What to See and Do in Prague for First-Timers

A travel guide and recommendations of must-sees and must-dos for Prague, Czech Republic.

I checked off yet another country off the bucket list when I visited Prague, Czech Republic. I decided on Prague by means of… the cheapest flight out of Brussels, Belgium, where I was for work. It was the best choice, because I enjoyed Prague immensely.

Prague city centre is touristy, but extremely walkable. After my hectic couple of days of work, Prague was the perfect next stop because I didn’t have to do much planning. It was also one of the more affordable cities in Europe. I had two full days there, and wished I had more time.

This is what I saw in my short days there, Czech it out! You saw what I did there right.

1. Old Town Square

At the heart of Prague is the Old Town Square. My first encounter with the square was in the early hours of 6am. I arrived into Prague the evening before and could only muster enough energy to go out for food. My early night and jetlag meant that I was up at 5am… and that would explain how I got this crowdless photo of the Old Town Square.

The square gets extremely busy and crowded with tourists and street performers. Some points of interest here is the towering Tyn Cathedral, City Hall, St. Nicholas Church and the Jan Hus statue monument. There’s also the Astronomical Clock.

2. Astronomical Clock

One of the must-sees at the Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock. As its name suggests it’s not an ordinary time-telling watch. The clock puts on an hourly “show” and they say there’s only two reactions by the end of it: applause or unimpressed grunts. It’s supremely touristy, but I feel like you have to partake in this just for reaction’s sake. Personally, I just liked how steampunk it looked.

3. Take a Free Walking Tour

I’m a fan of walking tours, no surprise. I felt even more compelled to have a guided tour of Prague because I truthfully don’t know much about the country, much less this city. It also intrigued me that everything is so… old. And intact. Going on the tour not only let me have some bearings of the town, but I got to know some of the more important historical moments for the country. Walking tours typically start from the Old Town Square.

4. Jewish Quarter (Josefov)

The reason why Prague survived WWII occupation was because Hitler wanted to turn the Jewish ghettos into a… Museum of an Extinct Race – shivers. This is why a lot of the synagogues here are whole and preserved, including the Old-New Synagogue which is supposedly the oldest in Europe. Learning about all of this made the walking tour worth joining, otherwise I’d feel like I’m just walking through buildings. Interestingly, a street with high-end luxury brands is also located here: Parizska.

5. Walk around the Old Town

Prague’s Old Town is a beautifully preserved town consisting of cobblestone paths and baroque-style buildings. I spent a lot of time roaming the streets of Prague’s Old Town. The touristy shops are nothing to shout about, but make sure to look up while exploring and take in the buildings itself.

6. Shopping at New Prague

Not a fan of shopping? Skip this step. Apparently Prague has the largest shopping mall in Czech Republic at the Palladium. You find more of your fast fashion along the streets of New Prague and Palladium like Zara and H&Ms, although there is a fancy high fashion street in the Jewish Quarter if that’s more your speed.

For non EU-tourists, you get tax refund too, giving you even more bang for your buck. Look out for the blue tax refund stickers at the store front.

7. Klementinum Library

The Klementinum Library is a baroque library that is deemed the “most beautiful library in the world”. You only get to see the library by joining the tour. It’s a beautiful library, that much I admit, but no photos are allowed. I suspect it’s so that they can sell the photos out front. The tour lasts about 30 minutes, and brings you up some windy and old stairs – which was quite fun. It ends at the tower of the library. This was by far my favourite part of the tour – to see Prague from above. Which brings us to:

8. See Prague from above

An absolute must-do. Prague’s orange rooftops are an absolute treat to the eyes. There are several towers you can climb for this. I coupled this with the Klementinum library visit, but you can also go up the Old Town City Hall, Powder Tower, the towers at Charles Bridge to name a few.

9. Colloredo-Mansfeld Palais

Located right by Charles Bridge, the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palais is a little known palace. There’s only one room that’s worth a look: the grand ballroom. The noble baroque interior must have been some kind of luxurious in its prime.

The building itself was confusingly bare. The other parts of the palace were the “gallery”. This will be unlocked to you by a rather grumpy lady who seemed very annoyed at my incessant questions, which received impatient grunts in response. The gallery was a series of rooms. When I visited the rooms were completely empty, save for a dresser and a random fold-up chair that I’m more than sure is from the 21st century.

10. Charles Bridge

The iconic Charles Bridge gets extremely crowded – but it’s still one of my favourite parts of Prague. As you step onto the cobblestone paths, you get an impending view of the city of Prague on both sides of the bridge. Prague Castle looms in a distance amidst orange rooftops. I found the bridge particularly romantic at sunset. Again, this crowd less photo was taken some time between 6 to 7am, thanks jet lag. Unlike other parts of the town, I was not alone in the early hours at Charles Bridge though. I walked the bridge plenty of times, and was able to enjoy it with or without the crowd.

11. John Lennon Wall

Located close to Charles Bridge, the John Lennon Wall might be one of the most famous walls in Prague. It’s a wall filled with graffiti and art. I’m not the biggest fan of graffiti nor am I a big Beatles fan so this was just a convenient pit stop for me on the way to Prague Castle.

12. Mala Strana

Along the way to Prague Castle you will walk through the enchanting Mala Strana. This area is considered one of the most historic neighbourhoods in Prague and this is evident in the rococo-style buildings. Some specific sites here include the Church of St Nicholas and Wallenstein Garden.

13. Prague Castle

Prague Castle is a UNESCO site that is not just one castle – it’s more like a complex of buildings. When I first arrived, I was immediately taken in by this looming magnificent Gothic building with towering spires. I assumed it was Prague Castle, turns out its the St Vitus Cathedral. Prague Castle is funnily enough not just a castle, more like a complex of buildings.

I first visited the afternoon to catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It was extremely crowded and I barely caught a glimpse. I skipped out on the castle after that, because the security line into the castle compound was absurdly long. I dropped by the next morning at around 7am and it was completely empty, save for people getting in to work.

There’s also Golden Lane located in the palace grounds which I didn’t get to see but I heard its an adorable street of tiny houses. It opens from 9am to 5pm for paid entrance, but is free 5pm onwards.

14. Vysehrad Park

Vysehrad Park is a fort on the fringes of Prague city. It’s the only location here that you can’t walk to. However it’s extremely easy to get to by public transport from the city centre, either by tram or metro. The park itself houses the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, and an attached Vysehrad Cemetery. The cemetery is surreally beautiful and worth a quick walk through. Vysehrad also offers up some nice panoramic views of Prague city.

Other parks that you can also check out are Letna Park and Petrin Hill. I believe Letna Park and Petril has an outdoor market with snacks and drinks and it would have been lovely to have a picnic and chill at. No chance for that for me since I visited in foggy winter weather.

15. Have Amazing Hot Chocolate at Café Louvre

I went to Café Louvre purely out of a friend’s recommendation and because it was close to my hotel. I was a little surprised to see the menu, because the selection looked more French than Czech. Mildly disappointed, I decided to just order dessert instead, and pointed at the hot chocolate on the little standee on my table, and a cheesecake.

It was one of THE BEST hot chocolates I’ve ever had in life. IN. LIFE. The hot chocolate arrived with a side of whipped cream. I liked it by itself – a decadently thick, slightly sweet, bitter concoction of shiny liquid chocolate. For even more creaminess and mild sweetness, I stirred in the whipped cream. The order came with a shot glass of water, because you need it to clear the throat from the richness.

16. Buy Souvenirs at Havels Market (Havelske Trziste)

I passed by Havels Market every single day I was in Prague. It was located between my hotel near Wenceslas Square and the Old Town area. And each time I pass by, I’d have the urge to have a look at the stalls there, even though I know what’s going to be there. You get your usual souvenirs here, such as magnets and trinkets like that, but you also have fresh flowers, traditional wooden puppets and even leather goods. There’s also fruit stores, which at time of visit stocked these gloriously plump and colourful berries piled on a little box. I was tempted to get one, but didn’t because there was no way I could finish it by myself.

 

Ideal Two Day Itinerary

Day 1

Walking Tours

Old Town

Old Town Square

Astronomical Clock

Jewish Quarter

Klementinum Library

Colloredo-Mansfeld Palais

Day 2

Charles Bridge

Mala Strana

Prague Castle

Vysehrad Fort

New Prague

Cafe Louvre

Havel’s Market


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