10 Things to do in Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a beautiful old world city in the heart of the Czech Republic. Fun to explore in the summers and enchanting in the winter, it can be enjoyed the year around. If you’re planning a trip to Prague, no matter what the season, here are ten things you should do.
See the Astronomical Clock Strike
Prague’s medieval Astronomical Clock looms over the Old Town Square where tourists sip mulled wine and students gather. Though the 15th century clock is beautiful, with its many figures and intricate gilding, it has earned the title of one of Prague’s most overrated tourist attractions. Indeed, the crowds that gather beneath the clock every hour are often disappointed with its anticlimactic chime, ending in a rooster call that sounds more like a pathetic passing of wind. In recent years, a live trumpeter has been added to the spectacle to trill out a tune with the hours. Though it might not be the most exciting show, it’s a must-do; and completely free, from the outside.
Visit the Lennon Wall
In the 1980s, an otherwise unremarkable wall in Malá Strana became a thorn in the communist regime’s backside. Czech students and youth aired their grievances through Beatles-inspired graffiti, and the tradition continues today. The wall is a living palimpsest, continually changing with layers upon layers of Beatles’ lyrics, spray paint portraits of John Lennon, peace symbols, and other reminders of youth, peace, and love.
People-watch in Wenceslas Square
Wenceslas Square is always bustling with tourists and locals alike. Everyone from students to families to protesters hang out and do their shopping in the area. It can be a great place to get a sense for the life of the modern Czech and meet people from around the world.
On top of that, Wenceslas Square has a rich history of being the site of key moments in the Czech Republic’s history, including protests during the Prague Uprising and Velvet Revolution. Buildings where famous figures lived and from which seminal speeches were spoken line the square. It’s a sobering and thought-provoking mix of significant history and modern commercialism.
See the Dancing House
In contrast to the pastel Viennese-style houses that line most of Prague, the Nationale-Nederland building, known as the “Dancing House,” is a unique feat of modern building design. Co-designed by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry, the house is a playful mix of swooping lines, glass walls, twisted metal, and dreamlike shapes. If you don’t make it to see it in person, it’s featured on the gold 2 Czech koruna coin.
See the Charles Bridge – early or late!
The Charles Bridge, like the Astronomical Clock, is another crowded tourist attraction during the day. But if you get up early, you can see the beautiful bridge and views of Prague before the crowds. If you’re there in winter, you might even be able to catch the sun rise over Prague Castle with a mug of hot chocolate warming your hands. If you’re more night owl than early bird, go after the sun has set and the crowds have dissipated. Though the daytime vendors and painters won’t be there, you’ll get clear views of Prague and great photographs of the baroque statues the line the bridge, now black with age. Don’t forget to touch St. John of Nepomuk, erected where he was thrown from the bridge and drowned – it’s reputed to bring good luck and secure your return to Prague.
Cross the river to Prague Castle and St. Vitus’ Cathedral
After touching St. John, cross Charles Bridge to Prague Castle, the biggest castle in the world. The inside of the castle is rich with history, but it is St. Vitus’ Cathedral in the centre of it all that is the real highlight. Darkly beautiful and intricate, St. Vitus’ is home to the tombs of many Bohemian leaders and Roman emperors. It took 600 years to complete, and is an exquisite example of Gothic architecture.
Visit quirky museums
While Prague boasts large museums such as the historical and scientific National Museum and a number of art galleries, it also has smaller, stranger museums that provide a unique glimpse into Czech life and history. One of Prague’s most famous exports, writer Franz Kafka, is honored at a museum dedicated solely to all things Kafka. Meanwhile, the Museum of Communism has immersive exhibitions and authentic artifacts about life in communist Prague. Other museums of interest are the Beer Museum, the Public Transport Museum, and the Sex Machines Museum.
Drink unpasteurized beer
While in the Americas it might seem unhygienic to drink unpasteurized beer, the Czech Republic has strict rules that ensure the quality of unpasteurized beer is high. Tankovas are Prague pubs that are allowed to sell the natural version of beer from onsite tanks. It has a cleaner taste than pasteurized versions, and won’t leave you with a hangover because of the absence of chemicals. Try the original lager, Pilsner Urquell, and then compare it to Pilsner from a bottle – even less experienced beer-drinkers will notice the difference.
Don’t forget to cheers! Say “Na zdraví” – literally, “to your health” – and look your fellow drinkers in the eye as you clink glasses. Otherwise, you’ll have bad lovers for seven years!
Wander Mala Strana
Don’t let its name, meaning “Little Side” or “Lesser Town,” keep you away from Malá Strana – there is plenty to see. Just below Prague Castle, the neighborhood got its start in the mid-13th century when it was declared a royal town. Its cobbled streets and Baroque buildings give it a quaint character and an old-world feel, best absorbed through slow exploration and long strolls. Visit the beautiful Baroque Wallenstein Palace and the many churches scattered throughout the district. Finally, climb up the Eiffel-esque (though much shorter) Petřín Lookout Tower for a sweeping view of the Prague skyline.
Go on a David Cerny scavenger hunt
Scattered throughout Prague you’ll find bizarre and surreal public art by David Černý, a controversial Prague-born artist who gained fame when he painted a Soviet tank pink. Today, his work is familiar throughout the city, the most prominent of which is his “Tower Babies,” who climb up the tall Žižkov Television Tower. Also look for “Man Hanging Out,” a statue of Sigmund Freud hanging by one hand over a narrow avenue; St. Wenceslas riding an upside-down horse in a shopping center; and the water fountain of men peeing outside the Frank Kafka Museum.
Have you been to Prague? Let us know in the comments below!