Until my mom picked Prague as the destination for our family trip, I hadn’t really pondered visiting the historic and picturesque city. I’d learned more about other European cities on TV and movies, and other than being a beautiful Bohemian city that drew countless artists to it, I didn’t know much about it. Since it was my first time visiting, I do not have “insider” tips on things to do, but I can certainly cover the basics. I know I have many well-traveled readers, so please leave your recommendations in the comments at the end!
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Prague’s airport is not far out of town, and you can get to the city center in less than an hour by using public transit. Since we arrived after 10pm, our hotel arranged for a driver to pick us up; this service ran us about $30 USD.
Flixbus has a very extensive network in Europe and provides service to both big cities and small towns. The bus hub is the Florenc station, just east of Old Town. Many Flixbuses come to Prague every day from major cities such as Munich, Berlin, and Vienna—the Berlin-Prague route has the best price out of those three. There are other buses such as GoEuro that you can look into as well.
As with all major European cities, Prague has a large train station not far from the city center. I found trainline.eu to be very helpful when comparing modes of transportation around the continent.
Driving can be complicated (permits? parking? signs in different languages?), but it is certainly possible. The Czech Republic functions on a vignette system, which is a decal you must buy and display in the car as you travel. This great post over on California Globetrotter can shed a little more light on driving in the countries that border Germany.
Things to do
Czech history never stood out to me at school so I had no context to cement the city in my mind as a place where things happened. Naturally, things have been happening all across the globe for thousands of years, and there was plenty to see at the castle even if I couldn’t keep straight how Charles IV was related to the other monarchs. The castle has different ticket prices depending on how many aspects of the complex you want to see. We did circuit B, which for me was plenty.
In the Golden Lane, there was a very interesting exhibit of medieval armor and weaponry. The star of the castle complex is beautiful gothic-style St Vitus cathedral. When we arrived in the morning, the hilltop was shrouded in fog. By the time we got out of the cathedral, however, the sun was shining and reflecting on the gold decorative details.
Mucha Museum and Kafka Museum
Alphonse Mucha is one of my favorite artists, probably because of his accessible commercial style. His art reminds me of Japanese manga in many ways although I suspect that the manga artists are inspired by his flowing lines and beautiful female subjects. My initial reaction was that the admission price (240CZK) was a little steep for what I got; however the lengthy contextual descriptions along side the large format art really made it worth it. I learned so much! Another highlight was childhood art drawn by Mucha himself. Inspiring to see where he began!
Franz Kafka, an influential 20th century author, is one of Prague’s most famous figures. The Kafka museum dives deep into the way that the city influenced the writer. It is presented in a dark and chaotic way that explores Kafka’s struggle. Recommended for literary buffs who already have background knowledge about Kafka before entering. (Admission: 200CZK)
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the famous Prague old town. The south side of the square is especially picturesque, and the notable spires of the astronomical clock and the gothic church remind you that you are deep in the heart of old Europe. Let me warn you that the crowds will press in every hour to see the astronomical clock perform… and it is very underwhelming. So, view the elaborate face of the clock during the off-hour for a less claustrophobic experience. Here in the square you will find carriage rides, sweet treats, and street performers.
The above pictured food is a Trdelník, which is popular all around Prague but especially in the Old Town Square. It is a cinnamon-sugar pastry formed into a tube. They are often filled with ice cream! The experts will tell you to look for a Trdelník stand which has wrapped the dough around a wooden staff, not metal, and is cooking over hot coals. This is the traditional way of making the delectable treat.
Most of Prague’s traditional foods are very meat-forward. Similar to German food, you will find sausages and schnitzels. I made it a point to try traditional beef goulash with potato dumplings, and was rewarded with one of the best meals of my life at Restaurace Tiskárna. A food you will see heavily advertised is “pork knuckle” which (despite its off-putting name) is a tasty cut of pork cooked until it’s tender and falling off the bones.
You can’t finish a section on food in Prague without mentioning beer. Cheaper than water and soda, beer drinking is a way of life in this country. The pilsner was born here, so be prepared to find many crushable light beers at excellent prices.
View more in my “First Time Visiting” series: Guanajuato, London, Paris, San Diego, Mexico City
Personally, I felt that 3 days in Prague was just right. Compared to other country capitals, there are not as many “must see” attractions. There are also many beautiful cities a short distance from Prague, so I would recommend adding on a day trip to Karlovy Vary or Pilsen. When we left Prague we took a Flixbus to Karlovy Vary, a peaceful town in the mountains not far from the capital. You can book a private day trip or take the bus like we did. In an upcoming post I will include more details about why you should visit and how to do it.
The favorable exchange rates from the dollar/Euro to the Czech koruna makes for an enjoyable trip that is less impactful on the wallet. Sure, getting there might not be as convenient but it is very much worth the effort. If you didn’t know a lot about Prague, like me, now I hope you are more inspired to plan a trip there!
All Photos by Staci and Doug Jackson for The Voyageer.