a pleasant candy floss colour in spring.
Czechs are proud of their artistic heritage and never waste an opportunity to show off their most famous sons and daughters. One of the best places to educate yourself about Prague’s art history is Museum Kampa, on the east bank of Kampa Island. This modern art museum features exhibitions of contemporary Czech and Central European artists. The sculpture garden and surrounding park provide the perfect respite from the crowded city centre.
So you’ve spent all day wandering Prague’s narrow streets, ticking off all those marvellous museums and churches. Might it be time for some nightlife? At first glance, Palác Lucerna looks like the entrance to a metro station. Inside, however, you’ll find a cultural complex that houses a club, theatre and concert hall, as well as a mix of restaurants and bars. There are few better nights out.