Prague is a city of stunning physical beauty that has endured longer than most European cities. The capitals of many other European countries were heavily damaged during World War II – but Prague survived intact.
We recently sent two lucky staff members to spend a week in this magical city, and would like to share our top choices for things to do when visiting Prague!
Thanks to Prague’s role as a focal point of culture and commerce for nearly a thousand years, it retains evidence of the many nationalities that have influenced and dominated its history. At one time the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and at another the citadel of the Hapsburgs, Prague sustains a reputation as a vital political, cultural and economic center.
We were shocked at Prague’s old-world appeal as it has been steadfastly preserved despite accelerating modernization. Thick river fogs, arched stone bridges, mysteriously lit alleyways and other charming scenes linger around almost every corner. If you slip away from the main tourist scene, you’ll likely stumble upon a bakery offering freshly baked brown loaves from 200-year-old recipes, or a lively political debate in a Hapsburg-era hospoda (pub).
If you’re wondering what to do in Prague during your visit, then check out our five most recommended activities below!
1. Prague Castle
The city’s top attraction is really more of a district than a single building. If you’re thinking about what to do in Prague, then this should be at the top of your list.
Within the castle walls are Spanish Hall (paintings by Brueghel, Durer, Holbein, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian), St. Vitus Cathedral (brilliant stained-glass windows plus gargoyles), the Romanesque St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane (Zlata Ulicka) and several small exhibitions.
This castle was once the home of Bohemian royalty, and it overlooks the city from the ancient quarter of Hradcany castle district. Prague castle claims to be the largest ancient castle in the world with an area of more than 700,000 square feet. This attraction is one of the top reasons people visit Prague, and attracts almost 2 million visitors a year.
A tour through here will set you back about 250 CZK (~$11 USD). This will take you through the old Royal Palace, the St. George’s Basilica, and the Daliborka Tower! There was a longer tour available, but we opted for the short one as it covered everything we wanted to see.
2. Old Town Square
When it comes to things to do in Prague, you have to check out the town square. This is the heart of Prague and the traditional marketplace since medieval times. Brightly colored baroque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings surround the square. Its highlights include the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town Hall, the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn and the Church of St. Nicholas.
You can climb the Old Town Hall’s tower for an excellent view. Take the elevator to the third floor and then walk the ramps to get to the top.
The square buzzes with activity during the day and most of the night, but it’s beautiful to visit in the early-morning hours. Enjoy a cup of coffee and soak in the atmosphere at any number of cafes that line the square, or order a cocktail on the rooftop terrace of U Prince, which affords great views (but be prepared for prices that reflect the atmosphere).
3. Dinner Cruise on the Vltava River
This is one of our favorite things to do in Prague. There are tons of dinner cruise options that range from $50 USD to well over $200 USD.
On the cruise, you can watch the banks of the Vltava River light up at night. The 3- hour sightseeing and dinner cruise will take you through the heart of Prague’s Old Town and Lesser Town. Start your cruise with an aperitif on deck, and then enjoy a sumptuous buffet dinner as the first stars appear above the city.
A dinner cruise is a great way to capture unforgettable images of Prague Castle’s illuminated walls and slip beneath the iconic Charles Bridge. This is Prague at its most romantic.
4. Bethlehem Chapel
This is the site where 15th-century philosopher Jan Hus advocated church reform. Built in 1391 and extensively restored under the communists, it still has scriptures painted on three original walls.
Those who are interested in religious history will especially appreciate the chapel. During our visit, we were surprised to find that the chapel is now used as the Ceremonial Hall for the Czech Technical University – pretty cool!
Prague is magical at night. Golden lamps flicker along narrow streets, theatrical spotlights glow on castles and bridges, and the notes of saxophones, violins and pianos drift out across the city.
The taverns of Prague, notably U Fleku, serve the much-loved dark beer of Bohemia that is often brewed on the premises. Live music is plentiful; especially jazz.
For something a bit more relaxing, you can stroll over Charles Bridge at night. There are sure to be buskers there – providing entertainment under the stars.
Most central bars and taverns stay open until midnight or 1 am, but clubs often party until 5-6 AM.
Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting Prague
Do try to be quiet on public transportation. You will find that most of the locals use their museum voices on the metros and trams. Also stand on the right when using metro escalators.
Do say dobry den (hello) when entering a shop and na shledanou (goodbye) when leaving. It’s not only polite, it’s also part of the culture.
Don’t use the toilet on the trains until the train has left the station. Although the newer trains don’t have the gravity-assisted open-air toilets any longer, this custom is still upheld by the locals.
Do pay close attention to your bills at restaurants and cafes. It is not unusual for an extra drink or two to be added in the hope that the customer won’t notice.
Don’t eat on the tram, bus or metro – it’s generally frowned upon.
Do note that smoking is not allowed in public places, including bus and railway stations, although it is not strictly prohibited in restaurants.
Do say “Central Europe” and don’t say “Czechoslovakia” when talking about your current location.
Do place a beer mat in front of you when you sit down in a bar if you would like to order a beer.