Prague is exceptionally beautiful. The architecture is drool worthy. It’s reasonably priced (although on the higher end for Eastern Europe). And if you’re in the area you should absolutely Czech it out.
Except… I would die happy if I never go back there again.
I wanted to love Prague, I really did. On paper it has everything I’d want in a city escape – gorgeous buildings, history, castles, beer. But I wasn’t keen to it the first time, and upon giving it a second chance, still walked away dissatisfied.
Why Prague just didn’t do it for me, I couldn’t really tell you. On the first go around during my solo backpacking trip, I thought it was from not jiving with anyone in my hostel. The second time though, now that was a blast. But it was mostly due to the band of Irish lads in tow, they made that trip. The lack of air conditioning or fans in our Airbnb during a summer heatwave did not. Turns out I’m bougie af when it comes to sleeping without waking up in my own sweat.
The architecture though? That was undeniably amazeballs. I’ve never been to a city more architecturally exquisite (as evident in the number of building photos I’m about to spam you with). I mean it was Hitler’s retirement plan after all. True story.
Because of the architecture, the history and some really great spots on their own, the city is absolutely worth a visit (72 hours in Prague to be exact). Two visits? Maybe not so much. But then again, I’m just about the only person I know who feels this way about Prague, so it’s best to see it for yourself.
THIS PRAGUE TRAVEL GUIDE COVERS:
- How to Get to Prague
- Where to Stay
- Czech History
- Prague Travel Guide
- Prague Nightlife
- 72 Hours in Prague Itinerary
WHERE TO STAY IN PRAGUE: Praha 2
PRICE POINT: $$
CURRENCY: Czech Koruna
FOOD TO TRY: Fried Cheese (but seriously)
TIPPING: 10% (or round up the bill)
HELPFUL CZECH PHRASES
BEER: Pivo (Peevo)
CHEERS: Na zdravi (Naz-drah vi)
PLEASE: Prosím (Proseem)
THANK YOU: Děkuju (Dye-ku-yi)
RESTROOM: Toaleta (Toaleta)
HOW TO GET TO PRAGUE
ARRIVING TO PRAGUE BY TRAIN
If you’re arriving via international train you’ll stop at the largest station in Prague, Hlavní Nádraží. Positioned in the city centre, the station is a short walk from Wenceslas Square and accessible by the metro. Maybe because I’m from Florida and the mere sight of public transit is overwhelming, but these trams moved scary fast. One step too far to the left with a one jetting by and adios muchacho!
ARRIVING TO PRAGUE BY BUS
On my second rendezvous to Prague, we had planned on arriving by train from Germany. But then we found out the bus was €40 cheaper, thanks to German trains being ridiculously expensive. So the choice was simple, by bus my poor a$$ would go.
By international bus you’ll arrive east of the city centre at Florenc bus station, an area of Prague you won’t see again. Don’t let the location deter you from taking a bus though, right outside the exit is an entrance to the metro.
TRAVEL TIP: Guys there’s Uber here! It’s mad cheap and super reliable.
P.S.: Also the escalators are killer. Like as in one slip of the shoe and it was nice knowing you. (Why are all the modes of transportation in Prague seemingly trying to kill you?) I actually handed off my suitcase to one of the boys upon stepping onto the escalator. But mainly because I know my clumsy, hazard prone self all too much.
WHERE TO STAY IN PRAGUE
Prague is divided into 10 districts, each with their own rules and regulations – like whether public drinking is allowed or not.
In most high tourist areas like Prague 1, public drinking is not allowed. However along the river in Prague 2, you can catch many locals and tourists alike chilling along the river, beer in hand
Prague 2 was the perfect location – mostly away from the tourist hubs but still walking distance to everything. If you’re arriving during summertime, MAKE SURE YOUR HOSTEL/AIRBNB/HOTEL HAS AIR CONDITIONING! Like I said, turns out I’m bougie when it comes to this. I think it’s because growing up in Florida literally everyone sleeps with the A/C… no actually, we exist with the A/C. It becomes part of us. Floridians are three parts A/C.
I made the mistake of not checking this with our Airbnb, thinking all places have A/C since it’s ya know, the 21st century and all. Apparently this also makes me very American.
Although my first go around with Prague didn’t tickle my fancy, the hostel I stayed in was undoubtedly gorgeous. Hostel Santini was the former home of a 17th century baroque architect named Jan Blazeh Santini. It has since been remodeled to fit the layout of a hostel, yet still retains many of it’s original features. Located in Lesser Town of Prague 1, it’s an ideal spot for those looking to stay close to all the attractions with quiet nights.
A CITY OF CONFLICTING IDENTITIES
The Czech Republic we know today consists of the ancient kingdoms of Moravia and Bohemia (who come from Celtic descent, who would have thought). Because the Czech Republic has been surrounded by powerful neighbors throughout the test of time, the country has taken on numerous identities.
One born in Prague during the early 1900’s could have been considered at one point: Austrian, Czechoslovak, German, back to Czechoslovak, Soviet, a wee bit of freedom before Soviet rule once again, then going, going back, back to Czechoslovak, Czechoslovak. Until finally dying in old age as a citizen of the Czech Republic.
Identity crisis much?
72 HOURS IN PRAGUE
DAY 1: GET YOUR TOURIST ON
HIT UP THAT FREE WALKING TOUR!
Whenever I’m in a new city the first thing I do is find a New Europe walking tour by typing “New Europe X City Walking Tour” into Google.
The Prague New Europe walking tour is long but 100% worth it. It stops at everything you’d want to see west of the Vltava river (you’ll want to spend a full separate day exploring the east side as detailed further down) and delves heavily into the tumultuous, yet relatively peaceful history of city.
THE NEW EUROPE PRAGUE WALKING TOUR COVER:
Old Town Square & the Astronomical Clock
Fun Fact: Unlike me, Mozart loved Prague. When Mozart played his compositions to the Austrian crowd, they were not impressed. However, when he came to Prague his music was enthusiastically received. Bohemian’s knew how to get down with some Amadeus. Historians suggest it was partly due to the Czech’s higher music literacy at the time.
Art Nouveau Municipal House
Church of Our Lady before Tý
St. Nicolas’ Church
Historical Facts You Should Know: As the commercial hub of Prague, Wenceslas Square has played host to multiple historic moments for the country.
It was here in 1969, Jan Palach, a student of Charles University, set himself on fire at the end of a much desired liberalization of the country, or Prague Spring. The self-immolation was in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia and his fellow countrymen’s seeming acceptance of the occupation. A suicide note found in his backpack said he wanted “to wake the people of our country up” and signed it as ‘Torch Number One‘.
After another student followed suit, dousing himself in petrol and setting himself ablaze, the government realized their own people were going to continue sacrificing themselves until change occurred. These two students became patron saints and heroes for the greater good by giving themselves to the cause.
Later in 1989, more than 500,000 students and citizens gathered, jingling their keys, in Wenceslas Square in a peaceful protest against the communist government. A week later, the government was overthrown. The sound of keys jingling signaled the unlocking of a new future and a goodbye to the repression they experienced under their former government. Today the jingling of keys is a patriotic symbol for the Czech.
House of the Black Madonna & Museum of Cubism
Old Jewish Quarter
Really Awful Fact: 98% of Jews in Prague were eradicated during WWII when the city lay siege to the Nazi’s. The Jewish Quarter also happens to be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods today. Hitler halted the bombing of Prague to use the city as a sort of living museum once he gained European domination. Thankfully, that never happened.
Old New Synagogue & the Golem
Jan Palach Square, in front of Rudolfinum
Fun Fact: When Prague became occupied by the Nazi’s, a high-ranking official ordered the statue of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy to be removed from the roof of the Rudolfinum due to his Jewish origin. The workers not knowing the faces of the statues, took a guess based on which statue had the largest nose and began removing it. Turns out they were actually removing Hitler’s favorite composer, Wagner. Ha, stupid Nazi’s.
TAKE A HOP & A SKIP OVER CHARLES BRIDGE
From Jan Palach Square, walk along the river until you hit Charles Bridge. Although you’ll be fighting tourist across the bridge, a quick hop across is necessary to understand the impact that only a bridge built in 1357 can have.
JOHN LENNON WALL
Don’t get me wrong I love me some Lennon. Like actually though. It’s more of an obsession really, one that I’ve been carrying around since a small tot on my Dad’s lap, listening to Beatle album after album in our living room.
But don’t be mistaken, Prague’s John Lennon Wall has zero significance to his life. However to those of Prague, he was a figurehead of pacifism and protest to the repression they lived with during the late 1900’s. After his murder in 1980, the wall was covered in murals to commemorate his life.
I present to you: Harry Lennon.
BEST VIEWS OF CHARLES BRIDGE: KAMPA PARK
Don’t eat here. Don’t eat here. Don’t eat here.
It’s a tourist trap to the extreme, one that I was roped into TWICE. The peaceful area that is Kampa Park will entice you to want to grab a meal, it’s a beautiful little area no doubt. And it’s hidden just enough so that the clamor of tourists slightly dwindles. In my opinion, Kampa Park offers the best views of Charles Bridge.
Take a walk down here, I dare say even grab an overpriced beer. But unless you want to get charged for food you didn’t eat, thus ending in an altercation with the wait staff (I won, thank you), eat a burnt burger, or vegetables that were definitely frozen 10 minutes ago, then do not waste your time nor money at these waterfront cafes.
DAY 2: CZECH OUT SOME MORE HISTORY
On day 2 you’ll want to check out the historical spots east of the river. My first hostel was on this side and while it’s saturated with tourists by day, it’s extremely peaceful at night.
HIKE UP TO PRAGUE CASTLE
I say hike, because after crossing over Charles Bridge, it’s all uphill to Prague Castle. Before we headed out for the castle I had mistaken myself as some sort of movie star, the kind you see in those “American girl goes off to Europe” chick-flicks. Sitting on our Airbnb’s window sill, dangling a bottle of wine overlooking Prague, I thought I was royalty.
Narrator: She would later regret this decision.
I had a wonderful buzz going on, I was in Prague with some great people, I had a cute outfit on, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, it was hot, like real hot. And when the wine sweats started, it all went downhill from there despite the uphill trek to the castle.
TIP: Do not finish a bottle of wine before walking to the castle.
The Progression: 1. Wine Being Consumed 2. Feeling fab with my wine buzz 3. Cursing myself for the aforementioned consumption
GRAB A PINT & SNACKS AT A WEIRD DUNGEON PLACE: U SEDMI SVABU
We came across U Sedmi Svabu by pure accident. The clouds looked like they were about to burst. We were parched from the walk over from Prague 2. Then, a pub in a dungeon appeared. I mean even just typing pub in a dungeon made me giggle. Much like the rest of our time at U Sedmi Svabu.
Tucked away on a non-conspicuous street, the door to the tavern lies. Inside there are numerous levels of arched medieval walls and wood planked tables. A walk to the bathroom gives view of the actual dungeon below equipped with it’s very own Sally the Skeleton.
ACT LIKE ROYALTY AT PRAGUE CASTLE
The first thing you’ll reach before the gates of Prague Castle is a square of equally pretty buildings. Here you can catch the changing of the guards procession every day at noon.
Enter the gates (and metal detectors) and you’re inside the vast complex that is Prague Castle, dating back to 9th century. After seeing a fountain, courtyard, and small garden walk through the white arched tunnel.
MARVEL AT THE ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL
You’ll see the mammoth doors of the St. Vitus Cathedral before anything else. As you inch towards the edge of the tunnel, you’ll look up to the see the sprawling spires of the cathedral seemingly reaching toward the heavens.
Yes, I know that sounds cliche af but seriously, this cathedral makes you gasp the moment you can fully take in the immense Gothic structure.
GET LOST IN THE SECRET MAGIC GARDENS OF WALLENSTEIN PALACE
I say secret not because these gardens are actually secret, but because I stumbled upon them on my first trip by accident. The second trip my mate spotted it from above walking along the castle walls. After walking around in circles trying to find what we “swear” we just saw, we magically ran into it. And by running into it I mean there’s a tall concrete wall circling it with a wee door on the side.
It wasn’t until about 20 minutes ago thanks to my Google search of “secret garden Prague” (apparently I’m not the only who has deemed it as such) did I find out this truly magical place with its hedge mazes, peculiar art, and white peacocks actually has a name – Wallenstein Palace Gardens.
HAVE A PINT AT LETNA BEER GARDEN
It’s a bit of a trek from the castle but believe me when I say Letna Beer Garden is more than worth it. Czech people love their pilsner, and pilsner (along with a couple other varieties) you will find here. Also the beer is very cheap, like almost the price of water cheap.
Move over Germany, did you know the Czech drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world? But how could you not with beer gardens set in trees overlooking a sprawling cityscape. The park surrounding the beer garden is also worth a venture. Note, outside alcohol beverages are not allowed here so hope you like beer.
P.S.: The fried cheese here is superb.
CHILL AT THE METRONOME LIKE A LOCAL
On the walk back from Letna Beer Garden, don’t miss hanging out at the giant red metronome. Not only is this a cool chill spot for locals, the history behind it is pretty dope.
The metronome and its adjacent skate park is situated in the hills overlooking Prague. However what used to stand here was a giant statue of Stalin. Like I’m talking the largest representation of Stalin in the world, huge. The artist who created it killed himself the day before the unveiling, if that says anything.
Shortly after, the statue was taken down with 800 kg of explosives. In 1991, the base was used to erect the giant red metronome that overlooks Prague today, symbolizing the struggle of the Czech people under Soviet rule.
DAY 3: EAST SIDE CHILLIN
After running around seeing all the sites on Day 1 & 2 of your 72 hours in Prague, you’ll be in need of a chill day.
START OFF WITH STRAHOV MONASTERY
If you’re anything like me, you’ll geek out at Strahov Monastery. Sitting above Petrin Hill, Strahov Monastery was founded in 1140 by Prince Vladislav II. Not as many tourists venture out this way so the grounds offer a peaceful stroll through history.
The highlight? The 800 year old library. I love libraries and this one was definitely a stunner, although a bummer you couldn’t walk inside and surround yourself with the over 16,000 books on it’s shelves.
HEAD ON DOWN TO PETRIN LOOKOUT TOWER
Take the back way in the park along the rock wall to Petrin Lookout Tower to continue a day of leisurely strolls.
Although my backpacking budget didn’t allow me to climb the tower, I munched down on a fried cheese sandwich overlooking Prague. If you’re traveling with kids, I highly suggest coming here. Besides the tower and vernacular, the top of the hill has a mirror maze and rose garden.
TRIP OUT (COMPLETELY SOBER) IN THE MAGICAL CAVERN
You’ll see signs randomly placed on the walk back down from Petrin Lookout Tower before you’ll see anything that resembles a Magical Cavern.
“Magical Caverns This Way! —>”
The signs were simple, block letters painted on molding wood. But the words “magical cavern” got the best of me so I headed toward it. What I thought would be an actual cave was in reality a small, round structure containing one of the weirdest places I have ever stepped foot in. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re looking to get weird, head here.
DO THE DAMN TOURIST THING: RENT A BOAT ON THE VLTAVA RIVER
I try to veer away from the extreme tourist activities, but who could resist taking a paddle boat on the Vltava River at sunset with a 4 Irish lads. Not I. And I do not regret it for a second. Although we only had the boat for an hour, it was one damn memorable hour.
EXPLORE THE ARCHITECTURE OF PRAGUE AT GOLDEN HOUR
My favorite time in Prague was between 6:00 – 7:30 pm. During this “golden hour” of sunlight when the temperature drops and the sun casts a golden glow, the buildings come to life.
Especially places like the Dancing House, one of the most iconic buildings in Prague. Set along the Vltava River, the Dancing House was finished in 1996 by architects Vlado Milunic and Frank Owen Gehry. With it’s fluid curves, the building was was nicknamed The Dancing House after the legendary dancing duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Fun Fact: Prague’s buildings are plastered with statues of all shapes and sizes. Why? It was to help the illiterate population navigate the city. “Ah yes, take a left at the naked lady and turn right at the bearded priest.”
Much of Prague’s nightlife represents why Prague just didn’t do it for me. The bars in the city centre were subpar and full of tourists. There’s this one kitschy street between Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter with an 80’s bar decked out in neon plastic, a James Dean bar with vinyl red seats and albums hanging by fishing wire claiming to be “the original American restaurant” (um no, don’t do us like that Prague), and to top it all off the drinks are all outrageously priced.
However if you venture outside of the tourist zones, the real Prague comes to life. One that I sincerely wish I got to know more of. I have a feeling had I spent more time on the outskirts of the city, I would have a whole new understanding, appreciation, and probably fondness for Prague.
Out in the boonies of Praha 7 where very, very few tourists venture, there lies a place like no other – a place of cultural crossroads and an identity all of it’s own. A place named Cross Club.
It’s hard to describe Cross Club, with it’s metal sculptures intertwined into virtually every part of the bar(s), stages, sitting areas, outside areas, etc. The first time I went (mind you, completely alone yet still had a rad time), both stages were playing a solid lineup of techno tunes. The second time I went, it was a Czech rap duo followed by a mashup of death metal techno. Wednesday – Friday’s are the best days to go.
Prepare yourself, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Each visit to Cross Club was hands down the highlight of both Prague trips. Also if the burrito stand is there, get one. My god was that a good burrito.
P.S.: If you head out to the lawn for a breather, which you should because it’s remarkably peaceful out there, know that you will be approached by a local offering things. Things you should not take or buy. The people are harmless and will walk away when you say no thank you, but be smart people. Stick with the pivo from the bartenders inside.
Although Roxy Club definitely caters to tourists and is situated right next to a hostel, our night there was fun as hell dancing to a DJ blasting top 40 rubbish. Highly suggest checking it out if you don’t mind a typical club scene and want to get your groove on.
LAST THOUGHTS ON PRAGUE
Why Prague just didn’t do it for me boils down to being born and raised in a city built by tourism. Even though Orlando was no doubt a kids dream playground with multiple school trips a year to the theme parks (Disney World, Universal, Seaworld, etc. etc.), as I grew older I began to despise the tourist saturated areas and avoided them at all costs.
Although an indisputably beautiful place, Prague is a city for tourists. Everywhere you turn in Prague 1 there’s someone trying to sell you something, someone practically running you over, head in their phone (guilty) or someone taking a selfie (guilty here too). There’s just someone constantly doing something touristy everywhere.
Most of the locals I met in Prague were either a) overly gracious, fake smile pinned to their face or b) overly grumpy, only driving the taxi because they have to make a living. But then there were people like the castle guard I met during my first visit to Cross Club.
I typically thwart the advances of men/boys/whatever you want to call them when traveling to bars solo. But upon coming over to say hello, the guard’s polite demeanor seemed so genuine I couldn’t do my usual ‘hello, shift to the left, oh look what’s that, gotta go, bye!’
Of course I didn’t know at the time that he was in the Czech military and actually guarded the castle walls I had just visited the day prior. It wasn’t until hours and a great conversation later, did he tell me he was a guard and explained that most visitors in Prague refuse to talk to the locals. They come to see their city but have no inclination to truly know it. The guard, like many others in Prague, enjoy speaking with tourists not to hit on girls or be sketchy, but to improve their English. He even walked me to the Uber I had called at the close of the night to ensure my safety and messaged me on Facebook (that was how I kept in touch with my new friends traveling) to make sure I got to my hostel okay. And that was it. Like hello, American guys please take note.
If I had to do Prague all over again, I’d search for more of the real Prague. Like the kind I found at Cross Club. Speak to the locals more, the ones untainted by working endless hours in hospitality, catering to people just like me. I’d seek out the areas where the they go to escape. The history and endurance of the Czech is one to admire, something that seems to get lost in the tourist hubbub of it all.
If you’re in Eastern Europe, even if you aren’t and just want to visit Prague, don’t let this post deter you. Like I said before it’s truly worth a visit. But go in knowing what Prague is and make it a mission to understand the city as a whole and see more of the Prague that I wish I had.
72 HOURS IN PRAGUE ITINERARY
- Free walking tour
- Charles Bridge
- John Lennon Wall
- Kampa Park
- U Sedmi Svabu
- Prague Castle
- St. Vitus Cathedral
- Wallenstein Palace Gardens.
- Letna Beer Garden
- Metronome Statue
- Strahov Monastery
- Petrin Lookout Tower
- Magical Caverns
- Paddle Boat on the Vltava River
- Prague Architecture