The historic city of Prague has long been a popular destination for visitors from the UK. Its mixture of historic architecture, earthy beer halls and eastern European culture attracts a diverse crowd but don’t worry, it’s not all stag and hen parties! There’s plenty of exciting and unusual things to do in the Czech capital – you just have to know where to look!
Probably the highlight of any trip to Prague is a visit to the castle which stands, imposing above the town. The history of the castle dates back to the 9th century when St. Vitus Cathedral was founded on the site by the powerful Dukes of Bohemia. Subsequent rulers fortified and extended the site throughout the Middle Ages until it became the vast complex you see today. The castle played an important role in various European conflicts including the Battle of Prague, the final act of the Thirty Years War. History lovers will be amazed by the mix of architectural styles and the impressive halls as well as the castle’s collection of European art. Today the castle is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. St. Vitus Cathedral is also well worth a visit as it contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors as well as various saintly relics and church treasures.
Travel Tip: Arrive early, before the castle opens to maximise your time and beat the crowds. Also, there is a charge to enter the castle but entry to the castle gardens is free. You can see the elaborate changing of the guard ceremony at noon as well.
When you’ve finished at the castle complex you’ll probably want a break from the crowds so head over to Petřín hill. It’s a pleasant but testing walk to the top but there is also a funicular railway if you want to save your energy. You can relax amid the woods and greenery but there are some sights that are worth seeking out. The Petřín lookout tower gives great views across the entire city and you should also check out the statues which form the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. The Strahov Stadium is a must for sports fans as it was once one of the largest stadiums anywhere in the world with a capacity for over 200,000 people. Today it hosts concerts and also acts as a training centre for the city’s top football club, Sparta Prague. Marvel at the enormous concrete façade, typical of sports grounds of the Communist era.
If all that walking has left you feeling a bit peckish, pop into BarBar at the bottom of Petřín hill on the way to the river. This cosy cellar bar is mostly inhabited by locals and, unusually for Prague, features a healthy eating menu including homemade pastas, delicious seafood, lean meats and nutritious vegetables. Feeling good after all that healthy food? Spoil yourself with some Czech beer! A ten minute walk takes you to Baráčnická Rychta, an atmospheric 19th century beer hall that seems really off the beaten track. There are several different types of beer to try including Svijanský and the more familiar Pilsner Urquell. Czech beer is crisp and refreshing, perfect for chilling out after a busy day.
Travel Tip: Czech’s drink more than anyone else in Europe and take their beer very seriously. Add a beer tasting session to your Super Break booking and learn how to appreciate beer like a true connoisseur, sample several different beer styles and learn the history of brewing in Bohemia. This will help you sup with confidence during the rest of your trip!
Don’t get too stuck in though as you’ll need to be up early on day two for another busy day! Get under the skin of old Prague and explore the medieval Jewish quarter. Get to the Jewish Museum early to beat the crowds and head straight to the Old Cemetery. This is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and some of Prague’s most renowned Jewish leaders are buried here. Explore the forest of gravestones, some of which are basic slabs, others highly ornate. The oldest tombstone dates all the way back to 1439! Finish exploring the rest of the museum making sure to take in the impressive Spanish Synagogue and the exhibition of silver ornaments.
Right on the doorstep is Prague’s Old Town Square, full of majestic buildings including the Church of Our Lady before Týn, Kinský Palace and Prague’s Old Town Hall. The highlight is surely the astronomical clock mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall dating back to the 15th century. It chimes on the hour and includes a quaint display of moving figures.
Walk up Dlouhá towards the river and stop at Lokál, a Czech beer hall which seamlessly blends the traditional and the modern to great effect. Lokál features an extensive menu of classic Czech dishes as well as light bites and snacks and of course, delicious beer like Urquell and Kozel.
Suitably refreshed, proceed across the river via the Štefanik Bridge to the National Technical Museum which houses an incredible array of exhibits including trains, aircraft, cars and motorcycles in the main hall (the museum was completely renovated in 2012). You can also explore the technical history of the land via exhibitions on metallurgy, astronomy, photography, toys, television and chemistry. There’s surely enough there to keep you occupied for a good few hours! There is a mock-up of a coal-mine which you can explore (complete with lamp!) with a guide by purchasing a timed entry ticket.
Head back towards the river and stop at the Letná Beer Garden, a lovely, shady spot on the banks of the Vltava with great views across to the old city. Relax with a beer and watch the world go by; if you’re not careful the afternoon could soon turn into the evening! If you’ve got time to spare make sure you take in the famous Charles Bridge which is lined with statues and perfect for capturing that iconic photo of your trip.
Travel Tip: One of Prague’s more unusual sites is the narrow street next to the Čertovka restaurant. No more than 70 centimetres across, it’s only wide enough for one person to walk along at a time so traffic lights are installed at each end!
Have you been to Prague? If you have any hints and tips please let us know in the comments section below…