Prague is a beautiful if over-touristed place. This makes it a bit harder to see on a tight schedule as I did on my last visit. Here are some suggestions on how you can best use your time on a 2-day visit.
Table of contents: ()
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Where to Shop
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
There are a few standard places that most visits to Prague will include and you can tackle all of these on your first day. They include the old town center, the castle and the Charles River Bridge. You can cover these on your own or try a private tour of Prague. It worked out well for us that we took a tour for this first day.
Wenceslas Square is a long square in Prague that was where some of the large protests were held in the last days of communism. At the uphill end of the square is a statue of King Wenceslas mounted on a horse which is a popular meeting point for locals. “I will meet you under the horse”. Just past the statue is the Czech National Museum.
Old Town Square
The old town square in the city features a statue to reformer Jan Hus who tried to reform the Catholic church a century before Martin Luther started nailing pieces of paper to doors. His reformation was less successful as he was burned at the stake in this square in 1415. Hus’s writings influenced later reformers. This statue to him was erected 500 years after his death in 1915.
In December Prague holds a Christmas market in the square. The square fills up with carolers, craft and food stalls. You will need to take advantage of the sva?ák (warm spiced wine) as Prague gets quite cold. Having visited Prague in December, I question the wisdom of holding an outdoor event at that time of year.
The square will be busy except for early in the morning.
Astronomical Clock and Old Town Hall
At the town hall just outside of the main square, you will find Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock. It is a beautiful and well-documented clock that is worth a look.
You can also gain access to the tower of the Old Town Hall for 250 CZK to get great views of the main square in Prague. The tower is open 9 am – 10 pm, except Mondays when it opens at 11 am.
Also, look for the 27 crosses in the pavement in front of the Old Town Hall. These commemorate protestant martyrs beheaded there after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 in the early stages of the Thirty Years War.
Charles River Bridge
The bridge has 30 statues along its length including statues of the crucifixion and of saints. At either end of the bridge are the towers that were built for the defense of the bridge but now are more useful for Instagram.
During the middle of the day, the bridge is one mass of tourists and vendors with an occasional violinist or organ grinder added to the assortment. But if you get up first thing in the morning, you can experience the bridge empty or at least nearly empty.
Lennon Peace Wall
I get the impression that many of the locals are now embarrassed by the Lennon Peace Wall. This is a wall covered in graffiti that was originally painted in the days of communism on the event of the death of John Lennon. The wall has been painted over many times but is always recreated by local street artists so it will never look the same twice.
Prague castle is the 3rd heavily touristed spot in Prague. It is the largest castle in Europe and is still a center for government functions. Guided tours are available of the castle in Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian. The tours take about an hour and reservations are recommended. The cost is 150 CZK. Or you can get an audio guide for 350 CZK for a 3-hour duration.
An entrance fee is required to enter: St Vitus’ Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St George Basilica, Golden Lane, and Powder Tower-Mihulka.
One of the events that started the 30 years war traces back to the Prague Castle, an event known as the Second Defenestration of Prague. Protestants took two of the Catholic Lord Regents and a secretary and threw them out of a 3rd story window of the castle. Surprisingly all survived. Also surprisingly, this was the second time that people were thrown out of the castle windows by an angry mob.
Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert
One of my favorite sites within the castle is the Saint Vitus Cathedral and within the cathedral the stained glass windows by Alfons Mucha I would claim to be the most beautiful. These windows were created for the cathedral in the 1930s so they are in an Art Nouveau style which is easy to distinguish from the rest of the gothic windows with its strong and expressive characters.
Personally, I would skip the audio guide of the cathedral which goes into way more minutia than even this history buff enjoyed.
There is a small alley of shops and old residences of palace guards at one end of the castle that closes before the rest of the castle so check schedules before coming. Visit in the first or last hour that it is open for the smallest crowds. Within the Golden Lane are also a small museum of armor and a small museum of torture.
If You Have Time
If you start early in the morning you might also have time to visit the Strahov Monastery and Pet?ín Lookout Tower from the list before you come down from the castle.
The second day is going to involve making some choices. Below is a list of things that I would consider adding to your second day. You probably won’t have time for all of these as I would also consider spending some time just sitting in a beer garden. My favorites of this list are Vysehrad Castle, the Museum of Communism, and the Head of Franz Kafka.
Prague has two castles but most tourists don’t get to Vysehrad which is a bit further away from the town square but still reachable by public transportation.
Vysehrad is an old star fortress and inside you will find a number of churches, statues, and at least one brewery. It has beautiful views of the area from its walls but is also just a lovely park-like area outside of the busy city center.
The brewery seemed to have mostly a local clientele and on the day we were there the service was indifferent at best.
These popular buildings are designed by the American architect Frank Gehry… as if they could have been designed by anyone else. They are supposed to be modeled after the dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. There is a bar on the roof if you want to sit and enjoy the city from there.
Memorial to the Heydrich Terror
The church of Saints Cyril and Methodius was the site of a siege in 1942 when 800 SS troops stormed the basement where the 2 assassins of Reinhardt Heydrich hid out for 8 hours before being killed. Heydrich was the highest-ranked Nazi official to be assassinated in WWII.
Head of Franz Kafka Statue
One of the oddest kinetic (moving) sculptures I have seen is the mesmerizing Head of Franz Kafka. This metallic sculpture sliced a normal bust of the author and created a fluid moving creation that might actually well represent the strange way his brain worked.
Museum of Communism
When I took a group of Amateur Traveler listeners to Prague in 2018, I highly recommended the Museum of Communism in Prague. It is even larger and more extensive now than it was when I first visited it and it has relocated to near the Powder Tower.
The museum shows the series of events that led to the abolition of communism in central and eastern Europe. But perhaps even more interesting, it also shows how everyday life was under communism: what sort of sports they played and what sort of products they bought.
The buildings of Prague were spared from destruction in WWII but the Jewish community was decimated by the German occupation. The Jewish Museum is spread over 4 old Jewish Synagogues and an old Jewish cemetery.
One of the synagogues is a memorial with the names of all the Prague Jews killed by the Nazis while the others are more museum exhibits or preserved sanctuaries.
The old cemetery with its crooked cramped gravestones is probably the most photographed portion of this museum.
You can buy a single ticket to explore all 4 parts of the museum for 175 CZK .
If you are a fan of the work of Alfons Mucha and the other artists of the Art Nouveau style then I recommend a visit to the Mucha Museum which has a permanent collection of his works.
The Strahov Monastery near the Prague Castle is known for its beautiful library. You are not permitted to go into the library rooms without taking a tour, but you can take pictures from the doorways if you pay an additional fee of 50 CZK for photography on top of the 100 CZK entrance fee.
There are also two different breweries on the grounds of the monastery. One is just in front of the library and the other is behind it.
Pet?ín Lookout Tower
From the Strahov monastery, it is an easy walk to the Pet?ín Lookout Tower, which is one-sixth the size of the Eiffel Tower and modeled after it. Entry is 150 crowns. ($7). We opted to pay an extra $3 to take the lift instead of climbing the 299 steps to the top. The views were really wonderful over all of Prague including the castle and the Charles River Bridge.
Prague has two beautiful libraries. The second one is the Klementinum Library which was opened as a Jesuit library in 1722. Guided tours are available. It is located close to the eastern edge of the Charles Bridge.
Where to Shop
For items like crystal that are made in the Czech Republic instead of made by the indigenous people of China, our local tour guides recommended Blue Praha, just off the main town square.
Open-Air Market near the Palladium
Outside the Palladium shopping center is an open-air market like a Christmas market but not seasonal. There is also a farmers market across the tram tracks on the weekend.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Maximillian is a beautiful centrally located hotel. It has lovely rooms, great public spaces in the lobby, and a wonderful breakfast and breakfast room.
Where to Eat
Near the Hotel Maximillian is the large bar and restaurant Lokal. We ate there with the Amateur Traveler group. We ordered an assortment of starters and main dishes, including fried cheese, smoked herring, steak tartare minced on bread, sausages, and more. For main dishes, there was goulash with dumplings, potato salad, schnitzel, and large quantities of beer.
The beer server was very quick, as soon as you finished your glass he swept it away and put a fresh one down. However, he would under no circumstances provide non-beer service. My wife Joan tried to get a glass of water, and he gave a very long explanation (in excellent English) which boiled down to “I’m the beer guy”. For non-beer drinkers they, like many Czech restaurants, serve a house special flavored “lemonade” or you can get plum brandy (slivovitz).
Traditional Czech cuisine including svickova (beef with dumplings) but also nice salads.
Try Angelato between Wenceslas Square and the main town square for what was recommended to me as the best gelato in the city.
For some of the best traditional food, our guides recommended the restaurants: Mincovna, Cafe Imperial, and “Next Door”. These are beautiful restaurants but are also popular so reservations are highly recommended