My short guide to exploring and making the most out of Prague in 3 days.
I like to think of myself as a spontaneous person, however booking a holiday five days before departure is a new level, even for me. The main reason for booking this trip was to do something exciting for mine and Dan's 3 year anniversary (yay!) and what better way than to explore a new city together and make new memories. I also had a week off from university so was desperate to get away, and we definitely picked the best place to get lost in.
Prague is a major European hot-spot for short getaways, full of historical sites and well known for its good food and cheap beer. We managed to squeeze a short 3 day trip into our busy schedules and I wanted to make sure we were able to experience the vast array of historical and cultural experiences the city has to offer.
We stayed in a chic studio apartment on the westside of the river by Petrin Park. It really was a prime location for everything we wanted to do, with only a short walk to tourist hotspots such as Prague Castle and Old Town. I love staying in places with cooking facilities so I can eat pretty much whenever I get hungry (all the time), even though we did end up eating out for most of the trip. I'm so glad we were able to find such a homely space which really added to the enjoyment of our few days away.
On our first day we wasted no time and headed straight for the Old Town of Prague. In addition to being a bustling and lively part of the city, the Old Town square hosts many of Prague's key buildings including the Gothic Church, St. Nicholas Church, and the Old Town Hall. This is also the location of the famous markets if you are lucky enough to visit around Christmas time. Don't ask about the giant gorilla, I have no idea either...
For a stunning panoramic view of the city, you can ascend the Old Town Hall tower, although sadly it was closed when we went. A well known feature of the Old Town Hall is the astronomical clock. Viewing the clock not knowing anything about it then you might be disappointed, however being built in 1410 it is the oldest functioning clock of its kind and tells the time in 14 different ways, including by old Bohemian time, zodiac ring and star time. Every hour hundreds of tourists gather round the clock to watch it's little 'show', this we were slightly underwhelmed by but it was an experience none the less.
There are a number of unique statues situated around the city. Perhaps one of the most fascinating is the Kinetic sculpture of Franz Kafta's head which twists to reflect the novelists tortured personality. Other scultures worth a visit include the two peeing men in front of the Franz Kafka Museum, the babies climbing the TV tower and the bizzare glowing embryo drainpipe.
A hidden gem of the city is the book sculpture located inside the Municipal Library. Made from hundreds of carefully stacked books, it represents a connection between reading and the feeling of infinity. Perfectly placed at the library's main foyer, it is worth the visit to get a quick glimpse inside (and to get a cool selfie, right Dan?).
At night is when the city really comes to life. Many of the shops and restaurants remain open until late evening which is perfect for night owls like us. Being a hot-spot for nightlife there is a large selection of pubs, cocktail bars and night clubs, although its probably best to avoid the more touristy areas of the city as prices tend to be inflated. Fun fact - the lighting which surrounds Prague Castle at night was actually a gift from the Rolling Stones after their concert shortly after the iron curtain fell in 1990!
With Prague Castle only a short walk from our apartment we took a stroll through Malá Strana, the idyllic quarter which surrounds the foothills of the castle. There are small shops and cafes to visit along the way and we found it far less crowded than on the East side of the river.
Prague castle is one of the main tourist attractions in Prague and it's not hard to see why. Being the largest ancient castle in the world, hundreds of people from around the world visit daily so I'd definitely recommend getting there early to avoid the crowds.
Prague castle is so different from what I had visioned in my head. Rather than being one main building, it was a fortress which consisted of many architecturally stunning buildings, including St Vitus Cathedral which dominates the skyline. You can easily spend half a day here but make sure to keep an eye on the time, every day at 12 noon is the changing of the guard ceremony which you don't want to miss.
Entry to the castle complex is actually free (amazing right), however for more detailed information there are a number of guided tours on offer and some of the sites in the castle such as golden lane and the exhibitions have a small fee. In addition the many amazing sites in the castle complex, my personal highlight was the breathtaking views you get overlooking Prague. It is worth the climb just for the unparalleled views of the terracotta rooftops and Pltava river.
Perhaps one of the most iconic spots in Europe for that 'I've been travelling' portrait, the John Lennon Wall has an ever-changing array of colourful street art which represent love and global piece. Still on the westside of the river, it is in an ideal location for a quick stop after Prague Castle. There are a few other noteworth stops on the westside of the river including Petrin Hill and its mini Eiffel Tower, Dripstone wall and the narrowest street in Prague.
When you think of Prague the first thing that is likely to pop into your head is Charles Bridge, the old Victorian bridge over the Pltava river. There are many bridges that cross the river and on our first day we crossed one a little downstream thinking it was Charles Bridge, as you can imagine we were pretty underwhelmed. After re-orientating ourselves we eventually crossed the infamous bridge. It's actually a little embarrassing we got the bridges muddled, the sea of tourists really should have given it away... The gothic bridge was designed and built by orders of King Charles IV, in fact he had a large influence over many of the cities more traditional looking buildings, including St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle and Charles University.
One of my favourite things to do, no matter which city I'm in, are free walking tours. I first heard about them in Berlin; there those people you see walking around the main attractions with large colourful umbrellas and a crowd of tourists following behind like ducklings. They are actually super interesting and completely free (although you should definitely tip the guide depending on what you thought of the tour). After seeing some of the cities major sites over the past two days we were excited to learn about the history of Prague. We went on our tour with Sandemans (shout out to our amazing Aussie guide Matt!) and the tours run frequently most days so they are super easy to fit around your schedule.
After re-exploring Old Town we gradually made our way through the cities key historical landmarks including Wenceslas Square and the Jewish Quarter, learning about the cities fascinating Bohemian history and the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Prague. If there is only one thing you do whilst in Prague (or any European city) it should most definitely be a walking tour to fully immerse yourself in the cities culture.
We did a lot of walking. As much as I love having a jam-packed experience it's good to remember to take some time for rest and self-care - Something I probably wouldn't have done without Dan (he definitely keeps me grounded). We visited so many coffee shops, cafes and restaurants during our time in Prague, I was amazed at the volume of vegan places to eat round the city, I could gladly pack a bag and move here forever. Check out My Guide to Vegan Eats in Prague, for my recommendations for tasty vegan food in Prague!
Having some free time to explore the city really makes you appreciate the fairytale-like architecture that the city is so well known for. In amongst the quirky colourful buildings are traditional architectural gems which have remained intact from the Gothic and Renaissance era. Unlike most European capitals, Prague was not been rebuilt as it was (mostly) spared during World War II.
Well, there was my quick tour of Prague, thank you for reading if you've stayed with me this far, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our mini get away. We managed to see and do as much as possible in our limited time-frame and I would 100% recommend visiting Prague to anyone looking for a quick and inexpensive getaway in a beautiful city.
My top tips for travelling to Prague
You don't need to spend a lot of money to have a good time, a lot of the main sites and attractions are free so it's a great place to visit on a limited budget.
We did do our fair share of walking however the tram links are amazing and it can save so much time if you only have a few days to see everything like we did (download the tram app).
A charming feature of Prague is the quaint cobbled streets so, regardless of my previous point, pack cobble-proof shoes.
Something I would have loved to do but sadly didn't get the chance would have been to watch the sunrise at Charles Bridge. It is often very crowded during the day so if you want to view this historic landmark in a more peaceful atmosphere I'd recommend trying this (if you do manage to try I'd love to hear how it was!)
Prague had an incredible selection of Vegan cafes and restaurants and we tried to sample as many as possible during our trip. For my recommendations, check out My Guide to Vegan Eats in Prague.
Until the next adventure!