Growing up during the 1980s, it would have been hard to imagine a day when I’d be singing vast praises of Prague. I always imagined the former Czechoslovakia as a mysterious, grey place, thanks to a childhood misunderstanding of collapsing Iron Curtains and Velvet Revolutions. Apparently, I was quite wrong.
My first trip to Prague was in 2005. It was already busy then, and I’m pretty sure every tourist I ran into in that week sent a memo home leaking their discovery. Even with the at times suffocating crowds, every time I’ve visited since I still feel the same spike of endorphins as when I first stumbled into Prague’s historical centre.
Whether it’s wandering around gawking at superbly-restored medieval architectural masterpieces, playing spy games in Soviet-tinged museums or simply enjoying a pilsner in a leafy beer garden high above the city, there’s a wide variety of things to do in Prague.
Here are some of my favourites…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Prague: The top attractions & best places to visit
- Old Town Square
- Old Town Hall Tower
- Charles Bridge
- Prague Castle
- Petrin Hill
- Letna Beer Garden
- Museum of Communism
- Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
- Franz Kafka Museum
- Žižkov Tower (Tower Park Praha)
- National Museum
- John Lennon Wall
- St. Nicholas Church
- KGB Museum
- Dancing House
- City of Prague Museum
- Sex Machines Museum
- Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Prague
- Summary: The best things to see & do in Prague
What to do in Prague: The top attractions & best places to visit
It’s hard to filter out just ten of the best things to see in Prague. Not only is Prague an essential stop in any Czech Republic itinerary and while backpacking Europe, there’s so much variety within the city, ranging from quirky museums and medieval fortresses to relaxing parks and traditional beer gardens/pubs. (And let’s not forget all the amazing Prague day trips!) Even simply wandering the city is the perfect way to spend your time in the capital of the Czech Republic.
One of things I love about sorting out what to do in Prague is that the historical centre is compact and infinitely walkable. Even if you can only manage to fit in 24 hours in Prague (not that I’d recommend that!), many of the city’s top tourist attractions are within easy walking distance—or at least a quick metro ride.
Old Town Square
The switchboard of Prague’s historical centre is Old Town Square. Not everyone loves it. Old Town Square is perpetually crowded, and locals would probably scoff at the idea of including it as one of the best things to do in Prague. There’s a simple reason that Old Town Square is so popular: some of most popular Prague attractions sit in and around the square.
Start your journey around Old Town Square at the Church of Our Lady before Týn, a 14th-century Gothic church whose spiky twin spires are one of the most recognizable symbols of Prague. Inside, you’ll find a surprising Baroque interior including the oldest pipe organ in Prague, dating back to 1673.
Old Town Hall Tower
Built on Old Town Square in 1338, Old Town Hall Tower is an architectural masterpiece that’s impossible to not stare at. Like Týn Church, Old Town Hall Tower features Gothic elements that give the building a distinctive Czech feel.
Mounted on Old Town Hall Tower lies the Prague Astronomical Clock. Elbow your way into the tourist crowds on the hour to watch the 15th-century clock in action. The clock’s story depicts Jesus followed by his Twelve Apostles. Four statues representing death and the vices of vanity, greed, and lust also feature in the procession. Watch the skeleton (Death) tap his bell to signal the inevitable end for the three vices.
Besides the astronomical clock, the real treat for travellers lies above at Old Town Hall Tower. For 240Kč ($10.40), scale up the staircase (or jet up the elevator) to take in a picture-perfect view of Old Town Square and beyond.
Like Old Town Square, Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is one of the most crowded places in Prague. And, in my opinion, the hordes are justified.
Charles Bridge connects Old Town to Malá Strana. Flanking the ends of the bridge are Old Town Bridge Tower and Lesser Town Bridge Tower, two Gothic masterpieces of their own that provide the backdrop for many a Prague postcard. Along the way between the two most famous Prague districts, scope out the 30 baroque statues of saints bedecking Charles Bridge.
Most are replicas of the original late 17th- and early-18th century originals. Keep on the lookout for the bridge’s oldest statue, St. John of Nepomuk. Touch the statue, as a modern legend claim, for a dose of good luck and to ensure a timely return to Prague!
This 14th-century stone bridge is not only an impressive sight of its own, but is one of the top photography spots in Prague and offers up some of the finest panoramas you’ll find in the city. Vistas over the Vltava River opposite Old Town feature a classic view of Prague Castle and the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral looming above.
If dreams of fairytale medieval Czech castles have captured your imagination, Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) might throw you a little off-guard. The usual images of castles bedazzled with turrets, drawbridges and ramparts don’t apply here. Prague Castle is, rather, a medieval complex containing everything from beautiful gardens and spacious courtyards to Gothic churches and Renaissance palaces.
At the heart of the Prague Castle complex is the city’s—even the country’s—most famous church, St. Vitus Cathedral. I’ve always found Gothic architecture to be the most intriguing style in Europe, and St. Vitus Cathedral is one my favourite examples. Besides grabbing a glimpse of the dark details of the Gothic spires and oddly-Baroque south tower, pop inside to marvel at the ornate vaulting system and pillars and stunning stained glass windows.
While touring around Prague Castle, don’t miss Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) in the northeast corner of the complex. This small street, lined with colourful houses dating back to the 16th century, offers a quick glimpse into the Prague’s medieval past.
Interested in checking out Prague from above? Petrin Hill, a 25-minute walk from Prague Castle, is the perfect escape for relaxation and to steal million-dollar views of the city.
Set among the gardens and greenery of Petrin Hill, Petrin Observation Tower offers some of the best panoramas of Prague. For the privilege, you’ll need to burn a couple calories and climb up almost 300 steps to the viewing platform (elevator available for 60Kč extra). The views atop are worth the strain!
If walking up to Petrin Hill from Malá Strana isn’t your idea of fun, hop onto the funicular railway from Újezd. The funicular is part of the regular Prague transportation system, so your metro/tram tickets and transfers are valid for the ride up.
Letna Beer Garden
Never underestimate Prague’s penchant for beer. And of all the choices to where to go in Prague to enjoy a cold one, none is better than Letna Beer Garden. Once the blues of spending winter in Prague are washed away, Letna Beer Garden fills up with tourists and locals alike, all looking to enjoy a drink among the greenery of Letna Gardens and soak up sweeping vistas of Prague’s historical centre.
Compared to other brew pubs, beer halls or beer spas in Prague (yes, you heard that right!), the selection of beer and food at Letna Beer Garden isn’t so extensive. Once the incredible views come into focus though, there’s little chance that a limited beer menu will stop you from spending some time unwinding in one of Prague’s finest outdoor spaces.
The distance from Old Town to Vyšehrad keeps all but the most dedicated travellers away. Unfortunately for so many, it’s a huge mistake. Even if Vyšehrad isn’t one of the big name Prague attractions, missing out means skipping a lesser-visited corner of the city that rounds out the Prague experience.
Vyšehrad, much like Prague Castle, resembles a fortress rather than a castle, in spite of its name. The grounds here are home to several important historical sites including the 11th-century Rotunda of St. Martin and Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul at Vyšehrad.
From Vyšehrad, views along the Vltava River to both the north (see photo above) and the south dominate the experience. Save some time here to relax and snap photos of Old Town and Malá Strana from a different perspective.
Museum of Communism
I own far more books on Marxist political theory and socialist history than I’d care to admit. Somehow, my fascination with all-things-communism came to the fore when I found this little gem of a Prague museum: the Museum of Communism.
The Museum of Communism is a fascinating look into the post-war socialist era in Czechoslovakia and Prague through interactive exhibits and artifacts. Inside, you’ll find everything from propaganda posters, bust statues of communist leaders, postcards, and various memorabilia, springing back to life times that many in Central and Eastern Europe would rather forget.
With an entrance fee of 190Kč ($7.44), poking around into the Museum of Communism is a steal, and well worth your time. Cold War history buffs will love this one!
Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
On the whole of the continent, there’s no better preserved monument to European Jewish heritage than Prague’s Jewish Quarter (Josefov). And today, the Jewish Quarter still stands as one of Prague’s most interesting neighbourhoods.
In spite of hardships and restructuring, the most important historical sites in Jewish Quarter miraculously survived. The Jewish Quarter is home to six synagogues, five of which comprise part of the Jewish Museum in Prague. You’ll need to grab a ticket (330Kč) at the information centre at Maiselova 38/15 to enter the synagogues.
While touring around Josefov, don’t miss out on the Old Jewish Cemetery. The eerie tombstones, some dating as far back to the 15th century, mark the graves of Prague’s most famous Jewish residents.
Admission to the cemetery is included in your Jewish Museum entrance fee and on the Prague Jewish Walking Tour. Taking photos at the Old Jewish Cemetery will incur a small extra charge.
If you build up an appetite while wandering around Josefov, I’d highly recommend finding your way over to nearby Dlouhá, a popular street that’s home to some of the best places to eat & drink in Prague including Lokál Dlouhá and Naše Maso.
Franz Kafka Museum
Plopped along the banks of the Vltava River, the quirky Franz Kafka Museum is a must-visit for fans of literature. Franz Kafka, a 20th-century German-speaking Czech writer, made his mark on the world of fiction with his famous novel The Trial and short story The Metamorphosis.
Prague features heavily in his work, if not by name, by spirit. His writing often blurred the lines between reality and imagination. And in any encounter you’ll have with Kafka in Prague, including the Franz Kafka Museum, the strangeness is apparent.
The Franz Kafka Museum includes three-dimensional exhibits, multimedia displays, and first editions along with photographs, letters, manuscripts and drawings that give us a glimpse into Kafka’s eccentric mind.
Žižkov Tower (Tower Park Praha)
Proudly-touted as the tallest building in the Czech Republic and the second ugliest building in the world, Žižkov Tower is a Prague tourist trap to embrace rather than disdain. The tower itself is but a sideshow; the real show stopper at Žižkov Tower is the incredible view of Prague from its 93-metre-high observation deck.
Recent renovations have transformed this TV tower from shab to chic, rebranding it as the more PR-friendly Tower Park Praha. Now, the vistas are clearer than ever, and there’s even more to do in and around this oddly-shaped beast.
Besides the observation deck and restaurant, the park below Žižkov Tower is home to the New Jewish Cemetery. New is a relative term. The cemetery was founded as far back at 1680, and houses the grave of the Czech Republic’s most enigmatic literary son, Franz Kakfa.
The neighbourhood of Žižkov, where Tower Park Praha is located, is also a lively place to explore. Pop into the area’s pubs or restaurants to unwind and recharge after a day of sightseeing.
For history buffs, the National Museum (Národní Muzeum) is one of the best places to visit in Prague. Over 14 million artifacts grace the halls of this massive museum. Nearly every imaginable field is covered. From ethnography to anthropology and zoology to the fine arts, the National Museum thoroughly documents the history of the country.
Unfortunately, the main building of the National Museum in Prague is closed for renovations until 2019. In the meantime, the New Building of the National Museum, an annex to the main building, is open with a small rotation of temporary exhibitions.
Even without stepping into the building, the National Museum is worth visiting to admire its architecture. Crowning Wenceslas Square, the early 19th-century Neo-Renaissance National Museum dazzles the photo lens, especially at night under the glow of its warm lights.
John Lennon Wall
You don’t have to be a Beatles fan to get a kick out of visiting the John Lennon Wall in Prague. Although there’s certainly better street art in Europe, the short 5-minute walk from Lesser Town Bridge Tower at the end of Charles Bridge makes the visit to the graffiti-scrawled wall worthwhile.
Unfortunately, the John Lennon Wall isn’t as it once was. In a truly jackass move, a group of art students, on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in 2014, whitewashed over years of art and political messages, leaving only “Wall Is Over!” in place. That didn’t last long, luckily. Much like their defiance in face of communist authorities trying to control the wall, artists have once again filled the John Lennon Wall with an ever-changing deluge of graffiti and messages.
St. Nicholas Church
Confusion abounds when talking about St. Nicholas Church in Prague. Two exist, one in Old Town Square, the other in Malá Strana. Both are beautiful and worth visiting, but if you can fit in only one, make it the 18th-century Baroque masterpiece in Malá Strana.
St. Nicholas Church is incredible inside and out and often hailed as the finest example of Baroque architecture in Prague. If you trek up to Petrin Hill, you’ll immediately notice the impact of St. Nicholas’s dome on the skyline of Malá Strana.
Besides grabbing a view of St. Nicholas Church from the exterior, enter the church for an appreciation of its sheer size. The dome, stretching 20 metres wide and soaring 57 metres high, is a sight to behold. Gawk at the dome’s masterful frescos before heading up the belfry for big views of Malá Strana.
Entrance to St. Nicholas Church will set you back just 70Kč ($2.74).
Like the Museum of Communism, the KGB Museum is the most interesting side trip a Cold War kid can have without transporting back into bygone times. This small museum in Malá Strana showcases a private collection of KGB and Soviet memorabilia from a passionate Russian collector.
The curator personally walks visitors through a trove of spy equipment, weapons and Soviet uniforms. How the collector managed to find rare artifacts like a Vladimir Lenin death mask keeps a visit to the KGB Museum intriguing.
The Dancing House (Tančící dům) isn’t, as the name implies, a place to waltz the night away. Not everyone loves the weird and wacky Dancing House. But this famous Prague landmark is impossible to ignore; Dancing House doesn’t quite conform in a city renowned for its impressive traditional architecture styles.
The oddity isn’t so unexpected. Designed partly by the enigmatic Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, whose eccentric designs grace many European and North American cities, the Dancing House is as representative of his work as any. There’s nothing much to do in the building itself other than admire its weirdness. Visit in the evening with a tripod for an interesting photo shoot location!
City of Prague Museum
If you’ve any interest in learning about the history of Prague, a visit to the City of Prague Museum is a must. Among the maps and artifacts documenting the city’s past and its transformation is a small-scale model of the city as it stood in the early 19th-century.
The model predates many of the developments that took place in Prague in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and offers a fascinating glimpse into what the city might have otherwise looked like.
Sex Machines Museum
Tired of boring historical museums? Careful what you wish for. The Sex Machines Museum in Prague is one-of-kind, teetering slightly over the edge of what most would consider lewd. It isn’t for everyone. It is, however, insanely popular—and has been since it first opened in 2002.
Inside the Sex Machines Museum you’ll find a whole variety of contraptions whose function you’d likely fare better not having known. Aside from the obvious suspects I’d rather not name on this family-friendly blog, among the most “intriguing” artifacts are prostitute shoes from ancient Greece and corsets and chastity belts from more repressive times.
Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Prague
There’s a massive selection of hotels in Prague, at times overwhelmingly so. Prague is insanely popular, especially during high season. Prices have skyrocketed and finding a good deal on a decent room can be tough. Start your search several months in advance if you want to get the best deals. Here are a few our top choices for the best places to stay in Prague:
- Hostel Franz Kafka: A funky hostel occupying a prime location in Old Town Prague. Offers private rooms and dorms, both with shared bathrooms.
- Hotel Lippert: A clean and comfortable mid-range hotel located just behind Old Town Hall. Quite possibly the best location in Prague.
- InterContinental Prague: One of the top luxury hotels in Prague. Unwind after a long day of sightseeing in the Health Club and Spa with a massage or a dip in the salt-water pool. Rooftop terrace sheds fantastic views of Old Town.
Getting to Prague
By air: From North America, there are several airlines, including Czech Airlines, with flights to Prague. The cheapest gateways include New York, Boston, Miami, and Toronto. From the UK and Europe, low-cost carriers like RyanAir and WizzAir can get you to Prague cheaply.
By bus: Bus routes from other Central European cities to Prague include Vienna (4h35m), Berlin (4h50m), Krakow (8h42m), and Bratislava (4h15m).
By train: There’s train service from most major Central European cities to Prague. Departures include Vienna (4h11m), Berlin (4h39m), Krakow (7h48m), and Bratislava (3h56m). Check schedules here.
Summary: The best things to see & do in Prague
- Have a serious case of Cold War nostalgia? Brush up on Marxism-Leninism at the Museum of Communism or KGB Museum.
- Into weird and wacky architecture? Gawk at the Dancing House or the moving metal head named K. at the Franz Kafka Monument on Národní třída.
- Want to see Prague from above? Zip up the Old Town Hall Tower for a close-up of Old Town. Tackle the 299-step Petrin Tower or Zizkov Tower for ever bigger vistas.
- Love Czech beer? Grab a pilsner with a view at the leafy Letna Beer Garden.