The Best Things to Do in Prague
Step back in time to Prague’s Bohemian past—the Old Town Square, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, the romantic Charles Bridge—before visiting the somber memorial to its Communist rule. Today Prague basks in modern optimism, evidenced by such landmarks as Frank Gehry’s Dancing House Hotel and DOX Centre for Contemporary Art.
nám. Republiky 5, 111 21 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czechia
The Municipal House, built in 1912, is a civic hall and concert theater in Prague. This Art Nouveau gem, decorated with allegorical sculptures, gold trim, and stained glass on the exterior, and topped with a glass dome, is a national heritage site. The Royal Court Palace was situated in this location from 1383 to 1485, Czechoslovakia’s independence was proclaimed here in 1918, and the first meetings between the communist government and Vaclav Havel were held here in 1989. The lobby features a sweeping, red-carpeted marble staircase, and the concert hall is decorated in carved stone, gold, shimmering lights, and frescoes. The romantic Francouzska Restaurant opened at the same time as the building did, and is known for its soaring ceilings, glass and gold chandeliers, and early 20th-century atmosphere.
Prague is known for its baroque architecture, undamaged as it was in WWII, but the award-winning National Library of Technology, designed by Projektil Architects and completed in 2009, is a fine example of the city’s contemporary architecture. Look for the building’s measurements written on the outer façade of the rounded semi-transparent building. The ground floor has a bookstore, and space to relax, and an exhibition hall, and the library’s open atrium has walls are adorned with murals by Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi. The bright floors below are covered in a swirling pattern of bright reds, yellows, oranges, blues, and greens.
Kampa Island, 118 00 Prague-Prague 1, Czechia
Kampa, in Prague’s charming Malá Strana district, is Prague’s largest island. Tucked between the Vltava River and the romantic Čertovka channel, the island’s park comes alive in the warmer months with picnickers, dog walkers, and friends gathered on the greenery desperate to catch up on their vitamin D. With direct views of the Vltava’s roaring rapids and the city’s famous Charles Bridge, Kampa is also home to the Kampa Museum, a former mill turned modern art museum dedicated to 20th-century Central European art. Artist David Černý’s gigantic crawling babies are outside the building, while the inner courtyard and galleries showcase other freestanding works, sculpture, paintings, and photographs.
Poupětova 1, 170 00 Praha 7, Czechia
Prague is one of Europe’s centers of culture, but it was without a proper contemporary art center for far too long. In 2008 the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art opened, with exhibits of provoking art, educational and cultural events, and a mission to encourage critical reflection and dialogue through the presentation of works that speak to social issues of the day. The 32,000 square foot building, converted from a former factory by architect Ivan Kroupa, is a work of art in itself. And even if you tried to, you can’t miss Gulliver, a wooden zephyr-like airship that appears to have landed on the roof (it is used for literature-focused events.). Back inside, DOX also boasts one of the city’s best design shops and a cafe.
Jiráskovo nám. 1981/6, 120 00 Praha 2-Nové Město, Czechia
Prague is absolutely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its abundant beauty is not only related to the variety of architecture styles (Gothic; Art- Nouveau and Baroque) but also to natural elements such as wild swans that gracefully float along the Vltava River at sunset. Wherever you step in; a restaurant, a bar, a pizzeria... no matter, you will feel embraced. Czech citizens speak Czech, German and English (especially the young crowd). Even though Prague‘s touristic appeal brings thousands of tourists every year, it is a very affordable city and doesn’t give off any feelings of greediness at its core. Food and fun are affordable here. One of the simplest and most exuberant things to do in Prague is walking along the Vltava River. Cross Charles Bridge, enjoy old town, check out the Astronomical clock and do not skip the “Dancing Building”! It’s a masterpiece and a must see. If you love architecture, design, art, photography or even if you are just a visual person, you will have a great time when you see this building because it’s just so cool! It’s also easy to spot as it’s located in Old Town and it’s also a hotel. The building was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry (the same architect that designed Disney Opera Hall in Downtown Los Angeles). The Dancing House was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. The building design was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous. However, then-Czech president Václav Havel (who also lives nearby) gave all of his support hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity. It turned out to be a great decision to support the project since designers, architects, artists, and enthusiasts from all around the world are drawn in flocks to see “Fred and Ginger”, a nickname given by Gehry as the building resembles a pair of dancers. The nickname is not commonly used but refers to famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Staroměstské nám. 1, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czechia
Old Town Square, founded in the 12th century, is the center of Prague. In the middle of it all, the Old Town Hall (which also houses the famous Astronomical Clock), built in 1338, still provides the best 360-degree views of the city. For a fee, visitors can climb or take an elevator to the observation deck of the nearly 230-foot tower for views of the Adam and Eve towers of Tyn Cathedral across the square, the Jan Hus monument, Prague Castle, Strahov Monastery, the National Gallery, and the winding cobblestone streets and red-roofed buildings below.
III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany, Czechia
The Prague Castle complex, which sits on the top of the hill above the city, dominates the skyline, and houses multiple palaces, churches, halls, and museums. The crown jewel of the complex is St. Vitus Cathedral. Construction of this Gothic and neo-Gothic masterpiece began in 1344 and took nearly six centuries to complete. The largest and most important church in Prague, which is surrounded by smaller chapels, is also the spiritual heart of the city. Bohemian and Czech kings and queens have been coronated here and are also laid to rest here underneath the cathedral. The exterior with its heavy bronze doors and carved stone is massive and imposing, but once you enter, the soaring Gothic ceiling overwhelms you with a feeling of lightness. The interior is filled with golden sunlight and glowing colors from the stained glass windows, designed by prominent 20th-century Czech artists, including art nouveau master Alphonse Mucha.
Vodičkova, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
The Franciscan Garden is delightful public space just off the busy Wenceslas Square on the site of a former Franciscan monastery and dates back to the medieval period. Head through the Světozor passage from Vodičkova street or the Alfa passage from Wenceslas Square. Find a seat on one of the benches — a great spot for people watching —and admire the climbing roses in bloom or the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. If you have children let them enjoy the playground and an ice cream while you sit back and take a breather under the trees.
After Vltava River floods brought great devastation to this gritty neighborhood and old port, a great change and rebirth began, and new businesses, stores and restaurants began moving in to old factory spaces and art nouveau buildings near the main square and church. Now Karlin is a foodie hotspot and a gentrifying neighborhood. Located across the river from Holešovice, to the east of the historic Old Town, Karlin is home to Veltlin wine bar, which focuses on natural wines from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire; Tea Mountain, a gorgeous tea room; Můj Šálek Coffee; and Eska, a restaurant-bakery serving neo-Nordic-inspired Czech cuisine in a modern industrial setting.
80 Letenské sady
Made from lightweight glass and steel, this structure in Prague’s Letna Park today houses a global advertising agency, but the Expo 58 pavilion was originally designed for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. Designed by František Cubr, Josef Hrubý and Zdeněk Pokorný, won Czechoslovakia the grand prix for best pavilion. the pavilion was designed to be easy to assemble and disassemble. After the fair it was transported to its current location (on top of the foundations of a 17th-century wine press) where it functioned as a restaurant, followed by a casino, until it was abandoned and fell into decay before it was bought in 2000 by Havas Worldwide, which it houses today. Have a look at the building from all sides, as each provides a unique angle, and take in the sweeiping views of the city from the concrete platform just in front of it.
Even in a city like Prague is filled with unusual and world-class art, The Memorial to the Victims of Communism at Petrin hill in Mala Strana will command your total attention. Dedicated to those who were arrested, shot, exiled, and otherwise brutalized during the Communist era of 1948 to 1989, this masterpiece made by sculptor Olbram Zoubek and architects Jan Kerel and Zdenek Holzel is especially disturbing at dawn and twilight. Seven bronze men are stood on a set of concrete stairs, and only the first figure is intact, the statues decaying with each step up, symbolizing the effects of communism on the Czech people.
Mahlerovy sady 1, 130 00 Praha 3, Czechia
The Zizkov TV tower was built in the latter half of the 1980s and there were rumors that the Soviets built the tower to block out radio transmissions from the West. Locals have hated the 700-foot high structure since day one, although public resentment seems to be waining a bit. Public art has also softened the outlook—ten of sculptor David Černý's giant babies crawl up the exterior. Today, the futuristic tower is best for getting a sky-high view of the city of hundred spires from the viewing platform.
Na Kampě 508/15, 118 00 Praha-Malá Strana, Czechia
On most days in Prague, it feels like every tourist in town has gathered on the Charles Bridge. And for good reason — this 14th-century cobblestone span crosses the Vltava River, connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town (Mala Strana) and providing picturesque views of both sides of the river, medieval churches, towers, and Prague Castle on the hill. King Charles IV commissioned the bridge in 1357. The bridge has 16 arches and protected by towers on either end: the Old Town Bridge Tower in Old Town and the Judith Tower and Lesser Town Bridge Tower on the Mala Strana side. The bridge is lined with 30 large statues of religious figures and luminaries, dating from the Baroque era to the present day The best time to go is at dawn, sunset or after dark after the crowds have thinned and romance is in the air.
Staroměstské nám. 1, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czechia
Prague’s Astronomical Clock is the world’s oldest working one of its kind. Installed in 1410, it is located on the Old Town City Hall in Prague‘s Old Town Square. The medieval clock features an astronomical dial; “The Walk of the Apostles”, an hourly show of moving sculptures; and a monthly calendar dial with the 12 signs of the zodiac. The clock is the center of Prague and the city’s most popular sight. On the top of every hour, huge crowds gather to watch the movement of the Twelve Apostles. Two doors on either side of the clock open and the statues become animated with twelve moving disciples. Animated statues representing greed, vanity and death also add to the performance, which during the Middle Ages was one of the man-made marvels of the world. For centuries it has been displaying the time and date, the position of the sun, the phase of the moon and astronomical cycles. Even in the age of smart phones, that is pretty impressive! It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon, if not a whole day, here. You can visit the Town Hall, climb to the top of the tower for one of the best views in Prague, watch an Astronomical Clock performance, then enjoy a Czech meal in one of the local restaurants.
Prague’s riverside along the Vltava are definitely been flowing in the right direction. The top spot is Naplavka near the Výton tram stop where on weekends during the warmer months the embankment is filled with people soaking up the laid back atmosphere and exceptional riverside view. Sip a local pilsner at the sidewalk cafes and grab dinner on one of the floating barge restaurants, plus there’s often live music and other perfomers. Bajkazyl is a bar and bike shop that also puts on films, concerts, dance parties, and spontaneous events. Check out the (A)void floating gallery and bar, and from October through April, there’s a floating sauna where you can sweat it out with 15 other people. Naplavka is also home to one of Prague’s best farmers’ market.
Staroměstské nám. 1/12, 110 15 Staré Město, Czechia
Prague’s National Gallery is located in eight distinctive buildings and palaces throughout the city, each one dedicated to particular periods, spanning from medieval times to the 21st century. The collection was begun in 1796 by a group of nobles and intellections and has grown to include 400,000 works of art today. In Veletrzni Palace, you’ll find Czech and European art from the 19th century to today, includin a comprehensive collection of works by František Kupka, Czech cubism, plus works by Rodin, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, and Picasso. The art of Asia and the ancient Mediterranean is exhibited at the Kinsky Palace while the Sternberg Palace showcases European art from antiquity through the Baroque period.
Strahovské nádvoří 1/132, 118 00 Praha 1, Czechia
One of the most spectacular libraries in the world is at the Strahov Monastery in Prague. While it is a bit off the beaten path for most tourists, it really is a must-see. Over 125,000 classic and rare books fill floor-to-ceiling bookshelves at the monastery, which sits on a hill. There are two halls. The Theological Hall dates from the 1600s and features ornate, 18th-century Baroque frescoes on the ceiling. The Philosophical Hall (pictured) is truly spectacular - an 18th century creation built in the Classic style that features Greek frescoes and opulently carved wooden bookcases with golden accents. On the grounds of the monastery are also The Church of Saint Roch, an art gallery and a brewery with the best sweeping views of Prague - truly a wonderful, enchanting way to spend a beautiful afternoon.
170 00 Praha 7-Letná, Czechia
Letna Park, located on a hilltop in Prague’s seventh district just around the corner from Prague Castle and on the west side of the Vltava River, has exceptional views of the Prague’s numerous bridges, the castle and all across the city. The park includes one of Prague’s most popular beer gardens, paths for running or strolling, and a number of iconic structures such as the neo-Baroque Hanavský Pavilon, built in 1891, and the glass-and-steel Expo 58 Pavilion, which won the Grand Prix for best pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
Cihelná 2b, 118 00 Malá Strana, Czechia
Cihelna Concept Store promises “the very best from Czech design” and that’s what it delivers. Cihelna translates to ‘brickyard’, and the shop is inside a former brick factory on the edge of the Vltava River in Prague’s truly enchanting Lesser Town district. The store carries works in glass and porcelain, as well as lights, jewelry, and furniture from leading Czech designers and brands like Zorya, Lasvit, Preciosa, Rony Plesl, and Dechem. The shop’s minimalist design isn’t meant to intimidate, but rather let the objects on offer take center stage. Solo exhibitions are held periodically throughout the year to shine a light on new products and designers.