Top things to do in Prague on your first visit
Recently, Joris and I got home from having a meal out when he turned to me and said, “pack your suitcase, tomorrow we are going to Prague”. WHAT?! Such fun! After I picked my jaw off of the ground, I quickly started packing, and the next day I was in the middle of Prague! I had wanted to go on a city trip to Prague and other places in Czechia for centuries so that that dream finally came true was fantastic. With such little preparation time I did not know what to see or do once I was got there, however. That’s why I collected my best tips, so that you have a nice list of places to go to your next trip to Prague!
Read my tips!
Old Town Square
One of the first things I always do when visiting a city, is going to the main square. This is usually where most attractions are, and where you can often find many beautiful historic buildings. This square (Staroměstské náměstí), is the center of the Old Town. The square is over 9000 square meters big, and you will find the Old Town Hall, churches, and the famous Astronomical Clock here.
Old Town Hall
For a nice view of the old town, you should really visit the Old Town Hall (Staroměstská Radnice). For just a few euros you can climb the tower. If you’re lucky, you go around the time the clock will strike, as a trumpet player will play a little song from the top of the tower. The town hall dates from 1338 and used to be bigger. But unfortunately, since the Second World War, only the tower itself is left.
Tickets for climbing Old Town Hall:
Option 1: If you are not in a hurry, you can easily purchase an entrance ticket on the spot. These costs are about € 5.50. You can buy them right next to the clock tower, though you will probably notice the long line right away. We were there during spring, and the queue wasn’t too bad. During summer it seems to be pretty long, however. If you do not want to wait in line, you can take option 2 (when I return, I will definitely choose option 2). .
Option 2: You can also buy mobile tickets on the official website of the boardroom. With these tickets you can skip the line, and scan the ticket with QR code on your mobile. The tickets cost approximately € 8. There are also other third parties offering skip-the-line tickets, but I do not recommend that in this rare case, as they are twice as expensive when choosing third parties for this option, while it is just as easy to buy them from the official website. The website that I linked to here is the official one.
It is also known as one of the most disappointing tourist attractions: the Astronomical Clock of Prague (Staroměstský orloj). This medieval colorful clockwork is attached to the south side of the Old Town Hall. Every hour at the whole hours, the doors open and there is a small spectacle visible on top and around the clock. It does not even last a minute and it is not spectacular, but if you’re in the area anyway, you should go and see it.
The most iconic image of Prague is the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), which connects the one side of the Vltava River to the old town. This Gothic bridge dates from 1357 and has statues of sacred figures on each side. Do not forget to stop and look over your shoulder, as the bridge is beautiful from both sides. The best time to visit the bridge is early in the morning so you won’t be surrounded by hundreds of tourists.
From the waterfront you can see her: the Prague Castle. She proudly stands on top of the Hradčany hill. It is also referred to as the Prague Fort. The fort dates from the 9th century and is the largest in the world. The full castle area (all that falls within the walls of the castle) is also one of the largest in the world. The view from this hill is breathtakingly beautiful, by the way.
Prague Castle Tickets:
There are three ways to buy tickets for the Prague Castle. I will explain them below.
Option 1: The first thing to do after you get through the security and are within the walls of the castle, is to buy a ticket at the official ticket office. Do not stand in line to enter the other buildings, because you can not buy a ticket there, and you will be waiting in line for nothing. At the ticket office, you can buy tickets for different routes (buildings). Route B follows the highlights and costs 250 Czech Koruny (€ 9). Route A is the most extensive route, with a price tag of 350 Czech Koruny (€ 13). Route C is only for exhibitions, and is therefore more suitable for, for example, locals who come here more often. Tickets are valid for two days.
Option 2: If you do not want to wait in line to buy a ticket, you can just go for a skip-the-line ticket. In this case you will meet a representative beforehand, who will then bring you to the entrance of the castle. You can then start exploring it on your own. These tickets are also valid for two days, and cost a few euros extra.
Option 3: Do you rather want to have an extensive tour that teaches you more about the castle and its history? That is possible as well. During a 2.5 hour tour with a professional tour guide, you will learn everything about the ceremonial history, why the term defenestration finds its origin in this castle, and which emperors and kings once lived here. Recommended for the true history lovers.
Within the walls of the castle you will find a cute little street, filled with colorful houses that are still decorated the way they used to look for the past centuries. This way you can see exactly how daily life used to be in this street during the Middle Ages (and later). I found it fascinating to see how small the house were that people lived in back then compared to now, and how the houses differed from each other depending on the person who lived there and their occupation. Franz Kafka lived in number 22, by the way. You can only visit this street if you have a Circuit A or B ticket.
Not the most beautiful square in the city, but definitely one with history, and one that played a big part in the city. The square is 750m long, one of the largest in Europe. Originally, the square served as a horse market. Now it is located in the shopping area of Prague. On the other side of the square you can find the National Museum. The square played a major role in the rebellion of students against the suppression of the communist regime in the Czech Republic.
Josefov is the Jewish quarter of Prague. Josefov is part of the old city center, although it is located north-east of the old city square. It borders the water. Jews have been living in Prague since the tenth century, but even back then they were discriminated against. In 1096 they were placed in a walled ghetto outside of the city. They were allowed to stay because they brought in a lot of trading traffic, but they had to live outside the city. Due to the large number of people living there, the district was neglected and unhygienic. Visit the birth house of Franz Kafka, the synagogues and the Old Jewish cemetery. The oldest Jewish cemetery is so small that graves had to be stacked on top of each other, with an estimated 12 layers of graves on top of each other. It is therefore impossible to determine how many people are buried.
If you would like a great tour with guide through the Jewish district, to learn more about the history of the district and its inhabitants, then you can book a 2.5 hour tour with professional guide through the button below.
Free Walking Tour
The best way to discover a city is with a Free Walking Tour. I always go for the Sandemans walking tour. They gather at a fixed time every day at a fixed location (check the website to see where). Our tour guide Andy (pictured above) took us for a couple of hours through the city and did not only tell us about the history of the city, but also gave us tips for some great restaurants and cafes. The tour guides do not get paid for these tours, and even pay Sandemans to give this tour. So make sure you give the guide a nice tip at the end of your tour. I always calculate about € 2.50 per hour (per person). Then you will get somewhere between € 5 and € 10 per tour per person. But you can also decide to give more of course.
Everywhere in the city you can smell the sweet smell of the famous Trdelník. This yummy snack consists of dough wrapped around a tube, and then grilled, and stuffed with sugar and cinnamon. You can eat them “naked” or get them filled with, for example, ice cream or Nutella. You can find the snack in different places scattered throughout the city and are perfect for eating while walking through the streets.
Hotels in Prague
Wondering where to stay in Prague? There are a lot of different options, but here are a few.
Pension Prague City is located just outside the city center. The rooms are clean, tidy and have free WiFi. Rooms start from € 34 a night. Prefer a three star hotel? Within 10 minutes of walking from the National Museum you will find Tivoli Hotel, with a beautiful pastel yellow frontage. The rooms are a little old fashioned, but very comfortable. And for € 47 (including breakfast for two people!) what more is there to wish for, right? Photo: Booking.com.
Prague Castle is less than ten minutes walking from The Golden Wheel. All the rooms in this hotel are stylishly unique and, as if that wasn’t enough, there is also a rooftop terrace to chill during summer. Rooms start from € 87. The Longin Center – Marriott Executive Apartments is located in the newer part of Prague, less than 10 minutes from Wenceslaus Square, and offers studio apartments with private kitchenette. Studios start from € 82. The property is also called Mamaison Residence Downtown. Photo: Booking.com.
Luxury is a lot more affordable in Prague than in the Netherlands (my home country). Treat yourself to a luxurious hotel room at the price of a normal room in Western Europe. Grand Majestic Plaza is located in the old town, near the main metro station Florenc. The luxurious rooms come with breakfast, and guests can even use the jacuzzi. From € 110 per night. For a more classic vibe, Residence Leon D’Oro is a great tip. Tired after a day of sightseeing? From the Old Town Square you only have to walk five minutes to reach your hotel, to then lay down on your bed in your hotel room with marble floors. Prices starting from € 110 including breakfast. Photo: Booking.com.
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What are your best Prague tips?
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