When we started traveling as a family four and half years ago, we had never seen a single place in Europe. Everything was new, so of course we started with places that, as North Americans, we had heard the most about. (E.g., Amsterdam and Paris were two of our early choices.) However, the longer we lived in London, the more open we became to branching out and visiting places we hadn’t heard much about prior to our move. Prague was one of those places for us.
The only thing I knew about Prague before beginning to plan this trip was that it was the capital of the Czech Republic, literally nothing else. And yet it kept being recommended to us over and over by other travelers, so we decided, sort of on a whim, to see what all the fuss was about and booked it for our autumn break. And, oh my goodness, if we didn’t choose the perfect time of year to visit. Prague is beautiful in the fall. The city is full of trees and parks and all of the leaves were so rich in color, they almost didn’t even look real. I have quite a few more posts in the works from Prague showcasing just how gorgeous this city is this time of year, but before I get to those, I want to share our three day Prague itinerary with you.
Prague marked the first time ever that we actually slowed down on a city trip and really savored the experience vs packing in as many sights as we could, and we loved it. We stayed across the river from the Old Town*, close enough to the most popular sights that we could walk to all of them in under 10 minutes, but far enough away that the vibe was noticeably more laid back. Our central, but not too central, location allowed us the option to return to our apartment anytime during the day and rest, which we did often.
While our Prague itinerary may still look quite busy, I assure you we had hours of downtime every day. Prague is a compact city, so you won’t waste much time walking from place to place, and some sights probably won’t take you very long to see. Of course, everyone’s definition of slow travel will be different, but for us, this was it. In three days, you can easily see all of Prague’s most famous sights, some of its lesser known gems, and still have plenty of time to sit in a warm cafe, watching the world pass by through a foggy window. In my opinion, that’s pretty much the definition of a perfect city break!
*Our Prague itinerary starts from this location. If you’re staying elsewhere, you might have to switch things up a little!
It’s dirty, and it’s grungy, and yet it’s always packed with people, so the first place you’ll want to stop in the morning is the Lennon Wall. (This was only steps from our apartment. Details about where we stayed at the bottom!) Since the 1980’s, the Lennon Wall has been continuously painted over and over again with John Lennon-inspired art and Beatles lyrics, among other graffiti. These days it’s hard to make much of anything out anymore, but still, it’s worth a quick stop for a photo, especially if you’re in the area.
Right next to the Lennon Wall is a popular spot for lovers to leave a love lock behind. We saw the first of these love lock bridges in Paris, but have since found them in pretty much every large European city. Romantic gesture or nuisance, whatever you think of them, they’ve become an increasingly popular thing to do, especially for tourists. We’ve never left one behind, but I still like seeing them when we travel. These locks are found on a small bridge over the stream surrounding Kampa Island.
PETRIN HILL & OBSERVATION TOWER
When possible, one thing I like to do early on over a city break is find a place where I can climb up above the city and see it in panoramic view. It’s a great way for my navigationally-challenged self to get my bearings before trying to navigate from sight to sight. One of the best places to view the whole city of Prague from above is the observation tower on top of Petrin Hill. There is a small fee to climb the tower, but it’s worth it! As is taking time to walk through Petrin Park afterwards, especially if you’re visiting when the leaves are changing colors.
LUNCH IN OLD TOWN
After a walk through Petrin Park, it’s time to head across the river to Old Town where you’ll find the Old Town Square is a mecca for delicious Czech street food. (Although, admittedly, you probably will pay more for it than you would elsewhere.) I recommend treating yourself to one of the kebabs with chicken and fresh veggies. Then, if you remember nothing else from this guide, then at least remember this – try the trdelníks. But beware, these little sugar and spice-coated pastries from heaven are crazy addictive! I don’t even want to tell you how many times I ate these instead of real food while we were in Prague.
OLD TOWN SQUARE
Old Town Square is Prague’s prettiest, but also busiest, public square. Quite a few of the sights Prague is most famous for can be found here. There’s the astronomical clock that puts on a show for hundreds of tourists every hour, the Church of Our Lady Before Týn whose towering spires are one of the most recognizable features of the city, and the smaller, yet possibly more beautiful St Nicholas Church. It’s easy to spend a couple hours exploring here, so I recommend seeing anything that interests you and then finding a place nearby to get dinner. (For traditional Czech on a budget, Karlova 30 is good!)
PRAGUE AT NIGHT
After dinner, it’s time to head back to the Old Town Square to see it glowing at night, and then head over to the Charles Bridge which is equally as stunning after dark. The view of Prague Castle across the Vltava River is brilliant from the Charles Bridge! Prague also has a pretty good nightlife (or so I hear) if that’s your thing, but since we were already up and out doing things by 9am every morning, I can’t tell you anything about it! :)
Besides the Lennon Wall, one other place you’re probably going to want to visit early in the day if you want crowd-free pictures is the Charles Bridge. There are 17 bridges crossing the Vltava River in Prague and the only one anyone ever uses is this one. Kidding, of course, but if you try to walk across it mid-day during Prague’s high season, it’ll feel that way! So on your second morning, I recommend starting the day here, preferably before 9am if you can. That’s when the buskers start setting up, and shortly after that it gets busy.
If you’re staying on the Kampa side of the river, you won’t actually cross the Charles Bridge because Prague Castle is on the agenda for today. And as it’s the largest ancient castle complex in the world, it’s going to be practically the only thing on the agenda. (FYI – Those who don’t buy one of the various tickets offered will probably be in and out much quicker.) Since we wanted to see a little more of the castle than just its most popular sight, St Vitus Cathedral, we opted for Circuit B tickets which included private areas of the cathedral, St George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, and Rosenberg Palace. (The Old Royal Palace is usually on this ticket, but it was closed for renovations, so we saw Rosenberg Palace instead, which I found pretty boring.)
If you buy a ticket into the castle, one of the first places you’ll want to stop is Golden Lane. Getting here early is key, because once the tour groups start descending on this narrow street, it gets nearly impossible to walk down. (At least comfortably, anyway.) It’s hard to imagine people living in the tiny homes that line Golden Lane, but they did for many centuries. Now-a-days they are little miniature museums to the lane’s past, but as these houses put the new “tiny house movement” to shame, moving around in them is difficult. Another reason to arrive early!
ST VITUS CATHEDRAL
St Vitus Cathedral is open to all castle visitors, but if you purchase a ticket, you’ll have access to private (read: far less crowded) areas of the cathedral. Those without tickets are only allowed into the cathedral’s entrance, which turns into a madhouse pretty quickly. St Vitus is the Czech Republic’s largest cathedral, and even though I haven’t seen the others, I can’t imagine them being prettier than this one.
ST GEORGE’S BASILICA
St Vitus Cathedral may hold the title of largest church on the Prague Castle grounds, but the oldest goes to St George’s Basilica. To enter this church, a ticket is required. Out of all the places on our ticket (besides St Vitus), this one was my favorite. St George’s Basilica is not a large church, by any means, but I loved all the natural light and shadows inside it. It was so much fun to photograph! (FYI – The colorful exterior is completely at odds with what you’ll find inside. We almost missed this one because we couldn’t even tell it was a church from the outside!)
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Every day at noon, the Changing of the Guard ceremony is performed in the first courtyard of Prague Castle. There is a musical performance, as well as a parade. It’s nowhere near as large a production as the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but it’s still worth your time to see since you’re already at the castle!
PRAGUE CASTLE MOAT
Prague Castle’s moat has got to be its most underrated feature. Technically called the Stag Moat (due to the deer breeding that happened here in the 17th century), the castle’s moat is actually two – an Upper Moat and a Lower Moat. In both you’ll find the prettiest, forested walking trails in the city, and they’re open free to the public, no ticket required. When we visited in late October, some of the trails were completely blanketed in colorful leaves, making this one of the most beautiful places we saw while we were in Prague!
After leaving the castle, head towards Nerudova Street nearby. On the way, you’ll pass an overlook with gorgeous views over the city. Then continue on to Nerudova, one of the most colorful streets in Prague. Unfortunately, due to the narrow nature of the street, I got zero good photos, so you’re just going to have to take my word that it’s adorable. Back in the day, houses in Prague were signified by symbols instead of house numbers, so if you lived here, you told people you lived at the House of the Two Suns or the House of the Red Lion vs just boring, old 47 Nerudova Street. Most of the house symbols in Prague have since been taken down, but they remain on Nerudova Street, which is pretty cool to see. This street also has the best trdelníks we tasted (and we tasted a lot), so there’s that reason to visit, too.
St Nicholas Church (not the same one that is in Old Town) is located in the square at the bottom of this street. Considered one of the most important Baroque churches in Central Europe, visitors are allowed in for a look around for a fee. We were pretty churched out by the end of our second day, so we skipped it, but I just wanted to mention it since it’s so close by!
Our itinerary for our last day in Prague began in Wenceslas Square, the furthest sight away from where we were staying across the river in Kampa. This square lacks the same charm the Old Town Square has in spades, but a few of the buildings and hotels in Wenceslas Square stand out from the rest due to their colorful designs and unusual architecture. You’ll find lots of retail stores and restaurants over here, as well as the National Museum Building, but unless you go in, Wenceslas Square will probably be a quick stop.
HAVELSKÉ STREET MARKET
After Wenceslas Square, head over to Havelské Street Market where you’ll find all sorts of unique souvenirs to bring home. The market is open every day from 6am and vendors sell everything from wooden toys and puppets to fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s located off Melantrichova Street which connects Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, so if you go that route, you can’t miss it!
LUNCH AT SISTERS BISTRO
Sisters Bistro came highly recommended to us before our trip, so we made a point to eat there for our last lunch in Prague and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Serving up chlebíčky, traditional Czech open-faced sandwiches, the hardest decision we had to make at Sisters was which sandwiches to try. There were so many choices, and every single one looked good! (Well, maybe not the herring and wasabi, but you get what I mean.) Two chlebíčky are perfect for a light lunch. The cafe is located at Dlouhá 39.
The Josefov is Prague’s Jewish Quarter. Once a walled ghetto, the Jewish Quarter today is mostly a tourist attraction, one with a pretty steep admission fee if you want to gain entrance into the Jewish Museum, the synagogues, or the Old Jewish Cemetery. I hear the ticket price is very much worth it if you’re interested in hearing the history of Prague’s Jewish population, but as we had plans to visit Poland (a trip focused on Jewish history) a few weeks later, we decided to skip buying tickets and instead simply see what we could see walking through the streets of the Josefov. (Which isn’t a whole lot, to tell you the truth. If you’ve got time, tickets are probably the way to go!)
We ended our trip to Prague similarly to how we began it – in a park overlooking the city. Letna Park (or Letenské Sady) is a beautiful public park across the river from the Old Town with tree-lined walking trails that offer multiple look-out points overlooking the Vltava River and city below. In some places in Letna Park, the views are even better than they are from Petrin Tower. (And they’re free here!)
WHERE TO STAY
Our love affair with Airbnb began on this trip to Prague. We’d used Airbnb once before (in Sorrento, Italy), but we had such a fabulous experience in Prague that we never again stayed at a hotel while traveling in Europe. (And probably would have continued that in Asia if hotels weren’t as cheap as they are here!) We chose a lovely apartment in Prague only steps from the Charles Bridge. (It’s this one here.) Our apartment had everything going for it – location, comfort, quiet, and less important, but still worth mentioning – it was adorably decorated and delightfully cozy.
And if you’re trying to decide when to go, choose autumn. I mean, if the only time you have to visit Prague is July, then of course you should still go. But if you’ve got a choice, go in the fall!
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