“Prague won't let you go,” notable author Franz Kafka once said. “The little mother has claws." Kafka one of the Czech Republic’s most well-known literary figures, and once called Prague his home. His words truly sink in to most visitors who come to the Golden City, charmed by the 13th century buildings, warmed by the hospitality shown by locals, and refreshed from the beers they consume. But there’s so much more to Prague than most guidebooks will give travelers.
As with most large cities, there is something for everyone in Prague. Music, art, dining, and museums are found all over the main city center, and are often enjoyed by locals just as much as visitors. It’d be easy to spend a month or even a year exploring this beautiful city, but for those short on time, the following activities provide a well-rounded look into the culture of the Czech Republic’s capital city.
Learn About the Czech Republic's History
Visitors will find Prague’s National Museum sitting at the top of Wenceslas Square. This Czech neo-renaissance building houses a collection of nearly 7 million items, ranging from Medieval art and texts to ethnographic pieces from around the world, and one of the most extensive collections of antique coins in the country. A series of renovations is planned to help restore the museum back to its former glory, so exhibitions may be sparse at times, but the permanent collection provides a great introduction to Czech history and culture, especially in relation to the events of Prague Spring in 1968. Make sure to get a timed ticket for the Dome, which offers special access to the top of the building and a close-up look at the stunning glass dome above the main foyer of the museum.
Take a Funicular to Petřín Hill
Located next to Prague Castle, Petřín Hill is one of the most popular places in Prague to see the city from above. A leisurely hike will get you there from the bottom of Malá Strana, but the quickest way to get to the top is by funicular. The cost of the funicular is the same as a ticket for a one-way public transportation ride (so it’s free if you have an unlimited day or multi-day pass), and takes about 10 minutes to get through all three stops. Once at the top, visitors can stroll through the park, or climb Petřín Tower, which resembles a mini Eiffel Tower and provides an even higher view of the city.
Bathe in Beer Ingredients
Czechs love to treat themselves with various spa treatments, but for those looking for an enhanced experience, a trip to a beer spa is worth seeking out. Here, visitors warm themselves up in a tub resembling a wooden barrel, and spa attendants add beer ingredients to the water (typically malt, yeast, hops, and other herbs). Guests don’t actually bathe in fermented beer, but they are provided with unlimited beer to drink, usually from a tub-side tap. A moment in the sauna and a nap in a straw bed concludes the experience; massages, snacks, and gifts are usually offered for an additional fee. There are a few spas to choose from throughout the city; check out Original Beer Spa or Beer Spa Bernard.
Dance Until the Early Morning
Prague’s club culture reputation precedes itself, and while it’s certainly a destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties and other late-night fans, the dance halls are really worth checking out for nightlife entertainment of all kinds. Karlovy Lázně is one of the best clubs in Prague for exactly that reason: it’s Central Europe’s largest nightclub, with five floors of dance space. Each one is dedicated to a different kind of “sound”: mainstream hits, dance music, oldies, hip hop, and chill sounds, so there’s something for every kind of partier. Their VIP packages offer guests a taste of the high life for less money than you’d spend on bottle service elsewhere. This Old Town venue (located on the east side of Charles Bridge) opens every day in the early evening, and remains open until 5 a.m.
Sample Artisan Foods Along the River
Stroll along the Vltava river above Vyšehrad, and you’ll come across one of Prague’s newest foodie areas, Náplavka. Locals come here for an alfresco meal or drink, and walk along the barges docked there. Each one is home to a floating bar or restaurant, where guests can grab a pint to go and enjoy the scenery. The Náplavka Farmer’s Market also offers visitors the chance to sample treats from local Czech gastronomical creators; jams, honey, fruit liqueurs, sweets, and sausages are just some of the goods on offer. In the warmer months, it’s common to find small bands providing entertainment to the people passing by, so head here if you’re looking for free entertainment, and a variety of places for your tastebuds to explore.
See One of the Last Functioning Astronomical Clocks
Every hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., one of the oldest, still-functioning astronomical clocks in the world puts on a show in Prague’s Old Town Square. It’s easily one of the most popular sites for travelers in the city. Dating back to 1410, the clock has a dial measuring 8.2 feet in diameter, various zodiac and biblical symbols, and large mechanized figurines (including models of the Twelve Apostles). The show only lasts about a minute, leaving you enough time to experience it for yourself before exploring the rest of what Old Town has to offer.
Cross Over a Bridge of Saints
Charles Bridge has connected Prague’s Old Town and Little Quarter since the 12th century, when its construction was commissioned by its namesake: Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Today, it’s one of the most frequented attractions in Prague, as its path leads straight to Prague Castle. Walkers are flanked by 30 replicas of 17th-century saintly statues (rubbing the plaque below St. John of Nepomuk is said to bring good luck). The two towers at either end of the bridge are also open to visitors who wish to climb to the top and view the city from a different vantage point. For the least crowded experience, visit early in the morning (perfect for sunrise photos), or late in the evening when the city is quiet and still.
Sip Beer in a Monastery
History meets brewery at the Břevnov Monastery Brewery, considered by many to be the birthplace of Czech beer. The monastery itself was founded in 993, and the brewery was in operation until about the late 19th century. The facility was restored in 2011, and now provides a more technologically advanced method of brewing beer, sans monks. An attached restaurant with a beer garden provides a tranquil area for tastings, and tours of the brewery are offered for a more in-depth look at the beer making process, history, and culture associated with Břevnovský Benedict.
Devour Czech Sweets
Most visitors to Prague will be tempted by trdelník stands (“cinnamon chimney” pastries filled with sweets like ice cream or nutella) found on almost every corner, but for a taste of traditional Czech sweets with a contemporary twist, seek out Cukrář Skála, located down a short street just off of Náměstí Republiky. Inspired by the recipes of his father, owner Lukáš Skála creates desserts and baked goods that are almost too pretty to eat. Cream rolls, cheesecakes, bon bons, breakfast pastries, and more, are displayed in a glass case while bakers busily prepare more desserts in the background. Pick up one to-go, or sit for a moment with a coffee in the cafe’s courtyard.
Expand Your Love of Old Books
Bibliophiles, art lovers, history fans, and everyone in between will appreciate a visit to the library of the Strahov Monastery, located just behind Prague Castle. While the monastery itself is worth exploring, the library, home to over 200,000 books, manuscripts, and lithographs, is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture and design. It’s comprised of two sections: the Theological Hall, which contains mostly biblical translations and theological writings, and the Philosophical Hall, a two-story room evocative of a personal library from a fairytale castle. A “cabinet of curiosities” connects the two areas, featuring small exhibits of natural science, art, and architecture. Tours of the venue are available each day; a walk around the grounds provides views of Prague, including Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.
Cheers Your Beer With Czechs
Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country, and while in Prague, it’s not uncommon for a pint of beer to cost the same price (or less) as a bottle of water. While there’s no shortage of pilsner to go around in the city, grabbing a seat at a communal table within Letna’s beer garden (next to the Letenský Zámeček restaurant) is one of the best ways to get acquainted with Czech beer culture. The park, located on the northern side of the city, offers a panoramic view of the city, which you can enjoy while sipping on Pilsner Urquell, Master’s amber lager, Kozel’s dark lager, or Gambrinus. The park itself is large and offers a quiet respite from the busy city, as well as a way to walk off the many pints you may consume.
Get to Know Czech Wine Culture
Not many associate the Czech Republic with a thriving wine scene, but Czech wine makers are aiming to change that. Prague itself is home to several small vineyards, such as St. Clare’s Vineyard at Troja Chateau, and Prague Castle’s St. Wenceslas’ Vineyard, one of the oldest in the country. You can also find wine from Southern Bohemia and Moravia in many restaurants. One of the best places to expand your wine education is at Vinotéka U Mouřenína, which hosts wine classes and offers one of the best selections of Czech wines in the city.
Grab a Drink Poured by a Robot
In the future, we’ll all be served by robots. Or at least, that’s what Czech artist and engineer David Černý seems to think. He helped design the robotic bartender at Cyberdog, a space-age restaurant and pub in Prague 13. Guests order their meals and drinks using an app, and a mechanical arm grabs a wine glass, procures the bottle, and pours the drink with amazing precision. The building itself is also out-of-this-world in design; guests sit in an elevated, cube-like structure, and their drinks are delivered to them from an overhead conveyor belt system that really makes you feel like you’re drinking in the future.
Learn About Modern Czech Art
Czech art is typically underrepresented in galleries elsewhere, so it’s worth getting acquainted with while you’re in Prague. One of the best places to do so is at Museum Kampa, located on Kampa Island in Malá Strana. This intimate museum is home to one of the best collections of art from modern abstract artist František Kupka. Contemporary exhibitions are also held year round, with a focus on artists from marginalized communities. The outdoor sculpture garden is free to walk through, and the park outside of the museum is perfect for relaxing along the Vltava river after a long day.
Eat Fruit Dumplings for Dinner
Pork and bread dumplings, goulash, and beef sirloin in cream sauce are the typical Czech dishes most visitors encounter while dining in Prague, but for a dish you likely won’t get anywhere else (at least, for dinner), order ovocné knedlíky at Café Savoy in Malá Strana. These fruit dumplings are made with seasonal fruit encased in fluffy dough, and topped with melted butter and freshly ground gingerbread. The cafe itself makes you feel as though you are stepping back in time, with its marble-top tables and beautiful ceiling work. A full menu of Czech classics is available if sweets for dinner doesn’t appeal; Café Savoy also is a good pick for brunch, as it opens earlier than most other restaurants on the weekend.
Get a Better Understanding of Czech Politics
A visit to the grounds of Prague Castle is part of most trip itineraries to the City of Spires. Walking around the exterior areas of the political complex is free, with small fees to enter St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, and a few gardens, but to get a real sense of Czech history and politics, take a tour through the castle's government apartments. You’ll learn about the Czech Republic’s tumultuous political history, from the formation of Czechoslovkia in 1918, to Prague under Communism. You'll also learn how the parliamentary system works alongside the president today. The climb uphill from the west side of Charles Bridge can be challenging; consider taking trams 22 or 23, which let off at Pražský Hrad, for easier access.
Watch the Sunset on a Grassy Knoll
A visit east to Vinohrady shows visitors Prague's more residential side. This area was formerly used as the royal vineyards in the 14th century, but has since become a historic working class neighborhood, with early-20th-century architecture and a sophisticated, Parisian feel. Just east of the main railways station is Riegrovy Sady, a hilly park with grassy knolls, historic sculptures, and a small selection of cafes and restaurants. It faces the Vltava river and offers a clear view of Prague Castle and Malá Strana, framed by leafy trees. It’s a romantic spot for sunset views over the city, and you’ll find a nice mix of locals and travelers enjoying the ambiance.
Shop for Czech Souvenirs
Souvenir shops are abundant in Old Town, but few can claim a history dating back to the 13th century. Located a short walk from Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, Havelský Market is a pedestrian area lined with stalls selling all kinds of goods, like marionettes, leather goods, painted postcards, and pottery. It’s also a great place to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables, and snacks from grocery vendors. Head to this area towards the end of your trip if you’re looking to pick up distinctly Czech items for friends and family back home.
Watch a Performance at a Historic Theater
The arts have always been an important part of Czech identity, and Prague has built itself up to be one of the most active cultural cities in the world. For over 130 years, the National Theatre has been at been at the center of the cultural scene. Opera, dance, theatrical performances, and concerts are regularly shown; more contemporary works are performed at The New Stage, a modern theater next door that is also part of the National Theatre system. This magnificent building, designed in the National Revival style, is especially beautiful when lit up at night; walk along Legions’ Bridge for the best view.
Take a Tour of Josefov, the Jewish Quarter
One of Prague’s most popular cultural sites, the Jewish Quarter just above Old Town Square will provide you with a thorough understanding of Jewish history in the city. It dates back to the 10th century, but periods of religious persecution, physical destruction, Nazi invasion, and the effects of Communism, have left little of the original area. Today, visitors can see a selection of synagogues and significant historic sites, including the Old Jewish Cemetery, through the Jewish Museum’s extensive system, which offers in-depth tours of the area.