I’m trying to remember precisely 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, and now I just needed to get there first.
Once I did, it was a different story altogether. While Prague turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, it is a stunning city worth visiting. While our experience differed from other people’s, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Prague is one of those cities that everyone should visit at least once.
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What to know about Prague
Like many other European cities, Prague is an old city, going back over 1,000 years. It’s centred around the river Vltava, and it is also the historical capital of Bohemia. That alone creates a mystery and a 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 fantastic 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 primary 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. There is always time for a bite of hearty Czech cuisine or a pint or two of famous local brews when you get tired of all that.
1. Immerse yourself in Prague’s history
Prague is a city made for history lovers, and its history is long and colourful. The city was part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It also witnessed the Nazi occupation and communist rule before emerging as one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Just imagine the stories if these walls could talk.
There are many things to do in Prague for history lovers. You will find glimpses of the past all around you. Gothic and Renaissance architecture dominate here, but there are many other styles to explore. Churches, bridges, streets and museums all carry the past with them.
Explore the Jewish quarter, known as Josefov, to learn more about the Jewish history of Prague. Here you’ll find spectacular architecture from the late 19th century when the city was remodelled. There are several buildings, including synagogues, that date even further back. Don’t forget to bring a camera.
Looking for things to do in Prague? Check out Prague’s Jewish Quarter experience.
2. visit Prague’s Old Town
Prague’s Old Town Square and its Astronomical Clock are probably some of the city’s most iconic images. The Old Town Square dates back to the 10th century and has flourished over the years. It did suffer damage during World War II, but you wouldn’t know it today. The square is 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 performances throughout the year. The square is lined with bars and restaurants with wonderful patios that are a perfect spot to admire the architecture.
Dating back to the 15th century, the clock, known as Orloj, is 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.
3. Stroll along the Charles Bridge
There is no shortage of ideas for what to do in Prague, and the Charles Bridge is 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 had seen so many pictures of this bridge before I ever came here. Many of them were taken during the 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 pretty spectacular, and if I were a morning person, I would have tried to get there before the crowds. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I had to make do.
4. Visit the Prague Castle
The magnificent Prague Castle dominates Vltava’s left bank. In the 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 is a vast complex of buildings and courtyards with 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.
Check out the Imperial Cities tour idea for more ideas of what to do in Prague!
5. Explore St Vitus Cathedral
This cathedral is one of the most stunning buildings I have come across. I couldn’t get enough of it. What took over 600 years to complete is truly spectacular. This place is definitely on the list of what to do in Prague. Thank me later.
Emperor Charles IV was 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, and I’m pretty sure Charles would have approved.
6. Take 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 to 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 a great way to see the city.
7. Stop by 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 initially create awe and admiration upon its completion in 1996. Like many such ambitious works, I’m thinking of the Crystal at Toronto’s ROM. Time has changed people’s opinions of them, and today, it is quite a popular destination and very photogenic at that.
8. Drink some beer
There are many things to do in Prague, and at least one of them should include beer. The Czechs are known to produce some of the best brews in the world. From the well-known brands like Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar, to the local microbrews like Kout na Šumavě, Primátor, Únětice and Matuška, there is planty to choose from.
If you want to elevate your beer experience, add a beer tour or a beer spa to your list of what to do in Prague. Why not immerse yourself in beer figuratively and literally?
9. partake in the social scene
Prague has many great bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and many of them are set in exciting locations, which add to the experience of being in Prague. When you need to take a break from exploring the city, pop into a local spot and hang out with the locals.
10. explore the Petřín hill
Wondering what to do in Prague that won’t break the bank? Makes sure to explore the Petřín hill, one of Prague’s largest green spaces. Many locals come here to enjoy the greenery and the gorgeous views of the city below. You can hike the 318m-high hill or take the 19th-century funicular that’s part of the public transport network.
Some of the attractions include a lookout tower, mirror maze and the Hunger Wall. It was constructed by the city’s poor in 1362 under Charles IV, under an early job-creation program. You can also see the quarry that provided building material for most of Prague’s Romanesque and Gothic buildings.
Final thoughts on what to do in Prague
I wanted to love Prague, and going there was a dream come true. I was so excited to finally visit a place that was so high on my bucket list. Since so many others seem to love it here, we expected to love it too. However, our experience wasn’t what we expected.
Prague is not a place we regret visiting, but it’s not one we are eager to return to either. It was an opportunity to check another item off the bucket list. It is a beautiful city with a long history and spectacular architecture, so you will not be at a loss about what to do in Prague.