Join us as we explore the ancient splendor and beauty of Prague
This post on Prague is a quick capture of our travels as they occur. Though we often post on social media during our adventures, many have requested that we do so on the blog. The focus will be the photography and our first impressions while experiencing the city. The photos in this post will be from our iPhones vs. our Nikon since we can process them quickly while traveling.
Let’s pay a visit to stunning Prague.
A bit about Prague
Prague is the capital of Czechia and its largest city, with a population of 1.3 million. It is the historical capital of Bohemia. Founded in the late 9th century, Prague has been a capital city throughout its history. The city has a fascinating and turbulent history. It is graced with Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. It was an important city to the Habsburg monarchy and Austro-Hungarian Empire. There is almost a fairy tale beauty about this city. Some have called it too beautiful to wrap their head around. It has a vitality and pulse that emanates from its very soul.
Prague’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its 14th-century medieval architecture. It was left largely undamaged by World War II, leaving a well-preserved labyrinth of cathedrals, bridges, and cobblestone streets that attract worldwide visitors. The city has over ten major museums and is home to the oldest University in Central Europe.
Prague has five distinct areas: Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town, Zizkov, and Vinojrady. These are the areas that are best to stay in when visiting Prague. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city and makes it easy to get around.
Czechia is also known as the Czech Republic. For those wondering why two names are still floating out there, as of April 2016, Czechia is the country’s official name. Think of it as how Ireland stands for the Republic of Ireland. You will rarely hear I am going to the Republic of Ireland. Google, as of 2017, replaced the Czech Republic with Czechia.
When a local mentioned their country during our visit, they always referred to it as the Czech Republic. It appears Google is more on board than the Czechs.
The top things to do and see in Prague
- Spend the day at Prague Castle and the environs. Prague Castle is the city’s most impressive structure. It occupies an area of almost 750,000 square feet, and the Guinness Book of Records recognizes it as the largest ancient castle in the world.
- Go on a beer crawl. Prague is the world’s beer capital, as Czechia has the highest beer consumption per capita anywhere in the world. Beer has a long history in the Czech Republic, with beer brewing taking place as early as 993. One of the most famous Czech beers is the Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first pilsner beer.
- Take a tour of the Prague Astronomical Clock is mounted on an exterior wall of Old Town Hall in Old Town Square. At the top of the hour, a procession of moving characters featuring the twelve apostles and a skeletal figure representing death is set into motion. The clock is an engineering marvel that dates back to 1410. The special mechanisms display astronomical information such as the positions of the sun, moon, and sometimes planets.
- Wander Old Town Square, also known as Staromestske namestil, is in the heart of Prague’s Historic district. It’s been Prague’s main public square since the 10th century and its central marketplace until the 20th century. It is one of the most beautiful but busiest areas in the city.
- Walk across The Charles Bridge is perhaps the most iconic structure in Prague. Completed at the start of the 15th century, the Charles Bridge is a stone pedestrian bridge that connects the Old Town with the Lesser Town over the Vltava River.
- Stroll past the Dancing House. This unusual building is one of the most eye-catching structures in Prague. It is next to the river in New Town; it is by renowned architect Frank Gehry. The inspiration came from iconic dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
- Seek out the John Lennon Wall, one of the more unusual attractions in the city. Located in the Lesser Town, it’s a wall dedicated to the musician who became a pacifist hero to many of Czechia’s youth. It was getting a makeover during our visit.
- Gaze upon the Infant Jesus of Prague, located in the Lesser Town, is a 16th-century wooden statue of Jesus housed in the Church of Our Lady Victorious. Legend says the statue spoke to a priest praying before it. According to the priest, it asked him to: “Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”
- Visit the Jewish Quarter of Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992. It serves as a reminder of a tragic part of the world’s history but also for its undeniable beauty and charm.
- Take a boat ride on the Vltava river and view this stunning city from the water. Learn about the historical floods and the devastation they have caused.
- Enjoy a long stroll on either side of the Vltava River at dusk. You will be enchanted by the wide promenades, lovely parks, eateries, and bridges.
- Attend a Classical Concert in one of many churches offering evening performances.
Prague Visit Details
Prague 4 nights in early September 2022
Final four nights of a 14-day trip that included; Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna
It was our first visit to Prague
Hotel Pylton Hotel in Old Town Prague (we do not recommend it)
(Free with Platinum American Express Points)
How we got around
Walked 39 miles, and public transportation was used rarely.
Prague Castle Guided Tour, Strahov Library tour, Devils Channel boat ride, Astronomical Clock
The weather was sunny, primarily with short periods of rain. Temps were in the mid-70s.
Planning a trip soon? Check out Our Top Recommended Travel Gear and Accessories for 2022 blog post
Our favorite moments and highlights
We arrived late after a full day of travel from Vienna. Though tired, we pushed ourselves out for a “short walk.” That walk went over four miles and took a few hours. Once out and about, the city of Prague captivated and intrigued us. We kept going hoping for it to reveal more of its story. Walking down deserted alleys, along the peaceful waterfront, across ancient bridges, and through historical squares, Prague took hold. As we headed back to our side of the river over the Charles Bridge, we understood the magic and draw of this magnificent city. With such a solid first evening, it set the whole visit on a positive note.
Our hotel was right on the edge of Old Town, which was an ideal location to end and start the day. Though we did not enjoy our hotel, the location was great. We will stay in Old Town or across the river in Lesser Town if we visit again.
Devils Channel boat ride on a small vessel was the perfect quick boat trip on the river; it allowed us to go down some smaller canals. The views from the river are beautiful, but you don’t need to get on a massive boat with hundreds of people to get the experience. We enjoyed our 45-minute boat trip while learning more about Prague and the river’s history.
Oh that Library
In our research before visiting Prague, we learned that private tours of the Strahov Library were possible. It is one of the world’s most beautiful and well-preserved Monastic libraries. An email request later, we had booked what would be one of the most amazing experiences of our trip; a private tour of this magnificent ancient library with Ivana. For 60 euros a person, we had an hour tour with photography permission. Check out the pictures in our photo gallery for a small sampling of what we saw. If you are interested in a private tour, contact Erika at email@example.com. You can buy regular tickets to see the library, but you are not allowed the enter the libraries. It is still well worth even getting a glimpse from a distance.
Prague Castle, the largest castle in the world, is impressive. From the moment you arrive in Prague, your eyes go to this massive structure on the hill above Lesser Town. It seems to be visible from wherever you are in the city. At night it is a dramatic sight. The castle grounds are enormous. There is changing of the guard at noon with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves. Make sure to catch that; we did so by accident, and what a treat. Entering the castle grounds is free after a security check, but various sites have an entry fee inside.
It is easy to spend a whole day at Prague Castle, especially if you wander the fabulous streets around the castle. There are several Palaces, lots of dining and shops, bars, breweries, gardens, terraces, Strahov Library and Monastery, and so much more. Give yourself a whole day here, then stroll down the hill for dinner in Lesser Town.
Old Town is, well, the heart of Prague. It seems where most of the activities and restaurants are. We stayed on the edge of Old Town, and it was fantastic starting and ending each day by passing through Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock. There was always something magical about this area, no matter how many times we passed.
Our Favorite Meal
On our last full day, we had a three-hour lunch at one of the best meals we have ever had during our travels. The Mlynec Restaurant is in Old Town, on the water, with a view of the Charles Bridge. The setting and decor are perfect. It is the quality and service of a Michelin Star, but they can not ever receive that rating due to their large size. The nice part is the price point is much lower than what a Michelin Star would charge. We expected to go for a nice lunch but had a gourmet meal served to us like royalty.
Everything was exceptional, and the presentation alone was astonishing. Though we loved everything, our favorites were the Smoked Veal Tartare (it comes smoking), Foie Gras, Mushroom Cream Soup, and Shrimp, which were mind-blowing. Our only regret is that we found this on our last day; we would indeed have returned. We can not recommend Mlynec Restaurant enough! It alone would bring us back to Prague!
It is all about the beer
Prague is all about its beer; more is consumed here per capita than anywhere else in the world. There was not a day we did not try some of the local offerings. Two places we went, though, had some exceptional brews that added to our beer repertoire. Our favorite place was U Kunstatus in Old Town. It is an expansive craft beer-tasting venue with indoor and outdoor seating. They have a selection of over 100 craft brews from small craft breweries. They do flights with generous pours.
U Kunstatus was the location of the House of the Lords of Kunstat. It has one of the best-preserved 12th-century underground Romanesque Palaces in the world. They offer good light fare to accompany your beer tasting, but this place is all about the beer. The selection of dark beers was extensive and delicious. The staff was terrific and knowledgeable. If you love beer, don’t miss out on U Kunstatus, it is a special place!
Our second favorite was the Pivovar Sv. Norbert Brewery and Beer Garden. Beer has been brewed here by the Monks since the 17th century. It is across from the Strahov Library near Prague Castle and has indoor and outdoor seating. The place is extensive, and they give brewery tours. We ate lunch here, and the food was traditional Czech and delicious. They have an exceptional dark beer on tap.
Observations and Commentary
Prague was our last stop in this four-country adventure. Our previous stops were Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna. We picked, in our view, the perfect order. Prague had a different aura than our other stops; it was edgy, chaotic, and messy. The spectacular beauty was apparent from the moment we arrived, but the environment took a little getting used to. Many young people are partying throughout the city, especially in Old Town. There are cannabis shops on every block, and it is a smell you walk through frequently as you wander. People will offer to sell you weed. The streets are a bit messier and crowded. For the first time on this trip, we saw frequent beggars and the homeless.
All that said, not once did we feel unsafe or was anyone aggressive. We walked for hours into the late hours of the night without a map and without fear of making a wrong turn. People were always kind, friendly, and welcoming. The young people partying were well-behaved, and we rarely saw anyone outwardly drunk. There was organized chaos if you will. If, at first, Prague is off-putting, don’t let it deter you, keep an open heart, and the magic of Prague will surely capture you.
Learning the history
Learning about Prague’s and the Czech Republicsturbulent and often violent history was eye-opening. This country has been through a lot of pain, especially in the last century. The country was initially occupied by the Nazis and suffered great horrors during the occupation. Hope briefly returned when they were “saved” by the Russians, only to fall under Communist rule for over four decades. Finally, a free democracy rose after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. The nation is finally coming into the light and thriving. The wounds, though, are raw, and what they endured is frequently brought up in conversations. We saw resilient, determined, and confident Czechs cherishing what they have and moving forward with strength and hope.
We did not buy a Prague city pass and never regretted that decision. It does not come with public transportation, which is very inexpensive.
Apple Pay was the only method we used to pay for anything. It is the preferred method. The Czech Republic has its currency, but euros are accepted in many places. The conversion was not good for the euros; use local currency for the best value.
Public transportation ran frequently and was efficient. We only used trolleys a few times and never entered a metro station. Google maps worked perfectly, helping to know where, when, and which trolley we could catch. We used Apple Pay to buy tickets right on the moving trolley.
The churches in Prague are everywhere and marvelous. Interestingly, in the least religious country in Europe.
We found Prague the most expensive of the four cities we visited. That surprised us; we thought it would be Vienna. It is still much more reasonable than most Western European destinations, but it is not inexpensive.
We felt safe everywhere, even late into the evening. Prague has many young people, providing youthful energy and an active social scene.
Where to stay when visiting Prague
Our recommendation is to stay in Old Town as it is an ideal location to stay to visit the whole city.
We believe it is important to price out properties on various sites. Expedia is a US-based company, whereas Booking.com is Europe based. Not all properties appear on both. If the establishment has a website, check the price there as well.
Thank you for joining us on our adventure through the magnificent city of Prague
© 2023 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved
By clicking the city name, you can check out Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava On-the-go Posts.
Photo Gallery of Prague
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