Take a few steps away from Prague’s most famous attractions and a world brimming with cutting-edge culture opens up to the curious traveller. Industrial and military buildings have been repurposed as entertainment and nightlife destinations, while further-out residential neighbourhoods are drawing more and more visitors with thriving annual festivals and other first-rate arts initiatives. Their parks also offer some of the city’s very best views... and more than just a spot of natural inner-city beauty. So it really is worth traipsing beyond the Old Town, if only to get away from the hordes (and breathe in some fresh, unpolluted air). Here’s how to get the most out of the city as it is right now – the best things to do in Prague, from the obvious to the obscure.
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Best things to do in Prague
Though Prague has no shortage of viewpoints and photo-worthy panoramas, the tourist crowds can get a bit annoying. If you’re the type of traveller who likes a little breathing room, head over to Vyšehrad. The hillside views are a bonus on top of its parks sprinkled with statues, a peaceful cemetery, an eye-catching cathedral, and one of the city’s best beer gardens. The red line (also called the C line) stops here – making it easy to access the fort’s gothic spires and relaxing grounds just off the banks of the Vltava.
Climb up to Letná Park and get yet another breathtaking perspective over Prague. In the past decade, Prague 7 (first-time visitors, take note: Prague is divided into sections and assigned numbers) has morphed from a sleepy residential neighbourhood into one that’s vibrant and full of cool boutiques and restaurants. Letná Park features a massive kinetic sculpture of a moving metronome; its foundation was once the base of an enormous Stalin monument that was torn down in 1962. Letná beer garden’s park benches and views of the Old Town across the Vltava are an after-work favourite among locals, dog walkers and international travellers. Note that despite the idyllic picnic setting, you’re not allowed to bring any food or drink from outside into the beer garden.
The eccentric minds behind this multi-purpose arts complex took one look at these former army barracks and imagined an eclectic cultural landscape combining art, theatre, cinema, sports and food and drink. Years later, that’s reality. In summer the courtyard hosts an outdoor cinema and beach volleyball court; in winter you can enjoy hot drinks and whizz round an ice skating rink. Kasarna Karlín’s surrounding buildings include a café in a former swimming pool, and garages that now house bars and concert spaces, while local art lines the walls all over. Days’ worth of entertainment.
Dominated by the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the ninth-century Prague Castle has been a seat of power for Czech emperors, kings and presidents alike. Exploring every corner of these massive fortifications would take an entire trip, so read up in advance and take your pick. Our favourite sights include the tiny houses of Golden Lane, the Romanesque façade of St George’s Basilica, and the manicured landscapes of the South Gardens. Not even to mention Alphonse Mucha’s striking stained-glass windows.
Passage Lucerna is where tourists flock to see one of David Černý’s most controversial sculptures – of a saint riding an upside-down horse – but there’s so much more to explore. The passage boasts a collection of shops, an early 1900s-style café, a well-preserved old cinema, a rooftop bar in summer, and a nostalgic ’80s and ’90s party every weekend at Lucerna Music Bar. The building itself was designed by the father of Vaclav Havel (the first president of independent Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic, after it split from Slovakia). It’s worth getting to know both Černý and Havel, as both men have left major impressions on the city as it is today.
The Czech sense of humour is notoriously dry and occasionally quite dark. This makes translating some of the country’s most famous plays and novels quite the task, but one that Cimrman English Theatre tackles with a wink and cheeky grin. Think of the fictional Jára Cimrman as the Czech ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ with a theatre in the Žižkov neighbourhood devoted to telling tales of his escapades. Performances take place in both Czech and English, so double-check the language when you buy tickets for an introduction to this local legend.
From the Astronomical Clock to the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the 600-year-old Old Town Square is home to all manner of beautiful historic monuments and buildings. This is the Prague you’ve seen in pictures – the mechanical wonder of the 15th-century clock, the towering statue of Martyred religious leader Jan Hus and his followers, the uneven twin towers of the Gothic church. Free walking tours start at the northern edge of the square. Come at Christmas and Easter for the atmospheric holiday markets.
This cathedral is lovely, but what earns it a spot in history is its connection to the Czech resistance efforts against the Nazis in Bohemia (the Czech Republic has three regions, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia). The basement of this building now houses a free museum complete with video installations, photos and war paraphernalia. Learn how a group of young Czech soldiers and dissidents carried out a plan to regain their sovereignty from one of Hitler’s top deputies, Reinhard Heydrich, known as ‘the Butcher of Prague’. The story is heavy-going, so prepare yourself; then visit the tombs of the brave men who risked their lives to help free Bohemia.
For a romantic stroll, there are few stretches better. Linking Prague Castle to the Old Town, the open-air gallery of Baroque statues lining the Charles Bridge has been inspiring poets and novelists alike for more than six centuries. Come here, and you’ll immediately understand why. Sick of the hordes? Head down late at night or early in the morning – it’s surprisingly quiet.
Just a short walk from the Old Town, Wenceslas Square is the city’s main shopping area, and the go-to spot for big public gatherings, from protests and rallies to parades and celebrations. This was where Jan Palach set himself alight to protest the Communist crackdown in 1968, and where locals jingled their keys in the air to celebrate Czech independence during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. You’ll find the massive statue of St. Wenceslas astride his horse near the National Museum at one end of the square.
Most exhibitions in the Rudolfinum Gallery (beneath the concert halls) are free; check their website for the latest programme. Don’t go up the steps to the main entrance, but curve around the side closest to the river where two sphinxes guard the door. Head upstairs for free exhibits, or downstairs for Art Park, which is mostly for kids. If you want to brush up on art history, learn about famous museums worldwide or just experiment with art on your own terms, this is a brilliant place to spend an afternoon. If that doesn’t do it for you, slip into the Rudolfinum Café and flip through art books or have a whirl on the grand piano.
Head to SmetanaQ for coffee and medovník (honey cake), and striking views of the Vltava from the bay windows. For those want to snuggle up, there’s a cosy room tucked away at the back, complete with a selection of books you can browse. Next door you’ll find a shop featuring jewellery and textiles from Czech designers, as well as a design studio on the second floor. Say dobrý den (a formal ‘hello’) when you enter the coffee shop to let the locals know you’re at least trying to embrace their culture; they’ll appreciate the small gesture.
In Malá Strana (the Little Quarter), most tourists gravitate towards Wallenstein Garden, known for its drip wall, owls, bronze statues and free-roaming peacocks. The nearby Vrtba Garden is lesser-known, but equally beautiful and immaculately manicured. Rich with geometric designs and statues of gods, it’s a brilliantly kept secret. The pristine gardens sit below the slope of Petřín Hill – another classic sight topped with a mini-Eiffel Tower. Note that the Vrtba Garden entrance can be easy to miss, tucked as it is down an alleyway off Karmelitská Street.
Loving Huts are a staple for vegan cuisine in Prague, and they’re everywhere – go to HappyCow and find the one closest to you. Eastern and Western-inspired dishes will satisfy all types of diets and tastes without breaking the bank; a standard dish is around €3. The buffet is an option, but be warned, not all buffets are created equal. Desserts are also a must at around €2.50. If you want to take away, just say, Sebou, prosím (seh-bo, pro-seem).
The Great Lawn inside this massive park in the Vinohrady neighbourhood is one of Prague’s most popular spots to watch the sun set behind the Old Town spires. Bring a blanket, a picnic and someone to share the view with while surrounded by groups of friends, couples and Instagrammers waiting for the perfect shot. The park got a little quieter in 2019, when the city’s largest beer garden failed to renew its lease. This was a source of huge disappointment for the sports fans who often gathered to watch major sporting events here, but left the air a little quieter for those relaxing on the lawn.
Frantiskanska Zahrada is tucked behind the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, just around the corner from Václavské Náměstí (Wenceslas Square). Enter through the Passage Světozor, stop for an ice cream and maybe pop to the eye-catchingly decked-out coffee shop downstairs. Then make your way to the end of the hallway of shops and restaurants to a large gate on your left. Inside the gardens, bag a coveted bench and take in the fresh air. Rose trellises, apple trees and sculptures abound. For a moment of stillness in the heart of the city, this is where to head; it’s simply a lovely place to rest your feet after a day’s sightseeing.
U Pinkasu is a beer garden in the grounds of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It’s an excellent spot to cool down with a local brew. And because the beer gardens are surrounded by stone, you’ll also feel the cooling effect of the rocks. It’s a win-win, especially at the height of summer. The garden gets crowded on sunny days, so be willing to wait or squeeze along the picnic-style tables. Go for a classic Pilsner Urquell, served here since 1843.
Perhaps you want to send a postcard or letter to someone from the heart of Bohemia. Make your way to the Main Post Office just off Wenceslas Square, but don’t just toss your postcard or letter into the mailboxes outside. Go inside first to soak up the frescoed walls in one of the prettiest post offices in all of the Czech Republic (and maybe even the world). The space is open almost 24 hours a day (it’s closed only from midnight to 2am). Just keep your cameras and phones in your pocket because photography is forbidden.
It makes sense that the city of Prague would find a way to cherish their beloved former president, Vaclav Havel. The first President of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) is a household name, and locals of all generations adore him. You’ll see posters, books and photos of him strewn throughout the city. This square, decorated in his honour, sits appropriately between the National Theatre and glass-beehive New Stage beside it. A red glowing heart along the far wall refers to Havel’s habit of adding the symbol of love to his signature.
With its illustrious line of classical composers and a playwright president in Václav Havel, the performing arts are integral to refined Czech culture. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to elegant theatres with painted ceilings and gilded opera boxes to experience it. Case in point: the performances at Jatka 78, a former slaughterhouse in industrial Holešovice, feature contemporary circus and dance companies in an ultra-cool warehouse setting. Arrive early to browse the lobby gallery, people-watch, and stop by the bar before taking in a show.
Both Studentský Llub Celetná (a cave bar that’s part of Charles University) and Skautský Institut (just off Old Town Square) primarily cater to students, but are open to the public. These two laid-back hangouts are within 500 metres of each other and serve coffee (káva), tea (čaj) and beer at decent prices. Order a pivo (beer) and bílé víno (‘bee-lay vee-no’, white wine) in Czech and you may get a grin from the barista.
Klub Vzorkovna, aka the Dog Bar, has grown in popularity over the past few years. An underground bar that’s both kitsch and clever, Vzorkovna is full of swinging chairs and unique seating arrangements, and is home to a dog the size of a small horse. There’s no sign, so look for the burgundy velvet curtain that covers the entrance on Národní Třída Street. Be sure to have cash; you’ll exchange it for a chip that can be swiped to pay for every order. If you have any remaining crowns (the Czech currency) at the end of the night, the doorman will give them back to you upon departure. Be sure to say, děkuji (try saying ‘dick-weed’ quickly – that means ‘thank you’) or hezký večer (hes-key veh-cher, meaning ‘good evening’) on the way out.
The Unesco-protected Speculum Alchemiae had remained hidden until recently, when flooding in the Old Town tore through its cobblestone streets. So what exactly was unveiled? Bizarrely, a fully intact alchemical laboratory. Back in the 16th century, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was obsessed with natural sciences, alchemy and all things occult, and hired several alchemists, including John Dee and Edward Kelley, to unmask the secrets to the Philosopher’s Stone. Tunnels linking this lab to Prague Castle only serve to confirm his occultist reputation.
Plenty of legends swirl around Čertovka (the Devil’s Stream). One story has it that the amicable ghost of Karbourek, the Water Sprite, blesses those who give him beer with pikes or eels. Another tale tells of how the stream is haunted by a vicious old woman who lived off Maltese Square at a house called ‘At the Seven Devils’. She was infamous for hexing people who dared encroach upon her home. You can sneak a peek of Karbourek near the John Lennon Wall (note that rules for the graffiti wall are getting stricter, so read the signage before scrawling your name).
Often brimming with pop-up bars and coffee carts – and overrun with festival-goers come summer – Střelecký Island is an idyllic picnic site that’s particularly popular among families and couples. It offers plentiful wildlife, with ducks, swans and beavers wandering its shores, plus an alternative perspective of the Charles Bridge, Kampa Park in the distance, and Prague’s sprawling city centre – all from the very middle of the Vltava.