What are the five best things to see and do in Prague?

Joseph Reaney

Prague is deceptively compact. So despite the spider-like appearance of the city metro map, most of the top tourist sights and activities in the Czech capital can be reached on foot or by tram. Here are five not to miss:
 
1. Climb up to Prague Castle. The largest medieval fortress in the world, Pražský hrad has been the cherished residence of Bohemian kings, Holy Roman emperors and Czech presidents for more than 1,000 years, and it still looms high above the Vltava River. The complex contains several attractions, including St. Vitus Cathedral, Lobkowicz Palace and the ancient street Golden Lane. Plus, it offers an achingly pretty city panorama.
 
2. Walk across Charles Bridge. Constructed between 1357 and 1402 by King Charles IV, this stone masterpiece is flanked by 30 finely chiseled sculptures and two magnificent towers. A hive of cultural activity day and night, the bridge is teeming with musicians, artists, street vendors and, naturally, snap-happy tourists.
 
3. Take a hike in the hills. Although much of the center is flat, Prague is surrounded by a variety of sweeping undulations — and many of them are host to some top tourist attractions. Hilltop highlights include the 12th-century Strahov Monastery, the Gothic cathedral of Vyšehrad, the ahead-of-its-time Štefánik’s Observatory, the picnic-perfect Letna Park and the enormous statue of one-eyed general Jan Žižka.
 
4. Visit the Old Town market. As well as being home to the famous astronomical clock, Prague’s Old Town Square also houses the Týn Church, the Baroque Town Hall and St. Nicholas’ Church. But the finest feature of the square is the (almost) ever-present market, which consists of traditional wooden stalls selling exquisite handicrafts, clothing, souvenirs and seasonal local fare, including hot mulled wine.
 
5. Go for a beer. Prague is world-famous for its beer (Pilsner was invented just 30 miles down the road), so you can’t leave without sampling one of its famed half-liters. Shun the heavyweights such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and the original Budweiser and plump for lesser-known names like Kozel, Démon and Master. Better still, visit a local pivovary (micro-brewery) for a true taste of Prague.

  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best cultural experiences in Prague?

    Prague is one of Europe’s main cultural hubs, offering a wealth of live music, opera and theater. Here are five cultural highlights worth experiencing during a visit:
     
    1. Opera and ballet. There are several world-class opera and ballet venues in the city, ranging from the magnificent Municipal House to the opulent State Opera. You can see a performance most nights of the week, with prices starting as low as $10. Visit the box office during the day for tickets.
     
    2. Classical music. As Mozart’s favorite city (he premiered Don Giovanni here), Prague is one of the best places in Europe to see a Mozart recital — whether it’s by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in the 19th century Rudolfinum or by a skilled ensemble in the atmospheric St. Nicholas Church. You can also find concerts of other great classical works, especially those by Czech maestros Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana.
     
    3. Laterna Magika. Prague is famous for its “Black Light Theater,” and for the full experience, you should head to the National Theater for the incomparable “Laterna Magika.” A non-verbal production that combines music, dance, puppetry, light effects, film and more, it’s a true taste of Prague’s bohemian culture.
     
    4. Lucerna Cinema. The oldest permanently operating theater house in Europe, Lucerna Cinema is also one of the most grand, ornate and thoroughly luxurious movie theaters you are ever likely to see. It plays independent European productions with English subtitles, and even some Hollywood fodder.
     
    5. Jazz Music. The Czech capital is renowned for its burgeoning jazz scene, and there are numerous funk, blues and fusion venues throughout the city. All you have to do is choose between a smoky old cellar (like Agharta or Reduta) and a plush modern bar (like The Jazz Dock and Café Mozart).
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    What is the best thing to bring home from Prague?

    Like most big tourist destinations, Prague is awash with souvenirs like generic T-shirts and novelty pencil holders. However, the city also offers some genuinely wonderful souvenirs. Here are five you’ll want to take home:
     
    1. Bohemian crystal. Famous the world over, this decorative glassware has been made in the Czech Republic since the 13th century. The combination of intricately cut crystal and stunning, handengraved decorations still make it a prized possession today.
     
    2. Marionette puppet. Although marionettes date back to Roman times, it was during the 18th century that the art form really took off — and at the center of the new puppetry revolution was Prague. You can still catch marionette shows in the city today, and then you can buy a puppet to take home as a memento.
     
    3. Garnet. As the official national gem, you will see the deep red garnet stone sold everywhere in Prague — and in a wide variety of forms. Visit the jewelers on Wenceslas Square to find the right cut for you.
     
    4. Antiques. Prague city center has a huge number of secondhand bookshops. And while the large Czech language tomes may not have much appeal to you, they’re worth heading inside to see what else is on sale. You’ll find an eclectic collection of potential souvenirs like ancient regional maps, antique furniture and obscure old sailing implements.  
     
    5. Ice hockey jersey. The Czechs can point to disproportionate success in a wide variety of disciplines, but it’s the ice hockey that really whips the local population into a frenzy. So if there’s any sports memento worth taking home with you, it is a national ice hockey jersey — ideally with the name of the great Jaromír Jágr on the back.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best Prague food experiences?

    As an increasingly international city, Prague features cuisine from all four corners of the world. However, there are still some distinctly Czech delicacies to sample during your visit. Here are five of our favorites:
     
    1. Vepřo, knedlo, zelo. Translated simply as “pork, dumplings, cabbage,” this hearty, evergreen dish offers just what it promises: prime cuts of pork with filling potato or bread dumplings and sweet pickled cabbage.
     
    2. Smažený sýr. This is a delicious but dangerous dish — not for the weak of heart. Smažený sýr is a large cube of deep-fried breaded edam cheese, usually served with a mountain of fries and a side of tartar sauce. For a mildly healthier, equally cheesy option, try the oil-picked cheese nakládaný hermelín.
     
    3. Guláš. It may have Hungarian origins, but the Czechs have their own unique take on goulash. In Prague, it’s served as prime chunks of beef in a thick, slow-cooked onion sauce, served alongside stodgy bread dumplings. It goes best with a local beer.
     
    4. Sausages. Prague is home to two famous sausages: klobasa and utopenci. The former is grilled and served with a side of bread, mustard and horseradish, and you’ll find them for sale at every food stand in the city — particularly along Wenceslas Square. Utopence, on the other hand, is a salami-type sausage that’s pickled in vinegar and served cold with raw onion, to be found in most traditional pubs.
     
    5. Desserts. The Czechs do some great desserts. The most common is koláče, a flat pastry disc topped with everything from fruits to poppy seeds to cream cheese. You can also try the moist layered honey cake medovnik, the grilled dough tube trdelník (it’s topped with sugar and walnuts) or any of the many fruit-filled dumplings.
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  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    Where is the best nightlife in Prague?

    Prague is not only famous for its historic beer culture and varied cocktail bars, it’s also famous for its jazz clubs. You’ll find a disproportionate number of jazz venues throughout the capital — from smoky cellar clubs like Agharta and Reduta to ultramodern music venues like The Jazz Dock and Café Mozart.
     
    But it’s not all about jazz. Prague also has all sorts of live music at clubs around the city, including places like Lucerna Music Bar (pop music), Vagon Music Club (rock music), Roxy Club (drum and bass) and Cross Club (metal). Or you can combine several genres with a trip to Karlovy Lázně, an enormous club with five dance floors that plays everything from 80’s disco to hardcore trance.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What is the best way to see Prague in one day?

    Start early, finish late and wear a good pair of shoes — that’s the best way to see Prague in a day. Begin your day north of the river in the historic region of Malá Strana, where you can look around the Theological Library at Strahov Monastery. Reward yourself with a breakfast at the café below (home to one of the finest views of Prague), then head down to the castle. There is much to see in the complex, including St. Vitus Cathedral, Lobkowicz Palace and St. George’s Basilica, so choose a few sights to occupy a few hours. When you’re finished, head down quaint Nerudova Street to the main square, take a cursory glance up at St. Nicholas Church, and then choose one of the surrounding cafes for lunch.
     
    After you’ve eaten, head over the famous Charles Bridge to the other side of the river, enjoying the views of Prague Castle and the distant Vyšehrad en route. Walk past the Old Jewish Cemetery to Old Town Square, and spend some time soaking in the atmosphere – wander around the market, look up at the beautiful Baroque buildings and, on the hour, check out the astronomical clock. If you have some time, you can stop for a coffee in one of the square’s many coffee shops – or, better still, head just off the square to try the world’s only cubist café.
     
    From Old Town Square, head along Celetná Street to see the Powder Tower, then take in the neighboring Municipal House. Finally, head to one of the live music bars on nearby Dlouhá Street. With most open until around 2 a.m., it’s the perfect way to end a long day in Prague.
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    What are the five best places to eat in Prague?

    Prague is home to restaurants that serve a mix of traditional Czech fare and up-market international cuisine. Here are five standouts:
     
    1. La Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise. La Dégustation is known for serving traditional Czech fare from the late 19th century — some of which you will recognize today, and some of which you won’t. Look out for decadent dishes like pheasant, duck and rabbit alongside the pork, beef and chicken.
     
    2. Céleste. Set atop the top of the famous riverside Dancing House, Céleste combines the taste of Paris with the panorama of Prague, offering a uniquely romantic dining experience. The French fare includes dishes like the signature slow-cooked suckling pig, served with black pudding, artichokes and red cabbage.
     
    3. Kolkovna. With several branches scattered through the city, this gastro pub chain is committed to Czech staples like roast pork with dumplings or goulash soup in bread.
     
    4. Buddha Bar. As the city’s premier pan-Asian restaurant, Buddha Bar boasts the best of Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine in an opulently furnished setting. We recommend the tiger shrimps in coconut to start, the Panang duck breast as the main, and the green tea and chocolate mousse for dessert.
     
    5. Bohemia Bagel. If you have too much to see and want to eat on the move, shun the ubiquitous klobása sausage stands of Wenceslas Square and to Bohemia Bagel instead. On top of the obvious, it also serves sandwiches, soups, salads and some of our favorite desserts in Prague. 
  • On July 5, 2012
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    What are the five best places to stay in Prague?

    As one of Europe’s most visited capitals, Prague has a variety of accommodations to suit all tastes. Here are five hotels worth checking into.
     
    1. Four Seasons Hotel Prague. With its regal style and city views, this Four Seasons is one of our top places to stay in Prague. It features a multilingual concierge team, a top spa and some of the largest suites in the city.
     
    2. Mandarin Oriental Prague. Asian style and service meet old world Europe at this opulent hotel located near the famed Charles Bridge. The over-the-top luxurious spa is worth a visit alone.

    3. Aria Hotel. The musical-themed Aria Hotel is located just a few minutes from Prague Castle and Charles Bridge. It comes with top amenities like a state-of-the-art fitness center and a lovely rooftop terrace. But what really sets it apart from the rest is that it has its very own musicologist, who can suggest concerts and events or just talk shop. 
     
    4. The Augustine. This stylish hotel is made up of seven linked buildings — of which one is a former monestary (monks still live in the area, and you may see them walking on the manicured paths). Today, the whole building is mostly modern, featuring Art Deco pieces that mix in with classic gothic arches. 
     
    5. Buddha-Bar Hotel. If you're willing to forgo Old World luxury for a hip nightclub feel, this hotel is for you. The colorful rooms feature a mod-Oriental design (think modern Buddha), plus massive tubs and 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets. And when you want to go clubbing, you don't even have to leave the building. 
     

  • On July 5, 2012
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    Where is the best shopping in Prague?

    Considering it gave us the word “bohemian,” Prague is filled with distinctly off-the-wall shopping finds, whether it’s fashion, souvenirs or market goods. As the showcase of award-winning fashion designer Hanna Stocklassa, Boheme is the city’s most elegant fashion outlet. With extensive seasonal collections of women’s clothes — everything from business outfits to party dresses — Boheme is a must-visit for fashionistas. For other big designer names, head to the tree-lined Pařížská Street, or find some deals at Nový Smíchov Mall.
     
    You should also make time to explore Prague’s markets. Although the seasonal markets in Old Town Square remain the best place to discover local handicrafts and try hearty Czech street food, that’s not the only show in town. The Náplavka Farmers’ Market on the edge of the Vltava River is a good spot to sample fresh meat and fish, dairy products and vegetables, while Sapa Market in Písnice is the perfect place to pick up goods from the long-established Vietnamese community.
     
    Finally, you’ll want to bring home a piece of Prague with you. There are hundreds of souvenir stores around Wenceslas Square and Old Town, but our favorite place for souvenirs is the Golden Lane, which is on the hill underneath Prague Castle. You can also travel from here down Nerudova Street, which is lined with unique art and antique shops.
  • On July 5, 2012
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    What are the five best things to do with kids in Prague?

    With its multitude of green spaces, interactive museum exhibits and seasonal festivals, Prague is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities to entertain your children — no matter their ages. Here are five top spots for kids:
     
    1. Petřín Lookout Tower. The highest point in the city, the Eiffel Tower-esque Petřín stands on a hill overlooking Prague Castle and the rest of the city — so a climb up its 299-step spiral staircase will not only tire out the kids, but will also reward them with a fantastic view. Afterwards, let them run around large play park that surrounds the tower.
     
    2.  Aqua Palace. Prague has many swimming pools, but the highlight for any child has to be Aqua Palace. Located just a short metro ride and a free bus trip from the center, this water wonderland has enough chutes, wave machines, fast-flowing rivers and pirate boats for a whole day’s worth of entertainment. There are also Jacuzzis, saunas and spas for the parents.
     
    3. Prague Zoo. The Prague Zoo has a variety of animals from around the world, a petting zoo, regular animal demonstrations and an on-site chairlift — plus mention healthy food options — making it one of the most kid-focused zoos in Europe.
     
    4. The Toy Museum. As the second-largest toy museum in the world, this remarkable exhibition has artifacts dating back to Ancient Greece. Expect dolls and dollhouses, puppets, marbles, board games, train sets, teddy bears and a wealth of similarly traditional bohemian playthings.
     
    5. Find a seasonal treat. Barely a weekend goes by in Prague without some child-friendly events taking place. Whether it is the springtime Matthews Funfair, the summertime music festivals, the fall children’s theatre shows or the pop-up winter ice rinks, every season has activities to keep visiting families busy.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Joseph Reaney answered the question: Joseph Reaney

    What are the five best things to see and do in Prague?

    Prague is deceptively compact. So despite the spider-like appearance of the city metro map, most of the top tourist sights and activities in the Czech capital can be reached on foot or by tram. Here are five not to miss:
     
    1. Climb up to Prague Castle. The largest medieval fortress in the world, Pražský hrad has been the cherished residence of Bohemian kings, Holy Roman emperors and Czech presidents for more than 1,000 years, and it still looms high above the Vltava River. The complex contains several attractions, including St. Vitus Cathedral, Lobkowicz Palace and the ancient street Golden Lane. Plus, it offers an achingly pretty city panorama.
     
    2. Walk across Charles Bridge. Constructed between 1357 and 1402 by King Charles IV, this stone masterpiece is flanked by 30 finely chiseled sculptures and two magnificent towers. A hive of cultural activity day and night, the bridge is teeming with musicians, artists, street vendors and, naturally, snap-happy tourists.
     
    3. Take a hike in the hills. Although much of the center is flat, Prague is surrounded by a variety of sweeping undulations — and many of them are host to some top tourist attractions. Hilltop highlights include the 12th-century Strahov Monastery, the Gothic cathedral of Vyšehrad, the ahead-of-its-time Štefánik’s Observatory, the picnic-perfect Letna Park and the enormous statue of one-eyed general Jan Žižka.
     
    4. Visit the Old Town market. As well as being home to the famous astronomical clock, Prague’s Old Town Square also houses the Týn Church, the Baroque Town Hall and St. Nicholas’ Church. But the finest feature of the square is the (almost) ever-present market, which consists of traditional wooden stalls selling exquisite handicrafts, clothing, souvenirs and seasonal local fare, including hot mulled wine.
     
    5. Go for a beer. Prague is world-famous for its beer (Pilsner was invented just 30 miles down the road), so you can’t leave without sampling one of its famed half-liters. Shun the heavyweights such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and the original Budweiser and plump for lesser-known names like Kozel, Démon and Master. Better still, visit a local pivovary (micro-brewery) for a true taste of Prague.