48 Hours in…Prague

Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott March 14, 2013 23

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.

Prague Castle all lit up at night.

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.

A view of the Prague Castle and Malá Strana from Charles Bridge.

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.

Beer gardens are one of the best places to relax, meet Czechs and drink great pilsner beers.

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

Difficult choices…

 

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.

View of Prague’s Old Town and Vlatava River.

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).

Svíčková, a typical Czech dish of meat in a creamy sauce served with bread dumplings.

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.

Gate into Prague’s Old Town and Art Nouveau Municipal House, also used for concerts.

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.

23 Comments »

  1. Lizette March 14, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

    This is awesome! I’m going to Prague this summer, so this article is right on time for my trip planning! Thanks! :)

    • Audrey March 15, 2013 at 3:27 am - Reply

      Hi Lizette, I’m so glad the timing of this article works so well with your upcoming trip! Of course, there’s lots more to do and see in Prague but hopefully this will help you get started. Enjoy!

  2. Roddy March 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Great article on what’s probably my favourite city in the world (despite the tourists and tacky areas). Will check out some of the restaurant recommendations on my next visit. For alternative music options, the Agharta Jazz Cellar is a must – great music is a superb, intimate location.

    • Audrey March 15, 2013 at 3:29 am - Reply

      Roddy, thanks for the suggestion for Agharta Jazz Centrum – have fond memories of that place! A friend of ours who plays jazz piano also suggests the Jazz Boat as they have good improv nights.

  3. Lindsay March 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    This is amazing! I am heading to Europe in late August and Prague is one of my stops. Is it a safe city to walk alone as a single female?

    • Andrew Hickey March 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      Hey Lindsay, like most cities, just be aware of your surroundings. That said, Prague is very safe but does have a pickpocket problem.

    • Audrey March 15, 2013 at 3:32 am - Reply

      Hi Lindsay, just to add on to what Andrew said regarding safety and being a solo traveler. I lived in Prague for five years and walked on my own all the time at different times of the day/evening without any issues. Just be aware of your surroundings and use the same common sense you’d use at home – i.e., don’t walk down a dark alley with lots of people loitering around. Most of the pickpocketing/theft reports that I know of happen in the trams/subway and on the most touristed streets. But it is quite a safe city.

  4. Susan M March 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    My grandfather’s family was from Bohemia, but we don’t know which town. Do you have any suggestions how to find towns of one’s ancestors in the Czech Republic?

    • Audrey | Uncornered Market April 2, 2013 at 3:26 am - Reply

      Hi Susan, we have done genealogy research in Slovakia, but never in Czech Republic. I imagine it’s pretty similar though. What we did was get the Social Security applications and documents first in the United States of the family members who first immigrated to the United States. This at least gave some sort of town or village name usually. Then we went and researched locally (in Slovakia) at the libraries, churches and municipal government offices.

      If you’ll be researching from abroad, take a look at this article from the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC which lists people and services who can help:
      http://www.mzv.cz/washington/en/culture_events/cz_us_community/genealogy/

      Good luck!

  5. Dick May 20, 2013 at 6:45 am - Reply

    Hi audrey,
    I will be in
    Prague in August prior to visiting Cesky Krulov if Lindsay or Lizette need an escort I would be more than willing.

  6. armidatrentino June 14, 2013 at 6:57 am - Reply

    Good article dear.Feeling like digging more information from your article.Now im planning a trip to Prague cannot wait more…Prague Old Town will be my first tour destination.

  7. Filip Strom June 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Guinness Book of World Records claims that Prague Castle is the only largest ancient castle in the world.

    am really amazed knowing this!!

    and thanx for sharing this blog post!

  8. Leanne thorpe June 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Hi I’ve read that you can purchase a 72hr ticket to use on all public transport. Is this a good idea? I had seen that u get a bus to zip in and then get metro to Florenc where our hotel is

    • Audrey June 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      The 72hr transport passes are a great idea if you’re going to be traveling around a lot around the city – makes it so much easier than buying tickets each time (and the ticket checkers do target tourists).

      Pick up the pass at the airport so that you can get the maximum value from the pass. Yes, you can take the bus from Airport to Dejvicka and then from there you can hop on the metro system to get to Florenc. It’s a great public transport system.

  9. Candice July 5, 2013 at 12:46 am - Reply

    I was in Prague 2 weeks ago it was one of my favourite cities

  10. Audrey August 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Hi
    I am traveling in December to Christmas markets. Do you have any special hints for then? Any suggestions for stands to look for? I wanted to purchase garnet jewelry – where would you shop?
    We are older and want to get to castle from old Town Square without climbing. Ideas? What is the best place to eat near
    Old Town Square?
    Thanks!!
    Jlll

    • Audrey December 12, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Audrey, not sure if this comment is too late for you, but wanted to respond with a couple of suggestions for Christmas markets.

      Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) market is the main market in town, but you’ll find smaller ones in neighborhoods throughout the city. We enjoyed the one at Namesti Miru in Vinohradska neighborhood just outside the center.

      As for getting to the castle without climbing, the best way is to take public transportation to above the castle (22/23 tram). That way, you will be walking down through the castle, not up.

      Good places to eat near Old Town Square would be Lokal on Dlouha Street for good Czech food.

      Enjoy your trip!

  11. Jennifer November 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    This is such a wonderful guide! I am going to Prague tomorrow and am extremely excited to use some of your tips. Thanks!

  12. tama trotti December 27, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Great suggestions – we go Monday for 5 days – any suggestions going with teens?Thanks for sharing.
    Tama Trotti

  13. Paree February 5, 2014 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Been missing Prague sorely since the past two days and happened on your page. I can never have enough of it.

  14. Don February 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Audrey and Daniel, what a great article and fantastic Q and A. I’m going to Vienna and Prague alone and your suggestions are exactly what I’ve been looking for! I don’t speak Czech, but I’d love to meet people and hang out in some local spots. I will be in Prague on May 1; any good events I should know about?

  15. Audrey | Uncornered Market February 21, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

    @Don: Thank you – glad this article is useful for your upcoming trip! May 1 is a national holiday – Labor Day – so if the weather is nice I imagine people will be outside at the beer gardens. These are some of the best places to meet locals. I’d check out the Riegrovy Sady beer garden in Vinohrady and also Letna park beer garden across the river (same side as Prague Castle). I’ve also heard that families go on May 1 up to Petrin (Eiffel tower looking structure) in Malastrana.

    If you’re looking for other types of events like concerts of exhibitions, check out the Prague tourism board’s event calendar: http://www.praguewelcome.cz/en/events/

    Have a great trip!

  16. Amz March 11, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Hi I am going to Prague from 23rd March-28th March! I am travelling alone and was wondering what the best thing to do to meet people?? I also haven’t booked a hotel yet and would like to book a place near the hustle and bustle of things.

    Hotel or Hostel?
    Regards
    Amz

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