Prague stands out as one of the few cities in Europe that emerged from WWII with its medieval old town almost entirely intact. As you wander its cobblestoned streets and look to the castle lit up at night, it can sometimes feel like you’ve been inserted into a fairy tale.
But there is a touristy side to the city, one full of clichés and tacky souvenir shops. This is where knowing what to do – and what to avoid – can help you get the most out of a short visit to Prague. Having lived in Prague for five years, we’re going to share our favourite places, activities and restaurants to enjoy the city in just a short 48 hours.
The goal: to follow a path of Prague sights with pauses for fresh Czech beer on draft (if that’s your thing), little cafes and hearty food so that you catch a glimpse of the real Prague along the way. For balance, use public transportation to go across town, but then walk the rest. Prague is a city best experienced slowly, at ground level.
If you notice locals popping into small alleys or streets, follow them. The city is full of shortcuts through buildings and side streets. Take them, maybe get lost, and perhaps you’ll find something hidden – or at least something outside of your guidebook.
The First 24 Hours
View: A walk through Prague’s tourist triad – Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. Take the 22 tram for the scenic ride up above Prague Castle, then walk leisurely through Prague Castle, stopping off to go inside St. Vitus Cathedral. Continue down into Malá Strana to get to Charles Bridge. Go across the bridge and through the Karolinum (DO NOT go down Karlova Street – it’s a tourist trap) to get to the Old Town Square. If you’re thirsty and the timing is right, go to the rooftop bar of U Prince Hotel for a sunset cocktail and great view of Old Town Square.
Eat: Lokal. For high quality Czech food and freshly pulled beer. Address: Dlouhá 33
View: Wenceslas Square and Lucerna Pasáž. Walk down Wenceslas Square from old town. This is where the Czechs demonstrated in 1968 and the Soviets sent tanks to confront them. Today, you’ll find Art Nouveau architecture peppered with tacky souvenirs shops.
On the right you’ll see Lucerna Pasáž in its Art Nouveau splendor. Go inside to find modern Czech artist David Černý’s massive sculpture of a horse hanging upside down from the ceiling in the main entrance. (Hint: it’s the reverse of the statue at the top of Wenceslas Square.)
Eat: If you’re a little peckish from all the walking, grab a coffee and an authentically French pastry at Patisserie Saint-Tropez located inside Lucerna Pasáž by heading towards the Vodičkova Street entrance. If you are feeling lost, don’t worry. Veterans get stuck in this building, too!
View: Vinohrady. Continue walking down Wenceslas Square, past the elegant National Museum and patently communist Parliament Building. Walk north on Vinohradská Street to get into the heart of Vinohrady neighborhood. Stop into little cafes and pubs along the way (Pastička at Blanická 25 is good for Bernard beer on tap). If the weather is nice, go to the beer garden at Riegrovy Sady and enjoy a game of foosball, or simply hang out with everyone at the picnic tables.
View: Žižkov. It’s impossible to miss the TV Tower in Žižkov; it’s a bit of an eyesore. But get a little closer and you’ll see what looks like alien babies climbing up. This is another cheeky David Černý installation.
Eat: Grosseto Marina. While this is might look like a simple pizzeria and Italian restaurant, the real reason to go here is for the view of Prague’s castle and old town. You can’t beat it.
Drink: Prague Beer Museum. Although not quite a museum in the traditional sense, this pub does has an extensive collection of Czech beers from around the country. The beers on tap change periodically, but usually number about 30 to 35 at any given time. Address: Dlouha 46
After 48 Hours
View: Vyšehrad, the alternative castle. In addition to offering great views of the Vltava River and the city, Vyšehrad features grassy grounds stocked full of locals having picnics with family and friends. The cemetery at Vyšehrad is also home to many of Czech greats of art and music, including Alphonse Mucha and Antonín Dvořák.
View: Dancing Building, walk along Vltava River. After Vyšehrad castle, try to make your way down to the river and walk along it in the direction of Prague’s Old Town and Castle. On Saturdays in the summer you may even find a fresh market. You’ll pass Prague’s Dancing Building, a piece of modern architecture amidst Prague’s traditional Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural stock. Continue walking towards the Charles Bridge and you’ll have great views of Prague Castle and Malá Strana.
Eat: Bredovsky Dvur. This place is full of locals at lunch taking advantage of its hearty and cheap midday menu full of Czech classics, such as svíčková or duck with cabbage. The restaurant has a dedicated tank room to be sure that it keeps its Pilsner Urquell at just the right temperature and condition. This is one of the best places to get a freshly pulled beer in the city. Address: Politických vězňů 13 (parallel street to Wenceslas Square).
View: Josefov, Prague’s Jewish Quarter. While Prague’s Jewish population was decimated during World War II, much of its Jewish Quarter survived as Hitler wanted to use the area as a museum. This means that much is still preserved today, including the six synagogues of Old New, Pinkas, Spanish, Maisel, High, and Klaus, as well as the Ceremonial Hall, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Jewish Town Hall. One of the most beautiful places in this area is the old Jewish cemetery. You can either by an entrance ticket from the Jewish Museum that will allow you inside (as well as to the other sites), or you can go inside one of the nearby buildings and look down from the windows for a beautiful view.
Do: Take in a Classical Music Concert. Avoid all the people selling tickets who are dressed in period costumes; these are often inferior, high-speed “best of” affairs. Go straight to the source to buy tickets for quality shows in some stunning concert halls. Our favourite venues for classical music include the Rudolfinum, National Theatre, and Czech Opera. Keep your eyes open for Prague Spring, a fantastic classical music festival that usually takes place each May.
If classical music is not your thing, Prague has a healthy live music scene that features jazz, Balkan music and visiting pop artists, too. For all events - music and otherwise - that intersect with the timing of your visit, check out the Prague Events Calendar in advance. Once you’re on the ground, be sure to check out the Night and Day section of the Prague’s English-language newspaper, The Prague Post.
Eat: Mozaika. For a break from traditional Czech food, head to this neighborhood restaurant for continental cuisine mixed with a dose of Asian fusion. The menu usually changes weekly based on what is fresh and in season. Address: Nitranská 13 (near Jiriho z Podebrad subway station).
A Note on Czech Beers: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and Gambrinus are perhaps the best known Czech beers and you can find them on tap everywhere. But for something a bit more special, keep a look out for Bernard and Svijany on draft.