Voy! City Guides Series*
*All City Guides are added to periodically to stay up to date with the latest information available
Only have a weekend or a couple of days off of work or classes and don’t think you’ll have time to enjoy all of what Prague has to offer? Not so fast! While it is true that Prague has a dizzying array of attractions to visit -and too much goulash and beer to consume in too short a time-, you can accomplish some major Prague exploration in as little as 48 hours. Voy recently visited Prague, and put this theory to the test. In just two days, we saw every major site, walked countless miles from one end of the city to the other, drank more beers, ate more plates of goulash and stew filled bread bowls than should be legal, and even enjoyed the evenings drinking mojitos with the locals. Here is a break down on Prague; it’s history, how to get around, and what to expect on your sightseeing rush through the breathtakingly beautiful “city of a thousand steeples”.
In the two and a half decades that have passed since the Velvet Revolution, ending Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Prague has become one of the most popular destinations in Europe. With all of its magical legends, its 120 enchanting towers and 13 bustling bridges crossing over the Moldova River, Prague’s beauty is unparalleled in the modern world. The city’s ten centuries of history are seen everywhere in the Old Town (Staré Mēsto). The small, winding streets, the medieval facades and historical museums all invite you to explore without any specific destination, to sit at the window of a quaint café sipping on a steaming espresso and watching the world go by, to relax in a classical concert put on by the many churches and palaces found around the city. Prague is a city that everyone should see at least once in his or her lifetime, and lucky for you, it is most likely very well connected to wherever you may be living in Europe.
Basic Info. Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and is located in the Northeast of the country, conveniently close to some popular German destinations. The city has a population of about 1.2 million people, but, as a visitor, you will only really focus on the historic center of the city, so you unfortunately won’t be meeting most of them.
Currency. It’s very important to know that the Czech Republic does NOT use the Euro. The national currency is the Czech Koruna (Use our recommended currency converter to make sure you know exactly what you’re spending). This surprises many unsuspecting tourists and students when a bunch of Monopoly-looking money starts to come out of the ATM machine. We had a really rough time keeping track of how much we were spending on beers and goulash.
Transport. We love cities that offer deals to visitors and Prague has a great array of options for getting around the city. You can buy one of several transportation cards upon arrival to the city. There are cards valid for 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days, or (lucky you) 15 days! These are available in the metro stations, and probably at your hotel or hostel. Remember that you can’t pay the driver of public transport; you must already have the ticket on hand before boarding the trams or buses! Taxis are NOT recommended as they are ridiculously expensive and you have so many other, and better, options.
There are two “tourist lines” in the tram system. Tramlines 22 and 23 cross the center of the city, stopping at all of the most important attractions. Be careful of pickpockets on these lines, as they are often dubbed the “Pick-Pocket Express”!
All things said, we strongly recommend simply getting around by foot. You see more, get more exercise, and get to take more photos. You never know what you’re going to find around the next corner in Prague, and getting lost here is probably the most fun you’re going to have.
What to See and Where to go
Prague is largely navigable by foot and so if you only have a weekend to explore the city, don’t worry about not being able to see everything. We once spent two days in the city and managed to see all of the most important sights while still enjoying frequent snacks in cozy cafes, breaks in one of the many quaint parks or bustling plazas, and nights on the town (until we simply couldn’t stay awake any longer – traveling is hard work!).
Wenceslas Square is a great place to start exploring the city. Located just off the Old Town, it is one of the main city squares where you will be sure to find lots of shopping and delicious street food to please the pickiest of eaters (being“picky” should be absolutely forbidden when traveling, by the way). At the end furthest from the Old Town, the street is dominated by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum and the statue of Wenceslas. The northwest end runs up against the border between the New Town and the Old Town.
The Old Town, or Stare Mesto, and its square should be the principal center area of any visit to the city. This is the area where you want to find your accommodations in order to make the best of your time here. Despite wars, invasions, and other miscellaneous “inconveniences”, Prague’s Old Town Square has remained virtually untouched since the 10th century. You can arrive to the square via an innumerable number of small, windy streets heading in every direction (this is where you try not to get lost but eventually do anyway and enjoy the hell out of it). Hordes of tourists often crowd the plaza to see a number of the most iconic buildings in Prague, such as the Rococo Kinsky Palace, the Baroque St. Nicholas Church, and, our personal favorite, the Gothic Tyn Cathedral.
There is also the the Astronomical Clock Tower that plays a little show every hour for the on looking crowd (said crowd can get quite suffocating at times). We highly recommend going up the Clock Tower for some of the best views of Prague, and, therefore, some of the best pictures you’ll take during your visit! How else are you going to make every back home jealous if you don’t have the most impressive pictures you can take? Trust us, use your student ID for a discount, and go up that tower!
The Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, is completely surrounded by the Old Town, and therefore easy to get to on foot from the nearby Old Town Square. There are quite a few historical sights to see in this little area, and it is advisable to buy a Combination Ticket (300 CZK or 12€, less with student ID), which will include entrance to all of them. Just the Old Jewish Cemetery is worth the cost of the ticket in and of itself. Strangely, the only reason all of these sights weren’t razed to the ground during the Second World War, was because Hitler had planned to incorporate it all into what would be a “Museum of an Extinct Race”. *Do remember that all of these sights are closed on Saturdays, the Jewish holy day. *
Charles Bridge will lead you directly, and most conveniently, to the Mala Strana district, immediately adjacent across the river from the Old Town. Commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, Prague’s most stunning bridge spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. Each afternoon, painters, performers and vendors of random keepsakes fight for space with the hordes of tourists who are themselves elbowing one another for the best views of the Vltava River. Yes, the bridge can get a bit crowded and overwhelming at times, and therefore it is recommendable to try and access the bridge as early in the morning as possible (something most travelers are hard-pressed to do after what is sure to be a memorable night on the town).
The Mala Strana district was the dominant center of the ethnic German citizens of Prague for centuries, thus providing for an evident transformation of architectural styles from the Old Town side of the Vltava River. One of the most impressive buildings, the Church of Saint Nicolas can be found at the end of the street immediately forward of the Charles Bridge. Take some time to explore the winding streets in this area, before venturing up to the Prague Castle and Saint Vitus Cathedral looming overhead.
Prague Castle is roughly the size of seven football fields, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Built and renovated during 13 centuries, the complex includes churches, gardens, alleyways and royal residences that would take days to appreciate. The Saint Vitus Cathedral, located within the castle complex, houses treasures like the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk — a blinding two-metric-ton vault that is held up by an army of silver angels.
*Our guides are constantly tweaked and added to in order to share the most up-to-date, relevant, and exciting information for the Voy community. Anything you think we missed? Please leave a comment or Contact Us and let us know!*
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