Prague Holiday Planning Guide
Prague lures millions of tourists each year with its World Heritage-listed medieval city center--a labyrinth of narrow lanes, bridges, cathedrals, and palaces overlooked by a thousand-year-old castle. Founded in the 9th century, the city once thrived as the seat of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Infused with the old-fashioned charm of a sophisticated European city, Prague remains one of the continent's major economic and political centers. The city boasts numerous internationally significant museums, galleries, and theaters, yet the locals often claim one of their most significant contributions to the world remains Prague's many different brands of beer. Test their claim by exploring the city's pubs, which provide a place for mingling and soaking up the local color.
Best Neighborhoods to Visit in PragueStare Miasto
: The heart of Prague from the Middle Ages to the present day, the historic Old Town is one of the liveliest parts of the city. The area offers some of the best shopping, nightlife, and sightseeing in Prague and remains among the city's prime tourist destinations.Castle District
: Located on an elevated plateau overlooking the Vltava River and the old town, this iconic area contains one of Europe's largest castle complexes and a number of romantic nooks and crannies well-worth exploring. Mala strana
: With its cobbled streets and historical buildings, some of which date back to medieval times, the picturesque Lesser Quarter is an unavoidable addition to any Prague itinerary. If you're after the traditional taste of Prague, don't miss the neighborhood's centuries-old restaurants and beer halls. Jewish Museum in Prague
: Right in the center of the old town is Prague's former Jewish ghetto, the birthplace of Franz Kafka. Even though much of the former ghetto was demolished in the early 20th century, the area still features several original synagogues and one of Europe's oldest Jewish cemeteries. New Town
: The youngest of the five independent towns that formed the city of Prague, this area is still over six centuries old. Today, this is the place where old and modern Prague meet, crisscrossed with ancient alleys and wide boulevards, and dotted with busy squares and numerous sights.
Zizkov: A great way to see another side of Prague--away from the best-known touristy areas--is to take a tour of Zizkov. The former working-class neighborhood is famous for its independent spirit, rugged and edgy charm, and more pubs per capita than any other place in Europe.
Things to Do in Prague
Popular Prague Tourist AttractionsCharles Bridge
: Crossing the Vltava over the famous Charles Bridge is definitely one of the things to do in Prague. Dating back to the 15th century, this marvel of Gothic architecture was for many centuries the only link between the two sides of the city. Today, it's one of the main attractions in Prague.Lobkowicz Palace
: The lavish 16th-century palace is a must-stop for any art lover visiting Prague. Located inside the only privately owned building in the Castle District is an amazing collection of paintings, porcelain, original scores by Beethoven and Mozart, and numerous other treasures belonging to the Lobkowicz family.Prague Castle
: The current residence of the Czech president, for centuries this castle overlooking the city of Prague served as the seat of power of Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Originally built in the 9th century and expanded several times since, this is now the largest castle complex in the world.
Old Town Square: Surrounded by historical buildings, the square is the heart of the old town and one of most iconic places to visit in Prague. The centerpiece of the square is the monument dedicated to the famous religious reformer and Czech national hero Jan Hus.Prague Astronomical Clock
: The heights of medieval architecture and precision engineering are brought together at Prague's Old Town Hall and the elaborate Astronomical Clock that adorns its southern wall. Take a tour of the building and admire the performance of the clock's statues that takes place on every full hour. St. Vitus Cathedral
: The real jewel of Prague's Castle District, St. Vitus Cathedral is the largest and the most ornate church in the city. In addition to admiring its lavishly decorated interior and exterior, you can also climb the cathedral's main tower and soak in the panoramic view of the city below. Prague Zoo
: Home of thousands of animals--some belonging to extremely rare and endangered species--Prague Zoo remains one of the best places to escape the urban bustle.Spanish Synagogue
: The pride of Prague's Jewish community, this 19th-century synagogue is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Europe. The Moorish Revival architecture is combined with a highly decorated interior and a permanent exhibit dedicated to the Jewish history from the 18th century to the present day.Žižkov Television Tower
: Some might love it and others might hate it, but there's no denying that the tower is one of the most recognizable structures in Prague, offering some of the best views in the city. In addition to the unusual communist-era design, the tower features odd statues of crawling babies, added to the structure in 2000.Petřín
: Fully covered in parks, the hill on the left bank of the Vltava is the favorite getaway for many of Prague's residents. Go for a hike or catch a funicular to the top and enjoy the view of the city from Prague's version of Eiffel Tower.
Planning a Prague Vacation with Kids
Things to do in Prague with Kids
Just walking the streets of Prague and absorbing the atmosphere can certainly be a great experience for visitors of all ages. Both teens and younger children enjoy the fairytale-like charms of Stare Miasto
and other scenic areas of the city, but the best family vacation ideas in Prague usually include both sightseeing and more engaging activities. Visits to Prague Zoo
and Sea World (Morsky SvEt)
serve as real treats for young nature enthusiasts, while science lovers can take a look at the stars at Stefanik Observatory
. Both kids and nostalgic adults can have great time at Muzeum hraček Praha - Toy museum Prague
in the Castle District. While you're there, make sure to see the changing of the guards ceremony, which takes place every hour in front of Prague Castle
. Some of the most popular Prague attractions are the escape games. TheRoom
is well-suited for younger kids, while the more challenging MindMaze Prague
remains an appealing alternative for teenagers. For an active family, a great way to explore the city is by taking one of numerous bike or Segway tours.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Prague
Prague is a large city and an immensely popular tourist destination with all the amenities you and your family need for a memorable vacation. The historic center of the city is small enough that you can easily do most of your sightseeing in Prague on foot, even if you're traveling with younger kids. The streets in the center of the city are narrow and often packed with tourists, so make sure to always keep an eye on your little explorers to avoid losing them in the crowd. For trips to and from the center, rely on public transportation. Prague's many parks with play areas provide plenty of space for kids to have fun while you're taking a break from sightseeing. With thousands of visitors wanting to see the most popular tourist attractions in Prague, waiting lines can be pretty long and the kids might quickly lose patience. Prague Castle is especially notorious for huge lines, but you can easily skip the waiting by ordering your tickets online ahead of your visit.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Prague
Cuisine of Prague
Whether you're looking for traditional or international cuisine, a full-course meal, or a quick snack, Prague provides you with plenty of options to choose from. Your entire gastronomic experience may depend greatly on the restaurants you pick, especially if you're looking for authentic Czech specialties. Naturally, many restaurants are located within the city's busiest areas, which are also the most popular ones for tourists. The trick to eating well is to avoid tourist traps and go to places where the locals eat. Luckily, these are usually quite easy to discern, as the truly authentic restaurants feature signs and menus in Czech and are not as keen to entice you to go in as their more touristy counterparts.
Largely based on meat and vegetables, traditional Czech cuisine is a real treat for those who enjoy hearty food. Salads are usually served in large portions, with mustard or mayonnaise dressing, and are a great choice for a light meal. Czech sweets, such as fruit dumplings and local crepes known as palacinky, are light and refreshing, perfectly complementing the heavier main courses.
With the Czech brewing tradition, beer lovers are certain to have a great time on their Prague vacation. For a complete experience, follow your favorite brew with some authentic beer snacks, such as pickled sausages known as utopenci.
For those who don't feel like exploring Prague's culinary scene on their own, tours like Taste Of Prague
and Prague Brewery Tour
provide a more social alternative.
Shopping in Prague
The Czech Republic's capital and largest city, Prague remains the best shopping destination in the country. The products of many of the world's renowned brands are readily available in places like PALLADIUM Shopping Center Prague
. If you're looking for handmade products, local designs, and unique souvenirs to remind you of your holiday in Prague, you'll have an abundance of options to choose from. Prague boasts a long tradition of glass, crystal, and porcelain making, and shops like ARTĚL CONCEPT STORE
continue to combine old crafting techniques and contemporary designs. Another popular kind of local goods are handmade beauty and health products, sold either by specialty stores or more general gift shops like Manufaktura
. For a true taste of fresh, locally made food, beer, and wine, head to the Vltava bank on Saturday morning and enjoy the tastes and aromas of Naplavka Farmers Market
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Prague
History of Prague
Simply walking the streets of Prague reveals a city of impressively rich history. Centuries before the city was established, the area was inhabited by the Celtic tribe called Boii and the Germanic tribe known as Marcomanni. Most of the Marcomanni moved south in the 6th century, and the area was left open for the migrating Western Slavs led by the rulers from the Premyslid dynasty.
Prague became the center of a new state in the 9th century, when Prince Borivoj moved his capital here and constructed the stronghold that eventually grew to become the impressive Prague Castle
. In the first half of the 10th century, Borivoj's grandson built the city's first church, which later on developed into St. Vitus Cathedral
In the early 11th century, Bohemian kings became vassals of the Holy Roman Empire, and several decades later another castle was built in Prague. Visit Vyšehrad
to see how this new castle spurred the growth of the settlement on the right bank of Vltava.
The golden age of medieval Prague came in the 14th century, when the Bohemian King Charles IV became the Holy Roman Emperor. By that time the five towns on the Vltava River united into a single city, which the new emperor wanted to turn into the most beautiful in Europe through a series of building and reconstruction projects. One of his greatest projects was the construction of Charles Bridge
, though he didn't live to see it completed.
Between the 16th and the early 20th century, Prague remained part of the Habsburg Empire and later Austria-Hungary. During this period the city retained its status as one of Europe's main cultural and industrial centers, and after the partition of the Empire in 1918 it became the capital of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia. Prague saw its darkest moments during World War II, when large parts of the city were destroyed and its people, especially Jews, suffered severe persecutions at the hands of the Nazis. Even though the post-war period of communist rule saw many of the destroyed buildings and monuments restored, this was also a time of political oppression and economic hardship. If you're interested in this period of history, KGB Museum
and Museum of Communism
are definitely places to see in Prague.
Following the fall of communism, Czechoslovakia separated into two states, and from 1993 Prague has been the capital of the Czech Republic. Once again open and prosperous, the city now boasts a huge selection of historical monuments to fill up your Prague itinerary.
Holidays & Festivals in Prague
Prague's lively atmosphere only gets more colorful during the holidays and festivals celebrated in the city. January 1 is not only New Year's Day in the Czech Republic, but it also marks the Day of Restoration for the independent Czech State. February is the month of the Carnival, when many of Prague's residents dress up in fancy costumes and parade the streets before the start of the Easter Lent. On the last day of April bonfires are lit at Petřín
for the Witches' Night. October is the month for jazz lovers, as the city hosts one of the largest jazz festivals in the world. Christmas time, when the whole city center is decorated, is one the most magical times for a Prague vacation. If you're in the city in December, be sure to visit the Christmas markets at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square
Prague Travel Tips
Climate of Prague
Prague enjoys a mild continental climate, with four distinctive seasons. Winters are usually snowy, making the city a perfect setting for a white Christmas. Summers are warm and sunny, and even though occasional heat waves are possible, average temperatures usually stay around 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). Spring and autumn remain the wettest seasons, though it rarely rains so hard during those months that you won't be able to enjoy the city. The only downside to Prague's climate is the wind, which is often so strong it helps clean out the air and blow away the smog.
Transportation in Prague
The public transportation network in Prague is widely regarded as one of the best and easiest to use in Europe. Bus, tram, and metro lines make every part of the city easily accessible. To avoid creating pollution, busses do not enter the historic center of Prague, but both tram and metro lines do. The center of the city remains a compact area, and the best way to see most of Prague attractions is simply by walking around it. If you decide to drive, be ready for traffic jams and a lot of wasted time looking for parking. Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport is the largest in the Czech Republic and is well linked with the city through several public bus lines and shuttle services.