26 Sep Prague: The charming heart of the Czech Republic
Photos and travel tips to inspire a visit to the City of a Hundred Spires
Prague offers classic European charm, with lower prices and fewer crowds than top-billed capital cities. Compact and comfortable, Prague is perfect to visit for a short city break, during a week in the Czech Republic, or on a longer trip including nearby cities like Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw, Berlin or Munich.
The temperate climate of Prague makes it a year-round travel destination. Peak travel season is May to October. There will be crowds at the top attractions and packing the narrow lanes leading to them, but it’s manageable.
The city is home to a number of cultural events, including Christmas markets, beer and wine festivals, and musical performances showcasing its beloved classical music, as well as jazz and other styles.
Old Town never gets old
Old Town, or Staré Mesto, is one of everyone’s favorite places in Prague. Yes, it’s touristy. But for good reason. It’s the city’s oldest and most significant square. And one of Prague’s top sights, along with the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. The square is happening day and night, with musicians, food stalls and cafes spilling into the streets. It’s gorgeous and great people-watching
Climb (or ride) to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower behind the Astronomical Clock for sweeping city views and a bird’s eye look at the iconic square and its Church of Our Lady before Týn Gothic cathedral.
Wandering historic lanes and discovering hidden cellar restaurants and bars was the highlight of my visit to Prague.
Vltava River at the heart of Prague
The Vltava River snakes through the heart of the city, with Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge at its center, connecting the Old and Lesser Towns.
Riverside cafes gardens are the perfect place to recharge during sight-seeing. Tour boats are a popular way to take in the city’s sights.
Charles Bridge can be a zoo, but it’s hard to beat the river, city and castle views. Head through the tower gates at either end to brave the masses of selfie snappers and stroll past saintly statues and eager vendors. The early evening light in spring is pure magic.
Lesser Town offers more sights and views
The Baroque Lesser Town, known as Malá Strana, occupies the foothills of Prague Castle. It’s packed with shops, cafes and pubs, and offers prime city views as you climb the Royal Route to the castle.
Malá Strana (and the Hradčany area above) offer quieter scenic stays than Old Town. You’ll be handsomely rewarded for your investment, as the tour crowds fade and you’re left to meander the cobbled hills until your heart’s content.
Like other European capitals, Prague has no shortage of picturesque churches.
The Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral is billed as the “biggest, most important, most beautiful” and the “spiritual symbol of the Czech nation.” It’s steeped in history and the final resting place of saints, kings, princes and archbishops. The South Tower offers postcard perfect views of Prague, sprawled out at your feet.
The happy accident of stumbling upon the restored St. Wenceslas vineyard produced the perfect pit stop and panoramic cityscape photos.
According to local lore, it’s Bohemia’s oldest vineyard and was once tended by “Good King Wenceslas” – the Christian Czech ruler, martyr and patron saint.
Eat, shop and stay in nearby New Town
Prague’s New Town, or Nové Město, bustles with modern shops, restaurants and hotels. Venture downriver from the adjacent Old Town for riverside beer gardens, boat rentals and the famous Dancing House building.
If you position yourself well, it’s possible to stay in New Town, while still having easy access to the main historic attractions.
Hungry? Hidden gem Dutá Hlava (FKA Klub Architektů) offers a taste of old and new Prague in an intimate cellar setting.
Stay in a palace turned hotel
If you’re looking to splurge on special accommodation, live like royalty at Smetana Hotel (FKA Pachtuv Palace). Originally built in the 17th Century the noble Pachta family’s palace, it has hosted musical masterminds including Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner.
The location is incredibly scenic and convenient – it’s right on the river in Old Town, just down from the Charles Bridge and with castle views. Like the entire facility, the rooms are unique and historic, but with modern amenities. Rooms are around $300 per night, with suites in the $400-800 range.