Up for Sightseeing Prague?
After all, it’s been way too long not traveling.
So here’s a quick overview of what we’re going to cover. Feel free to jump directly to a particular tour stop that piques your fancy.
- Why Prague
- Tip 1: Essential Info, including COVID updates for the city
- Tip 2: Where to Stay: Why We Love Prague 7
- Tip 3: There Will Be Walking: Why You Gotta Have Great Walking Shoes
- Tip 4: Look Up: Why You Need to Get Your Eyes Toward the Skies
- Tip 5: Chlebecki, Prague’s Fabulous Grab and Go Snack
- Tip 6: Czech Beer is Cheaper than Water: And If It Isn’t, RUN AWAY
- Tip 7: Get a Church Practically to Yourself: How to Ditch the Crowds at St. Vitus Cathedral
- Tip 8: Music in the Night: How to Find the Right Classical Music Concert
- Tip 9: Urban Greenery: Find Your Prague Park
- Tip 10: The Great Czech Food Tour: A Delightful Waddle Through Czech Cuisine
- food tour
Because this is the perfect European City, my friends. For one thing, due to a non-strategic location, Prague escaped the bombs of WWII.
The old town, Stary Mezo, is a joy and a wonder to walk through. And, should you get tired, the public transportation system is easy to use.
So much of Prague life is simply walking and gawking. While the museums are fine, there’s no need to go to any if they’re not your thing. Prague’s history is everywhere you look simply strolling through the city.
For a great read set before, during, and after the Prague Spring of 1968, get The Unbearable Lightness of Being immediately. In a rare occurrence, the movie version is also excellent. Read about how Kundera’s work inspired us to come to Prague, as well as others ways we get inspired, in this post.
NOTE: If you don’t like to walk, you may want to reconsider Prague. Much of the Old Town is closed off to cars, which is one of the things that makes it quite wonderful—unless, for whatever reason, you don’t like to walk.
Wheelchair Travel designates Prague as “moderately accessible”; the issue is more if you just plain don’t enjoy being a pedestrian.
As for the city, there’s amazing sculpture, medieval through modern, everywhere.
Parks are beautiful, spacious, and always provide plenty to look at.
Beer-lovers are in heaven: Glistening pilsner pours freely from taps for less than the price of bottled water. Non-beer-drinkers, like myself, can easily get perfectly adequate, often very good Czech and German wine for almost as cheap.
And the food is a delight, with plenty of fresh offerings and vegetarian/vegan options, despite what you may have heard about the country’s meat obsession—though, if you are a dedicated carnivore, you’ll be in heaven.
Finally, no one expects you to tackle Czech, an exceedingly tricky language. Nearly everyone you’ll need to interact with as a tourist will speak excellent English; a little German can also get you far.
TIP: Czechs who were in grammar school prior to the 90s often speak fluent Russian, but many of them hate it, so don’t bust out with the “spessivas.”
However, the toast, “Naz Drovya,” is the same. Truly, booze is a universal language.
You may hear that Czechs can be brusque, and even that they really don’t really like Americans. We found the people delightful. Our tour guide and favorite bartender had dry senses of humor with a pleasantly dark edge. When I remarked to one that it had taken me several days just to learn to say “thank you,” she scoffed. “We don’t even say that to each other. No wonder you’re having trouble.” She was, of course, smiling warmly as she said it.
This is, after all, the land of Franz Kafka.
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 1: Essential Traveler’s Info Sources
As I write, the US Travel Advisory site has the Czech Republic on an “Exercise Increased Caution” status due to COVID infections in the country; be sure to check prior to booking anything. When you do go, take a supply of good quality masks, even, of course, if you’ve been vaxxed. And, of course, be sure to have proof of vaccination if you’re going to a country that requires it.
Here’s a handy list from Afar Magazine with lots of details. Keep in mind, it was created in July 2021, but I’m guessing they’ll update it.
And Prague is open for business once again. Hooray!
Should you arrive by air, Uber’s available and, though not at this writing, Lyft. And of course, cabs will gladly get you from the airport to wherever you’re staying.
Should you arrive by train, you’ll be right downtown. If you’ve packed light, you can easily walk or tram to your location.
The primary thing you need to know is that Prague is divided into districts, numbered from 1- 22. Prague 1 is, for the first-time visitor, pretty much the only one you need to know—other than Prague 7, which we discuss in the next tip.
(Occasionally, you will hear people mention Prague 2, typically folks who have been long enough to know the Prague 1/2 naming convention. As you can see, lots of other numbers are accessible as well. But stick with Prague 7 because it’s awesome.)
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 2: Where to Stay, and Why We Love Prague 7
For peace, quiet, and amazing views, we love the Letna district, referred to by locals as Prague 7. A residential neighborhood with gorgeous old art deco apartments, it’s anchored to its side of the Vtalva river via Letna Park, a massive, serene sprawl of green with wonderful goofy sculptures….
….and a killer view of the Old Town across the Vtalva.
While you can jump on a tram to get across the water, it’s also only about a 20-minute walk across one of Prague’s many bridges. With so much to see everywhere you look, we’ll walk pretty much every time.
Finally, we LOVED LOVED LOVED our neighborhood bar. Unmarked other than by this door…
…the bar was tended by a guy who had brought his adorable little sister with him. Obviously, she was having the time of her life. And has a bright future in bartending if she wants one.
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 3: Pack Comfy, Sturdy Walking Shoes
As noted above, even though Prague sprawls all over the map, the area known as Prague 1, which includes the Old Town and the Castle District, is plenty for a first-time trip. Even staying in nearby Letna, Prague 7, you can walk literally everywhere you might want to go.
There are a lot of cobblestones, hard surfaces, and stairs, so do yourself a favor and ditch the cha cha heels.
(Or any heels at all. Seriously. Don’t wear heels.)
Getting from where you’re staying, as well as a few destinations like the cathedral, will entail walking up and down hills, and your quads will alternately bless and curse you (for the workout and the day-after soreness, respectively).
You don’t want your dogs barking at you as well.
Because one of the first things you should do: Join one of the many free walking tours that converge on Wenceslaus Square.
That’s Jan Hus, in the picture below, a Protestant martyr who symbolizes Czech resistance. Your tour guide will be impressed if you know that. You’re welcome.
NOTE: Some limos will offer a free tour voucher as incentive for booking them. Ignore them.
Just arrive at Wenceslaus Square by 10 in the morning. You’ll see a bunch of tour guides, usually with different umbrellas, anxious for your business; they’re “free,” but working for tips.
Pick the one with the vibe you like. It’s that easy.
And tip generously, particularly if you end up in a small group..
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 4: Look Up!!!
We know instinctively, from long experience with great cities, to look up. Prague on the fourth floor and beyond delivers big time.
Long graceful lines, fearless combining of elements from across the decades—this, we find out, is the basis of Art Nouveau.
Mix Baroque with Renaissance with medieval, throw in some gorgeous curvy figures with flowing hair, lots of stone flowers, and a few bugs for good measure.
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 5: Learn How to Say “Chlebecki”
C’mon. That’s fun to say.
These little open faced sandwiches are everywhere. You see them in small cafes at breakfast and lunch. Get two, or three if you’re REALLY hungry.
The ingredients are fresh and the bread is good. What more do you need?
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 6: Beer Is Cheaper Than Water
I don’t drink beer.
His verdict: “Czech beer rocks.”
It’s a well-worn maxim that beer is cheaper than water, and if you find yourself in a place where the opposite is true? it’s a tourist trap. Run. Screaming.
Don’t worry about looking bars up on whatever app you use. One of the things I love about Prague is that, on corner after corner, you find no-name dives with cool people behind the bar.
Meanwhile, I sip my adequate chardonnay. Prague is not about fine wine.
It’s about no-name corner bars.
So much more fun.
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 7: The Spectacular Free Experience If You Don’t Mind Waking Up Insanely Early and Pretending You’re Catholic
Fun fact: Prague, and the Czech Republic in general, is arguably the least religious country in Europe. Which may strike you as odd with churches on nearly as many corners as bars.
Religious history in the Czech Republic is fascinating, centered on the figure of Jan Hus, pictured above. Even atheist Czechs give Hüs his props. He is beautifully memorialized in Wenceslaus Square, and no matter what your religion, the Bethlehem Chapel in the Old Town is well worth a visit for an insight into the fierce independent spirit that continues to drive the Czech people today.
However, we doubt we would have gotten the following tip had we not lucked into a food tour guide from Slovakia.
Slovakians, you see, are really, really Catholic.
So is St. Vitus Cathedral. (That link takes you to the offical site complete with virtual tour.)
A magnificent gem high atop the Hradčany HIll, inside the Prague Castle complex. It’s PACKED with people. Like, to a degree that makes you absolutely hate being a tourist. I’m surprised to see any empty pavement in the following photo. It felt packed.
And this is why you must become Catholic for a morning—an early morning. And you must become a Czech Catholic. Because you will see this instead.
This is particularly hilarious if you, like me, have some experience pretending you are Catholic; it involves a great deal of kneeling, standing, sitting, crossing yourself, and looking at the priest as if you understand what the hell he’s on about.
The hilarious part is watching the person you are with, in this case Steve, totally trying to keep up with a look on his face between what-the-hell and Abject Panic.
Head, Heart, Watch, Wallet. (That’s how Larry David learned to cross himself. It works!)
And, after bravely bobbing up and down for 20 minutes, you will have another 20 glorious minutes in which you have this masterpiece practically to yourself.
Well, you and the cleaning person.
Sightseeing Prague, Tip 8: Music and Theater
You will come to Prague, and you will be besieged with flyers for classical music concerts.
If you have the smallest acquaintance and love for classical music, you will swoon.
You will go to your first one, and you will find a string quartet, or possibly a 5-piece orchestra, or a 6-8 piece orchestra with a singer.
You will hear Mozart, who logged a few hours in Prague. (They were much nicer to him here than they were in Salzburg.)
You will, if you’re lucky, hear Smetana’s “The Moldau,” a wondrous, shimmering composition of pure light, particularly in Czech hands.
You will think, I could do this every night.
But here’s the thing: You will be doing exactly the same thing every night.
And that can get old.
Steve and I went to 3 concerts. The first was magic. The second was good. The third was also good, but we were thinking…..we’re not quite sure why we did effectively the exact same thing 3 times in a row.
So pick a concert, any concert—but if Smetana is on the menu, pick that, because that guy is Czech fire.
(His name is pronounced “SMEt-na.” NOT “sme-TA-na.” Just so you know.)
Spend your other nights in parks, or in a pub, or just strolling.
Don’t do Black Light Theater. It’s sorta lame, and very expensive.
Czech summer nights start late, with a 9 or 10 pm sunset. Do that single classical concert.
And after that, just soak up the city.
City Guide Prague, Tip 9: Adopt a Park
There are so many parks in Prague. We, of course, are partial to Letna Park.
It has a beer garden. It has families and kids and dogs.
Maybe you didn’t listen to us and stay in Prague 7. That’s cool.
Find your own park. Like this one, next to the castle.
Just do it.
City Guide Prague, Tip 10: Eat ‘Til You Waddle
The quickest way to a city’s heart is through your stomach. And for that, we love the Prague Food Tour from Eating Europe.
It starts with gingerbread and pastries.
Then it’s time for…..chlebecki! And sausage, as well. The Czechs are all about food made from pigs.
You then sample sauerkraut soup in a centuries-old restaurant at the top of a bell tower.
You walk, you waddle, you learn. You stop in places that are historic, and in restaurants that are beautiful. You get to know your guide, and she gives you a tip on going to St. Vitus.
Thanks for reading!
Do you have your own Prague memories? Send me pictures and comments, tag me on insta and twitter (@headroamer), #mustseeprague.
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