Within minutes of arriving in Prague, I realise how mistaken I have been all these years.
Walking from the train station to my hotel, I go through Wenceslas Square and past the Czech National Museum. Grand buildings and monuments blend in with the hip cafes and trendy shops. The footpaths are busy with tourists and locals wandering past or stopping to enjoy the sunshine.
I had completely underestimated Prague. People have told me previously that it’s beautiful but I had always assumed they meant just the very centre of the city, or relative to other cities in this part of Europe.
I see now, with so many things to do in Prague, that the Czech capital is stunning compared to all of Europe, if not the world. It is a gem that I already regret not visiting earlier.
One of the things that, to my mind, makes Prague impressive is the scale of the historic part of the city. It leads from the top of the hill to the west, down to the Vltava River, and across to the web of boulevards and alleys that takes you to churches, squares and hidden museums.
You need several days to explore Prague – let alone do some day trips to the surrounding region. But within one day you can get a great overview of this implosion of styles from the 11th century to the 18th century.
There are also a few modern twists thrown in for good measure, such as Wenceslas Square which, although a historic gathering point and the site of recent political demonstrations, is also lined with shopfronts for international chainstores and restaurants.
If you’re planning to visit a lot of Prague’s sights, you may find that the Prague Card will save you some money.
In this article, I’m going to share my tips for the best attractions in Prague, including its main landmarks, heritage sites, tours, and food experiences. But it’s also worth noting that Prague is one of those European cities where the atmosphere is a highlight in itself.
If you have time to get away from the dense tourist areas, you’ll find some of the best things to do in Prague are just to have some drinks in a beer garden, walk along the river, relax in the parks, and try the local snacks.
It’s sometimes too easy just to tick off the main tourist sights then move on to your next destination. When visiting Prague, I recommend a mix of landmarks and local exploration (with or without a guide).
There are LOTS of things to see in Prague, although many of them are concentrated in the two historic districts either side of the river. That means you’ll likely come across many of them if you spend a day in Prague wandering the streets.
Having said that, I want to start by just mentioning three of Prague’s attractions that I would consider to be the most famous. If you’re planning some sightseeing, you don’t want to miss these ones.
At the top of the hill on the western side of the river, Prague Castle doesn’t just dominate the skyline, it dominates the history of the city.
It was the seat of the head of state for centuries, including for the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. It is still today the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.
Prague Castle is also more than just a castle – it’s a whole complex of buildings, where you can easily spend a few hours exploring the Old Royal Palace with its large gothic vaulted hall, the dramatic St Vitus Cathedral (a Prague highlight in its own right), St George’s Basilica, and Golden Lane.
Old Town Square
The density of sights in Prague’s Old Town is dazzling, and I’ll come to some of those details shortly. But just for now, I want to tell you about the most important spot – the Old Town Square.
In one corner, on the Old Town Hall, is the Astronomical Clock. Every hour the mechanical clock puts on a wonderful display with a procession of apostles and moving statues. It’s impressive today but imagine what people thought of it when it started operating 600 years ago!
The Old Town Hall itself is very significant and you can visit its historical halls, chapel, and basement, as well as climb the tower for incredible city views (buy your ticket in advance here). There are also two churches on the square where you can go inside to explore more of the history.
Dozens of other buildings line the Old Town Square, representing hundreds of years of architectural styles. Of particular note is the Kinský Palace, which is now part of the National Gallery.
Connecting the neighbourhood below the castle and the Old Town (two districts I’ll talk about in more detail shortly) is the Charles bridge, stretching for 516 metres across the Vltava River. It’s an iconic landmark, built from 1357, that almost every visitor will walk across.
On either side of the bridge, you’ll see beautiful statues on either side (30 in total) that watch over you as you pass. They almost all depict important 17th and 18th century saints and were sculpted by prominent Bohemian artists (although all have now been replaced by replicas, to protect the originals).
The statues are one of the main reasons this is an important landmark, but the history of the bridge also plays a large part. Until 1841, it was the only way to cross the river, which meant that Prague was a key city for people travelling across the country.
It’s always a busy spot during the day but that brings out market stalls and buskers so there’s plenty of entertainment.
Most of the historic centre of Prague has been protected as a World Heritage Site – partly because of its beauty and partly because it’s an excellent example of what’s called ‘Medieval urbanism’, which means the way cities were laid out in the Middle Ages with influences from important institutions like the church and trade guilds.
There are two main parts to the historic centre, the Malá Strana (Lesser Town) on the west of the river, and the Old Town on the east. First I want to talk about the Old Town, because it’s much larger and has many more heritage-listed buildings.
The focus here is the Old Town Square, which I’ve already mentioned, and has a lot of important sites to visit. Walking the streets, you’ll see a lot more, and I wanted to point out a few of the more notable things to see in Prague’s Old Town.
At the eastern end of the Charles Bridge, it’s hard to miss the enormous Klementinum, which was once one of the largest complexes of buildings in Europe. Built from the 16th century, it started as a Jesuit dormitory before expanding to hold a library, university, scientific institutions, and more.
You can visit the Klementinum on an official guide tour, which will show you the highlights of its opulent areas, including the beautiful Baroque library covered in frescoes, the Meridian Hall, and the Astronomical Tower that has wonderful views across the city.
Although many of the sights in Prague are from the Middle Ages, there’s also some beautiful 20th-century architecture, and the Municipal House is an excellent example. Built from 1905 to 1911, the stunning Art Nouveau building is on the site of the former Royal Court palace.
These days, most of the Municipal House is used as a concert venue called Smetana Hall, where you could catch a performance – or there’s a cafe and a wine bar. Otherwise, just enjoy the allegorical art and stucco that covers the exterior.
The Jewish Quarter of Prague (also known as Josefov) is an important part of the Old Town, full of history from when it formed as the Jewish Ghetto in the 13th century.
Jews were banned from living in other parts of Prague and were forced to settle in this neighbourhood. Over the centuries, there were times when the residents were particularly persecuted, but also periods where the ghetto’s wealth allowed it to develop impressive buildings.
Much of the Jewish quarter was demolished at the end of the 19th century, but there are still six original synagogues, the old town hall, and a cemetery, where each tombstone tells a story.
One of the main reasons to visit the neighbourhood is to hear its stories, so I would recommend this tour of the Jewish Quarter, which includes admission to the synagogues. Or there are some other good options here:
Old Town tour
With dozens of things to see in Prague’s Old Town, it’s not possible for me to talk about each of them. And, although you could wander the streets and see many of them yourself, I think you’ll get a lot more out of a guided tour.
The great thing about a local expert showing you the sights of Prague is that they’ll also be able to share the context of what you’re seeing and share special local insights. It’s a good way to start your visit to the city to get your bearings as well.
There is this excellent tour of the Old Town that is worth considering. Or there are some other tours here that offer slightly different things, that may suit you better:
The district called Malá Strana translates to ‘Lesser Town’ but it’s no less important than the Old Town – the name instead refers to the fact that it’s smaller. And in this dense area, there’s lots to see.
Malá Strana is below Prague Castle, on the other side of the Charles Bridge from the Old Town, so it’s likely you’ll end up here at some point. Rather than just walk straight through to the castle complex, here are a few sights to also check out .
When the wealthy Czech nobleman Albrecht von Wallenstein wanted to build a luxurious residence in 1624, he got a site that was so big it previously had 26 houses, 6 gardens, and 2 brickworks.
On it, he constructed the beautiful Wallenstein Palace, a huge baroque complex with several wings and four courtyards, plus an expansive garden with statues, fountains, and even a riding school.
Albrecht von Wallenstein was so feared by Emperor Ferdinand II that he had him assassinated a year after he moved into the palace, but the property stayed in the family until 1945, when it because the Senate of the Czech Republic.
It is sometimes possible to take free tours inside on Saturdays but, even without that, the gardens are worth seeing (and are open every day).
Church of St Nicholas
Built in the first half of the 1700s, the Church of St Nicholas is considered to be one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Prague.
It’s a large building and you get a sense of its scale when you go inside, with lofty ceilings. The most impressive element is the 70-metre-high dome, that is decorated with statues and a colourful fresco.
If you’re lucky, your visit to Prague may coincide with a concert at the Church of St Nicholas, and that’s certainly a very special experience, especially if it includes the historic organ that has more than 4,000 pipes (and was once played by Mozart).
Franz Kafka Museum
Prague has been home to many important people over the years, and one who still gets a lot of attention these days is Franz Kafka, the influential 20th-century writer.
A museum about the writer opened in an old brickworks in 2005, with a collection of first edition books, original writings, letters, diaries, and drawings. As is the style of his stories, there are some strange an absurd designs in the museum.
Although the Franz Kafka Museum is probably of more interest to someone who already has an understanding of the writer, there’s an interesting artwork out front that you should pop by and see.
The Lennon Wall – a wall in a secluded square opposite the French Embassy – began as a protest space in the 1960s when people would write messages about the communist regime here. But it took on new prominence when a large image of John Lennon was painted here after his murder in 1980.
From then on, the wall became a magnet for young Czechs to paint political messages. Even since the fall of the Iron Curtain, new works have been regularly painted here about current events, including the war in Ukraine, for example.
The wall has become such a popular Prague landmark that there’s even now a small museum nearby dedicated to telling its story.
As I explore Prague, there are times when I wonder if every second building is a museum. There are so many museums in Prague, that it’s hard to know which ones are actually worth visiting.
A lot of Prague’s museums are quite small and specific, which is good if you want to explore a particular topic. But these are a few of the more popular ones you may like to pop into.
The National Museum is the Czech Republic’s main museum, founded in 1818 and with more than 14 million items. It covers everything from natural history, to cultural heritage, and art and music.
The National Museum is quite a traditional institution which certainly has lots to see and covers a broad range of topics, but may feel a bit academic to international tourists. Still, its beautiful building at the top of Wenceslas Square is one of the city’s icons and it’s almost worth visiting just to see that alone.
With the largest collection of art in the Czech Republic, the National Gallery has an impressive array of exhibitions of both national and international artworks.
The National Gallery doesn’t have a single site and is spread across ten buildings, but the largest is the Trade Fair Palace, which I recommend if you’re only going to see one spot. This is where most of the modern art is on display.
The 19th-century art is at Salm Palace, while the old masters are spread across the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia, Šternberk Palace, and Schwarzenberg palace. In the Old Town Square, the Kinsky Palace has the graphics collection and oriental art.
Museum of Communism
One of the most famous museums in Prague is the Museum of Communism, which tells the story of how the residents of Prague, as part of Czechoslovakia, lived under communist rule for 41 years after World War II.
There’s lots of interesting information about different elements of that time, with good coverage of what life was like for ordinary citizens, as well as geopolitics that was going on around them. However, much of that comes from the information boards, and the number of actual artefacts is relatively limited.
I’ve written a story about whether it’s worth visiting the Museum of Communism, and there are lots of details there about what to expect.
The Czech Republic has a long association with beer, and is said to be the country that drinks the most beer per capita in the world. So it’s no surprise that there’s a whole museum dedicated to beer.
The Beer Museum starts with the history of brewing, before going into more detail about the different types of beer in Prague. You’ll get to do a tasting of four beers and even make a bottle that you can keep.
If you’re interested, you can buy your ticket in advance here. I’ve got some other beer-related suggestions later in this article.
For some unexplained reason, Prague seems to attract weird museums and there are quite a lot of them here – although it should be said many are overpriced, gimmicky, and not worth visiting.
Of those that are not a waste of time or money, these are a few you may like to consider, if you’re looking for something unusual.
- KGB Museum: The KGB Museum is just a small space, showcasing the collection of one man, who has put together things including the death mask of Lenin, Trotsky’s murder weapon, and assorted equipment from laboratories. The highlight, though, is being able to chat with the owner about it all.
- Sex Machines Museum: I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, but the Sex Machines Museum is oddly interesting, particularly because it shows how tastes have (or have not) changed over the centuries. Although children aren’t allowed, it’s not really too graphic.
- Illusion Art Museum: As the name suggests, the Illusion Art Museum is full of cool vision illusions spread over three levels of a heritage building. It’s not cheap but I like that it incorporates Czech history so is more than just a random way to keep the kids occupied.
- Museum of Torture: In a creepy underground space, the Museum of Torture has more than 100 exhibits about different torture methods during the medieval period, including models of the people in the machines. It’s a rathe specific museum but fits the atmosphere of the Old Town.
Food and drink
The most popular food in the Czech Republic is some variation of roast pork with sauerkraut and bread dumplings (I can assure you I’ve eaten lots of it).
But there’s much more to the Czech cuisine than that – especially in Prague, where you get modern influences from across the world. Here are some ways to discover more about the city’s food scene.
I think one of the best things to do in Prague as soon as you arrive is take a food tour of the city. It’s a really good way to understand more about the cuisine in the city and get some ideas of where to eat during the rest of your time here.
You’ll usually find that the local guide also shares other useful information about how to spend your time here, and your trip to Prague will be better overall from taking a food tour early on.
I think this is the best food tour in Prague, and it includes 16 different tastings at six locations, giving you a really broad sense of the city. Or there’s this food tour that is also very good and goes to some higher-end restaurants.
Normally I try to avoid recommending experiences that are too touristy and feel like inauthentic entertainment. I’m going to warn you, this is both those things, but it’s still very popular and heaps of fun, so you can decide yourself!
The medieval dinner is hosted in a space that looks like an old tavern. You’ll get either a 3 or 5-course meal (your choice) and there’s also unlimited drinks all night. And while you eat and drink, there’s plenty of entertainment like jugglers and musicians.
You can book the medieval dinner here, and get ready for a lively night with plenty of food, drink, and fun.
As I mentioned earlier, beer is intertwined with the Czech culture and you’ll notice people drinking it everywhere at every time of the day. It’s been brewed here for almost two millennia, with famous beer styles (such as pilsner) and infamous breweries (such as Budweiser).
In Prague specifically, there are lots of traditional breweries, as well as some more modern craft breweries. To find the best ones and learn more about the beer scene, I would recommend going on a tasting tour.
A good choice would be this beer tour that has seven tastings and lots of information. Or there are some other tours here to consider:
But if you want to get really immersed, what about taking a bath in beer? For a rather unusual experience, you can sit in beer while you drink beer (and get a massage, for good measure). See more about Prague’s beer bath here.
Beyond beer and food tours, there are lots of things to see in Prague that are better with a local guide. The depth of stories here is fascinating and you’ll get a lot more out of your visit if you’re able to explore them with some local insight.
Looking around the streets of Prague, most of the historical sights you see are from the medieval times – places like Prague Castle and the Old Town Square, for instance.
But the history of the past century is also a very important part of the city’s narrative, even if many of the locals would prefer to forget about the years of war and repression that Prague suffered through.
Learning about World War II and the communist era in Prague is fascinating and it’s not something you can do just by seeing the sights. A fantastic thing to do is take this communism tour that includes a visit to a nuclear bunker.
Or there are some other interesting tours about WWII and communist rule here:
Scratch the surface and you’ll also find a vibrant cultural scene in Prague that isn’t immediately obvious when you first arrive (and will likely be dazzled by all the old sights).
Street art, community theatre, hipster cafes, underground clubs – these are the kinds of things you’ll be shown on this alternative walking tour of Prague.
(Incidentally, there are lots of art pieces in the streets of Prague so, even if you’re not on a tour, look out in particular for the works of David Cerny that are spread out across the city!)
Another different perspective beyond the obvious tourist sights is this tour of art nouveau architecture in Prague, which will examine some of the most important buildings and look at how they fit into the broader history of the city.
And, I mentioned the Franz Kafka Museum earlier, but did you know there’s also a whole tour about him? This excellent tour doesn’t just tell you more about the writer himself, it also looks at Prague through his eyes and shows you a different side of the city.
You’re likely to cross the Vltava River a few times during your visit to Prague, but spending some time on the river itself will give you a different viewpoint. There are plenty of boats that run cruises along the Vltava and it’s worth jumping on one of them.
Some people prefer evening cruises, and there’s this good one that includes a buffet dinner. However, I don’t think the views are as nice at night than when its light.
I would instead recommend one of these daytime cruises, where you’ll be able to see the city properly as you float past.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Prague and it’s easy to spend a few days here. But there are also some great places to visit around Prague that may make it worth extending your stay a bit.
I’ve put together a whole story about the best day trips from Prague, but here are a few of my top tips.
Just 30 kilometres from Prague, Karlstejn Castle is an easy trip and combines two of my favourite things in the Czech Republic – heritage and nature.
The large castle atop a hill was built in 1348 by King Charles IV as a country retreat and it’s a beautiful fortified complex that you can go inside and explore, after you’ve walked through the charming town leading up to it.
You can reach Karlstejn by train or you can save the hassle by taking this great tour from Prague. There are a few other options here:
Karlstejn is also the starting point for an excellent hike through the forest to the old quarry of Velka Amerika and a few other countryside sights. I’ve written a whole story about walking from Karlstejn Castle, if you would like to do that.
The city of Kutná Hora is less than an hour from Prague and, although the main attractions here are historic landmarks, it feels very different to the capital. Kutná Hora gained enormous wealth from its silver mining industry and used that to building magnificent monuments.
There are lots of things to see in Kutná Hora but the two most significant buildings are the baroque Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec and the gothic Church of St Barbara. Although the most interesting sight for most visitors is the Sedlec Ossuary, which has been decorated in artworks made from thousands of human bones.
You’ll get a lot more from the experience with a guide, so you might also like to consider this excellent day tour from Prague. Or there are some other good tours here to consider:
Terezin Concentration Camp
It’s not a nice topic to think about, but I’ve discussed in other stories how I think it’s important to learn about the horrors of European history so humanity can try to avoid them in the future. About 50 kilometres north of Prague, the Terezin Concentration Camp is one of those places where we can see evil firsthand.
The site was actually originally a holiday resort for the region’s nobility, but was turned into a concentration camp and Jewish ghetto by the Nazis in 1940. More than 150,000 Jews were sent here and, although it wasn’t an extermination camp like Auschwitz, about 33,000 people died here because of the terrible conditions.
Hearing the stories of the camp from a local guide will give you a much deeper understanding of Terezin Concentration Camp and so, if you are going to visit the site, I would recommend one of these tours:
Finally, I want to suggest a day trip to Český Krumlov, the charming fairytale town in the south of the Czech Republic. It’s more than two hours away and could also be done as an overnight stop, but there are lots of tours that will take you there in a day.
The town is made up of quaint colourful houses around a meandering river and a grand old castle on the clifftop above. The castle may be the main landmark, but exploring the beautiful car-free streets is where the real joy is found.
Public transport is quite time-consuming for a day trip, so I would recommend this convenient day tour, that takes all the logistical planning out of the equation. Or one of these tours may suit your interests better:
To help with your visit, I’ve got some tips on the best things to do in Český Krumlov, regardless of whether you go independently or with a guide.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN PRAGUE
You’ll be able to find some hotels in gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings and there are lots of affordable options in Riga’s historic centre.
If you’re looking for a budget option, I would suggest the Post Hostel which is modern and friendly.
For something good value and a bit local, Family Lorenz & Coffee House is a great place.
For a cool and stylish option, you should try Design Hotel Jewel Prague.
And if you want to splurge for somewhere really cool, have a look at the BoHo Prague Hotel.