I’m trying to remember exactly when Prague made it onto my bucket list. It’s one of those places that you hear about and see images of that captivate you immediately. Dubbed the “Paris of Eastern Europe” it had a lot of promise. After all the research, I knew what to do in Prague. Now I just needed to get there first.
As many other European cities, Prague is an old city, going back over 1,000 years. It’s centered around river Vltava, it is also the historical capital of Bohemia. That alone creates a mystery and certain amount of romanticism of centuries gone by.
Then there is the architecture. A blend of Gothic and Renaissance buildings as well as baroque churches and bridges. All elaborate in detail, execution and design. There is nothing unremarkable about it. In fact, Prague is a photographer’s dream. I loved taking pictures all around me. The buildings, the brides, the churches. They were all amazing models.
Tips on what to do in Prague
As a cultural, political and economic centre of central Europe, Prague has a lot to offer. Once the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia, this was also the main residence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire days, it was also an important city to the Habsburgs who ruled it.
So if you are wondering what to do in Prague, the answer is lots!
From strolling along the medieval streets, visiting stunning churches, castles and museums to catching a puppet show, opera or an outdoor concert, there is something for everyone. When you get tired of all that, there is always time for a bite of hearty Czech cuisine or a pint or two of famous local brews.
Old Town Prague
Prague’s Old Town Square and its Astronomical Clock are probably some of the most iconic images of the city. The Old Town Square dates back to the 10th century and has flourished over the years. It did suffered damage during World War II, but you wouldn’t know it today. The square if definitely on the list of what to do in Prague.
It seems to be the gathering spot, with concerts, plays, musicians, merchants and various street performance throughout the year. The square is lined with bars and restaurants with wonderful patios that serve as a perfect spot to admire the architecture around.
Dating back to the 15th century, the clock, known as Orloj, is said to be one of the best preserved medieval mechanical clocks today. During its life, it has been damaged and repaired many times. Despite that, it still enlightens onlookers with a show as it marks each hour. Just look for the large groups of people looking up, phones and cameras in hand.
There is no shortage of ideas for what to do in Prague. The Charles Bridge is definitely an experience to put on that list. Built in 1342 by Emperor Charles IV, the iconic bridge is always packed with tourists, merchants selling their wares and those less fortunate seeking a handout.
I have seen so many pictures of this bridge before I ever came here. Many of them were taken during early morning, with fog or covered in snow. It almost looked unreal. Other than the crowds, it really looked the way I’ve seen it. It was quite spectacular and if I was a morning person, I would have tried to get there before the crowds. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I had to make do.
The magnificent Prague Castle dominates Vltava’s left bank. In 9th century, Prince Bořivoj founded a settlement here that would over the centuries, and many additions, become the castle we see today. This seat of Czech monarchs and rulers, it is a vast complex of buildings and courtyards with the most spectacular views.
According to Lonely Planet’s article, “according to the Guinness World Records, it’s the largest ancient castle in the world: 570m long, an average of 128m wide and covering a total area bigger than seven football fields.” Wow, how about that? It is definitely worth the climb.
St Vitus Cathedral
This is one of the most stunning buildings I have come across. I just couldn’t get enough of it. What took over 600 years to complete is truly spectacular. This is definitely on the list of what to do in Prague. Thank me later.
Emperor Charles IV was definitely a busy many. He laid the foundations for the cathedral in 1344.
Numerous architects have worked on the project until it was finally consecrated in 1929. And here I thought the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona took a long time! I guess, you can’t hurry a masterpiece. I’m pretty sure Charles would have approved.
A scenic river cruise
If you’re into cruising, a day or evening cruise along the Vltava river might be just the thing for you. After all, what better way is there so see all the bridges, historical buildings and sights?
The cruises offer lunch or dinner options and allow you to escape the streets so that you can get lost in the surroundings from a different angle. On sunny and warm days this is definitely a great way to see the city.
The Dancing House
The Dancing House shows that Prague’s architectural gems also include more modern additions. Inspired by the famous dancing duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this intriguing building offers panoramic views of the city.
The building didn’t originally create awe and admiration upon its completion in 1996. As many such ambitious works, I’m thinking of the Crystal at Toronto’s ROM, time has changed people’s opinions of them. Today, it is quite a popular destination and a very photogenic at that.
I really wanted to love Prague. Going there was a dream come true. I was so excited to finally visit a place that was so high on my bucket list. While our experience wasn’t what we expected, many other people seem to love it here. There were few things that made this visit a damper.
- Rudeness: One of the things I didn’t like was the passive rudeness from everyone. There were many times when shopkeepers, servers, cab drivers and others were either rude to us or just didn’t give a crap. Most places I’ve ever been to, as a tourist you are always attended by the locals. Either they hope you buy something, or they want to make sure you don’t steal anything. Either way, they take your money when offered. In Prague, it seems they couldn’t care less if you wanted to buy something, money in hand.
- Taken for a ride: The other big thing that bothers us was the feeling that we were always getting scammed. Cab ride is supposed to be this, but then when we arrive is something different. Cab driver doesn’t speak English and that is that. Same went for restaurants that magically charged extra fees when the bill arrived. Nothing was ever the cost it was supposed to be and nobody really cared about that.
- Annoying tourists: I guess this one is not Prague’s fault, but it does have an impact on the experience. There were so many annoying tourists everywhere. It was almost as if every annoying, petty and clueless person in the world decided to visit at the same time as us.
Final thoughts on what to do in Prague
While I am glad I had a chance to visit Prague, it’s not a place that I am going to go back to for a long time. It is a beautiful city with long history and spectacular architecture. You will not be at a loss about what to do in Prague. For me, however, it was an opportunity to check another item off the bucket list.
Have you been to Prague? Did you love it? Let me know!